I Love You

Exactly 30 years ago today, on July 27th, 1985, Sue and I exchanged vows and became husband and wife. I was young and perhaps a little naïve, but I knew for sure that with Sue at my side, I could face whatever life had in store for me. While many things in our lives have changed since that day in 1985, the one thing that hasn’t is our unwavering love for one another! I can think of no greater joy than to share each of the days of my life with the woman I love!

There was a song on the radio the other day that I hadn’t heard in over 30 years. When I listened to the lyrics, they spoke differently to me now that I had Sue in my life. I got a tear in my eye when I realized it could be me singing the song about my wife. Here it is:

“I Love You” The Climax Blues Band

When I was younger man I hadn’t a care
Foolin’ around, hitting the town, growing my hair
You came along and stole my heart when you entered my life
Ooh babe you got what it takes so I made you my wife

Since then I never looked back
It’s almost like living a dream
And ooh I love you

You came along from far away and found me here
I was playin’ around, feeling down, hittin’ the beer
You picked me up from off the floor and gave me a smile
You said you’re much too young, your life ain’t begun, let’s walk for awhile

And as my head was spinnin’ ’round
I gazed into your eyes
And thought ooh I want you

Thank you babe for being a friend
And shinin’ your light in my life
’cause ooh I need you

As my head was comin’ round
I gazed into your eyes
And thought ooh I want you

Thanks again for being my friend
And straightenin’ out my life
’cause ooh I need you

Since then I never looked back
It’s almost like livin’ a dream
Ooh I got you

If ever a man had it all
It would have to be me
And ooh I love you

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Firecracker 5K 2015

Today was the Fire Cracker 5K race in downtown Grand Forks. I’ve taken part in this race several times, but today was going to be the best one yet because both Sue and Carl were going to be joining me!

Carl has been training for this race for a couple of months and had asked if I would run it with him and pace him. I’ve always dreamed of my family running with me, so of course I agreed to his request. Carl had already done one 5K a couple of years ago and although his time of 25 minutes was outstanding for a first timer, he really wanted to do better this time around.

Sue has also been training hard this year. After walking her first three 5K’s in previous years, she had incorporated a little running into her race plan recently and had shattered her walking PR last month at the “Run for your Buns 5K.” Sue had practiced running since then and was hoping to set another PR at the Fire Cracker.

We were all up by 6:30, eating, drinking, shaving, washing and getting dressed. At 7AM we took a “before” race picture. By 7:15 I had cranked up the music and we were getting pumped up to AC/DC’s “Live Wire” and Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer.” We talked and laughed while we stretched; Sue in the dining room, Carl in the kitchen and I in the den. At 7:30 we put on our race faces and headed out the door.
We had about six blocks to walk to the starting line, so I began getting in some warm ups by jogging in large circles around Sue and Carl while they walked and joked about my need to run more than just a 5K today. As we walked, we also got our ear buds situated and our playlists ready for what was sure to be a fun run!

When we arrived, we shared some high fives with friends and then with each other as we waited for the 2015 Fire Cracker to start. Since there would be no chip timing, we all then moved to the front of the chute so we could start running as soon as the gun fired.

Our race strategy was to start easy with an 8:00 first mile, then speed up to 7:45 for the second and 7:30 for the third. After going a little faster for the first two, I thought we were still primed for a strong finish; boy, did that turn out to be an understatement! Carl gave me a strong “thumbs up” with a mile remaining, which was our signal to pick up the pace, so I started gradually speeding up and waited to see how he responded. We hit 7:15, and Carl was still looking strong. We reached a 7:00 pace with a half mile remaining, and when my friend Joan stepped out to take our picture, Carl gave a loud Rebel Yell and took off like a crazy man. He hit 6:45, then 6:30, then 6:15, and finally 6:00. I don’t ever run that fast while training and began struggling to keep up. He began pulling away down the stretch and when I looked at my Garmin, I was running at a 5:36 pace!
Firecracker2015 with Carl
Carl crossed the finish line in 23 minutes and 3 seconds: A new PR by over 2 minutes! I crossed 3 seconds later, and while it wasn’t a PR for me, it was still good enough to win the male 50-59 division.

Carl and I stood along the course after our fast finish and cheered for Sue as she ran towards us and crossed the finish line. Her time was 42:24, and like her son, she had a new PR by about two minutes.

Winning my division and watching my son and wife work hard for their new PRs was fun. Spending Independence Day running with my family? That was priceless!

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Grandma’s Marathon 2015

Back in January I decided that I wanted Grandma’s Marathon to be the ninth of my career. The training cycle ended up being my best yet. I felt fantastic throughout and got in virtually every scheduled workout, even a couple of really tough ones I had skipped in previous years. I headed into Duluth Friday afternoon feeling I had the potential for my best marathon yet. When I looked at the weather forecast though, there would likely be showers or thunderstorms during the race, and that kind of brought down my spirits. I shared my concerns with Richard Dafoe, who was manning the Grand Forks Wild Hog table at the expo, and he gave me some advice: He told me to start embracing the rain right now. Welcome the rain, and tell yourself it’s going to be fun running in it. You’ll be ready for the race whatever the weather turns out to be. You can’t control the weather, so embrace the worst of it.

I got on the bus at 6AM to head to the starting line and even though there were sprinkles and dark clouds, I remained positive. I posted on Face Book that I was excited for my ninth marathon and that it was going to be a great day, and I really believed it. The rain became steady as our bus waited to unload, and as I stepped off, it increased significantly. I got out a large black garbage bag I had brought along, and after punching head and arm holes it, I threw it over my head. There were no places to get out of the rain so I resigned myself to simply standing there for the next hour, waiting for the race to start.

I decided to go stand in one of the hundreds of lines to use a porta-potty. As I wandered around, trying to find where the end was, so I wouldn’t cut in front of others, I saw my friend Jessica standing in line, so I joined her. As we inched closer to the little fiberglass toilets, it began pouring. I saw a steady stream of water running off Jess’s nose, chin, and ears, and imagined I shared the same drowned rat appearance. Jess kept my spirits up though with her smile and laughter; she was perhaps even more excited about this marathon than I was!

We eventually got our turns at the potties and then made our way to the trucks to check our belongings for the trip back to Duluth. We wished each other luck and set off for our places in the starting gate. I wanted to be somewhere near the 3:35 pace group, and Jess begun wiggling her way through the mass of humanity as well, trying to find her desired pace group.

I settled into my spot and instinctively huddled, trying to remain dry: There would be no warm ups or stretching on this day! They began playing “Chariots of Fire” over the loud speakers and I yelled “Please! Not Chariots of Fire!” The song abruptly ended and they switched to “Mony Mony,” so I gave a loud “Thank you!” After about 10 seconds, “Chariots” returned so I lumped it together with the unpleasant rain and simply embraced it. I decided at that time to keep my garbage bag on for the first few miles, but realized it hung below my knees and would cause problems. I attempted to tear it off at waist length, but this proved to be quite difficult. I eventually succeeded but not without a few choice words and a vow to purchase cheaper bags next time!

6,000+ wet marathon runners eventually set off and I thought to myself that race officials wouldn’t be using any photos of this start in future promotional material! I had wanted to fade into my planned race pace of 8:15 over 3 miles, but my desire to simply get moving and get warm got me to that pace by the end of the first mile. My garbage bag came off a couple of miles later.

I’m not a very good pacer, so I often look for people going about my speed so I can stick with them. Miles 2-5 were an extremely constant 8:07 thanks to another runner about my age doing an excellent job of pacing on the gentle hills, but when she stopped to use a toilet, I was on my own. I slowed down just a bit but I would be alright. Mile 10 was a fast, downhill one.

I made it to the halfway point holding an overall pace of 8:14. I needed to use a toilet myself, but when I tried to untie my trunks inside the porta-potty, the wet strings slid into a knot, and it took me over a minute to get them undone. I heard the rain drops hitting the roof and was tempted to stay inside the shelter for a bit, but knew time was ticking so I continued on. My Garmin told me that my overall pace had dropped to 8:20 after factoring in the stop time. I doubted I could make up that much time so I decided to just continue on as best I could and see where I finished.

The late teen miles seemed to include a few more hills and my pace began to slip. I reached mile 20, and as always, the mental portion of the race began. A runner is dead tired at this point and the thought of having to complete 6.2 more miles seems utterly impossible. I try to think of it instead as one mile at a time, and that usually helps. I bargained with my legs that if they ran each mile, I would allow them to walk through the water stops. This technique has worked for me in the past and it worked again on this day. The problem is that your overall pace suffers significantly with the walking, but sometimes that’s all you can do.

I saw Lemon Drop hill looming from a distance and it’s sight made me mutter much the same as last year. Lemon Drop Hill isn’t a long hill, but it is short and steep and you do need to be ready for it. I decided to push myself hard for the mile of flat terrain leading up to it, and then walk the steep portion to the top. The spectators at the top were reminding the runners that it was all downhill from that point on, so even though there were still over 3 miles to the finish line, I thought I could make it without walking any more.

The start of mile 26 contained a steep downhill block. I cried out loud as my tired feet slapped down the incline, the pain in my maxed quads more than I could bear. I came around the next corner and was greeted by my cheering section. Sue, Carl, Nancy and Jim were ringing cowbells and yelling there encouragement as I neared their position. Their presence brought a much needed smile to my face and I gave them a high five as I passed.
Grandma's 2015 Cheering
I continued on, passing the William A. Irvin, and after several turns, I saw the finish line a few blocks ahead. I pushed with what little I had left and as I neared the end I raised my hands in triumph, holding up nine fingers, one for each marathon I had completed. Olympian Carrie Tollefson took a picture of me at that moment and included it with 200 other photos in her Grandma’s 2015 Face Book album. Thanks Carrie!
Grandma's 2015 finish
I finished in 3 hours, 49 minutes and 49 seconds. It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t my fastest, but it was number nine, and I’m extremely proud to have finished it!

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The History of the Eagles

EaglesSue asked me a couple of months ago if I wanted to go see the Eagles when they came to Grand Forks to play at the Alerus Center. I wasn’t sure, so I told her I would need to think about it for a couple of days. The Eagles, you see, were one of my favorite bands 40 years ago, but they hadn’t released anything new in 20 years. Sue and I did go to one of their concerts in 1995, which was awesome, but they were old then, and were surely ancient by now!

Sue does love going to concerts, so I thought taking in “The History of the Eagles Tour” with her would at least make for a fun date night. I’ve always enjoyed Rock and Roll music, but have long favored the higher energy variety such as that performed by bands like AC/DC. Over the years, songs by the Eagles had slowly been removed from my playlist because they lacked the energy and the up-tempo pace that made them fun to listen to while running. If I was truthful with myself though, I guess I kind of believed I had long ago outgrown the Eagles.

We arrived at the Alerus Center Friday night, and as I expected, the majority of the people I saw were well beyond their teenage years. Shortly after we took our seats, Don Henley and Glen Frey took the stage, sat down in front of the amps and began the acoustical half of the concert. The volume was quite low however, and at times the crowd noise drowned the pair out. Even though I wasn’t familiar with their first couple of songs, I was relieved that both Henley and Frey’s voices sounded exactly as they had 40 years ago, and enjoyed listening. Eventually Bernie Leadon, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh joined the founders on stage and they too, hadn’t lost a thing!

They soon began playing songs from their album “Desperado.” I knew the songs and enjoyed hearing Henley and Frey sing, but I also enjoyed watching the Wild West gunfight scene playing on the huge screen behind the stage. As the songs moved away from “Desperado,” I became more engaged with the show, and slowly I began getting drawn into the enchantment of the evening.

It was during the song “Lyin’ Eyes” that I began singing along. After the first time through the chorus, I realized I wasn’t the only one singing out loud; virtually everyone else in the Alerus Center was joining in too. It was at that moment that my eyes welled up with tears for the first time and I began to sense something of the magic that had made the Eagles so special.

They soon moved to “Already Gone,” which is my favorite early song. The screen behind the stage changed to a vast golden wheat field, and suddenly I was transported back in time to a similar field on my family’s farm. I remembered working long summer days listening to KFYR radio every hour of the day. AM radio was a huge part of my life back in those days, and the Eagles were the most popular AM band of the era. I probably heard “Already Gone” five times a day, every day for several months. I knew every word, every guitar solo, every note of that song, and of every other Eagles song that came along during those years.

I then realized the reason a group of 60 something year old musicians could draw 10,000 North Dakotans together on this sunny June evening. The Eagles had not been a huge part of just my life in the 1970’s; they had been a huge part of all our lives! The music the Eagles gave us was a part of the very essence that made us North Dakotans, much the same as the sun, wind, thunder, lightning and rain.

The Eagles spoke to us, they inspired us, and after 40 years, they still brought us together. I joined in with 10,000 other North Dakotans as we helped the Eagles through a chorus of “Take it to the Limit” and suddenly realized something special. Nobody ever outgrows the Eagles!

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Mr. Buen

Everyone has people which touch their lives. There are those that are with us our entire lives like parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, but there are also those that are with us for a much shorter time, like teachers.

I’ve had countless teachers throughout my academic career, most of which were very good at their chosen profession. Teachers, as a whole, care deeply about the students in their classes, and it shows in the way they interact with these young people on a daily basis. Teachers know that to be effective, they have to reach their students on a personal level, so they strive to do just that, year after year and decade after decade. Most of us have one or two teachers that reached us better than the rest, and they will always have a place in our hearts. For me, that one teacher was Mr. Buen.

Mr. Buen was my high school math teacher for four years. He taught me Freshman Algebra, Sophomore Geometry, Junior Trigonometry, and Senior Math. Senior math was only offered when there were seniors who wanted to take it so Mr. Buen didn’t teach this class every year. The Velva High School Class of 1981 was exceptional in that 11 students (a quarter of our class) enrolled for Senior Math that year, and it was during that time that Mr. Buen became much more than a teacher to myself, James, Don, Shelley, Sara, Robert, Bruce, Rick, Greg, Melonie, and Terry.

Mr. Buen challenged us continually, and with each new bit of knowledge he taught us, our confidence grew at an exponential rate. I had previously considered myself an average student, but during Senior Math I became convinced that I was an exceptional one. I flourished in Mr. Buen’s Senior Math class. Maybe it was because math was my strongest subject, but more likely it was because Mr. Buen was my strongest teacher.

Mr. Buen was special to the Class of ’81, and we were thrilled when he agreed to speak at our commencement exercises on May 17th. I seem to remember him saying something about the mark of a good life is to leave the world better than you found it.

I was deeply saddened this morning when I learned Mr. Buen had passed away. I’m just one of the thousands of students that he taught during his 35 year career at Velva High School, and I’m sure others are feeling the same sense of loss that I am. I just want to say that I believe Mr. Buen lived a good life as he left the world better than he found it: He achieved this one student at a time.

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Pancakes and Boston Marathon Finishers

Red River Runners holds a pancake breakfast each spring to celebrate all of the training miles members put in training for their various races. Runners in Grand Forks have many different ways of dealing with the harsh winters and we don’t usually see each other very often during the coldest months. It’s a fun time filled with laughter when we finally gather together again and catch up. We always include family for this breakfast because most runners refer to their family as their “support group.” We couldn’t spend the long hours of training necessary for a marathon without a lot of understanding from those we live with, so it’s important to also include them in our celebration.
Boston Breakfast 2015
We held our breakfast this morning and had the pleasure of welcoming back many of our members who had just completed the Boston Marathon earlier this week. They told of a ferocious head wind and rain during much of the time they spent on the course. They also told of 3 million spectators lining the streets cheering them on: Boston loves their marathon! Nick Flom, who braved the elements to turn in his best marathon ever indicated that the spectators were deafening, but that the cheers he heard coming from Grand Forks were even louder!
Boston finishers 2015
We got to congratulate (L-R) Dan Hanson (3:10:04), Loren Howard (3:03:00), Nick Flom (3:03:24), James Arnason (3:04:54), and Barb Murphy (4:04:26) on their finishing times. I think I speak for all of Red River Runners when I say we’re proud to run with all of you!

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2015 Boston Marathon

boston aa_logo[1]Running is a competitive sport, but unlike many other sports, runners compete primarily against themselves rather than against others. This type of competition rarely leads to hated rivalries like those that form within other sports, but instead leads to a strong feeling of camaraderie between runners. Red River Runners is an organization built on the philosophy of runners helping other runners, and many wonderful friendships have been built on the excitement that surrounds this dynamic sport.

Tomorrow, six of my Red River Runner friends will be taking part in the most famous marathon in world, The Boston Marathon, and I’m so excited for each of them!

Rachel Hellyer (bib #17404) is a familiar face to the entire Grand Forks running community and is either organizing or competing in every race that takes place in our fair city. Rachel has the distinction of having run in the 2013 Boston Marathon which was shortened by the bombing tragedy.

Barb Murphy (bib #20637), like Rachel, has run the Boston Marathon before, and is a veteran of many marathons. Barb is a fierce competitor in everything she does and has a special passion for running!

Loren Howard (bib #5041) is fairly new to Red River Runners. I got to know Loren a little when he joined me for a Saturday morning run earlier this year. It’s always nice when a fast young runner doesn’t mind sharing a few miles with an old guy like me!

Dan Hanson (bib #4744) has been with the group for a couple of years, and is quite the accomplished runner. Dan has completed races in remarkable times like when he won the 2013 Wild Hog 10K (a field which included Olympian Carrie Tollefson), but has also ran leisurely like when he encouraged Barb and myself along during the 2013 Twin Cities Marathon (posting many “selfies” in the process).

Richard Dafoe (bib #670) is a pillar of the Grand Forks running community and the driving force behind the Wild Hog Marathon. Richard is the fastest of the group, and will be starting in the same Boston Marathon corral as the elite professionals!

Nick Flom (bib #6555) is the one that I’ll be cheering loudest for! Nick has been SO close to qualifying for Boston for three years, but always missed the necessary time by mere minutes, and one time, just three seconds! Nick continued to work hard and Red River Runners (and his family) continued to cheer him on, and last June he finally qualified! Everyone in Red River Runners will be especially cheering for Nick tomorrow!

If you want to receive Boston Marathon updates about any of these runners, text their bib number to 234567. Good luck everyone!

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Perfectly Healthy?!

Everyone dreads going into see the doctor for their annual physical, right? We all know what we should be doing, and we resent our doctor telling us what we already know. You should lose weight. You should quit smoking. You should eat more fiber. You should eat better. You should exercise more. You should drink less alcohol. You should get more sleep. The list goes on and on…

I had my annual physical today and do you know what my doctor told me? He said I was perfectly healthy and to continue doing exactly what I’ve been doing!

I’m reporting this, not because I’m bragging, but because it seems like every month or so somebody is tell me that running is bad for a person. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but the person I trust most concerning matters of my health, my doctor, is encouraging me to continue running. Running has worked miracles for me so I have no plans to hang up my running shoes anytime soon, and now my doctor agrees with me; how great is that!

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watercolor rainbowI try to get the watercolor paints out at least once a year in my Sunday School class. The kids always enjoy using them, and as a teacher I can use the project to fill a little time when we have a shorter lesson.

Today’s lesson was about water (Naaman being healed after washing seven times in the Jordan River, to be exact), and since it was quite short, I decided make this the week we used water colors. I also thought it made sense to use watercolors on the week we were talking about water!

The thing about today was that my class was exceptionally small (one student to be exact), so I decided to sit down with her and create a masterpiece of my own. I chose a rainbow because I thought it tied in nicely with today’s theme of water. I also pointed out that my rainbow was scientifically accurate because I remembered from junior high that the order of the colors spelled out ROY G BIV. She rolled her eyes as I explained they were red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

The paint set I used didn’t have a well labeled “indigo” so I asked for some help from my second grader. She thought about it for a minute, and then explained that violet and red mixed should do the trick, so that’s what I did.

I must admit that I had fun using watercolors. I even thought my picture turned out well enough that I dared to add my name. Now I wonder if Sue will let me hang it on the refrigerator door…

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The Augustana Rainbow

1997 was a year that Grand Forks will never forget. When the flood of the millennium ravaged our city, everything in its path was either damaged or destroyed. Augustana Lutheran, the little church in downtown Grand Forks that I call home, was caught right in the middle of the torrent. After we briefly considered moving to a new south end location, we quickly decided to instead repair the building we already had.

We began holding worship again a few months later and Sunday School followed a few months after that. Our Education Wing received a new coat of paint but it still lacked the color and warmth that makes a building a home. The teachers talked about having the children paint a mural and soon the idea grew into a plan. Each student would place their hands into permanent paint and then make an imprint on a wall. The smaller ones would go first and make the first arc of a rainbow. The older children continued with arcs of their own; using different colors. Eventually we had a rainbow made entirely of children’s hand prints.

The words “Remember the Promise of the Rainbow” were placed under the hand prints along with “Augustana Sunday School Kids” and “Fall 1997.” Thankfully the teachers glued little white cardboard doves above each set of prints with the child’s name and grade.

I’ve taken many a child to the Augustana Rainbow; pointing out hand prints of some of their family members. The hands of older cousins, sisters, brothers, uncles and aunts all bring this piece of art alive to the children of Augustana. Just this Sunday I had the opportunity to show a little girl a set of hand prints that belonged to her own mother! How wonderful is that!

Seeing the hand prints of loved ones, frozen in time, is what makes the Augustana Rainbow so special. This is true for the children I teach, but it’s also true for me. Yes, all of the children I have in Sunday School hold a place in my heart, but there are two pairs of prints in the rainbow that are just a little more precious to me. I stop and look at these two pairs of prints each and every Sunday when I go by to teach my class. I sometimes touch the paint and think back to when these two people I love so dearly were tiny enough that I could pick them up, hug them, and tell them I love them.

Kris and Ana are both adults now and no longer allow me to pick them up. I do however, want to tell them that I still love them and that I think of them every week when I teach Sunday School!

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