Tuesday, January 31, 2012

POI - January Rest Stop

As I meander through the year, I think it is good to periodically pull off on the side of the road and look at the journey to date on the Points of Interest (POI) that I wrote about heading into this year:

Learn a new language:  Haven't honestly done much in regards to this. Kicked the idea around about which language to pursue, whether that be French or Spanish again and decided on Spanish. Did take Coffee Break Spanish out on the road with me this morning. Quite interesting to be trying out a new language in the early morning out on the roads.

Get Published: Bit of progress in this department. Downloaded the submission guidelines for Metro Parent magazine which I happen to enjoy reading and am in the process of composing an article proposal.

Volunteer:  Printed off a volunteer application for the Boys and Girls Club which is less than 200 yards from my house and that's it. Waiting to see if I will be doing any coaching this spring with both of the kids signed up for Tball and Coach Pitch respectively.

Learn to play an instrument:  Perused the App store for a few ideas on Piano apps, but in reality would rather try and pickup a guitar again. Might have to put this idea off until my birthday in a few months and see if I can garnish some coin to pick up a guitar.

Become more politically astute:    If I have learned anything from going to the library with my children it is that if you don't know anything about something, start with a kids book.  No shame here since it looks like my kids are getting books. Working my way through some books to understand the process and not get clouded with all the drivel spoken on the boob tube.

Baby Steps in the first month but ready to pull back out onto the road and continue the journey...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fat Ass

I have never met a fat ass that I haven't liked. No, I'm not talking the kind that Sir Mix A Lot  talked about , but rather an unknown gem of the running community known as fat ass events.

Fat Ass events originally started in the ultra running community by a man named Joe Oakes and were originally billed as low key events after the holidays to burn off some of the typical poundage put on. Typically these events vary in distance from 50km to 50miles, but in recent years, there has been a trend of putting on races of all distances.

Let's be clear, these are not your weekly scheduled training runs. These events after several years are steeped in history and  people add them to their "race calenders". Runners look forward to these events.

Basics of a Fat Ass event:

No Fee - That's right. These events are FREE!  No Lotteries, no qualifying times or distances. No need to spend an few hundred bucks on a race. While there has been a recent trend in races for them to sell out months ahead of the event, no need here. Show up and run.

No Aid - That's right. You carry what you need. While you might get lucky and have someone leave a jug of water somewhere out on the course, don't depend on it.

No Awards/T-Shirts - who needs another t-shirt or medal indicating where or what they have run? I've got enough shirts to last me several seasons and my medals have gone to Medals 4 Mettle.

As a "Race Director" of the Lose The Turkey Fat Ass 50k, I never would have thought that my silly little event would be heading into it's 4th year this Thanksgiving. Each year has provided a merry band of characters, memories, and boasting that are talked about the rest of the year when I see those fellow runners.

For runners on a budget, Fat Ass events are great. These events strip down an event to the essentials: A runner, some gear,a road or trail to run on, and sharing the experience with others. Isn't that what its all about?


Club Fat Ass

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Call of the Wild

Natural instinct or domesticated obedience? That in a nutshell, is how I best summed up to myself my recent rereading of Jack London's "Call of the Wild".

In the story, Buck is a large mixed breed dog who endures several adventures. Beginning with a life of ease on a large estate to the frozen tundra of the Arctic, Buck slowly learns about himself and this growing yearning to tap into his natural instinct. Buck's natural instinct is one steeped in survival, being one with nature, leadership, and a yearning to be with the pack mentality that serves as his moral compass. After many trials and tribulations, he follows his natural instincts and the call of the wild.

As I read the story, I couldn't help but think about how we are all a little bit like Buck. We as humans are born and built to run. Are bodies has evolved over the years to be able to move in such a manner that can carry us great distances. It is natural for us to do this movement. However, as we have evolved over time, we have traded our pitchforks and sweat on the brow for coffee cups and Botox. For all intensive purposes, we have become domesticated.

How do we help non runners see that running is something natural that we should be doing? How do we get them to break out of the domesticated obedience where they blindly follow the latest fad or got to have thing that makes us less self reliant? How do we help them to hear, see, and feel what it is like to step out into nature?

As runners, are we the only ones who follow our natural instinct and shun the domesticated obediance as we dash off in pursuit of the call of the wild?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Is it all to much?

As I watched my 5 year old daughter open gift after gift at her birthday party yesterday, I wonder if it is all to much? She was able to take four of her girlfriends to a salon where they all got manicures and pedicures and then back to my mother in laws for cupcakes and little sandwiches. That was just the first party.

A few hours later, the adults arrived and there was more food and more gifts. She knows the routine well enough that after dinner was desert followed by presents. Occupying the "birthday" chair, she opened presents, and ours (a pink baseball mitt) wasn't even in the pile. That gift I am saving for her actual birthday on Monday.

I will admit that I am guilty. Guilty in that I want my kids to have birthdays, and experiences that they remember. Experiences that they can draw upon to learn as they make their way in the world. The old adage that I want them to have what I didn't have rings true, but part of me wonders if it is all to much?

There is a fine line as a parent that we toe I believe. A line that on one side children learn about responsibility, respect, and caring for their fellow man and on the other, a dangerous descent where they feel entitled, know better than anyone else and don't respect others. We model much of what they will learn in these first few years before their circle of influence expands and the impact of what they will learn from us diminishes. I know which side I want my daughter to be on, but I can't help but wonder if sometimes such experiences like this weekend have her on the wrong side of the line.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Book Review: Following Atticus

" In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."

                                                                                                John Muir

There is absolutely no way that I would have run across this wonderful book, "Following Atticus" by Tom Ryan had it not been for the podcast Books on the Nightstand.  While this book can be found in the Pet section of your local brick and mortar store, it is about so much more than just a dog named Atticus M. Finch.

Evoking the spirits of Thoreau, Emerson, and Muir, Tom Ryan describes his journey from a small town  newspaper man who rediscovers himself in the White Mountains of New Hampshire along with a miniature schnauzer.  While there is not a signal running tip or workout schedule in this book, what this book does so eloquently is describe what it is like to be outside, in nature, and in tune with your body.

Less, I forget that yes, Atticus, plays an important part in the book, and Ryan does an amazing job to  describe the relationship that many of us have forged with our animals in our lives. This book is a testament to how nature and animals can impact our lives in ways that we would have never thought if we had never taken that first step or held that little ball of fur in our arms.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Marathon Olympic Trials Thoughts

This past weekend, the U.S. Olympic Men's and Women's Team were decided in Houston. I was a bit disappointed that the United States Olympic Team had not negotiated for some live TV coverage of the event. I mean, even the New York City Marathon shows a "taped" coverage of the race. Don't you think the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials is on another level and deserves some live TV coverage? Furthermore, Track and Field, Gymnastics, and even Swimming show qualifying heats leading up the finals so why not the marathon? I certainly would have paid a few bucks to watch a live streaming feed of the event.

Instead, like many, I was left to first follow the action on Twitter, and then set my DVR to record the event that was shown later that day on NBC.  While it was exciting to follow the updates on Twitter, the emotions displayed on TV were far more powerful.

Unlike other countries, who arbitrarily decide their marathon teams, I like the format the U.S. has chosen. Run the qualifying time needed to earn the right to toe the line on the day of the trials, and then let the chips fall where they may. In the end, there weren't any real surprises as the favorites lived up the "hype" and laid down performances that by all accounts leads me to believe that we are sending our strongest team ever to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

                                          U.S. Women's Olympic Marathon Team

(from left to right: Desiree Davila, Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher)
Summer Olympic Marathon Date: August 5, 2012

Men's U.S. Olympic Marathon Team
(from left to right: Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi,Abdi Abdirahman )
Summer Olympic Marathon Date: August 12th

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Author and Runner Michael Selmer

In the most recent episode of the podcast available over at: Dirt Dawg's Running Diatribe, I had the opportunity to chat with runner and author Michael Selmer.  Michael's first book "Harvest of the Heart" has just been published and one of the things that I took away from the chat was how his running had an impact on him chasing down his dream of writing a book.

Competing in the Leadville 100 Miler, Michael realized that anything is possible. Out there on the trails, putting one foot in front of the other, was the training ground for him when he decided to write a book.  Just another example of how running can have such a positive effect on our lives if we lace up our shoes and head out the door.

Check out Michael's Website: Michael Selmer

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Do not push

"You cannot push anyone up the ladder unless he is willing to climb.” – Andrew Carnegie

If there is anything that I have learned from people who have approached me about getting into running or even helping to coach them for a bit, it is as exactly as Andrew Carnegie stated. To reach their goals, they must be willing to do the work. Pushing is likely to be met with resistance.

While most people at work know me as someone who runs, most do not know that I podcast or blog about it. I display my race bibs that I run during the school year and have my Boston Marathon poster hanging up, but I don't stand on a pulpit and preach my passion for the sport. The bibs and posters in my office are also a conversation piece with my students when they talk about how far they had to walk to get somewhere or about how they need to start doing something to get rid of their frustration or anger that is built up. I know my audience and know that if they have a question I will gladly answer or point them in the right direction. Preaching will tune them out.

Recently at work, I have been approached by several individuals about running and their goals for the year. One individual was quite happy when I told them that the early registration ($60) for the Free Press Marathon was open so that they could afford to run the event. They have been working dilligently for a couple of years to put their body and mind in the right frame to be able to train for the event. Another individual, proudly talked about how they have been running again and how he and his wife are looking forward to race a 5k in the spring. I realized in discussion with these individuals that there were a couple of key points that were contributing to them climbing the ladder.

1. Be Supportive: - Their goals are not your goals. Whether someone is getting off the couch and getting moving or looking to run their first marathon, be supportive of their endeavor. They were the ones that came up with this goal and are telling you for a reason.

2. Be Authentic: - In short, people can sense if you are blowing smoke up their ass or not.

3. Be an Ambassador: - Running is not perfect. There are highs and lows out there on the roads and trails, but the reason we keep going back is to recapture those moments when everything is clicking and the miles fly by. If they ask, talk to them about it.

It doesn't take much to help a fellow runner or someone who is just starting out. Be supportive, be authentic, and be an ambassador.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Falling off the wagon

I am falling off the wagon. I thought I was better than that. With a daily writing minimum and blog post due, I thought that was what it would take to become a habit. I wrote how writing would become something that I would carve out time each day to do right along with my running. While it's true that along the way my love for the written word has been rekindled, a something happened got in the way, LIFE. It's not a great excuse, but, work, family, and all the other distractions have suddenly become bumps in the road that I am hitting. The wagon is swerving and I am dangerously close to falling off.

It has only been a few days, but I feel it slipping away. I feel like an ass that spoke out of one side of my mouth and then did the exact opposite. Maybe because I only wrote and posted on the blog for 21 days and not the 30 or 100 days that people recommend to truly make it a habit as to why it didn’t stick. Maybe, I am not making it enough of a priority? Nevertheless, I found myself staring at the pad and pen on the desk and walked right past the last couple of days. I know that’s how it starts. That slow descent where the muscles whither away and you are left starting back again at square one.

Unlike the past though, I am determined not to let this writing thing just wither away. I won’t let it go without a fight. If I can’t sit down at the end of the day to write, then I need to find ways in order to get some thoughts down during the day. Whether it is a brief snippet at work, a few moments at a kids practice, or even in the morning, I have to find a way to make it stick. Stick until it is something that I can not shake and even with the bumps on the road that I encounter, I won't fall off the wagon.

Friday, January 06, 2012


Running every day or more commonly referred to as a "streak" has always a niche in the running community that has always been of interest to me. While I have never been one to start a running streak, I started to think about it a bit more after reading the book, The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma.

In the book, what began as a little challenge to read every night consecutively at first for 10 days, turned into 100 and eventually went for 3,218 nights. After reading the book, I remember hearing and reading about Ron Hill, a man who began running ever day in 1964 and set a minimum of 1 mile per day in order for the streak to count. Even after a surgery and hospital stay, he still managed to hobble on a crutch for one mile in order to keep the streak alive. Robert "Raven" Kraft has runs the same 8 mile stretch on a beach in Florida every day since 1975. There is even a webiste dedicated to running streaks over at United States Running Streak Association where many other runners share their stories about running streaks.

What fascinates me about fellow runners who streak is their ability to focus daily on a singular task. It got me to thinking if there were streak runners out there who happen to read this blog or listen to the podcast, I would love to gain a little bit more insight into your thoughts, training, feelings about a streak.

1. Why did you start the streak?

2. What is the minimum amount of mileage and or time that you need to run everyday in order for the day to count?

3. How long is the streak and when might it end?

4. What is the craziest thing that you have done in order to keep the streak alive?

5. How has the streak affected your running (races, times, etc)?

6. What goes into making sure that you get to your streak everyday?

7. How do others who know about your streak view it?

8. What does the streak mean to you?

Please feel free to respond on the blog via a comment or via email @ dirtdawg50k@aol.com

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

How much for that marathon?

How much are you willing to pay for the "experience" of a running a marathon? That question seems fair enough given that the New York City Marathon has decided to raise the entry fees beginning with the 2012 race. Race organizers stated that the reason for the increase was due to the fact that the New York Police Department will be charging the organizers for traffic control and policing costs.

Here is a list of the top 5 U.S. marathons ranked by several sites:

1. Boston Marathon                            $150 = $ 5. 73 per mile

2. New York City Marathon
- Non member of NY Road Runners $255 = $9.73 per mile
- International partcipant                   $347 = $13.24 per mile

3. Honolulu Marathon                      $260 = $9.92 per mile
(2011 price)

4. Bank of America Chicago Marathon -
U.S. participant                                $150 = $5.73 per mile
International Participant                   $175 = $6.67 per mile

5. Walt Disney World Marathon -   $160 - $6.11 per mile

Note: The prices reflected do not include travel, lodging, etc.

Now to be fair, I know that some marathons offer early registration discounts. Take for instance my local marathon, the Detroit Free Press Marathon. The entry fee this week is a mere $60 ($2.29 per mile). After this week, the price rises to $80 ($3.05 per mile) and then on a sliding scale up to $125 ($4.77 per mile).

As a veteran of 20 marathons, I understand the idea of wanting to pay for an experience. Some people say that they would rather pay for an experience than pick up another piece of useless crap ( Tablet, e-reader, etc) that will be outdated in 3 months.  I know that some people have a marathon on their bucket list, or have spent years and invested blood, sweat, and tears to get to the starting line to take their victory lap during the marathon. Some make marathons as their vacations and find it the best way to see a new city, often seeing things that are not mentioned in tour guides or would never see if you only stayed in the "tourist areas". You hope that when you pay your entry fee, your experience will be on par for what you have paid. In some instances, I have been happy with my return on investment (Boston, Chicago)  and other times left scratching my head wondering where does all the registration money go (Nashville).

With rising registration fees, how much are you willing to spend for the experience of running a marathon?

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

State of the Blog

Five years ago on this date, I started the blog with this simple entry:

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Lowdown
Parent, runner, occasional cyclist, and amateur yogi who works with special needs kids. I have a son who is named after the most tested man in professional sports and am about to round out the typical american family with a girl. Organize a weekly fun run at work where participants such as Twinkle Toes, Einstein, and Abstract participate. Ran 4 marathons and 1 50k last year....looking to hit that 50 miler this year, finally finish a strong group ride and learn how to be a pretzel in yoga.

458 posts later, here I am today, still behind the keyboard. Most of what I first blogged about is true. I still run, have a family, and work with special needs kids. I have posted mundane, uninteresting topics (like should I keep my new smartphone? ) to what I believe were honest reflections on my experiences (DNF at Burning River 100). The writing at times has been good, and at other times forced with no feeling.

The blog started out as my public journal and was in part the spark to start a running related podcast. Through it all, the interaction with people who have read and commented on the blog are what I have enjoyed the most. On occasion, I have even had a chance to meet several of you which has been great.

So where is this blog going? I have vacillated at times between deleting the blog, moving it over to WordPress, and even starting a new one that is educational related. However, in the end, I think that the current format is fine. As topics of interests and thoughts come to mind, I will continue to blog about it. I am certain though that I will be posting on a much more frequent basis and as has been the pattern, it will be a potpourri of topics from running, to family, to education, books, etc.
I wanted to take a moment and thank you for reading the blog and commenting. Thank you for taking the time during your day to read the ramblings of a father, husband, runner and educator.

Keep Moving Forward,

Mike aka Dirt Dawg

Monday, January 02, 2012

Sexually Exploited Youth


The average entry in the age of prostitution is between the ages of 12-14 years of age (www.usdoj.gov)

100,000–300,000 children are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation each year in the United States (Estes & Weiner, 2001).

70–90% of commercially sexually exploited children have a history of child sexual abuse (Murphy, 1993).

Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not For Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herself  by Rachel Lloyd was the most eye opening book that I have read in recent memory. While Rachel weaves her own heart wrenching story of abuse and commercial sexual exploitation through the book, it is her work when she comes to the United States and establishes GEMS, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, that I found the most valuable. Not discounting Rachel's journey because hers is one that required incredible strength, it is the fact that she leads the fight on a topic that is far too often swept under the rug in most communities when it comes to the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

What is the commercial sexual exploitation of youth? Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) constitutes a form of coercion and violence against children and amounts to forced labour and a contemporary form of slavery. A declaration of the World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, held in Stockholm in 1996, defined CSEC as: ‘sexual abuse by the adult and remuneration in cash or kind to the child or a third person or persons. The child is treated as a sexual object and as a commercial object. CSEC includes the prostitution of children, child pornography, child sex tourism and other forms of transactional sex where a child engages in sexual activities to have key needs fulfilled, such as food, shelter or access to education. (Wikipedia) Sadly, the commercial sexual exploitation of youth has seen a sharp rise with the Internet. Using sites like Craigslist, and others, it is possible for pimps and johns to connect and continue this disturbing commerce.

One of the points in the book that Rachel makes is that a teenage prostitute and commercially sexually exploited youth are the same. The common misconception amongst the public and even more sadly within the law enforcement is that a teenage prostitute knows what they are doing. They do not!

Young girls who find themselves on the streets have done some more often than not because they have run away from home. The home which should have been providing key needs like food, shelter, and education, has instead been centered around abuse. That abuse could be in the form of verbal, physical, psychological or even sexual. They have taken to the streets for survival. Pimps prey on these girls by providing them with things that they have been looking for - food, clothes, attention, friendship, love, and a seemingly safe place to sleep. Once they gained some "trust" and compliance in the girls, that is when the pimps turn to violence, intimidation, or psychological manipulation to trap the them in a life of prostitution. Because the girls are taught to lie about their age and often have Fake ID's they are not seen as commercially sexually exploited youth when they are arrested or picked up. More often than not they are arrested and jailed. They have become some hardened to the life on the streets and taught to not trust anyone other than their pimp or even more disgustingly referred to as their "Daddy" that they do not outwardly present as a trauma victim.

The book goes into length about how trying to get out of this life style and the trauma that these girls have endured is very similar to the Stockholm Syndrome. It is not just that easy to get the girl off the street and poof! her life will be forever changed. These victims need specialized services that are not widely available. They often present with illnesses, drug additions, physical and sexual trauma, lack of viable family and community ties, and total dependence – physical and psychological – on their abusers, the pimps.

I struggle with the fact that many topics like the commercial sexual exploitation of children seem only to gain recognition when we view them as happening in other countries. It is easier to cast a glance at something from afar then to turn around and put a lens on what is in front of us, often in our own city. This book was written with a rawness and honesty not often seen when exploring topics like this. As an educator, and someone who routinely works with children who have been abused, it continues to reinforce the fact that there is a lot of work that need to be done to bring such issues like this to the mainstream. It is not something you can put a band aid on then shuffle it along. It is not something where you can have one person come in, give a self centered hoorah speech and leave hoping to inspire a traumatized girl. This is a problem like many social issues where you have to roll up your sleeves and commit to the work. It's not glamorous work, but when you are  talking about the life of a another human being, what more motivation do you need?


GEMS - www.gems-girl.org

Documentary: Very Young Girls

Estes, J. & Weiner, N.A. (2001). The Commercial Sexual Exploitaion of Children in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Executive Sumnary (Of the U.S. National Study). Philadelphia, PA

Westat. (2007). New York Prevalence Study of Commercially Sexually Exploited Children. New York: Gregg, Petta, Bernstein, Eisen & Quinn

National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotlin: 1-888-373-7888