- Tsomoriri, Ladakh: Nomads, Altitude and Yaks
- Ladakh, India: Buddha on the Indus
- Superheroes Run #4 for Child Advocates of Houston
- Crown of Palaces: The Taj Mahal in Agra, India
- Hauling Ass In Leadville
- South Dakota’s Spring Cattle Branding
- Panama Canal
- Cartagena: Caribbean, Colonial Colombia
- Cross-Country Colombia: Coffee Farmers, Mountains & Medellin
- Overlooking Bogota
- Colombia 2015: Libertad y Orden
- Getting The Band Back Together*
- Superheroes III for Child Advocates of Houston
- Blythe and Tyler
Random 'Featured' PostsI jumped the gun a little. On the first official day of my retirement, I More . . .#3 of several posts (starting here, with more to come) about the tiny Bolivian village More . . . →#6 in a series of posts from Burma (Myanmar). The first Chindwin River post was More . . . →A late-summer trip to Lake Tenkiller (in eastern Oklahoma) yielded lots of fun, and at least More . . . →Did you know that Buddhism is the second most practiced religion (behind Christianity) in 13 More . . . →
Category Archives: Sports and Events
(As always, I need to make very clear that the kids in these pictures are NOT the kids who are the beneficiaries of Child Advocates’ programs. These are some of the our young race participants who came out to support other kids not quite so lucky.)
The 4th Child Advocates Superheroes Run is in the record books. I’m proud to say it was bigger and better than ever! We had nearly 1,000 “runners” (using the term loosely in many cases) and raised over $120,000 for Child Advocates.
The costumes get better (and more plentiful) every year. Every superhero you’ve ever heard of and lots that you probably haven’t. And for reasons I can’t fully explain at a “Superheroes” event, there were cows and alligators and goldfish and beauty queens, too! That big orange Child Advocates arch was new this year. (It was donated, so the cost doesn’t come out of CAI operating or sponsor funds.)
I’m proud to have been the Chairman of the event since its inception four years ago. As I’ve said before, that means mostly that my generous friends get their arms twisted to donate. A huge, special thanks to all the friends who let that happen. I don’t actually get to run in the race, but this year I wore a GPS tracking watch, which told me I’d run/jog/walked 7.5 just running around and organizing all the activities!
- CAI helps kids in our own hometown who are in desperate situations through no conceivable fault of their own.
- CAI’s one-time intervention seeks to permanently and efficiently solve problems and affect the kids’ entire lives, without creating dependency or requiring permanent or ongoing assistance.
- CAI’s cause is financially undersupported, largely because few potential large donors have close personal experience with, or risks of, this kind of extreme child neglect or abuse. There’s nothing wrong with donating to your own alma mater or church, or to charities addressing diseases that affect you or your family, but that can leave a huge gap for charities like Child Advocates. I think this is true philanthropy.
If you or anyone you know is willing to volunteer, donate, or become an advocate, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first 3 pics on the second row were our fastest man, fastest woman, and fastest “kid” in the 5k.
A preliminary shout-out and photo credit to MIKE SHORT, photographer for all these pictures. Also: For the record, I’ve limited myself to just one “ass” pun per paragraph.
You’ve probably heard the phrase about a “rented mule.” Well, my new buddy Beethoven was actually a rented burro (a.k.a. donkey; a.k.a. “ass”). They don’t allow any of those half-ass mules in the Leadville Boom Days Pack Burro Race.
I was a rookie to the event, so I didn’t exactly get first pick of available teammates. The ass I got handed to me was named Beethoven. He was once a wild burro running free on federal land, and his track record as a racing burro wasn’t good: last place in Leadville a year ago; second-to-last in a similar event just week ago (each time in a field of a few dozen racers). His 2015 Leadville results got him the dubious Last Ass Over the Pass award, and resulted in a 2016 rule change limiting the time allowed. Pessimistic, I opted for the shorter course and steeled myself for a long day. Even the “short” course is 15 miles, and it climbs up to 12,000 feet elevation. It didn’t surprise me a bit that our assigned race number was 13.
I’d done some homework – even a couple of hours of donkey-whisperer lessons from Bill Lee (the Santa Claus looking guy in one of the pictures). The trick to burro racing with an ass like Beethoven is to remember that donkeys are herd animals. Try to head off by yourself and things will go poorly. Group up with a handful of other burro teams going at a decent pace and you might – might – have some success. So I put my ass on the line for a fast start, and tried to coax him into the thick of the action.
The rules say you can lead, push, pull or even carry your burro – but he can’t carry you. As the pictures reflect, the humans run along on their own power. Sometimes you lead the burro from the front, sometimes you “drive” from behind, and sometimes you just find yourself in a tug-of-war battle-of-wills. I covered my ass (as the rules require) with a 33-pound packsaddle equipped with a shovel, pick and prospector’s pan as a fun tribute to the traditional roots of the sport and the Colorado mining region.
An amusing part of the rental agreement was that I would have to split any prize money with Beethoven’s owners. Unsurprisingly, that provision was of no relevance, but Beethoven and I actually did okay. The little ass only kicked me once; we had a prompt come-to-donkey-Jesus discussion about that and seemed to get along mostly fine for the rest of the day. There was a lot of slow trudging, but occasionally I’d get my ass in gear and we’d run like a well-oiled machine. Brad Wann (Beethoven’s owner) has an email tagline that says that once you’ve tried burro racing, it’s “hard to walk away.” Several of the other racers I spoke to actually talked about being “hooked” on the sport. I guess it’s a little like golf – hours of frustration punctuated by a few brief moments when everything comes together perfectly.
The race starts and ends in downtown Leadville, and loops up into the mountains east of town. There were 30 human/burro teams at the start for the 15-mile short-course race, though a couple of them apparently never got past the first couple of blocks. Beethoven and I spent most of the day running and herding alongside a guy (in sandals) named Pat Sweeney and his burro Mr. Ziffer. (It turns out that Pat is sort of famous in the ultra trail running world). After helping one another all day, we had a final, awkward “drag race” up Leadville’s main street, Harrison Avenue. Beethoven and I finished about # 16 out 30 teams. Next year we’ll do better.
This was year three for the Child Advocates Superhero Run. This year it was “Presented by” my friends (and founding sponsors of the event) at MRE Consulting, and “Powered by” Houston-based Direct Energy. The dual title-sponsorship plan was a shameless and transparent ploy to maximize the amount we could raise for the very worthwhile cause.
Thanks to the generosity of those title sponsors and several others (many of whom are friends of mine with an amazing tolerance for having their arms twisted), to hardworking staff and volunteers, and to enthusiastic and well-costumed runners, we’ve raised a total of over $250,000 for Child Advocates in the three years’ events.
I’ve explained my support and commitment for Child Advocates in prior years’ posts (here and here). I’ll repeat myself a bit here, though, because I want people to hear it. Child Advocates recruits, trains and supports a small army of about 750 volunteer Advocates, each one generally assigned to a handful of kids in CPS custody. The Advocates’ primary role is to work with the kids, parents, relatives, neighbors, and counselors to help CPS and the Courts to figure out how to resolve each child’s unique situation and get them — somehow — safely out of CPS custody and into a safe home. The mission is to break the “cycle” of child abuse — where abused kids too often grow up to be abusive parents. A relatively-small expenditure at such critical points in those kids’ lives can truly change everything for them. It’s a great cause. Child Advocates is almost thirty years old, so there are now many thousands of heartwarming stories of how Advocates have changed (and even saved) lives.
(Photo credits here: Mike Short, Scott Humphries, me, and Athlinks!)
The outstanding feature of this year’s Leadville marathon was the snow. In Central Colorado the week before the event, I was snowed on once and hailed on a number of times. The marathon itself had to be re-routed from its traditional course because one section had 8 feet of snow on the trail — in late June!! Part of the “problem,” of course, is that Leadville is at 10,200 feet in elevation, and the marathon takes you above 13,000 feet (as the picture above hints). And it was a big year for snow in the area. Marathon organizers dug out a path up the Mosquito Pass (the signature summit of the event) that sometimes consisted of a narrow (muddy, rocky) passage with 4-5 feet of snow on each side. Another long stretch of “trail” was more like running a riverbed, given the amount of water coming downhill at the runners’ feet.
This was my second Leadville marathon — a 26-mile, 6-hour effort with 6,000 feet of climbs on rugged paths in ridiculously thin air. Even so (and believe it or not), it’s about the shortest, quickest, easiest event they do in Leadville (as prior years’ posts here, here, here, and here reflect). My prior Leadville marathon in 2012 had a MUCH more interesting and amusing finish, but at least my time this year (5:53) was one minute faster– despite the water and snow in the trail. Even better, my inveterate biking and triathlon buddy Scott Humphries got his first taste of Colorado trail running. I needed him to get his feet wet (literally and figuratively) so I could lobby him to join me on even-crazier Leadville quests that may be all but inevitable in years to come.
As in past events, I had the benefit of a handful of Superfans who rushed from point to point with a backpack full of Gatorade and snacks for Scott and I. Their heroics required quite a bit of athleticism and Leadville knowledge — just to be active spectators! Big thanks to Shane Merz and to Mike and Christopher Short!
Double Ironman trip: South Africa and Taiwan (via Hong Kong and Macau): But there’s still so much to be done
My Ironman trip around the world — with Scott Humphries and Shane Merz. Imagine getting the chance to spend almost three weeks circling the globe with a couple of your best friends — yukking it up, exploring two continents, and — oh yes — doing two Ironman triathlons without coming home in between.
IRONMAN PANGEA: SIX CONTINENTS. Some years ago, after finishing our first Ironman (in Brazil), my friends (Scott Humphries, Shane Merz) and I got the bright idea to complete an Ironman triathlon on every continent. The quest required a couple of trips to Europe, retreated briefly to Ironman Texas, and made a trek to Scott’s native Australia. There isn’t actually such an event in Antarctica, so we were down to two remaining continents — Africa and Asia. Someone (me, I fear) got the further bright idea that we should finish off those two continents with two back-to-back races, in a single two-week period without coming home in between: Ironman South Africa (in Port Elizabeth), then the inaugural Ironman Taiwan (in Kenting, the tropical southern tip of Taiwan).
COLUMBUS WAS RIGHT – OR WAS IT GALILEO? OR…PYTHAGORAS?: I knew this already, but for the first time I was able to verify for myself that the Earth is round. We left Houston headed eastbound toward South Africa, then eventually got home via Hong Kong, and Taipei from the west. There were nine flight legs in all, plus a bus, a couple of ferries, a handful of trains, five hotels, and more taxis and shuttle vans than I could count. The logistical absurdity of the adventure required schlepping 100 pounds each of triathlon gear (bicycles, cases, wetsuits, etc.) literally around the world.
IRON AGE MATH: L = M50-54. Competitions like this are done in age and gender groupings – usually five-year gaps like M (Men) 30-34 (years old), M35-39, and so on. So sixty-year-old females (F60-64) compete against one another – not really against 25-year-old (M25-29) men — although we’re all on the same course at the same time. For this purpose, you are considered to be whatever age you BECOME during the calendar year. So even if you don’t turn 30 until November, you’re treated as being 30 all year long.
August 2015 will bring a very round-numbered birthday for me, so I was in the “M50-54” age group. Gulp. Seeing “The Big 5-0” associated with my name for the first time was a little startling, but seeing it in this context took some of the sting off. In fact I’d be more proud of those race finishes if I were, for example, M70-74. (I sometimes claim to be 82 years old because – modesty aside – I look pretty good for an 82-year-old.) Besides, the 50-year old group is often just as fast as even much younger men; the patience and wisdom to pace one’s self is a strong virtue in such events.
I think I’m going to use the more elegant Roman numeral, “L” to denote my age (Come August, that is. I’m still XLIX for another couple of months, thankyouverymuch).
WHO CAN GO THE DISTANCE? WE’LL FIND OUT, IN THE LONG RUN: The races themselves? An Ironman event is a 2.4 mile offshore ocean swim, a 112 mile bike race, then a 26.2 mile (marathon distance) run – all in one day with just 5 minutes or so in between to change your shoes. It usually takes us around 13 hours – starting at sunrise and usually finishing in the dark. The hilly South African bike course was especially brutal (imagine mixing 5,000 feet of vertical climb and nasty winds into those mileages), but at least the area’s much-discussed great white sharks resisted the allure of the nearly 2,000 black-wetsuit-clad swimmers out in Nelson Mandela Bay. (Before the start, the race announcer told us we might be “lucky” enough to see dolphins swimming near us in the bay, so we should look for their dorsal fins. I had a mild suspicion that this was an ingenious fib to prevent widespread panic should anyone spot a shark out there making an otherwise-harmless appearance.)
Taiwan was hot but less windy, and the water was crystal clear for our South China Sea swim. Most important, we all finished both events in good health and even better spirits. The Continental Ironman Quest is complete!
GOOD FRIENDS, GOOD HEALTH, AND GOOD FORTUNE: There’s no way any of this intercontinental athletic foolishness would ever be happening (for me) without my two very close friends Scott Humphries and Shane Merz. (You’ve surely heard these names before, e.g., here and here and here . . . ). It does not escape my notice that Scott and Shane have jobs, wives, and kids. How they pull this off, I do not know. We did a lot of philosophizing during the trek — maybe we were influenced by the those big meditating Buddhas? One overarching observation: we were extraordinarily fortunate to have good health and good friends, together with the ability, the means and the freedom to roam and see the world in a way only a tiny fraction of earth’s inhabitants have done through all of its history.
JIMMY BUFFETT GETS INVOLVED: Our Ironman-related travels had already taken us to some amazing places: Zurich, Rio, Sydney, Germany, the Caribbean, Hawaii and more. This time, we had a week to mostly “kill” between the two races – mixing some sightseeing in among short workouts to stay in shape. We spent four days in Hong Kong and two in Macau, China (a former Portuguese colony with Las Vegas-sized casinos where we watched a guy playing US$100,000 hands of Baccarat).
We rode from Hong Kong island to Macau (on the Chinese mainland) via the high-speed express ferry; we chuckled that it was a “fast boat to China.” That phrase is a line from Jimmy Buffett song, “Last Mango in Paris.” In the song, a man reminisces to Buffett about his life of international adventures, then finishes, “But Jimmy, there’s still so much to be done.” I adopted the phrase as a motto of the trip.
This is the year I turn L years old. The six-continents Ironman quest is complete — but there’s still so much to be done.