Archive for August, 2013


RUNNING IN THE ZONE CO-EDITOR IS A BOBBLE-HEAD!

08.11.2013

Steve King X2 (from Penticton Herald)

No, no, that is not some sort of new taunt or insult! It is a high compliment.

My Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes co-editor, Steve King, has been immortalized in the form of a bobble-head doll. You don’t get your very own BHD (short for Bobble-Head Doll) without doing something remarkable. In fact, I’m pretty sure the next step is a bronze statue but with just one exception of which I know, at least around Vancouver (- the famous British Empire Games ‘moment’ from the Landy/Bannister miracle mile) those tend not to be for the living and we are definitely not wanting to move to that stage for a very, very long time.

Bob's Border Busters - Hood to Coast

Trying to pay proper tribute to Steve is not simple or easy. I have known him, run with him and written with him starting back around 1985-86. Back in those days Steve was more a runner, but I have a few old news clippings from the era when he used to write about the very active road running scene in the Okanagan, and while were still living there he began announcing the early Ironman Canada events. I can prove we were running together back then with the ‘ancient’ team photo of Bob’s Border Busters – the very first Hood to Coast team of which I was ever a part. That experience must have stuck because in a few days I will be leaving for my 8th Hood to Coast as the captain and a member of Canucks to the Coast. A close examination of the photograph of that fine first team indicates that Steve (back – 3rd from left) and I (back – 2nd from right) were a wee bit younger back in 1987.

The very development and writing of RITZ – the book, is a tribute to the depth of Steve’s involvement in our world of running. Steve remained in the Okanagan from those days in the 80’s, but I left in 1990 and will not forget the send-off by my running friends – held where? In Steve and Jean’s backyard, of course! I still have the original and much treasured Penticton Pounders singlet that was given to me as a gift that night. It was some years before Steve and I were physically in the same area again. By then he was the go-to guy when it came to announcing and commentating. Our first re-encounter was at the start of the Royal Victoria Marathon in 2000. From there we stayed in touch and eventually I approached him with the idea of a book to encourage and celebrate older runners. The concept had a few versions and tentative titles, including “Running in the Shade”.  Slowly it became Running in the Zone and the idea solidified, of inviting a bunch of avid runners, some very well known and some less so, to contribute to the package. Naturally, we invited more people than actually accepted, but as such things go the percentage success was nothing short of phenomenal. Why? Almost entirely because Steve knew most of these people, which allowed our approach to be personal. I won’t go into a long list of names of the 26 contributors or the titles of their pieces. You can quickly check that by just clicking “A Peek Inside the Covers” and look at the Table of Contents. You will see Olympians and world record holders as well as a number of builders of our sport and yes, passionate avid runners, like me. We organized the ‘zones‘, otherwise generally known as chapters after we received the contributions. We told our potential contributors the approximate size of the piece and the general thrust of the book, but largely left it to each of them to speak their minds and hearts. The result was some amazing writing, much of it from people who are otherwise not writers. That was my part in this undertaking. Having experience with editing in various forms, I helped our contributors to get their submissions into final form. It was always easy to tell when you had a good one, because regardless of the technical writing skill of any given author (and some of our contributors were professional writers in their own right) the raw beauty and strength always showed through. Steve and I worked with these wonderful gracious people to finalize and finally publish Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes.

Vancouver Marathon - 2007

Steve, while accomplished in so many areas – a kind of ‘man for all seasons’, is best known by most people in running and triathlon events as “The Voice”. It is interesting to know how many people have never really seen Steve and kind of don’t know who he is until you mention the announcer at the finish of Ironman or the Sun Run or Victoria or Vancouver marathons. The response is almost always something like “Oh him! He is amazing!” I remember one time when RITZ first came out and Steve and I were working our booth together: several people had come up and were showing interest/chatting, but only when Steve started talking to them did his distinctive voice register. They would suddenly realize who he was. You could literally see the ‘light’ come on.

I can’t tell you how many people head for finish lines in hopes that Steve will call them in and add a little colour. That, by the way, includes ME.  I’m sorry. Full confession – I am shallow and weak – but I still love to hear it when Steve manages to give me a shout-out. Now with me, Steve doesn’t get any special credit for knowing a lot of stuff. I mean, we’ve known each other something approaching thirty years. What does amaze and thrill most people is that with whatever bits of info he may have gathered from a race entry or just having recognized a name from a previous race, Steve can tell a story about what any given runner has been doing. In a very recent post I talked about my grandson Charlie who just did his first Kids of Steel triathlon in Penticton, complete with Steve King race announcing. What a way to start your racing career! And apparently, Steve gave him the full treatment.  What Steve has is a gift not possessed by many, and Steve uses it well. We are all glad.

So, without going on and on about what so many already know about Steve and his announcing, what about this BHD? I was as surprised and pleased as anybody else when the news came out regarding this immortalization and tribute. Apparently, I was not a lot more surprised than Steve himself when the idea was floated as a means to create a vehicle for promoting our sport and raising a bit of money for charity.  There was clearly some behind the scenes skulduggery of the highest order before Bobble-Head Steve was introduced to the world. The likeness is quite remarkable! I am seeking out my very own Steve King BHD because anytime Steve and I are in the same place at the same time and maybe one of the purposes is selling Running in the Zone, Steve is generally busy preparing to do what he does best. So with the Bobble-Head Doll, my co-editor can now always be there with me at any such public appearance! Maybe I need to get a recording that I can play for those that only recognize “The Voice”.

In all seriousness, this piece is my own little tribute to the contribution Steve makes to people and sport. Steve King’s web site can be found in the link here, and there you can take your own sweet time to find out more about his many skills and accomplishments. That list is extensive starting with his own career as race walker and later a runner. His ‘regular’ job is in addictions counseling and I am sure the combination of his caring nature and willingness to call a spade a spade makes him very successful in that field. There are many things that give enjoyment to we weekend warriors who run for the sheer fun and joy of it. A big one is the encouragement that comes from someone who can make you feel like you just won something big, even when you are slogging in at 3,658 out of 4,812 at some big race or another. (In case you aren’t following, that would be me.)

Jean spotting for Steve - Scotiabank Half 2011

There is one more thing that must be said. For many, many years Steve has relied on the support and actual assistance of his wonderful wife, Jean. I’m pretty sure that he, before anyone else, would say this. Because, as with so many things, because the final product is what the great bulk of us see, we never know what is behind it all. As I noted, I don’t get much time at races to catch up with Steve because he is preparing (often for many hours) for his ‘effortless’ commentary. Jean is very much a part of that, as well as the race-day action that includes anything from spotting (those are binoculars in her hands in the picture to the left) to keeping him supplied with whatever he needs whether that be coffee or critical bits of paper tucked here and there. As with so many other things, Steve has put us all to shame and although my wife Judi and I are about to celebrate our 45th Wedding Anniversary in just a few days, I have to warn her that I have not made her a musical CD to commemorate all those years together.  Yep, Steve did that. It is called “Songs for Jean”. Many are appropriate covers, such as (what other than?) “Jean”, but at least one is an original song written just for her. Frankly, me not doing such a thing is more a kindness where it comes to my singing and musical talent, but as I already mentioned, Steve is one of those rare ‘man for all seasons’ kind of people.

So, are there any questions now as to why Steve has his own Bobble-Head?  Thought not!

 

NOTE: Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes is now available in e-book format from Trafford Publishing

WHEN IT’S NO LONGER FUN, I’M DONE.

08.01.2013

"Turbojet" after Reggae Marathon

That title is a quote. I didn’t say it, but I could have. It came from a running friend, Jetola Anderson-Blair, who I met in Negril, JA last December at the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K. We were having a digital ‘chat’ about running and things like Marathon Maniacs (she is a 4-Star Maniac) and I think I said something about what we do, being ‘for fun’. That title was Jet’s response. By the way, don’t you love that name for a runner – ‘Jet’? One of the marathons that got her the 4-Star rating with the Maniacs was the 2012 Reggae Marathon, and her Marathon Maniac name is “Turbojet”.

Dan, Joy and Chris

I finished writing this piece and started reviewing it. That was when I realized that I needed to add a bit more about our meeting in Jamaica, because that sort of experience is precisely from whence some of the fun of running comes! While eating breakfast at our small hotel beach restaurant, a meeting happened. Chris Morales, That Runnin’ Guy and official Reggae Marathon Blogger, and I were staying at a small resort called Rondel Village. Chris had family, his twin sons and a number of others both from Canada and from Jamaica, in Negril for the big event. When I got down for breakfast they had a full table going, but were chatting away with two women at the next table, leading me to think they were probably part of the group. This caused me to do something I have probably never done – I invited myself to join these two lovely ladies and complete strangers! There was little doubt based on one look and the snippets of conversation that they were both runners.  Anyway, they said sure and that was how I met Jetola Anderson-Blair and Joy Kamunyori (self described as a ‘slow Kenyan’). And that folks, is another part of the fun of running – the community it represents and the general acceptance of runners one for the other, because when all else fails, we have running at the heart of it all. When I think about that meeting and the people involved: there we were a Canadian with some interesting connections to Jamaica (Great-Great Grandparents lived there for 5 years in the 1840’s) but no known blood lineage there, a Jamaican-born guy now living in Canada, a Jamaican-raised woman living in the USA and a Kenyan also living in the USA, but all of us having just one thing in common – a love for running.

I should point out that Jet’s running record is pretty amazing both in quantity and quality. Among her marathon accomplishments as she became a 4-Star Maniac she managed a Boston Qualifier, so clearly she isn’t just about the numbers and the marathon count. Still, I always maintain that just because you’re fast (or slow), doesn’t mean you can’t be having fun. Now, I think everyone realizes that when I use the term fun it kind of relates to the big picture and that not every moment of our running can accurately be described as being fun. But, when you dry the sweat and massage out the kinks, if you don’t have a big smile on your face and a good feeling in your heart, then maybe your running has stopped being fun.  For some, having gone truly fast, or even relatively fast IS what the fun is about. For others it is just the doing of it, and there is nothing to say you can’t go back and forth. At times my running has been about the PB’s or recent or age-graded PB’s, while at other times such as the current phase I’m in, it is all about the doing. With the exception of the next month or so where I want to up my game a bit in support of my Hood to Coast team, 2013 is going to be a year of DOING. OK, OK, people who know me will realize that even in this statement the fact that I am trying to count up a large number of marathons (albeit at any pace) is a form of competitiveness in itself. It is just that it is the number of races that counts rather than the pace at which I may have done any one of them. In terms of ‘fun’, for me some kind of personal challenge is part of the fun.

Reggae Runners - Dan, Larry & Chris

It is also fun to help others become involved in and enjoy running.

The Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge that involved the above mentioned and pictured Chris Morales, Larry Savitch and me also provided a whole lot of true fun.

Although I have always done it, the older and slower I get, the more fun I derive from the pre-race planning and post-race analysis, and the more I think I revel in just being in the atmosphere of a race. As much as I love all of these things related to racing, I swear that if and when the day comes that I don’t actually race often or at all, I still expect to run (such as it may be) just for the activity itself.

In a way, satisfaction is, if not a better term, then part of what I would consider ‘fun’. Some of my deepest emotional experiences have come from or while running. Naturally, I would never describe them as fun in the conventional sense. In fact, at least one of those was anything but fun or satisfying but rather frustrating, frightening and anger inducing – to the point of tears, literally. That incident while far from fun or happy or satisfying, at least told me how important running was in my life and the moment notwithstanding, that I wasn’t done. It happened just about two years ago. The running year of 2011 was a bit of a low point, starting with what seemed to be a ‘nothing’ injury during marathon training for the Eugene Marathon. By the time Eugene was finished(early May), I was pretty messed up and spent much of the rest of the year inching back from the knee problem that had developed. In September, with no intention of anything more than doing it, I ‘ran’ the Frosty Mountain 27K trail race. I described that long ago in horrifying detail so won’t go there again, except to say that after 26km of more or less following my own counsel to just do it and get to the end, at something like 300m from flat ground and at most 1km to the finish, I twisted the injured knee hard. As I have noted more than once, I wasn’t even running. The ground was very rocky/rooty and I was walking, but twist that knee I did. It hurt ten times more than the original injury back in the Spring and I really thought I had done serious damage and maybe had just involuntarily ended my running career.  As I limped the last 500m to the finish, tears of anger, frustration and self-pity streamed down my face – just for a short while mind you. I pulled it together for the finish.

 

They cold helps injuries!

As I said, that incident at least showed me that my heart was not ready to stop running. And you know, as bad as that twist felt, I was over it in a couple of days and probably no worse off than I had been before Frosty Mountain.  After the original injury in 2011 I had just a couple of events I wanted to do for very personal reasons with no concern about performance. Frosty Mountain was one, while the two others were a half marathon to complete the family challenge of me running a half with each kid when she or he was half my age, and the Reggae Marathon (my first time there, and as it turned out doing the 10K, not the marathon).

Back to Jetola’s profound statement. I just wanted to be clear that there can be some downs mixed into the ‘FUN’. It is the big picture or long term that counts.

I hear people, especially in social media fora like Facebook, saying how hard running is. I have no argument with it being hard in a physical sense, but some of these people mean hard to do, hard to be motivated about, not enjoyable. Unless part of their ‘fun’ is complaining, I would say such individuals are not having fun and really should not be running. Either that or they should be examining their approach to life. In many instances there is an equation like ‘I can’t run without music to take my mind off what I’m doing’ or ‘I can’t run unless there is a reward (like ice-cream, beer, food, etc) at the end’. I can honestly say and not in any superior way, that I have never wanted or needed music to get me through, nor any reward for getting me to the end of a run. That is not a statement about me, but rather about running and what it brings to so many, me just being one of that multitude.  Truth is that running is my thing, but there are lots of other similar pursuits that I am sure practitioners would talk about in much the same way, and maybe if running really is that hard and ‘un-fun’ for some people, they should try some of those other pursuits.

I do believe and I think Jetola was expressing precisely what I feel, that if the day comes when I dread having to put on my running shoes and heading out for a run, I WILL be done.  And, just to be clear, I do not mean A day, but rather THE day. The older I get and with the various physical challenges I have there are mornings when my back is stiff and sometimes sore and the idea of taking the creaky old me out for a run is not No. 1 on my hit-parade of things to do that day. However, the overall feeling isn’t so much ‘I don’t want to run’ as ‘damn, I am feeling too beat up to get out for a run’. In other words, I still want to run. By THE day I mean if a time ever comes that I just really don’t want to run and it just really isn’t any kind of fun, then as the title says: “I’m done.”

 

NOTE: Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes is now available in e-book format through Trafford Publishing.