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Monday, May 28, 2012

A Post and Video for Memorial Day

A Word for Our Honored Military

Good Evening All.
Last year I posted a few thoughts on Memorial Day on my other blog, and I think it sums up most of what needs to be said.  Here's a repost, with a few updates.
Today, we celebrated the third day of a three-day weekend to honor the supreme sacrifice of those who fought our nation's wars, and never came home. It's easy to forget the meaning behind it, because it happens to be the unofficial start of summer and the kickoff of barbecue season. It also involves parades, and other activities meant to inspire joy and pride, and not mourning or sadness.

Why is that?

Because our men and women in uniform would have wanted us to do exactly that.  If we lived under oppressive regimes that staged parades that citizens were forced to attend, cheering fanatically as goose-stepping soldiers led battle-scarred tanks through some town square, the patriotism on display would not be genuine. This type of emperor-worshipping groupthink is precisely what our founding fathers went out of their way to prevent and eliminate. 

A parade, on the other hand, is an expression of free speech. And here in America, because young men and women have fought for our rights to express that speech (or not), grill some burgers, dogs, and ribs outside (or not (even if the vegetarians don't like it)), and go to the beach, surf, and get a sick tan (or not), WE CAN.  Our friends who picket veterans' funerals, spewing obscenities, believing that an angry diety is punishing us for perceived immorality, would do well to consider this next time they create a "G-D HATES . . . ." banner.

Hope you enjoyed your Memorial Day, America. 

In addition, I'd like to present a video tribute to our fallen heroes, to the tune of Battle Hymn of the Republic, as arranged by Peter Wilhousky.  If this doesn't put a lump in your throat and mist in your eyes, nothing will!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Latest Race Story!

The Show On The Road

Hi All!

Today was my latest travel race -- the Buffalo Half Marathon.  Saw the sights of a city and region I'd never been before.

There was a 7am start, not too bad.  Everyone made their way through the center of town to Pearl Street, a few blocks away from Niagara Square the familiar art-deco sight of Buffalo City Hall.  I had my fuel belt carrying two flasks of red Gatorade -- I would have preferred the blue, which my father affectionately called "Romulan ale," but the red always does in a pinch.  Fruit punch flavor is the best by default.

For the pre-race ceremonies, an honor guard stood at attention as we were treated to the inventive stylings of a female vocalist who sang O Canada (we are right near the Peace Bridge, of course) and The Star Spangled Banner.  To keep us on our toes, she would shift octaves and keys when least expected.  My thing is to hum the bass harmony to our national anthem whenever it is sung at a live event, but this one got me a little distracted.  Now that I think about it, she kind of did her own bass harmony!  :)

And then the race began!  It took us down Pearl Street, through Niagara Square, up Niagara Street, then hang a left towards the water, and we began a grand tour of some choice lakeside real estate.   Everyone came out of their condos and duplexes to cheer us on, giving me that old Brooklyn Fourth Avenue feeling.  Always magical!

We then headed towards a turnaround at the Erie Basin Marina.  Somewhere between Mile 5 and Mile 6, I caught sight of one of my blue-camouflaged teammates running the other way.  We high-fived, shouted encouragements, and kept on going.  The other side of my brain then woke me up and said:

"Hey Allweiss, you know she's going faster than you, right?" 

Yeah, obviously.  That's why she's on that side of the road.

"You're not gonna let that phase you, are you?  You know I'm just saying, that's all."

Of course.  Didn't I just preach the gospel of pacing oneself last night? 

"K.  Just keep it going dude."

And so I did.  The timer at the 5K mark read 55 minutes and since the starting gun.  Although I was running without my less-than-trust Garmin, I did my own math and decided that I was running slightly faster than a 9-minute pace.

I would eventually see them all on the course at one point or another.  The face-to-face opposite-direction sightings would increase as we headed down Ohio Street, over some unexpectedly steep bridges and overpasses, onto Outer Harbor Drive.  The race became decidedly uncomfortable at this point, yet we all persevered.  Although it became somewhat more difficult to stick to, I forced myself to hydrate from my Gatorade flasks once every two miles, no matter what. 

As luck would have it, I did have just enough left in the tank.  At Mile 12, I unconsciously put up the "1" sign, since there was only one mile left.  At the 20K mark (12.4 miles), the timer read 1:44 since the starting gun -- just had to muscle my way through.

Ahhh, the finish line!  I felt that sense of relief that can only come with ceasing running after an extended period of time -- downed a bottle of water and finished the Gatorade, and shuffled over to the sidelines to engage in what some would consider an even more important part of the race -- cheering for all teammates who would cross the finish line afterwards.   One by one, two by two, they all made it in.  As they approached the finish line, they all had that look of sheer determination that baffles non-runners, but is only too familiar to and expected from our people.

I then took a gander at the post-race jam happening upstairs in the convention center.  Pizza and beer were available -- you know, real runner's food!  :)  Hey hell, we all burned so many calories today, why not?  While there, I saw what appeared to be every one's gun and chip times, and brought down a few beers for the team.

And then it was time to say good bye to the Queen City and return to Queens.  It feels like a big city and a small town at the same time, and that's not bad.  I'd like to return to this place again, and make it a longer stay.  Since I'm doing NYC this year, this was a good way to shake off whatever cobwebs had materialized in the past few months and get ready for what I hope to be a sub-4 hour time.

DISCLAIMER:  I earlier misquoted my time to my people -- in my slightly-buzzed state, I reported what was actually my age-graded time, and not my chip time.  My chip time was actually 1:53:23, averaging an 8:39 pace. 

FURTHER DISCLAIMER:  I'm still not sure if she finished ahead of me.  The times speak for themselves, but it doesn't matter who was faster than the other.  That's the beauty of running - the only opponent you really compete with is yourself. 

Good night all -- a Memorial Day post for the troops is coming your way tomorrow!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Something For Tomorrow's Race.

My Fair Sisters -- A Running Poem

Arise, you maidens and ladies.  The road, she is calling your name.

Ahead of you beckons a challenge to win, a bar to surpass, and a record to break.

So fasten you well your footwear, and stretch you well both of your legs.

The distance before you is known by the numbers, not charted or measured by daring just yet.

Your towns, your families and loved ones, some of them don't understand.

But still many more are in awe of your strength, your firm tenacity earns you respect.

And yet you dare come to this City, not so much bigger than home,

To make it your own and to leave your fair footprint, imprinted on asphalt and enshrined in concrete.

Fear not your timing or pacing, don't let it dictate all you've done.

The mere attempt to attain it at all has placed you ahead of the you that you were.

But should you yet strive to be faster, and in striving so yet gain such strength,

Then celebrate what you have won thus far, and know that such winning can only continue.

Best of luck to all the ladies of the G-Town Boot Camp Runners.  I can't wait to meet you all tomorrow!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Video!

A Post For Mother's Day!

Mother's Day

Good Evening, All:

For my Mother's Day post, I think it only fitting to re-post (and where necessary, edit) what I posted on New Day last year.  I dedicate it not only to my own Mom, but to all the Moms I've met in my travels.

Today, most Americans celebrated a day to honor all mothers. For some, this included breakfast in bed, going out to brunch, or gathering at a family member's house. I'd like to take this time to honor my own mother.
My mom ran a tight ship. She expected homework done every night, even if she had to make us do it. She expected rooms to be clean, even if she had to make us clean them. Most importantly, she expected us to behave according to a "higher standard."
That meant even if every other kid in school had a toy gun, I wouldn't have one. Even if every other kid watched a certain show on TV that she didn't approve of, I wouldn't watch it. And most importantly, even if every other kid had a smart mouth, or had an attitude, and acted like they could get away with whatever they wanted, I couldn't -- because THERE WAS NO GETTING AWAY WITH ANYTHING!
Our family was raised before the era of time-outs, and during a time when children did not make the rules. Rather, it was the PARENTS who made the rules, and the children who learned to follow the rules, and not to break, or else suffer consequences!
I credit my mother with substantial success in that department -- she raised a son who did very well in school, and went on to become a lawyer. She also raised a daughter who knew how to see right through people, how to show compassion to children who needed it most, and how to coach others to their peak physical form. NEITHER of whom failed out of school, broke the law, or expected things to be handed to them because they felt entitled.
I am not a parent, but I know that the essence of parenting is to give children roots and wings. Mom gave us both of those for sure -- we learned that we could always turn to her for advice (and we still do), and that we could grow up and advance as adults, achieving anything we chose to achieve.
Thanks, Mom. I know it meant putting up with a lot of nonsense from us, because children are known to do that. Heck, we still do that a little bit as adults, too. But you had the tenacity, the patience, the endurance, and the patience to raise two damn fine people!

And now the update for this year:  My Mom is due an extra bit of gratitude because she helped me through a few tough experiences with some no-nonsense advice and her unwavering support.  This year, more than ever, she has been someone I could turn to for anything, and I'll never take it for granted.

Mom, you're the best, and don't you forget it!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Hey All -- Here's When It's OK to Lay The Smack Down!

No Apology Necessary

Hey All --

Tonight's blog entry deals with conflict and conflict management.

Most of us like to be the good guys.  Fight fair, take the high road, don't stoop to their level.  And that's the right way to be, across the board.  No child should be raised to be a hyper-aggressive bully -- we have too many of those characters already.  In a perfect world, we'd all handle conflict this way, and world peace would not just be the pseudonym of a basketball player with respect issues.

However, some people don't feel the need to play by the rules.  Somebody either neglected to teach them right from wrong, or someone encouraged them that wrong meant winning.  Or better yet, they use that old tried-and-true excuse for assholiation -- "But I'm Only Being Honest!!!!"

Within a certain point, the high road must still be taken.  We're better raised, and educated, and groomed than these foolios, so why let them bring us down to their level?  At that initial moment, we're standing taller than them just staying where they are.

But what if they try to hit a raw nerve or a soft spot?  What if they go off on something that is solely intended to provoke, offend, or "get a rise" out of us?  If you don't have a clear shot, letting it bounce off is the right thing to do.  But if they're trying to throw a stone from within the confines of a glass house, whatever comes from you is their fault, not yours.

Why feel guilty?  If you were dumb enough to comment about them when you had a glaring weakness, would they be nice to you?  Heck no!  If they get such a thrill out of hurting you, then they deserve to get hit where it hurts! 

You might remember the story of "The Emperor's New Clothes," by Hans Christian Andersen.  It tells the story of a ruler who has a glaring and obvious weakness, namely that for such a wise ruler, he was duped by two con-artists into believing that that the "invisible" clothes they sold him were actually nonexistent.  But because everyone feared the consequences, they BS'ed themselves as much as possible to make believe his incompetence was actually wisdom, until finally a child, who had no such fear, confirmed the truth of his weakness. 

Why be afraid of someone who behaves like royalty when they're not?  Why be intimidated by someone who is so irrational that he or she expects the world to ignore his or her failings while he or she has free reign to threaten and insult others?  BE THE KID, and say that THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES!!!  You may find out that the Emperor not only lacks the clothes he or she thinks are there, but that the Emperor is also lacking something else, as the nudity reveals . . . .

Don't mind me, all.  I don't really have an ax to grind -- this is just something that should have been part of my earlier material that I never got around to posting.

Don't forget to comment, and check the video!