Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a problem in Grand Forks, and everywhere else, for that matter. As a frequent runner and bicycle rider, I see it daily, and it scares me!

I’ve recently witnessed people talking on phones, texting, actively engaged in conversation, tending to children, applying makeup, grooming, cuddling with the opposite sex, eating, smoking, changing the radio station, changing CDs, digging through the glove box, reaching into the back seat, and reading while driving. They all think it’s safe to take their mind off of driving for a second or two, and they are almost always correct; nothing usually happens while they are distracted. No harm, no foul, right?

The problem is that when something does happen, it is usually very bad. We allow fast driving speeds in North Dakota, and when a piece of metal, weighing thousands of pounds, is flying down the road it’s not only dangerous for the driver, it’s deadly to everything in its path. Sometimes it is animals, parked vehicles or property like mailboxes that end up destroyed when a driver isn’t paying attention. Sometimes the distracted driver destroys their own vehicle by veering into a ditch, the path of a much larger vehicle like a truck, or into something immovable like a tree or utility pole.

Then there are the times when there is loss of human life. Sometimes it’s the driver or passenger, but sometimes it’s an innocent bystander; a child running out into a road, a runner in a crosswalk, a bicyclist resting along the shoulder of a road, people who are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Was the driver distracted, or was the accident unavoidable? Usually only the driver truly knows the truth. I imagine that if they were distracted, the burden they would carry for the rest of their life would be enormous!

I don’t know how to convince people to pay attention to their driving when operating a motor vehicle. I don’t have answers, but I’m filled with grief each time a member of the active community is mowed down by an automobile. This has been a bad summer for us bikers and runners, and besides grief, we are also full of frustration. We love our various activities, but our loved ones are scared for our safety when we are out about town. We assure them that we’re watchful and careful, but deep down we know that’s not always enough. The city is plagued by distracted drivers, and anyone of us could be the next victim on any given day even if we are doing everything correctly.

I, for one, am not going to let fear keep me from doing what I enjoy doing. I’m going to continue running and bicycling around Grand Forks, attempting to always remain aware of the automobiles I share the streets and sidewalks with. I know my active friends will continue doing the same. Just be aware, all you distracted drivers out there, we are everywhere, we are physically fit, and we are not happy.

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Run Like A Girl

“You run like a girl!” was quite the insult when I was younger. That was, however, many years ago, and before I became part of the North Dakota/Minnesota running community. I now know many fine runners who just also happen to be girls…

There’s Jessica, Miriam, Holly, Auralee, Stacy, Anne-Marie, Rachel, Barb, Jane, Teresa, Joan, Margo, Leslie, Robyn, Julie, Denae, Megan, Leah, Laura and Erin. Of course there’s also Celeste, Kristin, Sheri, Becky, Susan, KaLonny, Claudia, Shannon, Judy, Marie, Kayla, Stephanie, Doni, Heather, Suzie, Melissa, Natasha, LeAnn and Elizabeth. I’d be foolish to not also mention Nicole, Amanda, Sharmon, Peggie, Marla, Ana, Kim, Tori, Mandy, Emily and Jennifer. And who could ever forget Whitney, Maggie, Cathi, Jolie, Amy, Alicia, Michelle, Karyn and Jill!

Yesterday, there was an “all-woman’s” 5K/10K walk/run held in Grand Forks as a fund raiser for Sarah’s Covenant Homes and Stable Days Youth Ranch. 120 women took part in the “Diva Dash” on a beautiful early August Saturday morning, and judging by the pictures in today’s “Grand Forks Herald,” they had a fun time!

I was out on the Greenway later in the morning and found dozens of purple feathers as well as a set of purple beads. It seems like these “Diva Dash” girls were running so fast that they were losing the feathers and jewelry off their costumes. Now, that’s fast!

Speaking of fast… Grand Forks Central student Rachel Cox won the 5K (3.1 miles) event with a time of 19:33! This young lady posted an average pace of 6 minutes and 18 seconds per mile! Run like a girl? Don’t I wish…

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New Thoughts About The University of North Dakota

I’ve had strong connections to North Dakota State University my entire life. Dad worked with the agronomists at the University for years raising foundation seed: Many of the 50 lb bags of seed we would empty into our drill each spring had the University’s golden seal attached right in the seam. When an animal, either wild or domestic, would die under circumstances associated with rabies, we would cut its head off and send it to the University for testing. North Dakota State University was a part of the daily life of many North Dakota farmers like us.

The University of North Dakota, on the other hand, was just this black hole in Grand Forks that I didn’t know very much about. It was the university that produced hockey players, doctors and lawyers. While I had respect for physicians, hockey players and lawyers weren’t very high on my list of admirable people.

Then, in 1981, I began attending North Dakota State University, and suddenly the college in Grand Forks, which I knew very little about, developed a face and personality; that of the drunk, angry, obscenity spewing fans that came to Fargo to cheer on their Fighting Sioux. I realize that the Fighting Sioux fans weren’t the only obnoxious ones during those days of heated rivalry, but the students and fans that came to Fargo for sporting events were the only representatives of the University of North Dakota that I ever saw, and I grew to dislike everything associated with them.

In 1988, I was hired by the University of North Dakota as a contract employee to supply services for the Agricultural Research Service. I’m a University employee on paper, but in reality, I have very little to do with them. I have absolutely no contact with the faculty or students. So, even though I’ve worked at the University of North Dakota for 26 years, my impression of the students and fans hadn’t changed much since 1981.

Something changed this summer, however: My son enrolled at the University of North Dakota and we’ve met many wonderful people during the visits we’ve made to campus. These are people who are dedicated to make Carl’s educational experience at the University of North Dakota a positive one, and they take their job seriously!

We were at the new Scheels on Friday and I was looking for a hot weather running tank top. Sue pointed at one that said “University of North Dakota” and laughed, knowing that I wouldn’t be interested. I’ve never purchased anything with “University of North Dakota” on it in my entire life, and she knew I wasn’t going to start now. But for the first time ever, I wasn’t revolted by the mere sight of something promoting the university, and I actually kind of liked it, so I secretly tried it on.

I ended up purchasing the top, and when I finally showed it to Carl and Sue, they stared with their mouths wide open; they were absolutely speechless! Carl eventually spoke first and asked why I finally decided to buy something like that, and I told him: “I’m proud of the University of North Dakota because that’s where my son goes to college!”

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2014 Firecracker 5K

I competed in the Firecracker 5K race on Friday morning right here in Grand Forks. The race is an annual event held each 4th of July, and is put on by the YMCA. I posted a decent time last weekend in Grafton’s Summer Fest 5K and was anxious to see if I could improve on it this weekend closer to home.

I had been having a lot of pain in the side of my face this week, and ended up having a root canal on an upper molar Thursday afternoon. I feared that several days of pain, topped off by an hour of white knuckles in a dentist chair, would take its toll on my running ability and I would be hard pressed to match my Grafton showing.

The weather was beautiful, so despite my sore mouth, I decided to push for a personal record (PR) anyway. I started out fast, at a sub seven minute mile pace, and was amazed that as the race progressed, I was able to keep it going. I finished the 3.1 miles in 21 minutes and 3 seconds, good enough for a new PR!

I finished 12th out of 152 finishers overall, but more importantly, I was the top finisher (out of 12) in the 50-59 year old men division. I even received a medal and a $10 Scheels Gift Certificate! This was the first time I’ve ever won money from running, and I must admit, it was very thrilling! When I got home and told Sue that I wanted to quit my job so I could pursue even greater glory, she just smiled and said that I would always be her favorite 50-59 year old man!

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Grandma’s Marathon

I spent Friday night with Sue, Jim, and Nancy in a dorm suite at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth. In the morning, Jim drove me to the area where the buses were waiting and I boarded one at 6AM. I was then dropped me off outside Two Harbors at 6:45; about three blocks from the starting line. I had an hour wait, so I began slowly walking towards the main cluster of people, most of which were lined up behind one of the hundred or so porta-potties placed parallel to the starting line.

I saw my friend Teresa right away, and gave her a hug for luck. She was getting ready to run her first marathon, and she was simply beaming with energy! After a little stretching, I got into one of the dozens of lines for the porta-potties, and began waiting. A half hour later, it began to appear that I wouldn’t have enough time to get rid of my one cup of morning coffee, but then they started playing the national anthem, and hundreds of people left the lines and began heading for the starting chute. I quickly moved forward before someone else could cut in front of me during all of the chaos.

I did make it inside a porta-potty with five minutes to spare, and then raced towards the bag check area to get rid of my coat. I then began walking along the outside of the starting area with hundreds of others, on the edge of a ditch, looking for a place to climb over the fence. People were popping over the orange barricade all over the starting area when the final warm up song, “Chariots of Fire,” began blaring over the speakers. I began making exaggerated slow motion running movements like ones from the movie, and as I glanced around, hundreds of others were doing the same.

I didn’t hear the starting gun go off, but eventually the mass of people began moving towards the starting line. About four minutes later, I stepped over the rubber mat, and officially began my running of the 38th Grandma’s Marathon!

Almost from the beginning, runners that had failed to make it into a porta-potty began stopping along the side of the road to relieve themselves; sometimes while still standing on the pavement. Roadside urination was a common sight during the first half, and while most of the time it was a steamy arc leaving a man’s running shorts, I saw at least a half dozen women jogging through the ditch and heading for the trees while lowering their shorts.

I was wearing a white canvas throw away jacket (this year’s Fargo Half Marathon complementary post race wrap) but with the temperature still at 49 degrees at the start of the race, I decided to leave it on, with the hood still up over my head. After three miles of gradually warming up, the hood came down, and I settled into my planned pace of 8:20-8:25 per mile. There were a lot of gradual hills and I slowed up a bit while going up and went down a little faster, keeping the effort constant like Martin coached.

I experienced a few lower GI rumbles during mile 6, and began to fear that a porta-potty stop might become necessary in my near future. There were only two each mile, so I began to check them all as I went by, costing me a few seconds each time. I finally arrived at the halfway point to discover, much to my relief, a virtual city of unoccupied porta-potties!

Two things about my quick pit stop: 1) The porta-potties have mirrors on the inside of their doors. It’s not a pleasant sight looking into your own face close up after running 13 miles! 2) I had been averaging an 8:30 pace up until that time. Spending about a minute in the porta-potty brought my average up to 8:37.

The white caution flag was still flying on the race course, warning runners that the temperature and fog were combining to pose a risk of hypothermia so I decided to leave my canvas jacket on a while longer. I was now feeling comfortable, warm, relieved, and slightly rested so I went back to work. I knew my goal of 3 hours 40 minutes was no longer possible, but a PR of 3:47 still was, so that would become my focus.

Miles 14-19 went well, with me averaging 8:34, but I was becoming very tired. There seemed to be quite a bit of uphill running after that, and miles 20-22 wiped me out, and I could only maintain a 9:22 average while doing it. It finally became warm enough for me to remove my jacket at mile 21, and although my arm pits had become raw, the fresh air on my arms felt good and I perked a little. I reached the top of Lemon Drop Hill, and a spectator informed me that the rest of the course was all downhill. A runner on my left remarked that she hoped it was the truth, and I added “Me too!”

Somewhere in that area there were a group of fraternity guys standing along the course with beer funnels, offering to pour a beer down your throat. A young man ahead of me ran over, opened his mouth, tilted his head back, and downed one as I went past. Another frat guy sprinted up to me and asked if I wanted one too. I said “No thank you” and continued on my way. As he headed back to his brothers, he loudly proclaimed to everyone on the road “Only pussies drink water!” I immediately determined that he was either very stupid or very drunk. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and presumed he had downed one too many beers for breakfast, and blew his comment off. What sober person would question the toughness of someone who had just run 22 miles? Besides, if he was inferring that women were weak, I was certain one of the 3,000 marathon and 4,000 half marathon female finishers that would be passing his way would eventually set him straight!

The final 4 miles were mostly downhill, and there were lots of people cheering me along, but I had nothing left, and struggled to maintain a simple recovery pace. I averaged 10 minute miles over that stretch but had a very pleasant surprise right at the 25 mile mark: Sue, Jim and Nancy were standing along the street holding signs and cheering. Sue has never been out on the course, so hearing her call my name caught me by surprise. She later said I looked terribly tired, and when I saw the picture she took, I had to agree with her assessment. I ran over to the three and gave them high fives before stumbling along for the final mile.

I finished my first Grandma’s Marathon in a time of 3 hours, 55 minutes and 9 seconds. I later heard that Dick Beardsley’s 33 year old course record had fallen earlier that morning. I was saddened that the record for Minnesota’s most famous marathon was no longer held by a native Minnesotan, but felt good about being on the course when history was made. It was my seventh marathon and overall it was a very pleasant experience.

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It’s Race Week!

I’m running Grandma’s Marathon this Saturday, and as usual, I’m starting to feel both nervous and excited.

I’m nervous because like always, there are so many things that are unknown. I’ve been training since January, but missed some time due to back issues: How will that affect me? I have some nagging aches and pains that I’ve managed to work through, but will one of them get worse during the course of 26 miles and cause me to drop out? Will the temperature be overly warm? Will it be muggy, windy, or raining? What will the race course be like?

Then there is the excitement. I’ve trained hard, and a PR is certainly possible. I’m experiencing the effects of my taper and am beginning to feel rested and energized. I love Duluth, and am looking forward to a fun few days with Sue, her cousin Nancy, and her husband Jim.

All of these things are going through my mind every few hours along with thoughts of fueling and my eventual choice of running gear. Throw in a busy week at work, and you can understand why I’ve been extremely absent minded. I even forgot to bring my running watch to the UND Wellness Center tonight for my workout. At least come Saturday, all I’ll have to remember is “left foot, right foot, repeat.” Speaking of feet; I hope I don’t forget my shoes!

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I Love Summer!

I’m a boy of summer. Here in Grand Forks, where hockey is the greatest thing ever, it’s not the boys of summer, but rather the boys of winter whom we hold in high esteem. It does make sense that we embrace our winter when you consider how long and harsh it is; not doing so would surely result in mass insanity! I, on the other hand, enjoy just about everything related to summer, and I’m going to use this space to make my case.


10) Mowing is better than blowing. Sure, both are chores that need to be completed, but mowing is done on your schedule, whereas blowing is done according to Mother Nature’s schedule. Mowing is done maybe once a week when it’s convenient for you. Blowing is done every time it snows, and that can be daily.
9) You can drive normal speed during the summer. Most of the winter you have to reduce speed due to poor conditions, and allow extra time to get to your destination. It takes longer to get everywhere during the winter, and you’re more tense after the drive.
8) Outside air smells better than inside air. Most of the winter all you get to breathe is stale, inside air. When you open that first window of the spring, you remember what you’ve been missing!
7) Cooking on the grill. I have yet to discover any way of cooking a piece of meat that makes it as tasty as when it comes off an outdoor grill.
6) You can go outside without a coat, hat, boots, face mask, scarf and gloves. It is so simple to go anywhere during the summer when you can simply walk out the door.
5) Being in the water is more enjoyable than walking on it. Feeling the water all over your body while swimming in it is a pleasant sensation. Skating on top of frozen water and falling? Not so pleasant…
4) Fresh vegetables out of the garden. Is there anything better than a tomato right out of your own garden? Have you purchased one in a grocery store in January?
3) Fresh produce from across the rest of our great nation. I don’t grow peaches, but I enjoy them greatly when they’re in season. The same goes for melons, cherries, strawberries, and blackberries.
2) The sun should be warm. The sun is necessary for all life on earth and when warm sunlight touches your skin, you can feel its life giving energy. During the winter, we get to view “pretty sun dogs” while wearing our coat, hat, boots, face mask, scarf and gloves.
1) Summer air doesn’t hurt your face. It’s pretty simple; air shouldn’t cause pain, and winter air hurts your face.

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A Letter For My Son

My Dear Carl,

I was there in the hospital the day you were born. I saw you take your first breath, and heard your make your first cry. I was overcome when I saw your face for the first time: I had never seen anything so precious in my life. I was immediately filled with a new kind of love unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I cut the umbilical cord that day and started you on your life’s journey.

I was there when you were baptized into God’s family. You wore the same gown I, and my father before me, had worn for our baptisms decades earlier. As I held your tiny head over the font that day, I thanked God for the wonderful gift He had given me, and prayed for the wisdom and patience to be a good father.

I was there in the cabin at Itasca with you Carl, when I first heard you laugh. I sat in front of you, popping your bottle cap out of my mouth over and over again, making you laugh until you fell asleep from exhaustion. Hearing you laugh filled me with joy that day, and it still continues to do the same each time I hear it.

I was there with you Carl, when you took your first steps at the zoo in Tucson. You saw the heads of two giraffes over some trees, and took off to go see them. It struck me at that moment that your first steps were away from me instead of towards me. I realized then that it was my job, as difficult as it seemed at the time, to prepare you for even larger steps away from me in the future.

I was there with you Carl, when you were three years old and went to your first day of preschool. You were so excited to be finally going to “school!” I was still carrying you most places that fall, but by spring you preferred to walk everywhere on your own. The picture I have of you on that first day at United Day Nursery is still my favorite, and I’ve placed it on my dresser where I can see it every day.

I was there Carl, when you earned your black belt in karate. I sat there watching, my stomach in knots, while you prepared to break your boards. When you broke the last one, I jumped up and yelled YEAH, while accenting the point with a skyward fist pump. My reaction may have been more than what you saw from other parents that day, but that’s only because I was cheering for the best kid on the floor!

Today I will be with you as you walk across the stage to receive your high school diploma. It will be yet another step towards your independence and like at the zoo in Tucson, it will be yet another step away from me. There will be many more steps to your life in the years to come, and like always, I’ll be right there behind you. I’ll be there to guide you, to help you, and most importantly, to love you as you continue wherever your heart and mind lead you. You’ve become a fine young man Carl, and I’m proud to tell everyone that you’re my son.



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My Mother’s Greatest Gift

Mothers are the most generous creatures God put on this planet. Mothers give to their children from the moment of conception; providing their own calcium for their child’s bones, their own protein for their child’s muscle, and their very blood to supply life for their children. Most mothers don’t even think about everything they give to their developing child, but every single one of them would do it anyway if given a choice: That’s just the way mothers are.

Mothers provide the initial gateway into this world, and then spend the rest of their lives helping their children explore and learn all about it. Mothers teach, and mothers care for, but most of all mothers love, and when I say love, I mean really love their children. It is an unconditional love that remains forever, no matter what.

My mother taught me to be gentle with my sisters, and to this day I feel protective of all the women in my life. My mother taught me to be curious and to always strive for answers, and I have spent my professional career working in human nutritional research. My mother taught me to never give up, and I learned to peddle a bicycle with one leg as a child, and now run marathons as an adult.

The most important lesson my mother taught me, however, was about what was inside of me. She always told me I was smart and was capable of doing anything in this world that I wanted to do, and for some reason I believed her. When people told me that I wasn’t smart or good enough, I always knew deep down that they were wrong. Mother gave me the courage to face life knowing that I would always find a way to succeed, and that is the greatest gift she gave me. Happy Mother’s Day Mom: I love you!

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The Race Will Go On!

This is America, and even with our problems, we are still the greatest nation on earth! What makes us special? There is much that set us apart from other nations, but I think what is the most significant is the unity we display in the face of adversity.

One year ago, a couple of Chechen brothers declared war on the United States and detonated two homemade bombs during the Boston Marathon. They committed this act of terrorism as retribution for what they believe to be an American war against Islam. They wanted to kill and harm people as pay back for civilians killed by American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to fill us with fear.

Americans have debated our nation’s presence in Iraq and Afghanistan since before the terrorist attack, and we continue to discuss these policies to this day. The Chechen brothers could have become part of the discussion, but once they decided on violence instead of debate, their opinions effectively became unimportant. Their explosions had little, if any, effect on the way we look at these policies, one way or the other: Americans take pride in their ability to remain fair no matter what the circumstances.

What I find most amazing is our absolute refusal to allow this act of terror to cause division between us. Americans have a unique tendency to band together when threatened, which separates us from other people. We may not always like our neighbor, but if something befalls them, we come to their aid without question. While other people welcome the demise of a hated neighbor, Americans will defend their neighbor to the death.

Tomorrow, the Boston Athletic Association will once again hold their annual marathon, and as always, there is no shortage of runners wanting to run the prestigious race. 36,000 runners will proudly line up at the starting line to show the world we aren’t afraid. A record number of spectators will join them throughout the greater Boston area to cheer them on, to protect them from harm and to once again prove to everyone watching across the globe that America is still the greatest nation on earth!

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