Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ragnar 2013 or as I like to call it "Dave and his 5 X's Express"

This blog will probably not be for everyone unless you were there and the topics and terms may be a bit too salty like Sue's meat. So read at your own risk.

As I stared at the hotel ceiling at 3AM in Madison, WI. just a few hours from the start of the race, I had no idea what my van mates were going to be like since I had never met them in my life and I was asking myself "What the hell did I get myself into now". We all arrived at the race start except for Sue who showed up 5 minutes before the start and carrying a bag large enough to carry a Teamster. "Oh man my 6 alarm clocks didn't wake me up"...yeah and pull this leg and it plays "Jingle Bells". Jen took the first leg at 6:30AM and was off. There was no turning back now I was committed to the race. Dave and the X's were born. It was then I took this photo below in case the X's murdered me during the race and there would be a record of me for the police report.

When you're locked in a Mini-Van for 48 straight hours without sleep, a shower and you're the only male it provided me with a keen insight on women only reserved for some of male gay friends up to this point. I was about to enter a world that I didn't expect. Here are just some of the quotes we kept track of during the race. Keep in mind we weren't drinking at all but for some of us we didn't sleep for nearly 48 hours.

Scrambled Legs and Achin Offical Van 1
  • As I was running my first leg right along side another male racer, Jenn R. and the van yells out to me, "Dave, make it happen and drop your balls!".  I of course did what anyone else would do, I looked at the runner next to me and said, "are those your friends?" I still don't even know what that even means but it sounds painful.

    • "There are a lot of lips in this van". This was the first of my many "turned my head moments" to look in the back of the van and exclaim, "WTF did you just say?" Laughter ensued from the X's.

    • I have to explain this one, Sue brought a Tupperware container of fresh cut seasoned turkey for herself to nosh on. As she opened the container she blurted out,"I'm warming up the meat. this meat is gonna fill me up".  Laughter ensued from the X's. She gave me a slice and it was pretty tasty, as I was chewing on my slice she asked if I would like another I said, "no thanks I have plenty of meat myself"...Laughter ensued from the X's.

    • Moments later with the keen eye of an eagle Jen R says as we pass Home Depot, I'll buy some wood to go with Sue's meat. I then said, "wait I have wood why stop ladies"...Laughter ensued from the X's.

    • We arrived at the next exchange at 9PM, cold, tired, sweaty, and I began to approach a parking space..Sara said while under 9 blankets,"are you going to be able to get that in there Dave? It's really nice and tight Dave , I don't know." It was at that point I said, "Oh I can get in there with some lube..who packed the lube?"  ..Laughter ensued from the X's

    • We were able to get some rest time at a park and lay under a shady tree and chill. We had been laying there for at least 2 hours and Sara realizes something is wrong. Sara- "There's something bumpy in the grass...oh, it's a golf ball" How she laid there that long and it didn't bother her is amazing to me. Now that's a tuff girl.

      • If Sara's ball in her butt wasn't enough during this same down time Jenn R enjoyed laying on the ground under a tree and putting her feet up on the tree. It was at that point that I witnessed something I've never seen before, "she gave birth to a calf"...You have to watch this unbelievable video of her calf birth. How she ran after that is beyond me because that's really painful and she didn't require an epidural.

        • During a VAN 1 & VAN 2 exchange we had some time to catch up with our counterparts in VAN 2. From what Jen R. and the other girls and apparently Ben thinks Jen R. is quite zaftig. As we were exchanging van snacks, plus Sue's hot meat, Jen R asks, 'did you bring the watermelon?' Ben 'well, Jen, you brought the cantelopes'..Laughter ensued from the X's and strangers near by.

          • On the way to the next exchange Sara dazzled us with her vast knowledge on clothes that are worn below your waist. 11 years of higher education everyone. She needed a pair of pants because the 3 bags of clothes each of the X's brought was just not enough and hell there was a sale anyways. Jen E, "We can go to Marshalls", Sara, "I could buy some pants", Jen, "they have good home goods there." Sara, "no. Pants. Pantaloons. Trousers. Slacks. Culottes" ..Laughter ensued from the X's. I of course didn't get it because well I'm a male. I stayed in the van and counted all the bags in the van, and tried to not step on any bananas.

          Sara modeling her new pants. "I'm a doctor, I'm a runner, and I know pants..and I'm going to kiccckk!"

          • What race wouldn't be without a massaging stick we all have or a foam roller. Jen R. brought her rolling stick (Editors note it wasn't battery powered).As Sue was finishing her hot meat she asked Jen R to, "Pass me your stick , I can't Dave is driving now". ..Laughter ensued from the X's

          • Some other X's lexicons during the race, "Girl you're looking like you got a bottom biscuit and a muffin top going on." No idea what they means but it made me hungry.
          • During a portion of the ride Jen R. decided to wax poetic about her boyfriends grooming habits down in "manland". The other X's decided to chime in on their preferences for both male and female grooming. It's there I broke into the conversation and said, "Good morning everyone I'm Geraldo Rivera and I'm hosting the View while Barbara Walters is out and we have a special guest on this morning with the ladies and it's Burt Cumbers who just invented a new line of men skin care products called, "Soft Sack". "So you don't get rubbed the wrong way, try "Soft Sack". Available at Saks of 5th Ave across the country."  ...Laughter ensued from the X's


          • I was pulled over on the way to early AM exchange by a junior state trooper for speeding. I swear this cop couldn't have been more than 18 years old. When I told her we were heading to a street called Chicory she smiled and said good luck and slow down. I think she knew what we were getting ourselves into. This was the start of our Ground Hogs Day. "Look kids there's Big Ben"
            We were late and needed to get to the next exchange before dawn and because of the fact we couldn't read the 20 page excel spreadsheet in Korean of giving directions we started and ended up on Chicory lane in front of the exchange 3 times. (1)Arrived, left, were asked to find one of VAN 2 runners (it was easier finding Bin Laden), return, and then leave and then return again 2 more times. "Fuckin Chicory" was now our battle cry for the race. "Dave my leg might be broken I slipped on Jenn R's stick, tuff toenails remember it could be worse, remember we could be back at Chicory". Fuckin Chicory everyone!!!!!

          Jones Elementary School Exchange
          3300 Chicory Road, Racine, WI

          • Early morning of the last day and last leg. We were punchier than Mike Tyson at a self check lane at the supermarket. Somehow the X's got into talking about Vulva's (again another head turn by me). We decided at that point to send Ragnar officials a email to tell them about our new marketing idea for them, "Nothing says Ragnar like Vulva's". ...Laughter ensued from the X's.
            As we rolled into the last exchange of the race, we were a little slap happy. We started to come up with next years team name and the overwhelming winner was, "Dave and the Vulva's". We also came up with the team theme song "My Vulva" to the tune of "My Girl" by the Temptations. ...Laughter ensued from the X's.
          • When you're starving you'll eat just about anything. During a lull Jen R. once again was forging food which was surprising because she kept asking for margaritas. She began to tell us how she had a hot brat that fell out on the ground and wondered if she should eat it. Sara replied, "You've had dirtier things in your mouth, Jen R."...Laughter ensued from the X's

          • The race is over with and we were leaving Montrose Beach and the X's are taking me home and we spy some sort of wacky modeling shoot of about 9 ladies and one male wearing the most God awful skin tight dresses. 7-9 ladies needed to come down a few sizes according the X's. It looked like 2lbs of baloney in a one pound bag. I saw one walking in the street and in a way to small dress that looked like two bull dogs fighting in a burlap sack and said, "all that jelly and no toast". ...Laughter ensued from the X's

          This photo isn't exaggerated
          In closing...

          What a race..."The last 48 hours should have been a show on the Bravo channel"
          As we all stood together at Montrose Beach running path waiting for Laura our captain to show up finishing her last leg and to lead us to the last 50 meters to the finish line, I was pretty tired but really happy because of all the friends I saw along the race, and the new friends I met in the metal tube called Van 1.

          At the finish line I felt pretty proud we all finished in one piece, no one was pissed off with anyone, and no one cut me. I felt good because I finished with good people. These people were easy to laugh with, easy to help out, easy to be generous, easy to encourage. These girls were easy. Someone asked me later that night if I would do it again (that's what she said Sara"). I said sure I would with one exception. I would race with Laura this time and my 5 X's. I miss you all already. Come to Chicago ladies for a weekend and let's have fun again real soon. Oh the alimony checks are in the mail.

          Post race solution. "NO MORE TELLING ME HOW TO DRIVE"

          Hurray we finished and thank you Laura Flanagan for doing all of this.

          Thursday, May 16, 2013

          Spring = Angela = Triathlons

          I ran into an old south side friend at the federal building at lunch yesterday. I haven't seen him since I was 13 years old. The old summer beach memories came flooding out during our few minutes together.

          The last time I saw him we were on a CTA bus with my friends on a really great late May sunny morning heading to Oak Street beach in Chicago to hang out all day.
          I was 13 years old without a care in the world. I was just one year away from working full time for the rest of my life. I had a $3.00 haircut, 3 more years with my braces on my choppers, black frame thick lenses, I was 4'11, in other words I looked like a train wreck. 

          It was a hot day with a lot of commuters trying to get downtown and I lucked out to get two seats to myself until we got to the corner of 55th and Crawford. That's when she entered the bus. As if time had stopped I saw her approach me and with an audible "gulp" from my Adams Apple she sat down next to me. She wore a orange sun dress, a gold ID bracelet, dishwater blonde hair with green eyes and holding a sack lunch. If she had a pie in that sack I would have said she was perfect. You have to understand Dave at 13 was a pretty shy kid with zero game with the girls and then to be seated next to this pretty girl for the next 50 minutes was too good to be true.

          Our conversation started when she asked me to open the window up with a smile (there was no ac in buses back then) and in some ways I opened up and left my shyness that morning. We talked and laughed the whole ride. She told me she was going to visit her Mother who was working on Michigan Ave that day as a surprise. During our conversation she would do that cute hair flip and giggle thing girls do at that age and even tapped me on my knee (which was huge for a geek like me at the time). As we approached our final stop on Michigan and Wacker I felt cheated that the bus ride wasn't longer but she had to leave and so did I. We both got off the bus and she turned to look at me and said, "David it was so nice to meet you, thanks for making me smile, and have fun at the beach today." She turned and walked away. I turned and walked toward my friends and realized I fell in love for the first time today. She was kind, polite, sweet and beautiful and girls like that at that time of my life never gave me the time of day. Her name was Angela. I never saw Angela again after that day. In true stalker fashion I rode my bike to the same bus stop for the rest of the summer in hopes to see her there again, but for not. I gave up searching for her and I ended up going to high school the next year, got my braces off, wore contact lenses, bought a $9.00 haircut, started growing sideburns (behind my ears), got a hot date for my prom and graduated high school and moved into my adult life.

          When I started getting into triathlons I was looking for my first good tri-bike which are pretty darn expensive. When I walked into the last bike shop I saw the TREK EQ carbon on the wall. I fell in love as fast as I did with Angela and I had to name the new bike after her. When I first took her out on the lakefront path for a ride it was a late May morning again, conditions were perfect, she responded with every move of my body, she left me breathless, I had a smile from ear-to-ear. I was 13 years old again and very happy.

          Age 13 in blue, Eddie O, Mad Dog and Stretch

          Marie Miller and Davey boy, St.Shawshank Redemption High School Prom

          "Angela" Chicago Triathlon



          Tuesday, May 14, 2013

          My friend Bob Horwitz

          Robert Horwitz is his name. Bob is a friend of mine. If you belong to the Chicago running community chances are you have met Bob, ran with him, seen him or heard of him.

          I met Bob in 2004 when I decided to take up the sport of endurance running again after a long lay off. Bob was my first pace leader in the 10 min CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association). I didn't know a thing about running at the time, all I knew was that you needed good shoes and not be drunk before or during training. I soon found out after the first long run at the 5th mile Bob's energy never stops. I always ran with Bob at the front of the pack, but as he would often do, he would run back to the rear to encourage the people in the back and then run to the middle and then back to the front with me. He would do this for every training run no matter what the mileage was over and over again during the run. If we were running a 16 miler he would end up doing a 20 because of the all the north - south running he was doing. Amazing. The bonus was Bob is a massage therapist and would bring his table to the end of the runs to teach people to stretch or offer a free massage.

          Now Bob has a running blog site (Bob's Running Resources) for his running coaching business. I encourage you all to check it out.  Bob also has one of the sharpest photographic eyes I've ever seen. He always captures our lakefront path that we train on so perfectly. If you have a second take a look at his photos...They were all taken within walking distance of my home in Chicago.  Visit his Facebook page for all his photos. Bob's Photos


          My first half marathon that Bob coached me. Tough conditions of heat and no water (Bob in Black Cap)

          North Ave Beach Path
          Some goof he met on the path last summer

          Dave before Dawn

          A rare mid-week RUCK at dawn

          Clock Tower..

          Fullerton Ave Beach
          Fullerton Ave Beach



          Sunday, May 12, 2013

          Modi Witherbee

          Who the heck is this dog? He's a K9 (Dogue de Bordeaux (aka French Mastiff)) living out west with my pal Larry and Keri...

          He swims, he climbs stairs, slides down slides, fetches bones while diving into a pool, guards the house at night, is a loyal pal, and loves humans. If I lived next door to Modi I know I would be playing with him every day and sneaking him treats that his owners would have to file a restraining order on me. A first in the history of law. Look at this face and tell me you wouldn't do the same thing. Dogs sometimes are so much nicer to be around than humans.

          Chillin on the couch
          With his big sister Sage

          I have to breathe through my nose Larry?
          Happy Mothers Day

          This is fake grass?
          Time for swim? Really?

          Not sure I like this swimming stuff?
          Love a cool garage floor..


          Thursday, May 9, 2013

          Teachers Week...Thank one will ya?

          "Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere"
          This is a good real life example of my 8 years at St. Mary's Star of the Sea - South Side of Chicago
          Teachers of my best memories of school was when I was trying to get into the hardest Catholic high school at the time in Chicago and I didn't think I stood a chance to get in and would end up in the Chicago public school system. But I had a teacher, Mrs. O'Conner who believed in me and worked with me to take the entrance exam. She went out of her way to meet with the academic advisors on her own time to go to bat for me. At the time I had no idea she was doing this at all. I knew she told me you need to go to this school and told my parents that. I remember the day I opened the acceptance letter and couldn't believe a kid like me coming from where I came from would be offered this.
          But looking back I really only wanted to go there because I wanted to make the boxing team and play football (yes I had to make the teams not everyone made the team). After my first month the school dropped it's boxing program and I was only 4'11 and 97lbs as a freshman and I was used as a tackling dummy for a few months (think of the movie Rudy). My thoughts of playing football for Notre Dame were dashed. I realized quickly I better focus on the books since my parents were paying for this and we weren't wealthy by any means. After I graduated going to this school was the best thing I ever did. It set the tone for my life. And it was because of a caring teacher and parental units.
          So when I hear about my friends who are teachers and they have parent meetings and the parents are yelling at them for this and that it makes me very angry. Maybe I'm older and it's a different time but when I went to school for 12 years I had two teachers...the ones at school and the ones at home..MY PARENTS!.  It wasn't the teachers fault ever, it was my fault because I didn't buckle down and hit the books and my parents made sure of that. 4 years in high school I never went out on a school night. Never. I could hear my Mother yelling at me to put the pie and baseball mitt down and read the classics. If I didn't there would be hell to pay both at home and at school.
          Growing up I never admired sports stars, Hollywood stars or Santa Claus. Teachers were the ones I admired. I don't know how they do it every day, I really don't. With all their education, patience, and people skills they still get paid less than a garbage man in Chicago. If you see a teacher this week buy them a cup of coffee or call one that helped you and thank them. They make differences in lives one child at a time. Don't know many other people who do that and don't know where I would be today without one.
          This is my friend Jill 1st grade class when she returned to teach after the Boston Bombing. The kids were worried about her because she was at the 2nd Boston Bombing location waiting for her brother and myself to finish the race. Now that's a great teaching moment.

          Why being a slow runner doesn't matter..

          Do You Think You Run Slow? Why Being “Slow” Doesn’t Matter

          marathon running tipsI originally wrote this article for and the original can be found here. However, I felt this was such an important topic that I wanted to also share with the readers of this blog. Enjoy!
          When I first started working with age-group and recreational runners in 2006, one of the biggest surprises to me was the amount of negative thinking and lack of self-confidence many runners exhibited. Almost every runner that joined the group introduced themselves to me by stating, “I’m probably the slowest person you’ve ever coached” or “you probably don’t work with runners as slow as I am.”
          It didn’t matter what their personal bests actually were, almost all conversations started in a similar manner.
          Unfortunately, I’ve found that not much has changed in the last seven years. Many runners, both new and experienced, hesitate to participate in our our training community. When asked why, most respond that they are embarrassed by how slow they are.
          I’m here to tell you that you’re not slow and that this negative, self-deprecating thinking is only holding you back from your true potential!
          I’ll admit, this article won’t be as grounded in scientific research and specific how-to advice as my usual pieces. However, shifting your mindset about how you perceive yourself is more important than any workout or training run you could ever do.

          The power of positive thinking

          From a purely performance perspective, thinking negatively can inhibit you from achieving your potential. While thinking you’re slow may seem harmless, every time you preface a statement with the phrase: “I know I am slow, but…” you condition your mind to believe that you can never be fast.
          Countless research studies in sports psychology have proven the power of positive thinking and self-talk. Athletes who go into a workout or race with positive thoughts perform significantly better and more consistently than those who approach workouts and races with a negative attitude.
          Reframing your belief in yourself starts before a workout or race. If you’re negative and lack self-confidence throughout your training, no amount of pre-race self-talk and mental preparation is going to undo weeks or months of self-deprecation. Positive thinking starts with how you frame every aspect of your running.
          I understand that it’s hard to change your perception of your running ability, so here is some helpful advice:

          Running is the same no matter how fast or slow you are

          Here’s a secret about running. The feeling you get after a new PR, the satisfaction from a tough workout well done, and the disappointment from a bad performance all feel the same no matter how fast you are. That’s the beauty of our sport.
          There is no difference between the runner who breaks 30 minutes for the 5k for the first time and the one that breaks 16 minutes. Both worked hard, sacrificed to achieve their goal, and experienced the same challenges.
          That means all runners can relate to each other, no matter their speed.
          I’ve run under 29 minutes for 10k. I still get nervous about finishing last (in fact, I have the distinguished accomplishment of finishing second-to-last at two consecutive US championships), there’s still lots I don’t know about training, and I have had more than my fair share of bad workouts, injuries, and poor races.
          Therefore, there’s no need to preface any of your questions or thoughts about running with “I am slow.” I’m fast and I face the same challenges and fears. All runners do.

          There’s always someone faster

          Unless you’re Kenessia Bekele, Mo Farah, or Galen Rupp, chances are there is always going to be someone faster than you. Fast is relative.
          I get it. You run 12 or 15 minutes per mile and are embarrassed to call yourself a runner because lots of people are faster. Here’s a secret: “fast” runners feel the same way.
          In a recent conversation with former professional runner Ryan Warrenburg, he discussed how he’s hesitant to call himself an “elite” runner. Ryan has run 13:43 for 5k – I’d call that fast and worthy of elite status. Do you know where his time ranks him in the world? I don’t because it’s way outside the top 500 (sorry Ryan).

          What’s wrong with being “slow”

          Ok, so I can’t convince you that being “slow” is all a frame of reference. So I’ll ask you, why does being slow even matter?
          Runners are perhaps the most welcoming and friendly group of athletes I’ve ever met. No runner I know has a problem slowing down to run with a friend. Think about it. Would you enjoy a run with a friend, even if you had to slow down considerably for them to keep up? I bet you would, and your running group feels the same.
          Second, regardless of your pace, you’re doing better than almost 80 percent of Americans. In a study conducted by the CDC, researchers found that less than 20 percent of Americans get the recommended levels of exercise, and more than a quarter of U.S. adults do not devote any time to physical activity.
          I hope you can look at some of these stats and insights from runners who are “fast” and realize speed is merely a state of mind. Once you can reframe your thoughts on your speed and potential, you open yourself up for great things to happen with your training and racing.
          The next time you want to join a running club, ask a question to a fellow runner, or want to sign up for a race but get nervous about “being slow,” ask yourself: “Does it really matter?”

          Wednesday, May 8, 2013

          Bacon Lovers Rejoice

          I love a good piece of bacon like everyone else but last summer I went vegan to see how I would like the experience. Would I adapt well? Will I loose weight? Will I loose my mind?
          It was boring.

          I lost a few pounds but really didn't see a difference by the time September rolled around and I went back to the dark side..I mean dark meat. The whole experience provided me with the fact that 90% of the stuff in an average supermarket isn't good for you and that I found a great bacon substitute.

          Watch the video and try this at home. It makes a great healthy snack. Even some of my chef friends who write food blogs used the trick for their posts. 

          WATCH Bacon Snack Video

          105-Year-Old Texas Woman Reveals Bacon as her Secret behind Long Life