Monday, July 30, 2007

Chief Pickin' and Bison Bakin'

I snapped the photos of Red Chief (in sweaty Elvis contemplative mood) this weekend jammin with the guitar I gave him. He says he needs a pick to play well. May distribute this photo worldwide when he hits the big time with his band and has the money rolling in for him and the Princess. The shot of fellow Buffaloes Wokman and Freezy Girl was taken at the Badwater ultra race where they helped crew for Devil Dawg. I'll bet the buffalo hats didn't stay on long in the 120-degree heat.

Last evening I mowed lawns, did laundry, walked Ali and began watching Forrest Gump with son Tim when all of a sudden I remembered - The Moon Run! I was missing it! I have made every full moon run on the trail since last fall, but with much to do and watching one of my favorite movies with my little boy, I just forgot.

I'll be watching Red Chief for three days this week while his day care people take vacation. Plans are for swimming, basketball, walking Ali (always an adventure), visits to ice cream places, going to the park, riding bikes, watching movies, and maybe some jamming with our guitars.

Meanwhile triathlon training is going, but not well. Backpacking and camping are heavily on my mind, but discovering a big group of bloggers who are triathletes has been invigorating.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Decisions, Decisions

Yellowstone Canyon

Which triathlons to do. Where to hike and backpack. I decided not to do the Stoneman Triathlon in Springfield this weekend. Just not mentally into it, for some reason. I'll do the Champaign Mini Tri next weekend, and then decide on either a tri in Effingham or one in Indianapolis. I've pretty much decided to go Yellowstone, thus probably no backpacking trip to the Appalachian Trail this summer (unless, of course, I change my mind; time and money will be major deciding factors). But Yellowstone is a must: 2.2-million acres, larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined, with bears, wolves, eagles, moose, and of course buffalo, 3500 of them roaming free. This trip will probably happen in September. A dream journey.

Herd news: Our weekly Holy Thursday trail run at Mahomet last evening was attended by only five buffaloes, with a large group still out west after the Badwater race and a group going up to the Grand Island trail marathon this weekend. I ran 7.6 hot and sticky miles last evening. Will swim tonight. Bikes, swims and runs this weekend, and a full moon run with the herd Sunday evening on the trail.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pride of the Buffalo Nation: Dawg and Mechanic Finish Badwater

Devil Dawg and his support crew of buffaloes at Badwater. From left are Freezy Girl, Wokman, the Dawg, Riddler, Mr. Clean, Barb Wire, and S&M. Freezy Girl and Wokman have migrated to Louisiana but keep in touch and visit us occasionally, as does Barb Wire, who is living in San Diego, and Mr. Clean, who is in the Chicago burbs. The Buffaloes are indeed a herd family.

The Mechanic at the finish.

Tracy, weary but satisfied.

I'm bursting with pride this morning because my good friends Tracy Thomas and Brian Kuhn have completed the 135-mile Badwater ultramarathon in Death Valley, California. This is one of the most demanding races in America, and of the 84 runners who began the race Brian finished in 21st place with a time of 37:25:52 and Tracy was right behind him in 22nd place with a 37:26:44 time. Over 37 hours of endurance running in steaming temperatures. Crazy buffaloes, but quite a milestone in the annals of the herd. Tremendous performance in a field of talented international ultrarunners.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Baked Bison in Death Valley

Fellow Buffaloes Devil Dawg (Brian Kuhn) and the Mechanic (Tracy Thomas) are still at it, both having completed at least 90 miles of the 135-mile Badwater ultra race in sweltering temperatures. See the latest on their progress here. Not bad having two runners from Champaign in the top 25 of the 84 runners of the international field (this as of 12:05 p.m. today).

Monday, July 23, 2007

Off and Running in Hell

The Dawg in his official Buffalo Warriors Badwater race shirt. His support crew consists of four other buffaloes.

The Mechanic

Devil Dawg and the Mechanic have started their ordeal at the Badwater ultra (today through Wednesday), but still waiting for the race webcast of this to come up. Dawg's (Brian Kuhn) race number is 33, the Mechanic's (Tracy Thomas) is 27. This race has been called "running in hell." For a list of Tracy's accomplishments, look here.

Of the two Buffaloes at Ironman Lake Placid, preliminary results show the Iron Bison finished in 13:49:15, with a stellar bike, while Lard Ass is shown as DNF, having gotten through the swim and bike but not the run. Bummer for him.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Herd Night, Pokey Day

The herd at the Reunion Run at the Mahomet trail. I'm in the dark shirt in the middle. Best runner in the group is Cayenne the Wonder Dog.

Pokey at the Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, during our backpack trip last August.

Great time last evening at the Mahomet trail as the herd was joined by a few "missing in action" bison. We had a good run, but it's not just about the running with this group. The socializing after the run makes it all good. The time-honored tradition at the trail continues.

Happy birthday, Pokey. My backpacking companion Pokey, aka Cassandra, turns 30 today. She's out in northern Arizona doing field research for her Ph.D. here at the University of Illinois; she will be doing this for the next five summers. With her schooling and teaching the rest of the year, I rarely see her any more.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Running and Then Some

The herd at Chilly Chili, 2005

I guess I shouldn't have razzed Devil Dawg and the Mechanic yesterday because their's is just typical buffalo behavior: Do something different. I have run with the herd in knee-deep snow, in thunderstorms, in biting blizzards, on ice, in thigh-deep water and ankle-deep mud. I have run many times with something other than water in my water bottle, such as with the Buffalo Rum Runners at the Siberian Express race, with the buffalo-hatted herd at the Chilly Chili run (where we are always proud to finish last), and sipped on blackberry brandy between loops of the Riddle Run. Those events all take place in January; it's how buffaloes deal with cabin fever. There are also moon runs and other silliness throughout the year, but the buffaloes were born and raised for the premier herd happening: Thursday night runs at the Mahomet trail. It is raining right now, so tonight's trail run will be good and gooey. Bring it on.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Buffaloes to be Broiled?

Devil Dawg after completing the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run at Squaw Valley, California, a few weeks ago.

The Mechanic on the cover of my running club's newsletter.

The two buffaloes above are just plain wacky. Or mental. They are going to do the Badwater Ultramarathon next week. Let's see: Death Valley, 130 degrees, 135 miles.

The Mechanic has been seen several times this summer wearing black sweat clothes while running on hot days in training for this event.

Lobotomies have been scheduled for these two.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Iron Bison: A Different Animal

Bruce (Iron Bison) and me at Mrs. T's Triathlon in Chicago, 2002. Bruce is now in his early 50s and shows no signs of slowing down.

Me (left) with Buffaloes (left to right) Iron Bison, Heart Rate, and the Undertaker at Muddy Buddy, Chicago burbs, 2002. The Iron Bison was my partner at this fun race, which featured crawling in the mud.

I was awakened this morning at 3 a.m. by lightning and thunder, and unable to sleep I got up at 5 a.m. Swam at 5:30. This triathlon training and upcoming events of fellow buffaloes brought back memories of past events. My buddy Bruce, the Iron Bison, will be doing his fifth Ironman, this at Lake Placid this coming weekend. Bruce just isn't right in the head, telling me he planned to bike and run early in the morning before driving 16 hours to New York with his family. He is a masonry supervisor at the U of I, and I tell others a few too many bricks have fallen on his head. He has tried to get me to commit to an Ironman, but I know what a marathon feels like, and I can't imagine doing 112 miles on a bike just before that long run.

I don't train with Bruce very much any more (I have to consider my sanity), but when I did train with him I had some of my best triathlons, especially at Mrs. T's (now Accenture) in Chicago. That tri has always been labeled "the world's largest triathlon," and man were those races crowded. My finest effort at Mrs. T's was the 2002 Olympic distance, where I finished 11th of 56 in my age group (50-54). Swimming almost a mile in Lake Michigan with its "fragrant" waters was a chore, but biking on Lake Shore Drive and running past Soldier Field, McCormick Place, the planetarium, and the Shedd Aquariam was special. I miss the Chicago tri, but the $130 race fee and Chicago hotel rates have soured me. Might try it again sometime, though.

Good luck to the Iron Bison and to Lard Ass (Steve O'Connor) at Lake Placid. Those are two tough Buffaloes.

TOMORROW: Hawt Dawg and the Skewered Mechanic - Buffaloes in the Valley of Death

Monday, July 16, 2007

Chief of the Court

Red Chief and I have had many good times, but Saturday night was one of the best. With the Princess out for some well-deserved socializing, Ethan and I swam, rode bikes, and played basketball. I was surprised when the Chief suggested that we go to the park and play basketball, but bring only a regulation-size ball, not his soccer ball, to heave up to the basket. Picture if you will a five-year-old kid, small for his age, gripping an adult-size basketball, bending far down at the knees, placing the ball, which almost touched the ground, between his feet, giving the basket a serious look, then heaving the ball up with all his might. The first several times his arc was a little off, the ball going almost straight up in the air, but finally he hit the rim. The fact that he hurled it 10 feet was quite an accomplishment. Then it happened. I think I was more thrilled than he was when the ball bounced on the rim a couple of times and went through the net. A few more errant shots and some foot-stomping frustration on his part, then . . . another basket . . . immediately followed by another. The shooting went on and on, until at one point the little guy put in four shots in a row! I should note that the rim was the regulation 10 feet from the ground, not a smaller distance for kids.

Then we rode our bikes home, built a fire in the pit on the patio, and talked about hiring an agent.

(I was later informed that the Chief had been practicing basketball at another locale, but his feat was still amazing. After his full evening of swimming, basketball, and bike riding, Princess told me the little guy fell asleep in the car on the way home.)

Friday, July 13, 2007

For My Friend Phoenix

Here's your inspiration for your first triathlon this weekend. The big dude in the photo weighs about 2000 pounds, yet is an excellent swimmer. You probably weigh somewhat less than that, so I expect you'll glide through the water. Now buffaloes are not good bikers, but man can they run . . . sometimes as fast as 40 mph. It may take you a while to get up to that speed, but you'll run well. What I'm getting at here is athleticism - you have the ability, so use it and go out and have fun. Be a buffalo . . . but not on the bike.

Note - Found this question on a website: "There are lots of animals who could beat the best human runner in a foot race. And most sea creatures could beat the fastest human swimmer. But if we took the bicycle part out of the Iron Man Triathlon, is there any one animal that could beat the best Iron Man athlete in both the running and swimming parts?"

Answers offered included cockroaches, polar bears, ducks, tigers, horses, dogs, and otters. All of these creatures would be short on endurance, but I know of one animal that is an endurance runner and swimmer that could give a human some competition, especially in the run - the buffalo. If a human beat him on the swim, a buffalo, with its amazing lung capacity and speed, would easily pass him on the run.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Paying the Price for "Civilization"

General Philip Sheridan (left) is credited with the statement "The only good Indian is a dead Indian."

Magazine making a statement about the slaughter of buffaloes: Caption for a cartoon (left, click for larger view) in an 1874 issue of Harper's Weekly has a buffalo saying to a hunter, "Don't shoot, my good fellow! Here, take my 'robe,' save your ammunition, and let me go in peace." Buffalo "robes" were a very popular fashion in those days. At right, Howard Terpning's painting "The Last Buffalo" depicts Native Americans gutting their vanishing food source.

Riding my high horse of historical injustice: Native Americans depended on the buffalo for food, clothing and shelter. So what should be done to advance "civilization"? Kill the buffaloes was thought to be a key. Came across the following on a website:

General Sheridan became leader of military actions against the native Comanches and Kiowa. He spearheaded efforts to exterminate the buffalo, which he knew the native American tribes depended on for survival.
In 1875, a bill came before the Texas legislature that would have protected the buffalo, but Sheridan made an impassioned, racist speech against the plan:

"(Buffalo hunters) are destroying the Indians' commissary, and it is a well-known fact that an army losing its base of supplies is placed at a great disadvantage. Send them powder and lead, if you will, but for the sake of a lasting peace, let them kill, skin, and sell until the buffaloes are exterminated. Then your prairies can be covered in speckled cattle, and the festive cowboy, who follows the hunter as a second forerunner of advanced civilization."

The joint assembly was so moved that they killed the bill. Millions of buffalo were slaughtered and left to rot on the prairies, and the Kiowa and Comanches and other tribes suffered and starved to death and were led off to the reservations.

Later in his career, Sheridan seems to have had some inkling of what he had done to the native American tribes:
"We took away their country and their means of support, broke up their mode of living, their habits of life, introduced disease and decay among them, and it was for this and against this that they made war. Could anyone expect less?"

Monday, July 09, 2007

Heat, Hounds and History in the Shawnee Hills

Self portrait, near the end of my hike. Just stuck out the camera and said "Whew!" as I tramped under the broiling sun.

The River to River Trail near my starting point at Ferne Clyffe State Park.

For a history lover like me, an oasis in the heat: historical marker on the trail for George Rogers Clark and his men. Interesting (at least for me) that this spot was known as Buffalo Gap. There were still some buffalo left in the state at the time of Clark's journey.

Snapped this photo of a wildflower and visitors along the trail.

My somewhat planned trip to the River to River Trail in southern Illinois' Shawnee Hills didn't go as somewhat planned, and that's OK. The main purpose of the trip was to field test new equipment, mostly backpack and boots. Was going to arrive at camp Friday, ended up not getting there till late Saturday afternoon. Decided to camp at Ferne Clyffe State Park, which turned out to be a very good decision. It was a beautiful place, with waterfalls, caves and rock outcroppings in addition to nicely laid out and clean camping sites. Choruses of late-night coyote howling made sleeping a little difficult.

Up at 5:30 next morning, coffee downed, and loaded pack with about 25 pounds of stuff. Didn't need all of it but wanted to test the pack and the weight to see how it would feel. Filled my new MSR water bladder with clean, cool water from the camp pump. I have chosen the bladder over water bottles because I thought I might like its convenience over bottles. With the bladder a hose line can go directly from the pack to my mouth. On this very hot day that was a big plus. Fully loaded, the bladder held plenty of water for my hike.

And the hike. Wow. It was a very hot day but I thought shade would help. Well, at least it did for the first couple of miles of the River to River trail heading east from Ferne Clyffe park. Thereafter, the trail had very little shade, with much of the trail was on gravel roads; thus, I would not recommend this stretch of the trail to anyone during the warm weather. Not very scenic either. The trail has much nicer sections than this one. It was tough going, but as long as I had water and took breaks, I was fine. I know the risks of dehydration and overdoing any activity in the heat. I have no idea how many miles I logged, but I hiked for about seven hours through the park and then on the trail. I didn't take as many photos as expected either.

The only problem I had during the hike was encounters with dogs. A feisty dachshund yipped at me as I passed along the road just off his property. Since it was an out-and-back hike I knew what to expect the second time, and sure enough the little guy just yelled at me as much as he could. He was not a threat, but a second encounter with three dogs charging down from a house on a hill made me tense. These were big dogs and they started circling me, with two of them going behind me and one in front. As it turned out, thankfully they were noisy but not of a mind to dash up and gnaw on me.

My boots (Hi-Tec Altitude IV) and backpack (Gregory Z55) with water bladder (MSR) all performed quite well and were comfortable on a blazing day. I hope to use them soon on my next trek on the Appalachian Trail out east.

NEXT UP: Time to start some real training for the Stoneman triathlon to be held in Springfield at the end of this month.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Little Buffalo, Dapper Dog

Little Buffalo

Tim and his pampered pooch

My little buffalo grandson, Red Chief (aka Ethan), ran his first "race" on the Fourth of July at the kids' run before the big race on campus. In the photo above, with his buffalo shirt, American flag bandana, temporary tattoos, and scraped nose from a recent fall, the little guy had just finished the kids' run. He holds his finisher ribbon. His competitive spirit came out about midway into the run, when he said to me as I ran alongside him, "Grandpa, we're losing." Geez.

Also on the Fourth, son Tim took his dog Ali to PetSmart for a wash, nail clip, and toothbrushing. Got a chuckle the night before, when neighborhood fireworks sent the friendly pit bull scurrying to get back into the house.

ADVENTURE! Road Trip: This weekend I'm off to southern Illinois' River to River trail for some backpacking. Will post photos, provided I don't get swallowed by a snake.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Where the Buffalo Don't Roam

Looking forward to seeing Red Chief run the kids race at the Fourth of July festivities. Will post photos of his first competition.

Happy Fourth everyone.

From Dale Lott's American Bison: A Natural History:
"If we're going to keep wild bison [buffalo] wild, we're going to have to protect the spaces they have, and we should look for some more space . . . . The bison is the only wild animal in the United States that is not allowed to live as a wild animal--live outside parks and refuges--anywhere in its original range . . . . What must never change is our commitment to the remarkable creatures that dominated the North American plains--shaking the earth when they stampeded and shaping the grasslands where they walked."

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Weekend Past

Full Moon Run Saturday Night: Fantastic. Three buffaloes, thousands of fireflies.
Sunday Afternoon with Red Chief: Never a dull moment with a grown-up 5-year-old.
Taking Ali Baba Outside: Could there be a happier animal? Dogs do smile.