Monday, November 24, 2008

Beware of Turkey Gangs!!!!!

In honor of Thanksgiving this week, I have a turkey tale to tell. (As my heading says, this really is about life in Bucks County, PA)

One early Sunday morning, this past summer, I decided to drive up to the Delaware River for a run. I began driving up the road and noticed there was some traffic congestion up ahead. An accident maybe? As I approached, it became clear what the problem was. There was a flock of wild turkeys crossing the road. Except they weren't crossing the road. They were hanging out in the middle of the street. Not moving. Just milling about. Blocking the road.

As I got closer, I saw a man from a pickup truck, that was coming towards me on the opposite side of the road, get out and start to 'convince' the turkeys to go back to whence they came. The turkeys were gobbling away but eventually got off the road. As the man turned away to get back into the pickup truck, it was as if the turkeys decided they weren't going to be pushed around by some guy in a pickup truck. So, they followed the man back into his pickup truck and proceeded to block the road again.

The man got out, once more, convinced the turkeys didn't 'fully' understand the situation they were causing and 'convinced' them to go further away from the road. But, this only made the turkeys more mad.

As the man headed back to his truck, not only had the turkeys stepped back into the road, but they began to surround the man's pickup. There were turkeys to the left of the pickup, to the right, and blocking the vehicle in front. The man rolled down in his window and began to yell at the turkeys. And, the ' head' turkey began to gobble back. So, there it was, a man in a pickup yelling out the window to a turkey and the turkey talking smack back at him.

By this time, I was catty-corner to the pickup and saw the whole scene unfold. I was laughing so hard and began to go past the truck. Until two turkeys stepped in front of my car, as if to say, 'Where do you think you're going, buster? We're not through with you yet'. I tried to turn my wheel right to pass them but, everytime I moved more right, they ran in front of my car.

About a minute later, they must have been tired of playing games with me and they let me through. Not so with the pickup. By this time, the traffic on the other side was about 10 cars deep with no one able to move because of the turkeys on the road. As I pulled away, thankful that the turkey gang allowed me to pass, I looked in the rearview mirror thinking, 'I hope this resolves quickly.' I was imagining, on my return trip, what could happen. The man in the pickup was tired of talking to these turkeys and just plow through. The turkeys, not happy about the death of some of their comrades. tip the pickup over and fighting ensues. Blood everywhere, bodies on the side, a crashed pickup, all due to some stupid machoism displayed by man and turkey. It didn't have to come to that.

I'm glad to report that the scenario didn't play out. There were no turkey roadkill where the incident happen. There wasn't a crashed pickup. Oh sure, maybe, they settled their differences elsewhere and by some other means. Or maybe cooler heads prevailed. Or maybe the turkeys just had enough of dissin' the driver and crossed the road. It could have been ugly.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!!

(Note: Congratulations to all the runners of the Philadelphia marathon yesterday. I am SO glad I didn't run it this year as the temperature at the start of the race was in the mid-20's F and I don't think it got much higher).

Update on this story: There was an article on on March 3, 2009 of turkeys harrassing commuters. Seems that the turkeys are muscling in the Northeast of the US.

Friday, November 14, 2008

'Back on My Feet'--Please Vote

Last February, as I was waiting for the Frostbite 5 miler in Ambler, PA to start, a van pulled up in front of me that unloaded a bunch of runners. I noticed that these runners were a bit 'different' from your typical suburban runners. I don't mean different in a bad way and I don't mean different in skin color. But, I could tell these runners 'weren't from around here' either. And, during a race, it doesn't matter who is different from whom but, ultimately, who is faster. This was my first encounter of the 'Back on My Feet' program.

'Back on My Feet' is a local running program, started by Anne Mahlum, which helps the homeless. But, it's not a program that hands out money, food, or shelter. Instead, it gives the homeless something which is not so tangible yet almost equally important--pride and dignity.

In my opinion, everyone of us could possibly find ourselves in a similar position. The difference may not be just the fortitude of overcoming obstacles that have been thrown our way but also the strong support systems we have such as family, friends, faith, etc. Think about how lucky each one of us are to have that. Then, think about the people who aren't so lucky and, in some ways, have given up hope.

Each of us have our own reasons for running. The one thing I'm sure we agree on is the sense of pride we feel after we've done our first 5k, 10k, half, etc. Do you remember what that felt like? And, from that pride, did it carry over into your life? Did it give you confidence to try other distances in racing or other things in your life that you didn't think you could do before? Well, that is what the 'Back on My Feet' program is all about. It's giving a chance to take pride in something so they can carry it over into their everyday lives.

I would like a favor of you who are reading this. Anne Mahlum has been nominated as a 2008 CNN Person of the Year. Please vote for her if you think she is a worthy candidate. There is a link below that tells Anne's whole story and the opportunity to vote for her (there is also a link to a video). All those who have been nominated are worthy, but, Anne's story touches all of us who are fellow runners. And, how many of us, after reading her story didn't say, 'Wow, why didn't I think of that?"

Here's the favor. I have a small number of regular readers to this blog. (Which, I thank you for being there). So, I was wondering if you could pass the word in your blogs or forward the information to others? In that way, other people will read it and post on their blogs and so forth and on and on and on. Ultimately, it would be nice to let the world know what we already know--the importance of the physical and spiritual nature of what running can be in our lives. Anne has found a key to unlock the human potential where others have failed. I applauded her for her efforts and I hope she gets the recognition she deserves.

(For full disclosure, I do not personally know Anne but, as stated, have seen her with the 'Back on My Feet' runners at the Frostbite 5 miler. Her work has been featured throughout the summer on local stations. Here is link to the website. )

Link to the Video:

Monday, November 10, 2008

The 2008 Harrisburg Marathon Report

(Kelly and Melissa holding me up after the Harrisburg marathon)

First of all, I want to thank all that wished me luck before the race. I am always grateful of people, who only know me through this blog, who still take the time to think about me and wish me good fortune.

Second, I want to congratulate my Blue Dawg friends, Melissa and Kelly, who went out to Harrisburg with me and kicked the course's butt. Melissa set a new marathon PR by almost 10 minutes and Kelly broke 4 hours for the first time and lowered her own marathon PR by over 20 minutes!!!! Just a great effort from both.
At the bottom, is a short video clip of the start of the 2008 Harrisburg marathon. I want to thank Melissa's husband, Garth, who shot this video, the pictures above and below and for his support this weekend. We really appreciate it. (The first picture below is Melissa's finish. My finish is the second picture.)

Highlights of the race:

  • The Radisson Penn Harris Hotel, which was the host hotel for the event. The expo was right across the driveway. The pasta dinner was about 10 yards from my room. Good food as well. (The people we met at our table were very friendly.) The shuttle was right outside the lobby which took us to the start and back from the finish. And, we had a late checkout so we could shower after the race. They did an excellent job overall.
  • The event was very well coordinated, and on a brisk, windy day, the volunteers out on the course, were cheerful and supportive even for us back of the packers.
  • The day was beautiful. Could not ask for a better temperature to run a race.
  • Parts of the course ran along the Susquehanna River, which overlooked fall foliage in the distance, and we ran past the Governor's Mansion and other historic sites.
  • It was the best I've felt after a marathon. My cardio was fine. I usually feel sick but felt fine afterwards. Probably due to the temperature.
  • The price. $45 entry fee. And the pullover jacket that was given to all participants.
  • The start/finish line. It was right next to where the Harrisburg Senators (minor affliate of the Washington Nationals) play.
  • Nobody was wrong and everyone was right on what to wear. I opted for short-sleeved shirt and shorts but started with a long-sleeved shirt on top. I carried that and wore it off and on for 15 miles before ditching it. I was a bit chilled at the end.

Lowlights of the race:

  • It was VERY windy after mile six. The Susquehanna River was beautiful but ran into a headwind for about 4 miles.
  • We ran through an industrial park which was kind of bland. On a hot day, that area would have been a killer.
  • Miles 17 through 19 which was through a wooded area and loaded with hills.
  • My left ankle. It felt better than previous weeks but still was sore to run on.
  • Cramps in my calfs and thighs. It hit me at mile 21 and I could only run as far as the cramping would take me.

This was the perfect race for me this year. It was a low-key event that felt like a 5k. And it felt there was a 2:1 ratio of volunteers to runners. The people there were tremendous and I can't thank the Harrisburg people enough for their goodwill.

I thought about running with Kelly until she told me her plans to run a 4:10 marathon. Yikes!!! And, after the first 5 minutes, I knew my ankle was going to remain sore for the race. So, I ran/walk the course. I ran the first half in about 2:27. I was on pace until I hit the hills. Trying to run up hills was an impossibility as my ankle was screaming at that point. And, then at mile 21, my legs were cramping up, probably due to the wind off the river.

At the end there were about 6 of us pushing each other along. At mile 25, Melissa, Kelly and Garth, started to cheer me up on the bridge I had to get up to and cross. What a lift that was!!!

This was the 36th running of this event. We were surprised because of the small number of participants in comparison to Marine Corps, Philadelphia and others. But, in speaking with people there, that was precisely the reason they entered. The 10,000+ participant-marthons can be overwhelming. This was not. I would recommend it to anyone.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Project: Harrisburg Marathon

As a project manager, there is one thing that usually gets overlooked when setting up a project. How do you define success? Easy, you say? OK. You might say, 'make sure it works.' If it works but it is so cumbersome for the customer that they won't use it, is that success? Then, you might say, 'make sure the customer is satisfied.' But, if it costs twice as much as the customer is willing to pay, is the customer satisfied? No, defining success is not as easy as you might think. So, it is important to define success upfront of any project that you are doing.

And, if you think of it, everything you do is a project. Don't think so? Going to the grocery store is a project, you just don't give it much thought that it is. There are a set of tasks that you must do in order to meet your objective. The tasks could be as simple as get the keys, bring the wallet, drive the car, park the car, get a shopping cart, etc. Again, you probably don't think of it as a project but, at the end, success is probably defined as having enough food and things in the house that will get you through the week.

So, this weekend, for me, is project Harrisburg marathon. And, how am I defining success? Easy, right? Break my PR. Except I can tell you I didn't follow a training schedule close enough that I would feel comfortable to say I have a shot at breaking a PR. Would it be nice? Absolutely. But, I can tell you that I currently am dealing with an inflamed Achilles tendon and some other nagging pains going into this race.

Well, that's the wrong attitude to take into this race, mister. Ahh! But there are some positives I am taking into Harrisburg. I can tell you, in each of the four past marathons I have done, I was intimidated, not only doing the 26.2 miles, but the long runs leading up to it. But, for this race, I didn't feel that type of pressure. You would think I would considering there are only 620+ people in the race. Yikes!!! (If you look for me in the results, start from the bottom up. It will be easier.)
This feels like such a laid-back event that I am looking at it as just another long run and not a race. The fact that friends are doing the race with me helps in that mindset.

Plus, and this is where success is starting to get defined by me, I am changing some of the things I do leading up to the race. I've hit the wall, big time, in each of the marathons I have done. I don't think it's all conditioning. I think it's part nutrition and part hydration. So, this week, I am carbo-loading more than usual and I'm drinking two bottles of water everyday leading up to the weekend. And, I'm also planning on bringing a Powerbar with me in the race. I haven't done this previously. I drank a lot of water a day or two before and used gels during the race. I will tell you honestly that I have been plagued by constant bathroom breaks at first few miles of each marathon I have done.

The one thing I am unsure of is whether I am doing Galloway run/walk or try to run the whole thing. I have trained for Galloway but, I've had some good runs in the past few weeks that I am thinking about ditching that. Scary? You betcha!!! As part of my mental approach of a dealing with the enormity of a project marathon is to break it down into smaller increments and don't look at it as a whole. For instance, when I run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute, I look at as only running 5 minutes at a time. Not running 5 hours!!!! It helps me not get overwhelmed.

So, what will I consider a successful project Harrisburg marathon? First, have fun with my friends. If nothing else, enjoy the time and stories that we will have for this race. Second, to finish the race. I didn't train for nothing, you know!!!! If I break 5 hours, all the better. Third, see if, or when, I bonk. One marathon, it was as early as 17 miles. Last year, it was at 20 miles. Can I get past that point? If I do, then I am heading in the right direction. And, lastly, see if I can reduce the number of bathroom breaks (hey, I aim low when it comes to expectations. Some people what to BQ. I want to reduce bathroom breaks. Everyone has goals.)

I truly am looking forward to this marathon. It will be such a departure from Philadelphia, Marine Corps and Disney. Just me and 600 of my friends going out for a little run on a beautiful Sunday fall morning in central Pennsylvania. Indeed.