Monday, November 24, 2008

It is Snowing

We've lived here for roughly 18 months and this is the first real snow. If we are going to live in Germany we should live in Germany and that should include snow and all that goes with it. Today we woke up to this. Beautiful, quiet snow. These pictures are from my commute to work on my mountain bike. It's days like this that make the commute fun.

The Tree

Obermenbach - Home to one of the best Beer Gardens in the area.

The Forest Trail

The entrance to the forest trail.
It's a good life...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Importance of it All

As soon as you are ready, I am willing - Kevin Cronin - REO Speedwagon

It's just running shoes!
This small picture above (couldn't quite figure out how to enlarge it) is of me and my budddy and long time Asics Rep Mike Matranga. In my 12 years at Road Runner Sports Mike and I built a substantial Asics Business and RRS business. We did it through great focus on the goals and on marketing trial and sometimes error. You can't do that unless there is trust in the relationship. I always trusted Mike to represent RRS to the folks at Asics and it was my job to represent Asics back to RRS. It sounds rather simple but when millions of dollars are on the line along with pressure from individuals in each of the organizations it makes for a rather dyamic relationship. Beyond the work though Mike and I developed a friendship that will last a lifetime. Virtually every meeting and every phone call started or ended with family. Many times the subject came up but it was always there, "This is just Running Shoes." I think that perspective helped build the business to what it was. Yes, the decisions were worth money but it was really just running shoes.

2009 Training

Week #1 went quite well. I executed my 5K test on Tuesday. Some Bike testing this week and my targets and training levels are set. I wasn't fast in the least on Tuesday. That doesn't mean I bagged it, it just means that the effort was hard (as hard as I could go) and the results were surprisingly slow. As I said last week I'm changing things up this winter. Typically I would have jumped into some sort of high volume low effort training to build an endurance base. With some help from the folks at Endurance Nation I am doing much less volume at a much higher effort. For instance I ran 5 times this week. Only 1 of those runs was at an "easy" pace and it was 20 minutes long. My longest run was 45 minutes and each of the runs had some sort of 5K (from the test) efforts. The reasoning behind this is rather simple now that I've had time to think about it. Time in the winter is short so it's better to use that short time to the maximum and get faster.

It's a good life.....

Saturday, November 15, 2008

live with intention

The picture today comes form our trip to Bocas del Toro, Panama. We are taking a break from snorkeling in this shot. Not a bad way to spend a week.

The quote/headline for the post today comes from a little plaque sitting on our bookcase. I was looking at it yesterday and thought wow, it's been looking me right in the face.

This week marks the start of a new training chapter for me. I have my goals set and it's time to get to them. They say the measure of insanity is to do the same thing over and over expecting different results. I think that sums up the last two years of my athletic world. Other than a short stint last year with a body strength focus I've been doing just about the same things and not having many results. Now, my measure of result is to race and I haven't done much of that either but it will change. For now I focus on the training aspect. So this week I embark on something totally new to me. It goes against the conventional thinking of Long Slow Distance in the winter and focuses more on quality. I start on Tuesday with a 5K time trial and I see down the schedule that I have more of those to come. I'll report improvements or even lack of as they come. To start with I'm crushing the couch right now at a whopping 153lbs. When I was really competitive I weighed 135. Two years ago when I had a blast and lots of race success with it I was 142lbs. I have no goal where I'll end up but 153 doesn't feel right. The other benefit I see of this new training cycle is effort. I've always said the best way to clear my mind of the ills that cloud it is to run, ride or swim hard. You can't think much of anything when you go hard. The training program has enough of going hard that my mind will be clear for at least an hour a day and I'm excited by that thought.

Mom Update
A shout out to my big Sister Cyndi. As I sit here in the warmth of my home here in Germany my big sister Cyndi is living the nightmare that is taking care of a parent with Alzeimers who doesn't want any help. Not only is Cyndi taking care of Mom but this is her second stint with the disease in less than a year. She and her husband Mike went through this situation last Spring with Mike's mother. So Cyndi, I bow to you today and every day. You are stronger than I would be. You are a saint!

Until next week when I will be full of new found energy....

It's a good life.....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I love Cross Country

They are lined up and ready to go!

A fashion statement!

And they are off - Isn't that a nice tree?

Some Team Unity

Kyle - I told you I would make your feet famous. Well maybe not but that's totally cool you are wearing Matt's Shoes.

These boys are dressed or maybe partially dressed to cheer on the girls. It's 29 degrees F or -1 C. That's Kyle with Matt's shoes in the Black pants and Jacket.

Saturday was the Illinois State Cross Country Championships in Detweiller Park - Peoria Illinois. I figured since I was in town I'd go watch. This was the 63rd year of the championship and the 39th year at the park. It's a great venue to watch and a tough course. If you win here, you earned it.

Cross Country is the best High School sport there is. It's full of individual drama and team drama. Sure the winners of these races will go on to run in college but their favorite moment will most likely be winning this race. As for the team, the fifth place runner on the team is just as important as the first runner on the team. For most in the race it's the team competition that counts.

When I was in Highschool Elmwood was this 5 house town with a football team. Brimfield had 6 houses and generally had a better football team. For Cross Country they band together to create Elmwood/Brimfield. Their team colors are Elmwood colors of black and orange. The boys team had won 5 state titles and were amoung the favorites to win a 6th. Midway through the race it looks like they are in charge of their destiny when one of their runners Jared Harkness is disqualified for throwing an elbow. A coach from another team saw the incident and said there was no foul but in Cross Country a call sticks. There is no turning back. Instantly Elmwood Brimfield goes from leader to 3rd place. It's all on 6th man Doug Vrchota now. Doug guts it out for a 64th placing in the race. He out sprinted a couple guys at the finish. Remember he's sprinting for 64th place. That sprint saved the team. His 64th place put the Elmwood/Brimfield top 5 runners in first place and team title #6 was in the bag. Who's the hero on this day? A kid nobody but team and family know, Doug Vrchota.
On the girls side the race was tight. There was not a clear favorite amoung the teams and there were 6 teams who had a shot at the title. Remember Elmwood/Brimfield wears Black and Orange. The Orange is their top and it stands out. For a little trickery, the Elwood girls all agree to wear Black on Black. They did not want other runners or other teams keying on thier bright orange tops. The trickery worked. They finished a surprizing third place in the team competition.

Cross Country Rules!

It's a good life....

PS, Thanks to everyone who asked about my mother. My sister Cyndi and I got a great deal done on her behalf last week. She will be in a good happy place fairly soon.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

American Duty

It's election day in America. Because of the trip we recently took, and the election I thought talking about our duty as Americans would be a good topic. The picture above is from Omaha Beach, Normandy. That tree probably wasn't there in 1944 but it sits at a rather important spot. Essentially this picture was taken from the forward German Bunker that sits on the the gradual slope that heads to the Beach. It was this bunker that according to everything I've read, caused the most problems on the Beach. It was mid afternoon when the Americans finally knocked it out. So this one tree stands alone on the bluff. To me it symbolizes our duty as Americans. To stand up and say something. To take action. It's just a tree, but in that setting on that beach with an American Cemetery not far away, it's more than just a tree.

First Thing: Vote

Fuel your American Pride
My wife Mary and I don't agree on everything. One thing we are crystal clear on is our love for the USA. We both got to it differently but we love it for the same reasons. But we are not immune to bashing the country from time to time. So we make it a point to fuel our love on a regular basis. I suggest if you are feeling down about the country especially after this long and hard election year, go learn something new about the country. Now our absolute favorite place to fuel the love is Washington DC. It is truly inspiring. It may be expensive to get there but once there, it's not expensive. Just about everything to do with being an American in D.C. is Free. The Bill of Rights, Smithsonian and so much more is Free. One of the other things we like to do is visit the US Cemeteries. The Omaha Beach Cemetery was just an incredibly moving experience. If you live in San Diego, there is one on Point Loma. You sit there for an hour with the US Navy and America's Finest City as the back drop and you can't help be proud to be American. Finally a non-military way to be wowed by the USA is visit a National Park. It's one of my goals to visit all of them. Each one it unique and each one represents what is great about the USA. We obviously did not create that beauty but we preserved it and they are just unreal.

i'm not the ugly ameroeuro who says, 'football' and suddenly wears pointy shoes; but we americans are f-a-t fat! - Paul Astorino

I can't help to think my boss is making fun of me because I call Soccer, Football in Europe. But I don't care. The real part of the quote is the we Americans are F-A-T. Those of us who live in Europe get a unique view every time we travel back to the USA. The first real sense you get is when you head through Customs. As you know there is an American Citizen line and then an everyone else line. If you took a random sampling of 100 people from each line you would be shocked. I'm going to guess an average of 40 lbs heavier on the American Side. And that 40lbs is all Fat. You can visibly see the difference. But I'm not telling you something you don't already know. We all know it. I think it's time we all take it on as a challenge. Heck, that is what endorphin fanatics is about anyway.

My view of the weight issue we have is this: Rarely do you ever hear that someone died because they were fat. They died of Cancer, Heart Disease etc. Those are real diseases that kill millions. I'm going to go out on a limb without any medical research and say that many of the diseases can be reduced if we cut out the Fat. Heck said another way, what if they started keeping the statistics of death by Fat. We would really do something wouldn't we.

On this Election day one of the major topics is Health care. Something all of you pay into. Your premiums are high and will continue to increase because of Fat. So as healthy obsessive Triathletes, Runners etc. we have to band together to change the tide. Choose your reason, more room on the plane, smaller cars on the freeway, you actually care about the people around you or simply your health care budget.

My initial take is this, everyone in the US knows someone who is Fat. Maybe it's your brother, your neighbor, your coworker, your kids best Friend. Everyone knows someone and it's here where we need to start. We need to use all the knowledge we have about our bodies and our drive and share it with others. That doesn't mean we want to turn people into athletes. What it means is we have to start with something and using our know how, there is something we can do to support the effort. I started a short list of some things we can be involved in and I'll give some examples. The List

Reasons for Being Fat What needs to happen

No Activity More Activity

Driving Everywhere Self Powered

Fast Food Natural Food

Soft Drinks Natural Drinks


1. Work on your family members with soft drinks. You know one won't kill you but 3 or 4 in a day may. I did this with my brother. He would drink 4 Mountain Dew's a day. He switched to Diet Mountain Dew but when I told him his body does not know the difference between regular and diet he was a bit shocked. So somehow through discussions and some pleading he is down to one a day.

2. No Activity - The next time you are standing at the elevator with your co-worker challenge them in a nice non-I'll kick your ass challenge to meet you their every morning for two weeks to take the stairs. Show them some small victories. You know as well as I do after two weeks the stairs won't seem so daunting. Small victory.

Send me your ideas or success stories. I'll post them on this Blog. Again I feel it's our American Duty to change the makeup of our country. It's our duty at athletes to take a stand and show America the way.

It's a good life....


One other note, it's good to be in the USA. For some reason Google can't spell check in Germany so I know my blog is full of errors. Now that I'm back in the US for a time my spelling will improve.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


I remember when I was 10 years old I would smile when I wanted to and not smile when someone wanted me to. Karma gets back at you when your son turns 10. Marco is a great kid but all the pictures we have of him in roughly the last year are stone faced. So I took the opportunity to take some pictures when he wasn't looking. He's got a great smile and here it is.

One of my goals is to learn something totatlly new with Marco. I have some ideas but they have to wait until the Spring thaw. Those ideas are hobbie type things we can learn together and continue to do them. Recently as you know the three of us traveled to Normandy to tour the sites of the D Day invasion. For 3 full days we talked D Day. If we knew the answers to Marco's questions we would answer. If we didn't we would try to find out. Walking through museum after museum answered a number of questions. It also created a great deal more. The point is for 3 days we were totally engaged in the one topic. From learning about the role of the Canadians to the building of the Atlantic wall. We were emmersed in WWII.
Saturday Mary, Marco and one of his buddies went to the movies. On the way to the cinima (it's 25 minutes from home) Marco talked. That's not rare for him but his topic surprised us. He told his freind Patrick all about D Day. Yes the details weren't exactly right but he was animated and excited telling the story. Mary and I couldn't help but smile about it.
One thing I highly suggest to everyone is watch the movie "The Longest Day". The three of us watched it back in May. Mary and Marco watched it again just before our trip. It's a great movie to watch and it is even better to watch it then go to the actual place.

Off to Peoria Illinois. I guess one of the cool things is I'll be in the US on election day. Tomorrow we elect a new President. Finally!

It's a good life...

Saturday, November 1, 2008


This picture above comes from Omaha Beach, Normandy France.

The Trip
We had a great trip. As good Americans we drove from home to Normandy then up to Amsterdam and then home again. The Germans just laugh that we are willing to drive that far. Who knows how long it was. Anyway, the three of us had a great trip. We stayed in Nomandy in a great Bed and Breakfast for 3 nights. It was or base camp for seeing the sites. Day 1 we spent on the Canadian and Bristh side of the Invasion. You rarely hear the Canadians were even involved in WWII and here they are with a beach with their name on it. We visited a museum that is the only WWII Canadian museum. It was a great way to start our discovery. Day 2 was spent on the American side of the Invasion. As a kid, you know the names Omaha and Utah beach. You have only seen them in Black and White that helps set the tone. I think all three of us were a bit in awe of what we saw. First in Omaha with the US Cemetary and a great Cemetary Museum. In that museum they tell personal stories of men who lived and some that died on the beach below. As I told Marco, there were Heroes that day who just the day before might have been simply a face in a crowd. Just an awe inspiring experience I wish every American could see. Late in the day we went to Saint Merie Eglisse. One of the sights of the Airborne invasion. There we saw a movie that showed us the love the town has for the Soldiers that landed in thier town and kicked out the bad guys. Just an increadible story. On our third day we got back in the car and headed north. We stopped off in Southern Belgium to see a WWI trench system. Marco has this great book on WWI and II. We had been reading about the trench warfare and it was good to see one. Marco learned all the key phrases like trenchfoot and no man's land. He has a great sense of adventure with any trip we take but Normandy and the Trenches will probably stay with him forever. Finally we headed to Amsterdam for a couple nights. We stayed on a Houseboat that was a one room B & B. Crazy that Mary finds these places. She does it all with an eye on the interesting and an eye on the pocket. For instance the Houseboat saved us 30 euro a night and was just a cool experience. The highlight for sure in Amsterdam was the Van Gogh museum. We all really enjoyed the story and the paintings. We did get totally lost in the City and ended up in the Red Light district. Every corner we turned it seemed we ran into a wall of windows. Luckily we got out of there. To ground Marco back into sanity we went to the Anne Frank house. A rather sobering experience. Most people have read the book but seeing it, makes it all more real.

Final Thoughts
I put the Omaha beach picture at the start for a reason. Normandy and this beach in particular will forever be linked to D-Day. Any story you have heard about French people being rude, I give you Normandy. Everyone was warm and smiling. The guy on the beach walking his dog was genuinly excited that we would travel so far just to see the area. Just about every inch of the area has some reference to June 6, 1944. Every road sign, every village sign just about everything. My thoughts as we we were walking down Omaha beach were "Man, this is one great beach." The sand is just great, the beach is relatively flat and there is some surf. This would be a great beach to spend the day. So the thought occured to me, does anyone spend a day at that beach just beaching it? It's possible if you slept through the drive, you could walk that beach and never know that it was the sight of death and victory. It's just a big beach with one concrete slab (used to stop tanks) that looks like nothing. You could spend an entire day there not knowing 10,000 soldiers are burried above on the bluff. I wonder if anyone actually does that.

It's a good life....