Late Night Wanderings

Scout paws crossedLast Friday, my wife and I arrived home just before midnight after spending the evening at the movie theater. As always, there was Scout to greet us as we opened the door. With only one child still living at home, Scout gets less and less attention and I often feel bad for him and his spending more and more time alone. “Good boy Scout” I tell him as I rub his head and scratch him behind his ears. He closes his eyes and tells me, “oh yeah, that is the spot, that feels great.” He has been alone all evening, so I tell, “come on boy, let’s get you outside”. He protests at first and its obvious he does not want to go outside. I can’t blame him. After hours of boredom, there is finally activity in the house and Mom and Dad are likely to start snacking before they go to bed, food just may hit the floor and be Scout’s to claim. As I open the front door and turn on the porch light, he just looks at me and pleads with his eyes to not make him go out in the sub-freezing night air. “Alright Scout, I’ll stay by the door, make it quick and I’ll let you back in shortly.” He complies and heads out into the cold night. A quick pit stop works for me too. It’s late and I’d like to hit the sack myself. I start thinking about a warm bed and a good book. But I know I’ll only get through about 1 paragraph before my wife pokes me to get me to stop snoring. Sleep will come quickly. Okay Scout, lets hurry up. I guess he decided to explore a bit. He obviously decided to stay out longer, so I go to get ready for bed and give him more time outside. 10 minutes later, my breath is fresh from toothpaste and I’m wearing my flannel PJ pants and a Life-is-Good T-shirt. Strange that Scout has not started barking wanting back in. I’m sure he is waiting patiently by the door. As I peer out the window, I don’t see Scout. I step out into the cool night and call for him, no response. We have 4 acres encapsulated by a buried invisible fence, so it’s very possible he is in the back of the property and I just don’t see him. I call again but get no response. After 40 minutes of calling and peering into the darkness, I realize he has braved the shock of the collar and ventured beyond the electric fence. In all of his 9 years, he has never crossed the barrier of a heart stopping electric bolt. Even though I am frustrated by the adventure seeking pouch, I decide to unplug the electric fence to remove the incentive to stay out longer than necessary. I then crawl in bed and hope to get some sleep before Scout wakes me barking at the door. “Aren’t you going out to find him?” My wife asks. “Nope” is my reply, “I don’t’ want the neighbors calling the police because someone is roaming the streets with a flashlight.” “good night” I tell her and I quickly drift into a deep sleep. Three hours later I wake up for no apparent reason other than a strong feeling that Scout is back and waiting by the door. A quick trip to the front door reveals my intuition to be correct. Scout greets me like nothing has happened, “hey dad, what’s up, I think I’ll go to bed now” was all he had to say for himself. “Okay Scout, go to bed, but we’re going to discuss this in the morning,” I tell him. He seems indifferent to this comment as he curls up on his bed in the laundry room. As I climb back in bed, curiosity steels my sleep. I wonder, where did he go and what did he do for 3 hours? What smell, sound, or primal instinct drew him away from our house late on a Friday night? Will I ever know or will this remain a mystery forever? Will little Scout’s suddenly emerge from a neighbor’s house weeks from now? I think about the emergence of police body cams. Maybe Scout needs a pouch cam for moments like this. But then I wonder if I would I even want to know what adventures he enjoyed? Maybe what happens during late night wanderings should stay late night wanderings. Perhaps once every 9 years a dog needs a venturesome night to blow off some steam and live the wild life of his ancestors. Perhaps he needed to get out and howl at the moon. I decide to give Scout this simple adventure and just let it go. I won’t even bring it up in the morning. With that thought, I fall back to sleep and dream of my own adventures.Scout

“I don’t always bark at night, but when I do, it’s for no reason…”

-Author Unknown

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A Run in the Desert

Idiot marathonBANG!! In the cold and dark of a February desert morning, the Phoenix Marathon 2018 has begun. Even in February, it is unusually cold for Phoenix, 34 degrees. The 6 AM start time means it is also very dark in the east valley Usery mountains. As we begin the stampede of 3,000 runners, the butterflies in my stomach begin to calm down and I shake off the mental cobwebs from a sleepless night. I take a deep breath, “I am finally running” I say to myself. Like the 2,999 runners around me, I wonder if I am truly prepared for the long run ahead and achieving my goal of a sub-four-hour finish. I turn to my running buddy Jeff and give him a fist bump, “we got this.” This is Jeff’s first marathon. In fact, the only other competitive race he has run was the 10k we ran together back in Colorado just two weeks ago. His preparation for this run has been amazing. He is psyched up and ready.
This journey started just 5 months ago in September as I was having knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in my right knee. When I scheduled the surgery, I decided that I would run the Pikes Peak marathon 11 months after surgery. Pikes Peak is considered one of the toughest marathons in the world. I figured that would provide the motivation to get me through rehab and running again. My wife figured it was the musings of a deranged 51-year-old going through a midlife crisis. She may be right, but I have never let common sense get in the way of a challenge. Shortly after surgery, I discovered that the Pikes Peak marathon also required a qualifying marathon within the 12 months leading up to the event. Since I had only run one other marathon, 15 years ago, I would need to complete another marathon before March 10th, when registration opened. That did not give me much time to get ready!
Rehab went well. I ditched the crutches the first day after surgery. I refused to take any pain meds and by day 7, I was riding a stationary bike, but ever so slowly. Progression was very slow and I became worried that pain and swelling was limiting my ability to get my heart rate to a meaningful level during exercise. Finally, in early November, I was able to run again. I started running with a running group at the local brewery. The benefits of running with a brew crew is that no one focuses on how fast or slow you are running. The goal is not achieving a pace or overall time, it’s getting a locally brewed IPA in your hand as soon as possible. Early on, the distances were short and I was trying hard to balance the inevitable knee swelling with pushing the runs a little faster each time. By Thanksgiving, the leg was feeling stronger and I convinced my family to join me in a Turkey Trot 10K. 13 members of my family signed up. My niece even made T-shirts that said “Feast Mode.” While I have no idea what that means, it did seem to motivate the whole group and gave us a rallying cry during the run. I felt great during the run and even finished in 3rd place in the 50-59 division. My 20-year-old daughter ran with me and finished 2nd for her age group. The running during the month of November taught me two things; 1) I was ready to begin a marathon training program, and 2) Beer and running go well together as long as you do them in the right order.
The week after Thanksgiving, I determined that the Phoenix Marathon on Feb 24th would be the ideal qualifying marathon. The problem was, it was only 12 weeks away. All my research suggested that you need at least 18 weeks to prepare for a marathon. So, I did what most men would do in this situation, I researched 12-week marathon training programs, found one that I liked, and called it good. About that time, one of my brew bros, Jeff, declared that he would run both the Phoenix Marathon and Pikes Peak with me. He also declared that he had only run longer than 5 miles once in his life. Since the 10k was my longest run since surgery, I figured we were a good training match; damaged goods and Mr. Naïve. The first run of this 12-week program started with a 7-mile run, followed by a 12-mile long run that first weekend. Nothing like jumping right in! Each week we added 1 mile to the long run, and each week Jeff declared, “this is the longest run I have ever done!” As we added miles, the recovery from the long runs became quicker each week. Over the next 12 weeks, we ran through cold weather and high winds, the flu, and even a strained calf muscle in my right leg. Through the process, I learned that dry needling and deep muscle massage is both painful and amazingly effective to get your muscles through injury. I asked my physical therapist if PT schooling included a class called “Torture 101.” I considered ice baths to help with recovery, but I decided that cold beer was better.
Despite the setbacks, we worked up to a long run of 20 miles with the marathon still 4 weeks away. 20 miles was tough, but we still had 4 weeks to go. We were feeling optimistic that we were going to be ready. To prepare for the mental aspects of racing, we decided to enter a local 10k that was 2 weeks prior to the marathon. It would be Jeff’s first competitive race. On race day, we had a cold front come through that dropped the temperature to 15 degrees with snow at start time. What a great simulation of the Phoenix desert! We both ran well and finished 1st and 2nd for our age group. Even better, I managed a 2nd place overall finish. We were feeling great. The 10k run convinced us that we were ready to run and really boosted our confidence. We started to joke that we might win this thing and we even considered contacting Depends to see if they would sponsor a couple of “old” guys for the marathon. At this point, bladder control might just be our biggest obstacle!

Chuck NorrisAfter months of training, we were finally here running the race in the dark Phoenix early morning. The cool weather was welcome to a couple of boys from Colorado. We decide to fall in with a pace group targeting a 3:45 finish time. This equates to an 8:30/mile pace. Based on our training, we decide this would be a comfortable pace that would keep a little gas in the tank for the last 6.2 miles. This proved to be a good decision and had the added benefit of a pace runner that acted like a coach to help us through the mental aspects of the long race. We learned a few things from our pace runner: 1) relax and don’t push the pace early on, 2) let the course do the work (I’m still trying to figure this one out), 3) get in and out when getting a drink at the drink stands so you don’t get run over, 4) trying to catch up to your pace group after a potty break is extremely difficult! We slowed a bit for miles 23 & 24, but by the time we crossed the finish line, we had shattered our goal of sub 4 hours, finishing around 3:46, which is an 8:39/mile pace overall. Family and friends were there to cheer us on at the finish. We made it! Step 1 complete, next goal, Pikes Peak!
As I board the plane the next morning, I am very happy with the race result. Even though my legs are incredibly sore, my spirit is high and I am starting to think about my next goal of Pikes Peak. The training will be very different and will involve a lot more power hiking than flat out running. I am also thinking about friends and family that have asked me why I would want to run a marathon, especially Pikes Peak. My first thought is that I live near the base of Pikes Peak and the peak calls out to my soul every morning as I see it across my windshield as I drive to work. Actually, that’s not the reason. It’s much simpler than that. We set goals to push ourselves to achieve things that are hard and require some level of effort to prepare. We do this to prove to ourselves that we can and to achieve personal satisfaction from the journey and inevitable good results of our hard work. The level of difficulty and time it takes to be ready can vary based on personal preference and circumstances. For me, I like to target things that are physically demanding, but very achievable, with the right training. At least 2,999 other people in Phoenix on Feb 24th seemed to share this perspective. I saw many nervous faces at the beginning of the race and as many happy faces at the finish line. I also made friends along the race course and saw people supporting and encouraging each other throughout. It was a great display of hard work and preparation, human endurance, camaraderie, and personal success. Challenges like this can help to break up the routine of everyday life and give us something to strive for and achieve. For me, this run had the added benefit of helping me to overcome an injury and get back to a high level of fitness. The mental and physical benefits alone seem worth it, at least for me.

“Most men take the straight and narrow. A few take the road less traveled. I chose to cut through the woods.”

– Unknown

Serving in Nicaragua

“…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Matthew 20:28).

Jesus used these words to teach the twelve about the importance of sNicaragua homeervice and humility. Christ later washed the feet of his apostles, truly demonstrating his lesson of service. This teaching was put into practice in November as a team of 22 volunteers , myself included, traveled to the Nicaraguan coastal town of Las Penitas. Their mission was to build homes for young families who were in need of a home but could not afford the cost. On Saturday, November 11, 2017 the team assembled at the airport in Managua, Nicaragua. As the team emerged from the airport, they got their first taste of the local weather. But the oppressive heat and humidity of a Nicaraguan summer did not diminish the enthusiasm of the team. Saturday evening provided time for fellowship as the team got to know each other and learn about the families they would serve. The team organizer shared the dream of one of the young fathers. His dream was to take the land that was passed to him from his father and build a house on it that he would someday pass down to his sons. Thanks to this group of volunteers that dream was about to become a reality. Continue reading “Serving in Nicaragua”

A Race in the Desert

rocknroll-marathon

I arrived in Phoenix late in the afternoon this past Saturday. It was January 14th and a storm system was moving in across the west. The flight from Denver was bumpy and I thanked God for bringing me here safely. I booked this flight a little over a month earlier when my college age daughter invited me to run with her and her roommate in the Rock’n’Roll half marathon in Phoenix. She brought this up while we were visiting her in Tucson for Thanksgiving. The allure of a warm January day in Phoenix took hold immediately and I quickly accepted. Continue reading “A Race in the Desert”

Riding the rapids….

img_0908It was finally summer time in Colorado and I was looking forward to a long weekend trip outdoors with an old friend, my nephew, and my son. A few months before we all agreed to take an early June rafting trip down the Arkansas River, when the water levels would be their highest. We decided on a 5-day getaway in the mountains; camping, fishing, mountain biking, and rafting! Continue reading “Riding the rapids….”

Are there dogs in heaven?

scout-colorado-trail-2016This questions keeps coming up, ever since I was a kid, running through my Maryland suburban home with my dog Socks. I never got a good answer as a child, or as an adult. I even researched the bible on this topic and could not find a definitive position on the subject. So I’ve had to think this one through and have concluded that dogs are in heaven (for cat lovers, this conclusion applies to cats as well). Why did I reach this conclusion, it just makes sense. I can’t imagine a heaven that does not include our canine companions. My current dog, Scout, and the 5 previous dogs I’ve had, all display the core attributes you would expect to encounter in a heavenly creature. Well, maybe not all 5, my mother’s poodle, would be an exception (sorry Mom!). But the others all had the sweet innocence of a two year old, the patience of a loving mother, and the loyalty of a fellow soldier under fire, and they are this way every day! Continue reading “Are there dogs in heaven?”

Summertime is…

smores

I hope everyone is having a great summer! Mine has been busy, with little time to devote towards my blog. I’m guessing many of you are just as busy and may be limited in the time you have to read through long posts. Despite the busy summer, I still want to connect with the community we are building through NothingImportant2Say. So I’m trying something new today. A short blog topic that is intended to be a quick read while soliciting some feedback on how your summer is going. Below I posted a couple thoughts on what summertime is to me. I welcome you to post a response with your definition of summertime!

CTSummertime is…a cool morning on a scenic mountain trial with my dog Scout and nowhere I need to be all day. This gets even better when a mountain bike is involved!

Summertime is…a crackling campfire, graham crackers, chocolate, and extra large marshmallows.

patio fireplaceSummertime is…breaking out the lawn furniture for a Friday afternoon on the patio with neighbors and friends.

What is summertime to you?

Flowers appear on the earth, the season of signing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. – Song of Songs 2:12