Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Strokes, Spokes, Strides Sprint Triathlon - June 10, 2017

I completed a sprint distance triathlon last weekend with a 300 meter swim, 11.8 mile bike, 5k run.  I finished in 1:22:04, 23rd of 40. Swim 9:18, transition 1 in 2:18, bike 44:33, transition 2 in 0:36, run 25:23.  As the only person in my age group I was both first and last.  This was my first triathlon as well as my first swim or bike event.

The big question mark for me with the triathlon was the swim portion.  I never had swim training or participated in anything more than fun swimming in pools, creeks and ponds.  Riding a bicycle and running don't have the same breathing challenge as swimming.  And in a race swimmers are not supposed to just stop and stand up when out of breath.

Poster that Matt and Katherine (and grandbaby) gave to cheer me on
So after my spring marathon (Boston) I began swimming twice a week.  After about a month it seemed I would be ready for the Waynesboro YMCA's Strokes, Spokes and Strides triathlon June 10th.  After registering for the race, I did a race rehearsal in Waynesboro with training partners Monique and Gene.  I had a surprisingly difficult time with the swim that day, including panicky hyperventilation.  This prompted me to begin swimming in a deeper pool and to research the mental part of completing the swim.  I prayed a lot too.  On race day, I arrived early so I could do a practice swim before the race.  Happily it went well.

Based on predicted swim times, we were arranged with faster swimmers first.  The swim would go in a serpentine fashion through 6 lanes, with a new swimmer starting every 15 seconds.  I was lined up near the end of the swimmers 5 or 6 from last.  I had estimated a 10 minute swim time based on my

It seemed like a long wait at poolside until my turn came to cross the timing mat and jump in at the deep end to start my swim.  While waiting I noticed some swimmers not doing so well and thought about not being the only one like that.  My swim started as planned, counting my strokes, focusing on
kicking, exhaling, relaxed breathing and rolling a little further to breathe in. 

YMCA photo
Shortly after the first turn I was closing in on the lady swimming in front of me.  Before the end of that lap I had to slow to not swim over her and that really disrupted my rhythm.  I forgot to tap her foot to indicate I want to pass, but I pushed hard off the wall and swam strongly until I passed her.  I tried to settle back into a relaxed stroke and the swim methods already mentioned.  There were a couple times I took in some water when breathing and paused to cough and clear my throat.

After another lap a male swimmer was resting at the wall and let me pass.  From then on it was just a matter of continuing to complete laps, looking ahead for other swimmers and checking progress toward the end.  It felt like I should be closer to done.  I remember noticing a shapely lady in the next lane and her two piece swimsuit and immediately wished such sights didn't distract me - I still had to survive my swim!  Finally only one length remained and I tried swimming faster but soon had to settle back into my standard rhythm.  I remember noticing the lifeguard standing at the side of the last lane.  I had decided one of my goals was to finish the swim without lifeguard assistance and it seemed I would make it.

At the end of the pool I scooted over to the ladder to get out, leave the building and run to the transition area to prepare for the bike.

I sat down to dry my feet and put on socks and shoes.  I took a swallow of my coffee and honey mix and then some water.  There was a shirt to put on, then race belt with number, helmet, glasses, adjust my mirror and push the bike out to the road.  Once on the bike I started my watch and thanked the police officer who stopped traffic for each of us crossing the main road.  At the first turn several friends were waiting to offer encouragement.

For the most part the bike portion was uneventful.  I passed a few people on the out part of the course.  But at the one sharp turn I heard a scuffing sound, then saw a bike go down and the cyclist tumble across the lane.  He got up right away and was picking up the bike as I approached.  I asked if he would be ok and he said he would.  Every turn had a volunteer stopping traffic and directing riders along the course.  I drank regularly from my bottle with sport drink. 


After the turnaround (almost a mile short due to bridge work) the course was mostly downhill and I picked up some speed.  I passed a couple more and was passed once myself.  There were a couple times I stopping pressing the pace to rest my bottom which was getting sore or to drink from my bottle.  At one spot on the return I was checking my turn sheet and a car passed surprisingly close - I had drifted out near the center of the lane without noticing them approaching.  I should have paid better attention.  Soon I was approaching the main hill near the end and shifted to the smallest front chainring and the chain came off.  I had to stop and get it back on before I could continue.  The brief rest made the climb easier than I remembered from previous times.

Once over the hill I saw the same friends again and began thinking of making the transition to run.  Cross the main street and thank the officer again.  Stop on the street and push the bike into transition.  The run motion there was really awkward after pedaling hard on the bike.  Park the bike, remove helmet and glasses, take a drink and pick up sunglasses.  I started running out of transition the wrong way but realized it in a few steps.  When out on the course I hit the lap button on my watch and adjusted my race belt so the bib/number was visible in front.


Less than a half mile out I passed the cheering friends again.  One particular phrase I remember hearing was "pace yourself".  I was already breathing hard due to the adjustment from bike to run and the hill at that point.  But I don't think I took that advice seriously.  I remember thinking it was less than a 3 mile run from here, I've done this before.  Soon I realized I was overexerting and had to ease the pace.  There was a water station with a little girl offering water before the 1 mile mark.  I didn't want any yet but thought I'd be sure to accept the offer on the way back - just to be nice.

Johna, Brenda, Rebecca, Amy
I had passed one runner by this point and had seen several coming back the other way finishing their run.  I was struck by what seemed like less than impressive paces.  Shortly before the halfway turnaround I saw Monique coming back and then saw Gene making the turnaround ahead of me.  There is a bit of a hill approaching the 2 mile mark and I walked some of that.  I was now demonstrating some unimpressive run paces myself.  There were a couple of corners to turn then a half mile downhill/uphill section.  Back past the cheering friends who were saying ridiculous sounding things like "looking strong".  I was feeling spent.  One more hill and around a curve to the finish.  I usually like pushing to finish lines but I don't think there was any pushing this time.

And I was done.  What a hard thing that was!

The race was done well by the YMCA and Racine MultiSports.  Since the race field was small, the announcer was able to announce each person's name as they entered transition from swim or bike and when coming to the finish line.  That was nice. 

Note: photographer credits to my friend Brenda for race photos.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Meeting Bruce Clark for his BBC Documentary on Charles Thomson

Last week Rose and I made a quick overnight trip to Jim Thorpe, PA. We met with a small crew doing a TV documentary on Charles Thomson for the BBC in Northern Ireland. Thomson was a US founding father who came here as a child from Ireland about 1740. He eventually got connected with Ben Franklin and the Continental Congress.  And he designed the official seal of the U.S.  He also had some interaction with the Indians who were tricked into the Walking Purchase land deal and he took up their complaint of unfairness.  So his story has a connection to my 6th great grandfather, Edward Marshall.
I was interviewed to tell about Marshall and the Walking Purchase of 1737. And I was filmed running in the forest near the end of the Walk to help viewers relate to his run/walk of 65 miles through Pennsylvania forests and mountains.

There were 3 questions to set the outline of the interview.

Bruce asked "What are you doing?" (to follow some video of me running in the forest) 
My answer was to describe my Grandfather Marshall's involvement in the Walking Purchase and how it was part of a land deal between the Pennsylvania government and the Indians.  The answer included how I learned of all of this and went on to research and plan my retracing.

Bruce then asked "What was retracing it like as a run?"
My answer described the distance and the terrain involved as well as the difficulty of running for 12 hours one day and 6 hours the following day.  It was also an opportunity to contrast my run with the original by Edward Marshall in terms of gear and apparel, running surface, logistical support.

Bruce asked "Having retraced his run, what do you think of Edward Marshall and his accomplishment?"
I answered with my admiration of his athletic achievement to cover 65 miles in those conditions.  And I related my opinion that he was used by people in power to accomplish their own objectives.  He did not receive the rewards or payments that were promised.  I admire his attempt to run as far as possible to gain something that would benefit his family. This helped motivate me going up the last mountain during my run to retrace it.  And when it ended up costing him the lives of some family members, he went on with life and did the best he could in the circumstances.  He even testified in a later inquiry that the Indians were cheated by the government.

Go here to read my post about the Walking Purchase

They said the goal is to finish production before year end. I'm pretty sure my little part will be just a minute or so, since there is lots to tell about Thomson for a one hour program.  They said they will send a DVD copy to me.

Links to info about Charles Thomson

 In late February we found a message on our phone answering machine.  A British sounding man gave his name as Bruce Clark and said he was calling from Northern Ireland.  He wanted to talk to me and hopefully interview me about my Walking Purchase run for a BBC documentary about Charles Thomson.  My first thought was that this must be some kind of prank, since my Walking Purchase story couldn’t be of interest to someone in Northern Ireland.
I did some google research and thought I found a Bruce Clark who could be the same person.  He had written a book related to Greece and had connections to Hellenic studies. This made me think maybe our son Keith had spoken to him at a recent conference in Greece.  I asked Keith and he said no.

A couple weeks later Kathryn Baird called, also leaving a message, but then called back and spoke to Rose.  And then she called back to talk with me.  There followed several dozen emails exchanged to cover all the details about my little part in the project.  Program overview, interview content, meet up place, filming location. 

The filming location was the toughest detail to settle on as they wanted some place that would look like the forested mountain in 1737 where Edward Marshall finished the “Walk”.  And it was important to be able to secure permission for filming there.  The location decided upon was on the outskirts of Jim Thorpe PA on property adjacent to Mauch Chunk Rod and Gun Club, that is owned by the Jim Thorpe Water Company.  We would be guided/accompanied by Drew Benyo who is the Cross Country coach for Jim Thorpe High School.  The high school XC course uses the same area.

We eventually came to know that when researching online for the program, Mr. Clark had found the newspaper story of my Walking Purchase run.  He wanted to include the Walking Purchase story and my perspective as part of showing Charles Thomson as the ‘man who tells the truth” according to the statement by the Indians.
Filming the interview with Bruce Clark (in blue blazer).  Also from left Mal Marken producer/director/cameraman, Kathryn Baird producer, Sam sound tech, Blane Scott cameraman.

Filming the interview with Bruce Clark (in blue blazer).  Also from left Mal Marken producer/director/cameraman, Kathryn Baird producer, Sam sound tech, Blane Scott cameraman

Benyo, Clark, Baird meeting
Action shots…


Email/letter from producer Kathryn Baird to editor of the magazine which owns rights to my Walking Purchase story.

I am writing from Belfast as the producer of an hour-long television documentary on the Founding Father, Charles Thomson, which will be broadcast on BBC Northern Ireland later this year. 
Thomson came from Ireland and the programme will be presented by a distinguished journalist and author who grew up on the site where Thomson himself was born and who, sharing many interests with him -  including the Irish linen industry, international politics, religious affairs and the Greek language - has become something of a specialist. 

Following the notorious Walking Purchase, Charles Thomson was involved in the negotiations at Easton, acting as adviser and secretary to Teedyuscung, the Indian chief known as the ‘King of the Delaware Indians’. Part of our project is to consider the role Thomson played in this affair, for which the Indians gave him the name, 'The Man Who Tells the Truth.’ It would be a wonderful addition to our programme to have Chuck run part of the route for us and to hear his considered and thoroughly researched views of his sixth-great-grandfather and the deceit behind the Walking Purchase. Congratulations to you for having had the foresight to see the interest of this in the first place. I imagine it partly derived from your having grown up in Jim Thorpe (which is where we would like to film) and knowing the story of the hoax.

 Their overview of the documentary:

The Man Who Told the Truth

Is an hour-long landmark television documentary, commissioned from Imagine Media Productions Ltd by BBC Northern Ireland and the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund/ Northern Ireland Screen.

The subject of the film is the Founding Father, Charles Thomson, the facts of whose life are remarkable: born in Ireland, the young Charles arrived as a penniless orphan in the New World, managed to join the elite of Philadelphia, became part of the revolutionary struggle and was one of the only two signatories to the original Declaration of Independence. As the first Secretary of the Continental Congress, he played a pivotal role in the young American republic, earning the respect of men like Franklin and Jefferson and designing The Great Seal. His last public act was a week-long journey from New York to Mount Vernon to tell George Washington that he had been chosen as the first President of the United States. In his retirement, to a farm at Harriton House, Thomson translated the Septuagint and corresponded vigorously with Thomas Jefferson.

Before he left for the New World, Charles Thomson grew up in a small farm at Gorteade, Co. Derry where the distinguished author and journalist, Bruce Clark, now lives. Bruce has developed a keen interest in Charles Thomson. This programme is his voyage of discovery, during which he follows in Thomson’s footsteps to uncover the story behind the man who was named by the Indians, “The Man Who Tells the Truth”, and who left his mark, quite literally, on the New World.



1. Co Derry, where Thomson was born. Bruce meets Thomson’s biographer, Boyd Schlenther.

2. New Castle Delaware - the port into which Thomson sailed and became apprenticed to a blacksmith.

3. Frontier Culture Museum, Staunton, Virginia - where three of Thomson’s brothers went and near which one brother is buried.

4. Augusta Stone Presbyterian Church –the Presbyterian community of Staunton.

5. New London, site of the Academy of Francis Alison, where Charles Thomson was educated.

6. American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, developed from the group of young men, including Thomson, who clustered around Benjamin Franklin exchanging ideas on science and religion. 

7. Wrightstown, Jim Thorpe and Easton – sites associated with Thomson’s involvement with the Delaware Indians.

8. Philadelphia: Independence Hall, the new Museum of the American Revolution, William Penn Charter School.

9. Washington – the vicinity of the White House, the National Archives, the Great Seal, the Trumbull painting of the Declaration of Independence

10. Harriton House – to which Thomson retired.

11. New York – a contemporary copy of Thomson’s Enquiry into the Alienation of the Indians. …

Short youtube documentary of Thomson's life by Bruce Clark

Friday, April 21, 2017

2017 Boston Marathon, Monday April 17

My goal for this race was to average 8:35 per mile for a 3:45 finish time, but the weather was warmer than I could overcome.  I finished the marathon in 4:22:09.

The forecast was for mid 60’s and sunny at the start, climbing to low 70’s, then becoming overcast for my last hour or so and cooling into the 60’s again.  From reports that I have seen, temperatures were a little higher than forecast.  There was a brisk wind, mostly as a tailwind. 

Before the race I hung out in the Athlete's Village with friends Jill and Laurie.  As much as possible I stayed in the shade and let the breeze cool me, even to the point of mild shivering.  I didn't want to feel warm before even getting to the start line.  Just before getting to the start area, I made one more porta potty stop.  While waiting in line I could hear the announcements counting down to start time and the wave actually started before I got to my assigned corral 5.  I was able to walk along the outside of the later corrals a little quicker than the crowd inside and caught up to the back of my corral just as they were breaking into a jog.

Poster I found on my hotel door, made by Karlyn (Jill's daughter)

I was in the 3rd wave which had a 10:50 am start time; I crossed the start line just before 10:55.  Due to the warm temps I decided to adjust my goal pace slower to 8:40-8:45 per mile for the first part of the course, hoping I might tolerate the conditions and be able to speed up some in the later miles.  I ran at the left side of the road so that I would get a little more of the breeze coming from the back left.  And I carried a high evaporation cooling cloth to wipe my face and neck.  Along with drinking water and gatorade, I dumped water over my head and torso for cooling effect.

After about 10 miles my average pace was about right for that plan but I was feeling the effects of both the temperature and the early steep descents that cause quad soreness.  And the fluids I was drinking were sloshing a bit in my stomach.  So I adjusted the effort and pace hoping I could hold a 9 minute pace. That would also prove to be unsustainable.


A little past mid way I stopped off to the side to rub my thigh muscles to relieve some soreness.  Almost right away a race volunteer came to check if I was okay or needed help.  I later read that nearly 10 percent of runners had received medical assistance either on the course or at the finish area.

My secondary goal had been to requalify for Boston with a 3:55 or just under 9’s.  My pace continued to slow as I was trying keep the discomfort manageable.  But I felt hotter and my muscle soreness increased.  I walked more at the water tables that were at every mile, and when the hills started around mile 16/17 I was walking about half of the uphills. 

The crowd was amazing, cheering with great enthusiasm.  I don’t think there was any part of the course where no spectators were visible at least at some distance.   Some places they were 3 or 4 deep.  Families were out along the road handing out water, ice, orange slices, gummy candy, ice pops and more.  I probably got/received a few hundred high fives, mostly from little kids.  There was music at several places.  One of those places also had children bouncing on mini trampolines.

Keep going Stonie!

I wore my name on the front of my shirt and must have heard "Stonie" a thousand times.   My Dad was called Stonie by his friends and my brother Jim goes by this too, so I was feeling the family connection and being reminded of both of them throughout the race.   Several times apparent college age guys would repeat the name chanting "Stonie! Stonie! Stonie!".  Most of the time I was able to smile at anyone calling my name.
My wife Rose and son Keith were along the course at the 22.4 mile point, shortly after the last of the hills.  I stopped to visit for a minute or two before finishing the day’s work.  
Stopping for a family visit

From this point the course was almost completely downhill and I walked only a little more.  I was able to pick up the pace over the last half mile to about my original goal pace.  Making the final turn was an amazing thing with the crowd cheering wildly.  It’s a few blocks to the finish line and because of the cheering it feels like racing for an Olympic win.

About 1 more mile
Final push

The whole experience was great and I am happy to have had the opportunity to be there.  The physical part got to be pretty unpleasant and I’m disappointed to miss my goal time.  I had been training for this race since Christmas.  

It was nice sharing the experience again with friends.  Our families were at the same hotel, so we did dinner and breakfast together.  Plus, Rose and I got to spend a couple days with Keith.

I'm not sure whether there are more marathons or Bostons in my dreams, but I have some cherished memories.

Recovered & ready to walk to the train station
BAA data: 5k 0:26:55; 10k 0:54:15; 15k 1:21:42; 20k 1:50:21;Half 1:56:38; 25k 2:20:4;
30k 2:54:3; 35k 3:33:2; 40k 4:08:37;Final 4:22:09 10:00 pace
Overall 19873 of 26,000+, Male 60-64 661st of 1000+

Garmin mile splits (watch measured 26.47 miles):
8:52, 8:38, 8:22, 8:31, 8:42, 8:51, 8:36, 8:54, 8:39, 8:56, 9:10, 9:06, 9:27, 9:28, 9:40, 10:07, 10:58, 11:14, 10:41, 11:48, 13:17, 12:03, 12:25, 10:57, 10:07, 10:28, 4:01(0.47)