Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Coach Jones

I still remember my first high school track practice. I was scared to death.

The coach, Vic Jones, was loud and surly. He growled a lot. And he frowned a lot. No, it was more of a scowl.

Thanks to the biting winter temperatures, those first practices were endless wind sprints in an auxiliary gym, followed by laps through hallways. Then more wind sprints... and more laps.

They were brutal, unending, and smelly.

I tried to when every sprint, to be first to finish the laps... in the hope that Coach Jones might notice me.

Coach eventually did notice me that year. The first time he yelled my name I jumped as if a cannon had gone off behind me. He left me alone most of the time. By the end of my freshman year, I felt lucky to be told "You could have gone faster."

My sophomore year I started to win, which meant I heard more from Coach. I was still scared to death of the man, but I wanted desperately for his approval. When I thought winning now and then was enough, he kicked my ass.

The next year I won most of the time, and Coach had a lot to do with that. He pushed me hard, challenged me, and kept his praise a scarce commodity. I did get the occasional raised eyebrows and slightest hint of a smile when I set a good time. But he knew, somehow, that there was more in me, and he worked me like hell to get it out.

By my senior year, I was as good of an athlete as I would ever be. I'd absorbed the work ethic that Coach had soaked me in over me for the previous 3 years. I was fast, and strong, and knew my races better than anyone I would race against until the state meet.

After four years, Coach was my biggest supporter. The scowl was gone. There were no more harsh words meant to push me further. He knew he didn't need them anymore... they'd served their purpose. That year, Coach smiled, a lot. He'd joke with me, give me a wink to let me in on the tough-guy act he was giving the younger boys. He'd even put his arm around me while we talked about a race.

By the end of my senior year, Coach Jones was more than a coach, more than a mentor, he was my friend.


The last time I saw Coach was many years ago. He'd heard I was in town and came way out into the country to my parents' house to see me and catch up.

That evening he paid me the greatest compliment I have ever received. I will keep it private, between me and Coach, but it has stayed with me, and lifted me, to know that such a wonderful man thought so highly of me.

Coach Jones quite literally changed my life simply by believing in me, challenging me, and helping me become a better athlete, leader, and person. And he didn't do it with words. He did it the hard way, with action, time, attention, presence.

It's a rare person who can recognize potential and bring it out of someone who doesn't even see it in themselves. 

Thanks, Coach.

Good running,
Doug

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sadee

Dear readers, may I introduce…


Sadee

Good running,
Doug

Friday, January 17, 2014

Meg's Miles

I didn't know Meg Menzies, but I mourn her loss.

She was one of us. A runner. A marathoner.

She was a wife and a mother.

She was killed Monday morning, hit by a drunk driver, while on her run.

I've got nothing to say that will make that any less horrible.

What I will say is that you, my dear readers, really need to lace up your shoes and go for a run on Saturday.

I'm not kidding.

Run, walk, or stroll on Saturday to honor the memory, and to contemplate the loss of one of our own.

You won't be alone.

Over 70,000 runners, walkers, regular people will be doing it with you as participants in Meg's Miles, a Facebook event that costs nothing, asks nothing, except to get outside and appreciate the fact that you can move across the earth.

From the event description:
This Saturday, January 18, 2014, no matter what your distance, no matter where you live, run for Meg. Take in the fresh air, be aware of your surroundings, keep your headphones on low, feel the heaviness in your lungs, the soreness in your legs, and be grateful for it--for all of it. The sweat, the pain, the wind, the cold…everything. Be grateful for that moment. 
Also think a bit about runner safety. What can you do to be more safe? How can you help newer runners to stay safe? What can we do as motorists to keep runners safe?

Post your thoughts in comments below (or to your running club's Facebook page, or email them to your running buddies). I will collect all of the ideas left here in comments as well as those emailed to me, add some of my own, and post them next week.

We need to look out for each other, folks, just as much as we need to keep an eye out for drunk drivers, texting drivers, unintentionally-bad-but-just-as-deadly drivers.

Meg and her family

Join the event, run your run, and while you're out there, think of Meg, and her family, and how lucky you are to be able to do what you're doing.

Good running,
Doug

Pictures borrowed from Facebook pages of Meg and Meg's Miles.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Foul mood

I woke up with Violent Femmes in my head. No matter how much I like the song, waking up with punk rock in your head is not a good sign.

I woke up today in a seriously foul mood. It lasted all day.

Those of you who know me know that that is unlike me.

I blame the dog.

She left me without her mood altering wet nose, whip-like tail, and unnaturaly soft furry head.

I miss her terribly.

More, I am tormented by the quiet in my house. Haunted by the lack of hair on the bottom of my socks, incessant demand for attention, unconditional love, and unwarranted adoration.

I wanted to punch the old lady who held up the line at Starbucks this morning digging for exact change.

I think I need another dog… for my own sanity... before I hurt someone.

Good running,
Doug

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mandee


My house was too quiet this morning.

No tinkling dog tags. No gnashing of teeth on a big cow bone. No lapping up water. No crunching of kibble.

I didn't wake to a paw on the bed and a look of eager hope that it was finally time to play.

When my feet hit the floor, there were no jumps with 360 spins, no dash to the back door with looks back over a shoulder to make sure I was still there. No pause once back inside the door for vigorous pets and affirmation that she is, indeed, a very good girl.

My Mandelbrot, my Mando Calrissian, my puppy schnup, my puppies-dog... my dear, dear sweet Mandee, died last night.

Those of you who are long-time readers know how much that amazing dog meant to me. She was a full-fledged member of the family, and, I know it's a cliche, but she truly was my best friend.

Mandee and Andrew, her first day in the family.

Mandee just a couple days later with a very young Duke.

I could go on for 100 pages listing all of the things that are missing from my life now that Mandee is gone. But I hate maudlin pet death stories as much as you do. Probably more.

So here, I will simply describe the loss of the best running partner I've ever had.

Mandee was the most natural runner I've ever seen...
and the most joyous.

Mandee absolutely loved to run. And she was a badass. It was her life. Running brought us together and made us best friends.

She knew my running clothes from all of my other clothes, no doubt made pretty easy for her by the smell. Once she smelled those clothes, she couldn't control her joy. It really was a sight to see - the jumping and mid-air twirling and whining and yipping with delight.

After an excited spin or two, and once I was in my gear, she would sit to have her collar changed and her leash clipped on, but just barely. Her tail would whip back and forth, cracking like a whip. Her front paws would knead the floor, her eyes wide open with overflowing anticipation and boundless joy. She managed to control herself for those 2 seconds, but as soon as the leash clip snaped, she was back to her jumping and twirling and desparate urging of me to hurry the hell up.

Let's go already, old man.

She was a natural runner. Lean, strong, fast, steady, with a stride as smooth as silk. She'd pull me a bit the first mile or so, she just couldn't help herself. She just wanted to go! Eventually, she'd match my pace, glue herself to my left side, and together we'd knock out the miles, loving every second of it.

Mandee loved running in the woods, or the roads, or grass…
anywhere but a treadmill

She was much faster than me, but she rarely showed it. She dragged me up hills, but she'd also drop anchor, with no warning, when nature called, more than once coming close to dislocating my shoulder.

Mandee drops a deuce in a snow-filled fountain.
No doubt this was my dog.

She knew our regular routes as well as I did, turning with me, without any input. She knew when to cross streets. She knew when she needed to slow down for a bit, which was very rare. She leaped over storm grates and puddles and logs with effortless grace. Over thousands of miles on uneven streets and sidewalks, and over hundreds of miles on trails, I never once saw her trip, or even put a foot wrong. And her eyes were always on the horizon.

In the early days, Mandee would pace me through a 47 minute 7-miler, and beg for more. Her longest run was 14 miles, at the end of which she looked up at me as if to say "Is that it? Oh, ok. Cool."

Mandee wondering why the hell we've stopped in the middle of a quick 7-miler

Lately, we both slowed down a bit, me more than her. But she never lost the drive to run.

She was one of us.

We were a bit slower, but still had a great time.

Mandee  was a share-pei/lab mix, and quite simply, the best dog I have ever known, mine or otherwise.

She came from the humane society.

Please don't buy dogs from breeders (unless you intend to show them) or pet stores. Go to the humane society or any rescue, and find your perfect dog before their life is wasted. You will be rewarded with unwavering loyalty and love. And your dog won't be an inbred freak show.

The Duke and I took Mandee out to lunch

Every time we finish one of our home-based runs, when we crossed the finish line by the mailbox, she'd look up at me, waiting for the affirmation that she knew she deserved, but needed to hear anyway. I'd reach down, pat her head or her ribs, and tell her the same thing. Always the same phase. And really, I think that phrase pretty well sums up my (too short) time with this sweet, lovable, gorgeous…


quick as a rabbit, faster than a squirrel…

Proud as could be, "Hey Dad, look what I have for you!"

intimidatingly fit, unintentionally hilarious…

Mandee would stand like this for 15 minutes at the vet… no movement… at all.

loyal constant companion, and the world's best running buddy of almost 7 years. Yeah, it sums up our time together perfectly...

Good girl, Mandee... great run!

Doug
PS - Bonus material

Mandee's co-starring role in our short Run.com video (she steals the show): Doug White, Everyday Runner

Mandee's guest blog post:  Day 285 - Guest Blogger

Her trademark wispy belly hairs, with snow after a long hard winter run:

Sunday, January 5, 2014

What I learned from Matisse

Henri Matisse was, as far as I know, not a runner.

Yet, he has something to teach us.

As a younger man in the late 1800's and early 1900's, he hung out with Picasso and Duchamp and became one of the most influential artists of his age.

He was a painter and sculptor, often using sculpture to help him coalesce his thoughts for a painting.


He became well known, maybe even famous, during his life.

More importantly, he never stopped exploring color and space and using them to express emotion.







Matisse sculpted Jaguar Devouring a Hare blindfolded.
Blindfolded!!


Time, though, as it always does, took it's toll on Henri.



The vibrant young man aged. He got, well, fat, and fragile. Sorry Henri, but, it's true.

Eventually, he couldn't stand at an easel. Or even 6 feet from an easel with a long-ass stick. (How cool is that, buy the way?)

Successful, renowned, admired, revered, Henri could have taken a bow and drawn the curtain on a magnificent career, closed the cover on an unbelievable portfolio.

"Fuck that!", said Henri, strangely choosing the American expression rather than one his native french.

Instead, starting in the 1940's, while in his 70s (!), he found a new way, a new mode of expression.

Henri drew with scissors.


Matisse used watercolors to create brilliant colors on paper, and then scissors to create the shapes/emotions.

He could do this without standing.


And what he created was simply marvelous. Here is a very small sample (and some of my favorites):





He didn't struggle to maintain a status quo that was unattainable. He didn't cling to his past accomplishments, nor let them define him. Rather than bitch and moan, or worse give in and give up, Henri found an outlet, a way to create and to continue to discover that fit his present.

Runners, despite our wishes and delusions, also age. Eventually PRs stop coming, our pace slackens, our aches and pains linger longer.

Like Matisse, we have a choice: we can compare every run to what we did 10, 20, even 30 years earlier, bemoaning our lack of pace and sluggish turnover.

Or, we can embrace our present, be proud that we are alive and still running, and find challenges that are age-appropriate.

Age group PRs, easy-on-the-body trails, slow-and-steady ultras can by just as satisfying and rewarding as any 10K was back in the day. And more, they present new challenges, and can show you a new side of running, even a new side of yourself.

Change, is inevitable my dear readers. Embrace it. Adapt and never stop exploring your running, pushing your limits, expanding your horizons.

And when you get home, after you stretch and shower, get out some construction paper, scissors, and glue, and see what happens.

Good running,
Doug

PS - I saw all of the works above at the Matisse: Life in Color exhibition at Indianapolis Museum of Art. If you want to see it in Indy, hurry, it leaves next weekend. Otherwise, keep an eye out for it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Where's your nose?

I've noticed a disturbing trend over the last few months.

Noses are disappearing.

Since September 19th, 1982, the proper emoticon for a smile has been, and I quote:
:-)

Sad face? :-(

Sometime this year, or maybe last year, it became in vogue to omit the nose, producing the frankly disturbing looking :)

Or worse, the wrong way (:  <---- is="" p="" that="" wtf="">
Looks like a frog on acid to me.

I feel compelled to start my next sentence with "These kids today…" but I'm resisting.

Still, it's the same people you text "ur" instead of, or because they don't know the correct word/contraction for "you're" that are skipping the noble nose that makes a smiley friendly. And less creepy.

And how on earth do you neglect the carrot nose?  :^)

Or the clown nose? :O)

Let alone the clown with glasses and a party hat? *<8o p="">
How can you stick your tongue out at someone without the nose?

:P just doesn't cut it.

:-P works.

If you type "ain't", or "ur", "bff", "luv", or "cuz", well, do what you will.

If you have any respect for decency and yourself, stand up for the proper, classic, old-f'in-school smiley. Keep the nose.

:-)

Good running,
Doug