I didn’t actually miss a week running – just last week’s post about it. So, first: Sunday, April 21 –
I really just needed to go for a long run and unwind, which worked out well, since I had skipped Saturday due to some things needing done and a Jurassic Park that needed seeing on the big screen. And since I’ve done the seven-mile loop a couple times this year, I got it in my head to do an eight-miler down into North Canton. The route breaks up nicely and has some climbs that give my lungs a bit of work even when I’m not going for speed.
All I wanted to do was keep my legs moving and enjoy the sunny, slightly breezy day. It was cool enough to wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and I wore my hat for about half the time, when I was running into the wind.
Kept a pretty steady pace, though I clearly got slower as I went along. My legs hit the jellypoint (a running term I just made up!) in miles six and seven, and I was really slogging at a couple points down the stretch, but I never stopped, and my lungs felt fine.
Finish line brought me to just over 115 miles on the year.
Saturday and Sunday, April 27-28 –
Saturday was just gorgeous: A nearly cloudless sky, temperature in the mid-50s, and just enough of a breeze to keep things comfortable. I opted for a four-mile out-and-back, and went for a bit of speed in the first mile, managing just under eight minutes. I was hoping to do the same for mile two, but I hit a bit of a wall, and I decided to slow up on the way home.
I got out Sunday morning before the rain and was rewarded with overcast, cooler, and extremely pleasant conditions, so all I did was enjoy a steady three-mile run.
For the year: 122.2 miles.
Picked this up from the used book sale shelves at the North Canton Public Library:
Copyright 1957. Reminds me very much of the sort of books I’d occasionally receive from my dad or uncles, passed down from when they were kids, or that I’d check out from the Carnegie Public Library in Upper Sandusky when we’d visit my grandparents.
I really have a thing for science fact and science fiction artwork from the ’50s and ’60s, and this also reminded me how much I loved reading this kind of educational series book. (I had a bunch of much slimmer books that were newer and aimed at younger readers, but for the life of me, I can’t manage to cobble together an accurate enough web search to find photos of them. They had red borders and usually single-word titles like “Fire” and “Dinosaurs.”)
Here’s the “Real Book” cover art beneath the Prehistoric Life jacket:
And here’s the endpaper art, which gets bonus points for including three creatures and one plant which I’ve dug up in fossil form right here in Ohio:
And kudos to author Dorothy Shuttlesworth and illustrator Matthew Kalmenoff, who seem like they had awfully cool jobs combining art, science, and education.
Super retro bonus find: Tucked within the pages of the book, one totally authentic souvenir reproduction of the Gettysburg Address.
It’s a small, blurry photo because it wouldn’t fit on the scanner, and I didn’t want to mash it, but you can see a better example on the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency website.
I’ll admit when I first found it, I thought, “Cool! Old letter!” only to be disappointed a second later, when I saw that the text was the Gettysburg Address. (I really would have loved to find an old, everyday personal note. That kind of thing really sets my mind running.) But then this thing sparked some personal nostalgia from the time we took a family trip to Colonial Williamsburg when I was a kid, and my parents bought me a souvenir set of reproductions that included similarly-antiqued editions of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Verdict: Two bucks well spent, especially since it goes to the library.
- Lynne Cox‘s 1987 swim across the Bering Strait from the U.S. to the U.S.S.R. One of the National Geographic Channel The ’80s: The Decade That Made Us episodes included a segment on this, and it struck no chords of familiarity whatsoever.
- Duran Duran bassist John Taylor’s song “I Do What I Do” from the 9 1/2 Weeks soundtrack. Kelsey and I were in the car listening to a rebroadcast of an old Casey Kasem American Top 40, and this was in the countdown:
Nope. Don’t remember ever hearing that one. And that’s coming from a guy who still has bits of the lyrics to the other songs on Buckner & Garcia’s Pac-Man Fever LP – an album I didn’t even own – stuck in his brain.
Saturday, April 13 was a chilly, windy, and gray 50-degree day that felt more like winter’s onset than three weeks into spring. I set out intending to do 3.5 miles, but about a mile-and-a-half in, I decided to extend my run to an even four.
Not a great run: At the end off the first mile, I had already run through a stitch, and felt like I had worked awfully hard just to hit that 8:28 mark. Lots of wind in miles two and three, and I had to push at the end just to barely get my overall pace back under nine minutes. Still, kind of like writing, even when running is tough, I always feel good about having done it.
Sunday was completely different. Sunny and 60-something, and warm enough for shorts, even with the breeze. I only had three miles to tackle, so I set out at a brisk pace, and let myself really go down the final hill of the first mile so I could finish it in under eight minutes. After recovering from that, I just tried not to lose too much time in the second mile, and when I was at an 8:11 pace after 2.5 miles, I thought maybe I could knock off those 11 seconds with a hard charge. Didn’t happen. And I’ll admit I was disappointed.
… and then, when I got home and looked at my stats, I realized that I’d just done my best 3-miler of the year by far. Still not near my best time ever (somewhere in the low seven minutes) for that distance, but enough to brighten the finish.
Year to date: 106.8 miles.
When last we left our intrepid sixth-grade speller, he had landed among the 14 qualifiers for The Repository Regional Spelling Bee. Judging from the picture in the newspaper’s April 3 bee preview section, he was as shocked as anyone else by this turn of events:
A few things jump out at me from the full page Repository bee preview:
- This is page 48. FORTY-EIGHT. Granted, it’s a Sunday paper, so it would have been big anyway, but seriously, kids, Sunday newspapers used to be fat.
- Another sign of changing times: Each speller’s profile includes their name, parents’ names, grade, school, and home address.
- The seven-paragraph story – “National title is goal of 44 spellers” – was written by M.L. Schultze, who went on to become the paper’s managing editor and oversaw a lot of impressive investigative projects. I still hear her work several times a week on WKSU. Her husband, also a former Repository editor, once interviewed me for a reporting job and later recommended me to the Independent over in Massillon.
- Recognizing that not everyone would be thrilled to find their middle-school selves on the internet, I chose not to scan the entire page. Laugh at me all you want, but know this: I am far from the only guy in this bunch sporting plastic-rimmed glasses and a not-quite-mop of barely-controlled hair.
- There is also a fair amount of hair feathering by both genders. I would not attempt the middle-parted ‘do for at least another year.
A few weeks had passed since the Stark County bee, and I had continued to study and obsess with as much focus as a sixth-grade nerd could muster when there was Atari to play and Dungeons & Dragons to learn. (One concrete memory: Dad reviewing my study guide with me, and making up a mnemonic device for remembering “abundance” which I have never forgotten. “Remember,” he said, sticking his butt out behind him, “it’s A BUN DANCE,” throwing his rear from side-to-side stressing each syllable – and cracking me the heck up. And now you need never wonder where my cheesy sense of humor comes from.)
The Thirty-Seventh Regional Grand Final Spelling Bee sponsored by The Repository was thirty years ago today, at 1:30 p.m., in the auditorium of the former GlenOak High School East Campus. My parents went to their seats while I got a number to hang around my neck – I was speller number 30 – and stood nervously in line with the few dozen other spellers. And man, were those eighth-graders intimidating. They were the oldest kids allowed to compete, and they occupied 28 of the 44 spelling spots. (Although I will confess that middle school is where my “Smart Girls Are Hot” crush tendencies really took hold, and about two-thirds of the field here was female. So, there was that.)
Being thirty spellers in was a relief. Even in the first round, by that point a few kids had already bowed out, and the bee had settled into its rhythm.
I don’t remember what my first-round word was, but I can easily recall the stomach butterflies that took flight when it was my turn to step up to the microphone, and the sense of relief when The Pronouncer spoke my word … and I knew it.
For me, there was a very particular sense of hellish anticipation standing at the front of the stage, and a crazy relief that washed over me each time I was given a word that I knew. And though it came with its own little razor-edged “Okay-now-don’t-rush-and-don’t-screw-it-up” moment, and there was still that eternity to wait after completing the word to see whether the judges would tap their tiny, soul-crushing desktop bell signaling an error, hearing a word I knew was a glorious, near-tear-inducing thing. I was never one of those kids who could think through word origins and usage to make a highly-educated guess if I didn’t know a word. Either I knew it or I didn’t. I was either solid, or full-on guessing.
And then it was back to my seat to stare out into the darkness of the auditorium and look for mom and dad and wonder how many more rounds I could last.
Mom kept score in the bee program, noting in ballpoint pen the order and competitive round of each spellers’ exit.
Unlike the county bee, of course, with its 14 qualifiers, here at the regional, There Could Be (Bee? Nah. Too easy. – jb) Only One.
Fourteen kids dropped out in the first two rounds, and another eleven over the next two. After six rounds, there were less than a dozen of us left, and the competition had gotten tougher: The field only contracted by one in round seven.
Round Eight: “Balletomane.”
Well, dang. Never heard that one. Got the first half right, swung wildly at the second, and went down as the seventh-place finisher.
Four spots off the podium, as they say in the Olympics. (Instead of silver and bronze medals, second- and third-place regional finishers got, respectively, an electric typewriter and Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus; and The World Almanac. And if I couldn’t go to D.C., I really wanted that electric typewriter.) And although I don’t think I realized it at the time, if mom’s scorecard is correct (there’s a little confusion in spots – looks like dad handled scoring at a few points), I was the last speller standing below seventh grade. Of the six kids who beat me, four were eighth-graders – the highest grade allowed. And the fourth-place finisher was a fellow Lake Middle Schooler, making ours the only school with two top-ten finishes. Go us.
But no prize for me, other than this:
I have never bought another dictionary, nor felt like I needed to.
And so ended my ’83 Bee Season. The kid who had won the previous year’s regional repeated his feat, went to D.C., and dropped out on a word I knew – either “kudzu” or “menorah.”
I competed three more seasons, accumulating something like five or six of the “younger reader”-type dictionaries awarded at the middle school and county level (one of which is still around), and two Repository-presented American Heritage dictionaries. I think the other one may be at my mom’s house, or belongs to one of my brothers, or was maybe given away during college.
My seventh-grade year I was an alternate for the regional, having slipped up on “taupe” at the county level. I’d never heard of it. In my final year of eligibility, I placed sixth at the regional, missing “restauratrice” because again, I had never heard the word, and also because it makes no freaking sense at all that there’s not an “n” in a word with “restaurant” at its core. I mean, really.
(Another of dad’s annual bee suggestions: “Hey, if you miss a word, instead of leaving the stage immediately, you should grab the mike and holler, “Anesthetist! A-N-E-S-T-H-E-T-I-S-T!” Because that was his job, and he knew I loved telling other kids that was his job, because it almost always led to, “He’s a what?” “An anesthetist. He puts people to sleep.” “What?!? Like you put a dog to sleep?!?”)
As a pretty skinny kid with state-mandated-minimum athletic talent and little real competitive sports drive beyond the backyard, I really enjoyed my bee seasons, despite what my mom may tell you about how much I complained about studying for them. I liked being good at spelling, and I liked that for a few weeks every year, it was “my thing,” the way some kids were talented in sports, or others built models or drew cartoons or solved Rubik’s Cubes.
Also, if there are any spelling errors in this entry, I made them on purpose. As a test.
No weekday runs, and another busy Saturday led to another all-the-miles-on-Sunday week.
And it was gorgeous: Close to 60 degrees and with a strong breeze from the south-southwest that pushed me for most of my outbound trip, and became a difficult headwind for much of the second half.
After last week, I wanted to get the route done in something closer to my usual running pace, so I took each mile by itself and built my goals as I went along.
So, for the first mile, I shot for below eight-and-a-half, took full advantage of the big downhill at the end, and then assessed: Slow up just a bit, check the lungs, check the legs, everything’s cool, so let’s settle in. I was feeling good enough that I thought, “OK, let’s see if we can keep the overall pace under nine minutes for the first three miles.”
The next couple miles were really enjoyable. Sun over the fields to the east, wind at my back, not unpleasant spring smells – thawing swamps, manure on the farms, the occasional whiff of skunk – on the air. The breeze was steady and strong and played with things along the way: Power lines thrummed, sticks and leaves clicked and skittered across the pavement, street signs flexed and bowed and clanged against their poles.
Three miles in, I was averaging 8:47, and thinking that even with the run into the wind yet to come, and the inevitable late-mile slowdown, I could maybe – maybe – do this trip in a 9-minute average.
And then I had to turn back south. The wind was steadier and stronger than I’d anticipated, but at least it wasn’t cold. Still, I really had to put some extra effort into my strides to keep from slowing down too much, and miles five and six were tough. Breathing-wise, I felt fine, but my legs were starting to tire.
Starting mile seven, I saw my overall average was 9:06. It’s one thing to push the final mile hard and knock 10 or 15 seconds off my average when I’m doing a three- or four-mile run, but it’s tougher to do the same thing at the end of a seven-miler, for both physical and mathematical reasons. And this route is the one that finishes with a difficult climb in the first half of the final mile.
I really wanted to get rid of those six seconds, though, and since I’d given my lungs a break last week, I figured they could handle a challenge on a nice morning like this.
You could hardly call what I did to get up that hill “charging,” but I did keep my pace up enough that I only added one second to my overall average, leaving me just over half a mile to erase seven seconds and hit a nine-minute pace.
I finished with an average of 8:58, and felt really good about the work it took to do so. I was below a seven-minute pace for most of that last half-mile, and as a result, I ran mile seven three seconds faster than mile one.
Year-to-date: 99.8 miles in 97 days.