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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Shoot to Thrill

AC/DC; while some people may not care for their glorification of alcohol, sex, and fast living, their energetic style of rock ‘n roll is undoubtedly popular. Nothing gets my pulse racing like some Malcolm Young power chords and AC/DC’s “Back in Black” album is full of them!

Race officials choose music leading up to the starting gun that gets runner’s adrenaline flowing. The Fargo Marathon opted for AC/DC’s “Shoot to Thrill” to send runners on their way in 2011, and I applauded their choice. When Malcolm’s first few notes blared through the speakers (which purposely give the impression of feed-back, by the way) runners began jumping up and down screaming encouragement at each other. My entire body shivered and my skin crawled with goose bumps: I’ve never experienced an adrenaline surge like that before and haven’t since. I was totally primed to run 26.2 miles!

Today, as I was driving around Grand Forks, I pulled out AC/DC’s “Back in Black”. “Hell’s Bells,” the first track of the album, invited me to turn up the volume which I readily agreed to do. “Shoot to Thrill” came on next, and those first few notes brought me back to 2011. My skin became covered with goose flesh, and I pressed the accelerator a little closer to the floor boards. My head started bobbing with the beat, and I was once again mentally ready for 26.2 miles. Unfortunately, my drive around town wasn’t anywhere near that distance, but I still fully appreciated the energy that AC/DC brings!

“Shoot to Thrill” is the ultimate song to send runners off for a marathon, but it also works pretty good for getting 50 year old men around Grand Forks on a Sunday afternoon!

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The Holly Hustle

Winter running is a challenge in Grand Forks. Snow covered sidewalks create uneven surfaces which can lead to twisted ankles. Icy surfaces cause slips and falls, especially when they’re hidden underneath the snow. Sub zero temperatures and wind chills make it almost impossible to stay warm, especially if you become sweaty. Running inside on a treadmill or track gets boring fast. These are all possibilities runners consider when planning a workout, weighing them carefully before proceeding with what seems like the best choice for the current conditions.

A couple of years ago, one of my running friends desperately wanted to do her long runs outside, but strong winds and sub zero temperatures made it impossible. Holly could dress warm enough to stay warm while running with a tailwind, but nothing could prevent her from freezing while running into a brisk headwind for several straight miles. What was a girl to do?

Holly, being the resourceful person she is, devised a plan. She asked a friend to drive her out of town in the direction of the wind, which allowed her to complete her entire run while returning home without ever needing to run into a headwind. Holly liked it, so she did it again, and again, and again…

Holly began to be teased for her frequent “with-the-wind” runs back into Grand Forks. Dan, a mutual friend, coined the phrase “Holly Hustle” for this type of workout, and it kind of stuck. I believe the popularity of the phrase can be attributed to the double meaning of the word “hustle:” 1) To proceed at a faster pace, 2) To deceive through trickery. Always running with the wind seems to fit both of these definitions to some extent!

Yesterday, I woke up for another long Saturday run only to be greeted by yet another day of sub zero wind chills. I’ve been running indoors, on a track, for virtually every run so far this year but as my distance has increased with each passing week, so has my desperation to get back outside. I had 13 miles to cover for the day but saw that the single digit temperatures were bad, and that they were made worse by a strong NNE wind bringing the wind chill below -20. What was a guy to do?

Holly @ Boston 2013

I started thinking… You know, Holly is a great runner: She’s currently training for her second Boston Marathon in two years. Why not try doing a “hustle” of my own? I asked Sue if she would be willing to drive me out of town and leave me, and she said yes without a second of hesitation. I got the feeling that this was not a new consideration for my wife; but that’s a topic for another day…

We drove north and east along deserted gravel roads until we arrived at county road #33, just east of Manvel. I’ve frequently completed much longer runs than this, but driving 13 miles immediately prior to running the distance was new, and kind of psyched me out. I believe that by driving me to the start, perhaps Sue got a more realistic feel for what her husband does each Saturday!

I came to understand the “Hustle” a little better during my return run, and could better appreciate the different kinds of effort that are required in a feat such as this: It’s not as easy as it seems for a variety of reasons: 1) It’s mentally challenging because you don’t get the continuous block by block progress feedback. 2) When you do head into a cross wind, which I did for about three miles total, there is NOTHING to slow it down, making it harder than anything a runner faces in town. 3) You have to continually focus on the gravel surface to avoid stepping on rocks. 4) I experienced a surge of adrenaline when two large dogs came running out onto the road to bark while running behind me for an eighth of a mile. 5) There are no toilets; elaboration unnecessary!

I returned to my house in a little under two hours feeling physically and mentally drained. It was 13.15 miles, but it somehow seemed a lot further. Thank you Holly for luring me out of my comfort zone and giving me reason to try something new; my “hustle” was a great experience!

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Picking Maxie

Our family loves dogs. Sue and I got our first puppy, Jedda, soon after we purchased our house. Lucy followed two years later. By the time Carl came along, both of these dogs were fully entrenched as members of our family, and they accepted him as one of their own.

All of us thoroughly enjoyed the dog’s companionship so that when we lost Lucy in 2005, and Jedda in 2008, our household became uncomfortably quiet. Sue and I both were caught up in the sadness that occurs when a pet dies, so we wanted to wait several months or longer before getting another dog. Carl also missed Jedda and Lucy, but started asking to get another dog a few days later. He was at the age where he spent time in the house by himself and said he felt safer with a dog.

After a month of pleading from Carl, we finally agreed to visit our local animal shelter, Circle of Friends Humane Society, to just “look around.” We went on a Friday evening and as expected, discovered the shelter full of Labrador retriever crosses. I focused in on a female named Daisy who was very engaging and full of energy. Daisy did bark a lot, which Sue said might be a problem, but she agreed that Daisy was a very friendly, pleasant dog. We looked around some more but because the shelter was closing soon, decided to go home and get a night’s sleep before making a decision.

As we were leaving, we walked by the last kennel, where a female named Astro had spent the evening quietly lying in the back of her enclosure, not paying us any attention. Astro lifted her head and made eye contact with Sue. As Sue neared the bars, Astro slowly stood up and walked over to check us out. Sue put her hand inside to greet the black dog who gently nudged it with her nose. Astro stepped back a bit and while watching us, began slowly wagging her tail.

We drove home talking about Daisy, but Sue said there was something really special about Astro too. We agreed to go back the next day and look again.

We drove back to Circle of Friends the next morning feeling more excited than expected at the prospect of possibly becoming dog owners once again. I asked to take Daisy out into the walking area, and was given a leash. Daisy came out and barked at the dog in the next kennel. She proceeded to bark at every dog or cat we passed on our way outside, but eventually settled down once we got outside. Daisy proved to be a pleasant, affectionate dog!

Next, I asked to take out Astro. All night I had pondered why the staff at Circle of Friends had given a female dog the name Astro, which I associated with the male Great Dane from the animated television show “The Jetsons.” Sue told me she thought Astro was a gender neutral name which could be used for either sex, but still I wondered. I quickly understood why she had been named Astro when I was handed her leash and she bolted towards the door with such violence that my arm was nearly yanked out of its socket! She reared up on her hind legs and started jumping up and down against her leash, struggling to pull me towards the door. We continued down the hallway in the same manner; Astro pulling me along with every ounce of her strength, her front legs rarely touching the floor.

Like Daisy, Astro calmed a little once we were outside, but she was still the craziest dog I had ever been around. She pulled me over to the water dish, and after she drank her fill, purposely used her foot to overturn it. I remember thinking Astro was incredibly smart, but also a little defiant and naughty. I didn’t know if I wanted Astro as my pet or not.

Our return back inside was as chaotic as our trip out had been, with Astro lengthening both of my arms several inches with her lunging and pulling. Sue had remained inside to complete the adoption request in the event we wanted to take a dog home that day. When Astro and I returned, Sue tried to quiet the wild beast, and within a minute, the two were sitting on the floor together. Astro had her head resting on Sue’s lap while she looked up into Sue’s eyes. Sue was hooked!

We returned Astro to her kennel and held a quick family meeting to discuss if we wanted to adopt her. Sue and Carl both wanted Astro, but I was a little hesitant due to how out of control she had been for most of the time I had her on a leash. I agreed that Astro was a nice dog, so I asked the manager what she thought. She said Astro was a very adoptable dog that she had kept around longer than normal because of how gentle she was with people, especially children. She said most dogs at the shelter are craving human interaction, and get kind of crazy when someone talks to them. She thought Astro would calm down after we got her home.

We agreed to adopt Astro, and played with her while the manager checked out our suitability as pet owners. She eventually returned and said we could take Astro home.

Astro pulled like a team of horses as we left the Circle of Friends Humane Society and headed for our van. I recall thinking that if Astro got loose; she wouldn’t stop running until she was in a different county. Once inside the van, Astro made herself comfortable in the way back instead of by Carl’s feet like he wanted. We asked Carl if he wanted to keep Astro as her name, or if he had another one in mind. Carl said he wanted to call her Maxie, so that’s what we did.

It has turned out that we were all correct about Astro/Maxie. She remains, as I feared, a dog which frequently becomes so focused on something that she totally ignores us completely, becoming uncontrollable. She has also proven to be extremely gentle and sweet; which is what Sue saw in her. Most of all though, she has been a faithful companion to Carl; which is exactly what he wanted from a dog. Maxie has been with Carl as he changed from an adolescent into a young man and I’m sure that having a dog to love and care for has made him a better person. Maxie has been good for our family!

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Planning for Marathon # 7

Well, I’ve gone and done it again: I signed up for another race today! I’ll be competing in Grandma’s Marathon on June 21 in Duluth Minnesota. This will be my seventh marathon, and you know what they say about seven being a lucky number!

I love Duluth! Sue and I vacationed there many times when Carl was younger and the area is the source of many fond memories. This will be my first time running there however, but who knows, perhaps Duluth will once again become a frequent vacation destination for us.

A marathon is a long race, but it only takes a few hours to complete. The training is far and away the longer journey, and it’s what will ultimately determine whether I succeed or fail in my endeavor. I’ve already completed 8 weeks of “base building,” and tomorrow I begin my actual 16 week training plan. I’m feeling good, and staying healthy is important as I push towards the starting line.

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More Bad News About Smoking

Cigarettes are bad for your health; just plain and simple! I read a non-scientific article last week claiming even third hand cigarette exposure is hazardous to your health. I must admit I didn’t know what third hand exposure was, but the article caught my eye so I read on.

Nicotine, the active ingredient in tobacco, affects the central nervous system, creating a sensation of relaxation. The leaves can be chewed, allowing the nicotine to be absorbed through the mouth, but the fastest way to get the drug into the blood is through smoking. The leaves are rolled up into paper cigarettes, which are sold to the consumer in convenient packs of 20. The smoker places a cigarette in their mouth, lights the tobacco on fire, and sucks the hot smoke deep into their lungs where the nicotine can pass through into the blood and be carried to the brain.

Cigarettes are composed of tobacco and paper. Tobacco is a green, living plant that grows in a field like any other cash crop. Unwanted plants come along, so the fields are sprayed with herbicide for weed control. There are a host of insects that are harmful to tobacco plants, so pesticides are used to keep them in line as well. When the leaves are harvested and dried, molds and fungi become problematic so the use of fungicides is commonplace. All of these poisons leave residue behind which remain on the tobacco leaves, eventually making their way into cigarettes.

Burning is an oxidative reaction. The tobacco, the paper, and the residual poisons are all exposed to oxygen at extremely high temperatures in a burning cigarette. Rapid oxidation of these organic molecules causes the formation of new compounds, many of which are classified as carcinogens. These cancer causing substances can then enter the human body through three known types of exposure.

Firsthand exposure: Cigarettes are designed to deliver the nicotine laden smoke directly into the lungs of people who purchase them. Smokers are exposed to firsthand cigarette smoke each time they place a lit cigarette in their mouth and inhale. First hand smoke is that which is intended to be inhaled.

Second hand exposure: Second hand smoke, on the other hand, is not intended to be inhaled, but gets mixed in with the clean air all living creatures need to survive. Second hand smoke is smoke that comes out of a smoker’s mouth and nose. It also comes from lit cigarettes as they sit in an ash tray or get waived around at a party. Studies have shown that continuous exposure to second hand smoke can be almost as hazardous as firsthand smoke.

Third hand exposure: Third hand exposure isn’t actually exposure to smoke, but instead is exposure to the concentrated residual chemicals that remain after the smoke is gone. Smoke will dissipate, but what do you think really happens to all those carcinogens: They eventually settle out of the air onto clothing, carpet, hair, drapes, children’s toys, pets and anything else just sitting around. Packs of cigarettes get smoked daily, and these deadly residues continue to multiply on everything in a smoker’s world.

These carcinogens fall off clothing when smokers walk by. They get inhaled by infants when they snuggle into a smoker’s sweater. They get stirred into the air when you walk through a smoker’s home, or through that pile of butts deposited by the back door where you work. Have you ever ridden in a smoker’s car?

The article I read suggested that third hand exposure is more dangerous than firsthand because it’s more concentrated. This sounds reasonable to me, but I’m not aware of any scientific evidence that confirms it just yet. If these dangers prove to be true, it will certainly be yet another nail in the coffin for smokers. At some point smoking will be too great of a social stigma to be ignored by those who are contemplating lighting their first cigarette. You know, this may not be a bad thing!

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Super Bowl XLVIII Thoughts

It’s Super Bowl Sunday! It’s been 37 years since my Minnesota Vikings have played in the big game. It’s been almost that long since I’ve really cared who won. It’s been about that long since I jumped up and down screaming about any play. Oh, there were years that saw one of my two most hated teams, the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49’ers participate in the big game, but it’s not nearly as much fun to hope that a team loses as it is to hope your team wins.

Every year I’m asked who I’m going to be cheering for, and most years I just shrug my shoulders and say I don’t really care, although I usually share that I may be pulling for one team a little more than the other. Well, let me tell you, that doesn’t make for exciting Super Bowl watching!

This year, however, I’m more excited about the game than any in recent memory. Please allow me to share my Top Five Reasons why I want the Denver Broncos to win today’s Super Bowl.

5) The Seattle Seahawks are an expansion team. Expansion teams historically have a tough time competing with other teams during their first few years in the league. Oftentimes this incompetence borders on embarrassing and comical. Yes, I know, most of the teams currently playing in the NFL were the result of expansion, including my Vikings in 1960, but that was before I was born. In my mind, teams like the Seahawks, which came into existence in 1976, during my lifetime, will always carry the label “expansion team.” I know it’s not fair, but my mind also equates “expansion team” with “second rate.”

4) The Denver Broncos are my favorite AFC Team. There’re several reasons for this. A) They haven’t ever beaten my Vikings in the playoffs or in a Super Bowl. B) They were the first AFC team I ever cheered for, mostly because they were playing the despised Dallas Cowboys in 1978. Their famed “Orange Crush” defense was their strength that year, but I also liked their beaten down, washed up quarterback Craig Morton. C) I’ve always been a John Elway fan: He was perhaps the most competitive quarterback I’ve ever seen play the game. His ability to bounce back from three Super Bowl losses early in his career to eventually retire with two Super Bowl rings is the ultimate football success story.

3) I like Peyton Manning. I’ve gathered that I may be in the minority on this one as most people I’ve talked to seem to either dislike or utterly despise the Bronco quarterback. I don’t know why, but he’s never rubbed me the wrong way. Manning, like Elway, was a great quarterback through his career, but always knocked for not winning championships. I would like to see Manning retire out as a two time Super Bowl winner just as Elway did. Besides, how can I not cheer for an old guy who doesn’t have all of his physical gifts anymore but still wins by playing smarter?

2) The Denver Broncos give the Minnesota Vikings hope. The Minnesota Vikings lost four Super Bowls during the 1970’s, including three in four years. The Bronco lost a Super Bowl in the 1970’s, then three in four years during the 1980’s, making them equally pathetic to the Vikings in Super Bowl showings. All of the jokes made about my beloved Vikings in the 70’s were repeated about the Broncos a decade later. The Broncos, however, have reversed their bad fortune by eventually winning two Super Bowls. If the Broncos can do it, maybe the Vikings can too.

1) Richard Sherman. Talk about rubbing me the wrong way! His angry rant following the Seahawk’s victory over the 49’ers made me feel extremely uncomfortable, and changed how I feet about this year’s Seahawks. I went from being happy that an “expansion team” had defeated the hated 49’ers, to hoping that the Seahawks get thoroughly embarrassed by the Broncos. I’m used to players at least attempting to appear humble during post game interviews when they thank either a) their coach for the opportunity to play b) their teammates for being the best c) God for giving them the ability. Sherman’s claim of being “the best corner in the game” caught me a little by surprise, but then again, maybe it shouldn’t; professional athletes tend to have extremely large egos. It was his angry finger pointing, however, and threats of “don’t you ever talk about me” that made me think I was watching professional wrestler rather than the NFL. Most of all, it was the use of his moment of fame to tear down another athlete and fellow human being that made me instantly dislike Richard Sherman.

I know Peyton Manning is smart enough to not continually throw the ball towards “the best corner in the game,” but wouldn’t it be nice to see Richard Sherman get burned for a touchdown or two in today’s Super Bowl? I would be willing to bet however, that win or lose, Manning will use part of his post game moment to say the Seahawks played a great game. He will likely also thank his teammates, his coach, his family, the fans, the Bronco’s organization, and God almighty if given enough time. I also predict that Peyton Manning will make no claims of being the best quarterback in the game.

Win or lose, respect for one’s opponent is the mark of every player on a first rate team. I hope you are paying attention, Richard Sherman and the Seattle Seahawks!

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Moving Forward in 2014 with Red River Runners Grand Forks

People say they want to be healthy. Many people embark each year on some type of New Year’s resolution that they hope will result in better health. While we all share this desire for healthier living, it certainly means different things to different people. If we look deep inside, we all know which item we should change, but for whatever the reason, most of us seem to keep struggling.

For many people, “exercising more” is their top resolution for 2014. I believe the current recommendation is that we should engage in 30 minutes of an aerobic type exercise at least three times a week. Aerobic exercises are ones that raise your heart rate and keep it there for an extended length of time; things like running, swimming and biking.

I too, have health related resolutions for 2014, but thanks to my friends at Red River Runners, staying active shouldn’t be one of them! I resolve to pay this debt forward by helping those in our community who desire to become more active reach their goals, whatever they may be. I’ve helped beginners get ready for their first 5K, and watching them cross the finish line, full of excitement, fills me with as much satisfaction as running the race myself! I’m anxious to start and keep many more people running in 2014!

Red River Runners Grand Forks is an organization filled with members devoted to helping others meet their aerobic exercise recommendation through running. Our members run, and some run often, but we also engage in other aerobic activities as well. One member recently spent two hours in a mixed martial arts class, part of which consisted of something called “submission grappling.” Red River Runners embrace an active lifestyle, and we encourage those around us to be active as well. It’s really special to see how friends help friends stay active by inviting them to try new activities.

I’ve posted many times that Red River Runners is the finest group of people I’ve ever been associated with. From that first day, four years ago, when I stumbled into one of their meetings, I knew I had found something extraordinary. I recently received a wind jacket with a “Red River Runners Grand Forks Crew” logo on the chest. While I realize the jacket was a “thank you” for the work I do with beginners, it somehow meant a little more: It identified me as a member of, ah, well, you know, “the crew!” I wore it with pride for the first time during our recent 2014 training kick off, and as always, felt honored to be associated with the great organization. Thank you Red River Runners!

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Family Time at the UND Wellness Center

Families do all kinds of things together. We laugh together. We eat together. We worship together. We travel together. We go to movies together. We work through problems together.

Today, we tried something new for the first time: We worked out together. The three of us climbed into Sue’s van and drove to the UND Wellness Center, where I ran around the track, Sue worked on the treadmill, and Carl lifted weights. Although we frequently do these activities by ourselves, today was the first time we all exercised at the same time in the same place. We even asked an employee to take a picture of us as we were leaving.

I hope other families give exercising together a try because we (I?) had fun. Family exercise night has a nice ring to it, wouldn’t you say? I am proud of my family for so many reasons and now I have even one more!

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Congratulations Jon Jensen

I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions that Red River Runners is the finest group of people I’ve ever been associated with. Part of what makes the organization so dynamic is the wide range of career paths represented by its membership. Well, as of this past Monday, one of our members experienced a dramatic change in his professional life, and several of us Runners were present to witness the event.

Jon Jensen is certainly one of the most likeable people you’ll ever meet: I don’t think I’ve ever seen him not smiling. Jon is a little soft spoken, but when he does speak, his words are always encouraging and full of wisdom beyond his years. I imagine these traits are part of the reason he has been a successful attorney in Grand Forks for many years.

While I need to rely on the word of others regarding Jon’s professional success, I’ve seen firsthand what he can do as a runner. Jon is perhaps the fastest member of our group, and that is only made more impressive when you consider that he’s also one of our oldest! Jon has completed all of his recent marathons around the 3 hour mark, meaning that he can consistently run 26 consecutive miles; each at better than a 7 minutes pace.

Anne-Marie, Nick, Martin, Jon

Each of those finishing times qualified Jon to compete in the Boston Marathon, but he has yet to make the trip, preferring instead to wait for just the right time. The “right time” is undoubtedly when he would be able to experience the world famous course with his close friend Nick. Jon and Nick, besides being friends, are also running buddies who can be seen together on the Grand Forks Greenway most summer mornings at sunup. Nick has almost qualified for Boston on several occasions, and when he finally does, the two of them will share the ultimate running experience together; both for the first time!

Well anyway, on Monday, many of us Runners got to witness the swearing in of Jon Jenson as a judge of the Northeast Central District for the State of North Dakota. Also in attendance were at least a dozen other judges as well as Jack Dalrymple, Governor of the State of North Dakota. The Governor and many others had great things to say about our running fried, and they expressed every confidence that Jon would make an outstanding judge. While I’m sure the Governor is correct about Jon’s capabilities as a judge, I’m doubtful that he fully understands what a great man, runner and friend he actually chose for the bench! Let me introduce you to North Dakota’s newest judge, The Honorable Jon J. Jensen!

Grand Forks Herald Photo

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