Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Harriers and Rim Rock Farm

I was 7 or 8 years old, in the 1960's, when the 4 minute mile barrier for running a mile was first broken by a high school student. That person was Jim Ryun and he did it while attending school at Wichita East High School, where my son is now a coach.

Dew on the grass in the early morning sun at Rim Rock Farm, a nationally recognized cross country course near Lawrence, KS.


Ryun's coach at the time was Bob Timmons. When Ryun graduated from high school, he was recruited by the University of Kansas, and to help seal the deal, the university hired Timmons to continue coaching Ryun at KU.

Ryun had a successful career at KU and was an Olympian and world record holder. Timmons continued to coach at KU for many years. He eventually retired and bought a farm near Lawrence KS with the express intent of turning part of it into a first class cross country running course.

Contestants on this team hold a little meeting together before the start of the race.

Another team getting together to encourage each other. Someone said something funny. .
The farm is now known as Rim Rock Farm and for many years now has hosted some prestigious cross country meets including the NCAA championships a few years ago. They host the state high school championship meet each year as well as a large invitational meet each year. This invitational meet is huge with hundreds of runners from the area, and is now referred to by athletes and coaches simply as "Rim Rock".
The start of a race. There were 12 races in different classes this day. . The course is beautiful. It is also grueling and very challenging. Times here at this course are 20 to 30 seconds slower than at a lot of other courses because of the terrain. But everybody wants to race here. They know this is the best race in the region. There could be as many as 2,500 runners at "Rim Rock" this year. .
It's a big damn deal!
About 30 - 40 seconds after the start. .
This year, again, Wichita East High School was invited, and I was invited to go with my son and the team.
After the start on a long slow uphill rise, the runners travel across a grassy area.
A similar view of the first portion of the course. .
It is funny sometimes how the connections in life are made and how they can endure.
. One of Ryun's teammates in high school, Steve Sell, eventually became my son's running coach when he was in high school at Wichita East. My son ran some track and cross country in college as well, but now is back at his high school alma mater and coaching a newer generation of athletes.
A signpost marks the spot on one of the dreaded hills on the course. .
I ran a little bit of cross country in high school myself and my coach at the time, Joe Schrag, became a good friend of Steve Sell as they coached against each other for many years. My son and I frequently see our former coaches at this and a few other track and cross country events each year. It is always fun to catch up a bit with mentors and talk about old times. It is also fun to talk about the new crop of runners and encourage them as they try to battle the course and their own mental attitudes.
One of two covered bridges on the course. After the runners cross over this bridge, they immediately head up Cemetary Hill. .
There is, of course, a lot of physical training involved. Practices are tough and sometimes cover long distances. Sprint work is included in practice on some days. But every long distance runner knows that a large part of running is mental. It is extremely difficult to push yourself to go a little faster and harder when the pain of exertion sets in.
More runners tackling Cemetary Hill. There actually is a small cemetary at the top of the hill. There are no dead runners buried there to my knowledge. .
My own Coach Schrag used to tell us about the best strategy of running on hills. He said to attack the hill and "run hard through the top" and then fly back downhill. You can pass a lot of other runners this way. The natural tendency when you finally reach the top of a hill is to coast a bit and slow down. I never mastered the strategy. In my mind, after reaching the top of a hill' I would say to myself "Screw this! I'm taking a break!"
Looks of concentration and effort by runners on another hill on the course. .
Success in the sport is achieved by staying constant in your effort. It is easy to exert yourself real hard for little bursts of speed and then not have anything left for the remainder of the race. In a nutshell, I never mastered this constant effort. Inconsistency was the reason I never made it above "C" team, but I still enjoyed the sport and have the utmost respect for the people that try it.
A shot of the pond at the covered bridge before Cemetary Hill. The water was very still that morning. .
It is said that Coach Timmons would have a regular routine on the bus ride home after a meet, of individually chatting with each runner about what they did well that day, or what areas they could improve upon. It was at one of these meetings with Jim Ryun that Timmons suggested to him that maybe he could break the 4 minute mark for a mile. This comment supposedly occurred on a day when Ryun was a junior in high school and had run a 4:13 mile that day. Imagine hearing that from your coach on a day when you had just beat the school record and felt pretty good about yourself. But, damned if Ryun didn't eventually do it.
Even more runners on Cemetary Hill. .
That is part of what a good coach is all about. The encouragement and challenges to try just a little harder are a big part of coaching and life. That is part of the reason that mentors like that can become such an important part of our lives. It does not have to be just in athletics. Mentors happen in all walks of life.
A shot of runners nearer the start from a gully by the side of the course. .
I love cross country meets. There are lots of colors in each team's uniforms. Coaches and parents are scattered throughout the course yelling encouragement. Runners are giving it all they have.
It's a great way to spend a day.
There were approximately 200 runners in each race. .
Cross Country runners are referred to as "Harriers". It is not because they are "Hairy" although I have seen many that are. Back in the early days of the sport in Great Britian, the courses were not marked like they are today. In a sort of fox and hound fashion, a group of runners (the hares) would mark the course by dropping pieces of paper, to be followed by the actual contestants (the hounds)who would then follow the course thus marked by the hares. Somehow, from this early day process the term "Harriers" came into fashion and is used to this day.
A shot of the "Oak Holler Bridge". This area was very secluded and the trees were close to the sides of the course along here. .
I love to take the camera along. I think I actually learned a bit about photography this day. I went there with preconceived ideas about the type of pictures I wanted to take. In many cases I was defeated in my attempts because there were so many people, they went by so fast or somebody would get in the way. It was difficult and frustrating to get some of the pictures I wanted.
At "Oak Holler" there is a relatively steep downhill before reaching the covered bridge. Runners were literally flying along here.
I had a strategy of trying to get some pictures from unusual vantage points. I would for instance climb into some tree areas and try and get some pictures of runners through the leaves. In another spot I went into a little gulley near the side of the course and took some shots through some tall grasses as the runners went by. Some of this worked pretty well.
Another shot just before the runners reach "Oak Holler". The skies became cloudier as the day progressed and I ended up using the camera flash here.
There is about 1/4 mile left to go at this point. Runners are getting serious here and trying to finish as strong as they can. Just about 200 yards to go and this runner from Wichita North was looking very determined. She finished second in her race. I saw one runner slip and fall along this same place. It had to hurt, but she got right back up and finished amidst a few tears in her eyes. The finish line.
Here's Jim Ryun himself (on the left) at the finish line. He handed out the medals on this day. The guy to his right was also a teammate of Ryun's in high school. He does all the announcing at these events and told stories about Ryun's running career as the day transpired.
It would be pretty special to receive a medal from Jim Ryun. .
But most of all, after experiencing some difficulty in getting shots that I thought I wanted, I decided to just look around with my own eyes, and see what shots might present themselves to me. There was very little wind this day and some of the ponds were quite still providing the opportunity for some reflection pictures off the water. Some of these also turned out well. Had I concentrated on solely getting pictures of runners, I feel I would have missed many good opportunities.
A portion of the Wichita East High team with a relatively famous alum.
Some of the best shots I had just sort of appeared before my eyes without any composition in mind, and with camera at hand, I was able to get some decent shots. I took well over 100 pictures this day.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Hat's Off Department Vol. 1

The Scooter Cannonball Run
This event comprised 10 Days and over 3,000 miles from Vancouver BC to Portland ME.
No easy task.
It started September 9 and ended September 18, 2010
The event is held every 2 years. The 2008 event actually went through Wichita although I didn't see them pass by.
But what an amzing feat!
My hat is off to all the participants!
Here's a link to the official website: http://scootercannonball.com/
The scooters are grouped into 3 classes, a manual 200 class, an automatic 190 class, and an automatic 250 class. Maxi scoots apparently not allowed.
In 2008, rid.ers on SYM HD-200's like mine placed 1st and 3rd in the automatic 190 class. Alas, didn't find any SYM's in the same class for 2010.
Some interesting tidbits:
A 1966 Lambretta won the manual 200 class this year. Pretty Cool!
A Vespa LX 150 won the automatic 190 class
A Piaggio MP3 won the automatic 250 class. There were 2 SYM's that placed in this class this year.
Many riders modify their machines a bit to make the run. The primary modification seems to allow for extra fuel to enable them to go longer between stops. They must check in at various places on the route and are awarded points for each day based upon time in the saddle and miles covered.
Here's some links to some blogs of some of the riders. Some have written more than others, but there is some interesting reading about their preparations and their rides.
Here's a toast to all the participants!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Dream about Motorcycle Waves

I dozed off this last Saturday morning after feeding the animals at 6:30am. I slept for a little over an hour, but when I awoke I remembered having a very vivid dream about riding and commuting with Max. It's amazing how a vivid dream like that can leave a lasting impression. The last part of the dream, and the most unusual portion involved me riding home after a day at work and approaching an intersection where I had to stop at a red light. At that intersection I met up with 6 other riders that had also arrived there at approximately the same time. Now that may not seem unusual, but the deal was (in my dream) that we all sort of knew each other at least from seeing each and every other one of us sometime on the roads of the city. But we had never met up with each other at the same time in the same location. Previously it had all been occasional chance meetings on the road in various places and various times. We had almost always waved at each other in the past. It was difficult and awkward trying to wave at everyone at this intersection at the same time. We didn't see each other every day, maybe less than once a week, but we sort of knew each other a bit even though we had never actually talked with each other and didn't know any names.

The Encounter. Let me describe the situation first and then give more descriptions of each rider.

It's an intersection where two four lane streets meet with a stoplight controlling the traffic. I am in the left lane going east and a lady on a Harley is in the right lane going east and already stopped at the light. To my left and proceeding south through the intersection are two men on sport bikes. To my right is a man on a Vespa proceeding northerly, but waiting to turn left after the guys on the sport bikes pass through the intersection. Also to my right is a lady on a small Honda who was in the process of turning right to go east. Then directly in front of me was a guy on an old BMW heading west but stopped at the light.

There were some cars in the area as well, but in my dream they were unimportant and I took closer notice of the motorcycles.

As we encountered each other at the intersection, we tried to wave at each other, or at least in some manner acknowledge each other. But some of us were in motion, some trying to execute a turn, others just stopped and stationary. But we all saw each other. All recognized each other, and all were surprised to each other there at that specific place in time. The guy on the BMW actually stood up and raised both arms in the air as if we had all scored a touchdown together.

I think it is funny how dreams create themselves from a combination of true real world experiences and made up fantasies. For example, in this dream, the intersection is very real and one which I passs through frequently. Some of the riders are real as well and people I sometimes see on the road, others are a fantasy.
The lady Harley rider.
She is a real person I have seen just a few times on the road. I am not sure why she made it into my dream, but maybe it is because I have some respect for her. She is relatively slender and possibly no more than 5' 3" tall. Her bike quite possibly weighs over 600 lbs. There are leather saddlebags with little leather frills that can blow in the wind. But the first thing I noticed about her is her blonde hair. Underneath a 3/4 helmet is beautiful braided blonde hair that reaches from her head clear down to the seat of the motorcycle. She wears leather gear and handles her bike very well. We nodded to each other as I pulled up alongside her.
The guy on the Vespa.
This guy is real, too. I have never talked with him, but see him frequently on the way to work. We generally see each other at another intersection, but in my dream he showed up here. He also wears a 3/4 helmet and also wears a gear jacket, but looks like he wears dress pants. I bet he has a tie on underneath the gear jacket an leaves an extra sport coat at the office. His Vespa appears to be relatively new. He is a careful rider and I have seen him out in cold weather, too. We generally haven't waved at each other, but it is mostly because of our relative positions to each other and the traffic situation when we meet.
The lady on the Honda.
This lady is not big either, but her bike is nowhere the size of the Harley. She is also real and I see her very frequently and know that she is a regular commuter in almost any kind of weather. I am guessing that she works at one of the aircraft plants. She wears a complete set of gear and a full helmet and handles her bike very carefully and very well. I almost always wave at her when I see her, but she has never returned a wave to me.
The 2 Guys on the Sport Bikes.
These guys are a fantasy, but I see people like them all the time. They don't wear helmets or gear. They appear to be relativey careful riders though even if they do "tear out" on occasion from a stop light. They appear to be strong and quite capable of handling a light and powerful bike. It is easy to imagine them with their girlfriends riding pillion with their arms around their waists and a big grin on their faces. They are generally friendly and return waves when I see them.
The Guy on the BMW.
This guy is a fantasy also, and my description of him may make him sound a bit like Jack Riepe of Twisted Roads fame. But this is my dream, and this guy isn't Jack Riepe. (Sorry, Jack) His BMW is old and not really very pretty or clean even though it sounds like it is in perfect running condition. The guy is middel aged and has a very weathered set of gear, maybe an older Aerostich suit. His bike is red, but faded in color. The guy has a grayish colored beard and wears a full face helmet. The unusual thing is that he has a large old red duffel bag strapped to the seat behind him. He almost looks like he has been on the road for hours and has just arrived in town. He is always enthusiastic about his waves as if every two wheeled rider on the road is a close friend of his.
I gave up a long time ago in trying to analyze my dreams. I fully admit that my mind seems to work in strange ways sometimes, especially when it comes to dreams. I was just so amazed at how vivid the dream was that I thought it might be worth sharing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Exactly What is a Vincati?

Book Report
Big Sid's Vincati
I had seen this book in a catalogue or two, and sort of wondered about it, but the interest seemed only passing at the time. Some of my family members think I can be dangerous in a bookstore, as evidenced by this t-shirt I received one Christmas. In an effort to alleviate the fact that books seem to be trying to take over all of the space in our home, my wife and I both now own a "Nook", the Barnes and Noble electronic book reader. Big Sid's Vincati is the first book I read on my Nook. It's not a long book. I read it in about 2 1/2 days. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the book. In 1950 a Vincent motorcycle was priced at about $1,000. Big Sid and some of his friends were very interested in possibly owning one despite the price. Big Sid was an accomplished motorcycle mechanic, specializing in high performace engines. Sid and his friends felt that the machine was quite capable, with a few high performance modifications, of performing like the machine that Rollie Free had used to set a land speed record. But the Vincent was difficult to find. Sid and his friends said that they would travel the corners of the nation if they had to, to find one. The book is largely about the relationship between Sid and his son. Late in Sid's life, when Sid had experienced some recent health problems, the son concocts the idea that he and Sid should attempt to build a "Vincati". The Vincati is a motorcycle using a Vincent engine, with a Ducati frame. It was meant to be a project where Sid and his son could spend some quality time together. Big Sid asked his son, "Are we really going to build this Vincati?" His son responded, "Come Hell or High Water!" Sid's son did not exactly follow along in Sid's footsteps in life. The son loved motorcycling, but Sid once said to him that "You may be a good college professor, but you are a lousy mechanic". Now statements like this from Sid would and did anger his son, but knowing that as Sid was getting older, that their time together was becoming less and less. Eventually the son would respond by saying " That's me and don't I know it!" Their relationship at times was rocky, like a lot of parents and children, but eventually they became more comfortable with each other. The effort to assemble the machine had some difficulties, some mechanical. some personal. At one point the son wondered whether all the effort was really worth it. After all it was just an object. The son wondered how the motorcycle could have taken possession of him, but eventually decided that he was already and forever had been possessed by the motorcycle. They didn't take an easy road on the assembly, always insisting on the best quality high performance parts. But eventually the machine was finished. At one point Sid's son had to say, "Damn it Dad, I'm not a kid anymore!" I recommend this book highly. I didn't expect it to be as good as it was. There was just enough technical information to be interesting, yet not boring. And the descriptons of the relationships between the characters in the book was superb. While reading the book, I thought many times about my own father. At other times while reading, I thought about my own son and daughter. I love it when a book makes me think.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pizza on the Grill

I have cooked a lot of different foods on our grill, but not pizza. But my son had found a recipe for grilled pizza and tried it our on his grill. So on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, he offered to cook up a feast for us. We didn't object even if we thought this might be sort of unusual. I was placed in charge of starting the fire and drinking a beer or two, a job which I took with utmost seriousness. The other preparations for various ingredients were done by my son and other family members.
There is no such thing as a recipe card. A laptop displays the recipe and the other toppings are in various stages of readiness.
He prepared the crust from scratch. A litle flour, yeast and water. He carefully kneaded the dough and used a rolling pin to create the pizza crusts.
We covered the grill grates with foil. The idea is to cook the crust for a few minutes on one side, then turn them over, place the toppings on and cook to the finish.
You are supposed to turn the crust over after it begins to bubble a bit. All went according to plan. I just watched, my son did al the heavy work.
The crust is bubbling. A little extra virgin olive oil helps keep the crust from sticking to the foil.
After turning the crust over, the first step is to put on the sauce. We just used a mixture of organic tomato paste and sauce. To the sauce we added some herbs from our herb garden, oregano and basil primarily.
The placement of the sauce done with great care.
The other ingredients go on next. In this case pineapple, ham and sauteed mushrooms. Each person got to put on their own ingredients.
We sliced up a fresh pineapple for one of the possible ingredients.
After the main ingredients are placed on the pizza, the final ingredient was some very nice mozzarella cheese. I think a few people added in some feta and parmesan cheese as well. I'm not sure because I was in charge of drinking beer at this point.
Cheese is good, Cheese is fine, we like cheese all the time!
Some others, me included , opted for a more pepperoni type pizza. I added in a bit of fresh pepper from the garden. We have been disappointed with the production of peppers on our plants this year, but what peppers that have been produced have tasted very good.
A veritible plethora of pepperoni.
Ready to cook. It doesn't take long. The first pizzas produced were placed in the oven to keep warm. We did two at a time on the grill.
Ready to close the lid and cook.

We ate like little pigs, drank a little more beer and generally had a great day.

The pizza was fantastic!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Getting Zenish with the Starter Switch

Okay, so maybe Zenish isn't a real word. But I did say Ohmmm a couple of times while I was doing this little minor surgery on Max. I have been having this maddening little intermittent (very intermittent) problem with the starter on Max. The problem was so rare that it whas been difficult to diagnose the actual problem, and truth be known, I am not at all sure it is fixed yet. Sometimes I would punch the starter switch and nothing would happen. Nothing at all. I fiddled with battery connections and engaged in various other feeble attempts at diagnosing the problem. Then later, as if by magic, Max would start just like he usually does.
The scene underneath the instrument cluster after removing the shroud covering the handlebar.
I finally determined that maybe the problem was the starter switch itself, or possibly a connection at one of the brake levers. One of the brake levers has to be depressed to engage the starter. To check it out, the cover over the handlebar needed to be removed. Sounds simple, but you have to remove the mirrors, the turn signal light brackets, numerous little bolts and then carefully pry apart the plastic parts that fit into each other with little nobs and indentations. It didn't take an act of God, but I did say "Ohmmm" a time or two.
You can see the starter switch in this picture before removal. The lead wires are shown. They appeared to pass closely to the kill switch (not shown) and the leads to the brake lever for the lights.

My good friend Lloyd told me to look at the brake levers as well. They were supposed to depress or release some very tiny little plungers to turn on or off the brake lights and to open the connection for the starter. I didn't see anything wrong there.

My thought was that maybe the starter switch itself might be dirty and maybe I could clean it. Well. no such luck. It was all sealed and I was unable to take it apart.

Here's the switch after removal. The Mag Light came in real handy in spite of a relatively well lit garage .

Eventually I determined that it migt be a good idea to wrap some electrical tape around the leads to the sarter switch. This would provide some additional isulation for the wires that appeared to pass very closely, maybe even touch some other wires under the shroud of the handlebar. My hope was that this might solve the problem, Hmmmmm, I know, maybe not.

Here's the starter switch after reinstallation and with the tape around the leads.

We'll see if it works. Max has started fine ever since I did this. But did I really fix it?
If nothing else, I now know how to gat at all the "stuff" under the handlebar cover.
Small steps.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Blacktop Nationals; The Cars

The first Annual car truck and motorcycle show consisted more of autos than anything else. What few motorcycles I found were on my previous post. This post is dedicated to the automobiles. And this post contains pictures only of what I considered more to be the unusual automobiles. There were lots of Camaros and GTO's and 1960's era muscle cars. There were some nice ones, but I wanted to concentrate on more unusual cars. The next three Vettes are for Bobskoot because I know he has a red one.
The first red Vette The second one
And the third, a very nice '57 (?)
The show had its fair share of modified roadsters
I lked the hood lettering on this one.
Then there was this Crown Vic. Not factory colors obviously, but certainly unique and interesting.
My son really liked this truck. I did too.
Part of the underneath frame was made of wood.
Another pretty nice old sports car. I can't recall for sure what it is.
Sort of a Halloween theme to this roadster.
This one is called a Henry J. Not sure I had ever seen one. It was up for auction. Not sure what the fate of it was.
I always thought these E type Jaguars were pretty neat.
An MG looking into the cab.
And from the front.
I believe this was an Alf Romeo. I thought the gear shift placement was a bit unique.
A colorful Nomad station wagon. Very unique way of opening up the tailgate.
I know, not a lot of motorcycles, but there were some interesting cars.
Probably the silliest car, to me, at the show was a 1971 Ford Pinto station wagon. Truth be known, I owned a 1972 Pinto wagon for awhile when I was in college. It was dependable but exceedingly unexciting. My son took a picture of me near the Pinto, but I looked like such a dork in the picture, I decided not to post it. My gain, your loss.