Each weekday afternoon at 4p, we get together and cover some of the issues affecting us in Eastern Iowa that are important to me and, I hope, you too. Whether it's sports, flood recovery, politics, entertainment or how my kids and dog are driving me crazy (and me them), you'll hear it everyday on the Blowtorch!
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I don’t listen to your show enough to be a P1, but do so whenever I’m near a radio at the right time. Yesterday I caught some of your show while Boston was being discussed. I ran the race back in 2008. Sometimes after doing things like that, I try to capture the experience in words to preserve the memories. Some of what I wrote is copied and pasted below. You can look at it and share some of it if you wish, but please do not disclose my name or the names of others mentioned. It’s not really about me, but more what the experience was like and how it felt. This is a look back to a better day and the sort of experience that was tarnished for so many this year. It’s sad that some, being killed and badly injured were robbed of so much more. Life on earth is fleeting and fragile.
Patriots Day April 21st, 2008
I got up at 5:00 am, grabbed everything I would need for race day, and left the hotel. Mary would stay at the hotel and watch the race on TV. The coverage would be wall to wall on all the local stations, providing much better viewing than one would experience in the mob of humanity downtown. I took the trains to a downtown park area to get on a bus leaving for the starting line by 6:00 am. While waiting in line for the bus, I met a guy from Davenport, Iowa. Another runner from Phoenix sat by me on the bus. The ride to athlete’s village in Hopkinton took about an hour.
Athlete’s village was like a five acre pasture behind the Hopkinton high school. It was lined on two sides with porta potties. There were a couple large tents with drinks and snacks available. Loud speakers were used to make any needed announcements. I found a spot on the grass and laid on top of one of my big garbage bags to rest and carb load. It was cloudy and cold. Temperatures were in the high 40’s to low 50’s, but warming as time went on. Over 20 thousand other runners were there as well. I got up to use a porta potty. It’s something one has to do often when drinking lots of fluids and carb loading before a race. There were long lines for all the porta potties. Mine was almost full by the time I got to use it. Ideally, the race would start immediately following a visit to a porta potty. Once the race starts, body fluids are lost through sweat and respiration rather than filling up a bladder. The concern is about how full the bladder will get between the last urination and the start of the race. This is not a problem at smaller races, but there is a trick to dealing with this issue at a large event.
Eventually, we were called to start making the ¾ mile walk from athlete’s village to the starting line at the center of Hopkinton. The buses lined the streets along the way. Our bags containing our belongings had our bib numbers printed on them and were to be thrown into a bus window with the corresponding range of numbers. They would be retrieved after we cross the finish line in Boston. I threw my bag into the bus window, but kept three items back: the pair of sweat pants I was wearing to keep warm, a large bottle of Gatorade, and my extra large garbage bag. I wore the garbage bag like a poncho to stay warm. It extended down below my knees.
The runners are lined up behind the starting line according to bib number. Low bib numbers correspond to fast qualifying times and starting positions near the front. The runners are sectioned off by ropes into corrals with about a thousand runners each. My bib number was 8962, placing me towards the back of the 8th corral. I waited until about five minutes before the start of the race before entering. The starting area was several blocks long. There are some downsides to this event for the people who live in this area. They are swamped with thousands of runners, and most of them have to urinate at the same time. Some of them are behind a tree in their back yard. Regardless of any rules handed down from a governing body, one still has to urinate regardless of the availability of proper facilities. In this case, one needs to get the job done discretely. Policemen were everywhere. I was standing right beside one when I urinated. I drank my large bottle of Gatorade and refilled it with urine while wearing the large garbage bag as a poncho. The bottle with the lid screwed back on and the garbage bag soon found their way to a trash can. I threw my sweat pants on to a pile to be donated to the homeless and entered corral number 8 towards the rear. The sun was starting to come out. It was going to be a beautiful day!
We soon heard the national anthem. The dividing ropes were released. Roughly a hundred people from corral number nine pushed their way in front of me before just before the starting gun went off. The race was on! But no, wait, it will still be several minutes before this crowd will funnel past the starting line. I just went with the flow. We were running slowly by the time we reached the starting line. The pace picked up quickly. This was a fast crowd. I was surrounded by thousands of runners with capabilities equal to my own. One fine effort or one small mistake would mean the difference between placing in front of or behind thousands of runners.
Thousands of people lined the entire length of course with the exception of a few small wooded areas on the left side early in the race. These allowed the people who could not afford a big garbage bag like mine another opportunity to pee behind a tree. There were a few small hills with a net loss in elevation during the first miles. The race felt like driving on a busy freeway with most of the traffic going slightly slower than the desired speed. With so many runners, I was constantly passing someone and occasionally being passed. Sometimes I would follow someone going nearly the same pace for a long time before passing. I remember following a young woman wearing a sign on her back saying she was getting married on Saturday. She was wearing some lace and ribbons in her hair. I also passed a guy wearing a nerd outfit with a “kick me” sign on his back and a propeller hat.
I stayed on the left side of the course throughout the race and used it as a passing lane. This put me in close proximity to the people lining that side of the course. A lot of the children would hold out their hands to be high fived by the passing runners. I learned that one needs to be extra gentle when high fiving small children because they are easily knocked over.
Usually there is a song playing over and over in my mind while running. On this day, that song was “The Starting Line” by Paul Thorn. It’s a great song for a marathon. Then, I passed by some girls jumping on a trampoline. Wilson Picket’s “Mustang Sally” was playing in the background. “Mustang Sally” soon became the dominate song playing in my mind. I passed by a guy singing some pretty good Johny Cash, but it was “Mustang Sally” all the way to the end! It was hard not to smile with all the screaming spectators. I stopped at all the aid stations to grab a cup of Gatorade, pull off to the side, chug it in two gulps, and run again. Drinking on the run without spilling is not one of my skills. There was a slight headwind with the temperature rising to 68 degrees. I could hear the girls of Wellesley College screaming a half mile away. They were holding “Kiss Me” signs, but I did not stop to swap any spit.
Soon, we were running the hills of Newton. Like most landmarks along the course, they just seemed like a blur to me. I’m not even sure which one was the infamous Heartbreak Hill. The hills felt like the training simulations on the treadmill. I just held my pace and plowed over them. I reached the top before I got too winded and had plenty of time to recover before the next hill began. I was passing too many runners to focus on individually. I fixated on other runners that were passing a lot of people and made them my targets to pick off one by one. We were heading into Boston and I was still feeling good. It’s at this point when I start thinking I should really start kicking it in, but just didn’t have a good enough feel for the distance remaining to the finish line. I just kept cruising along. I passed a guy wearing a Sturgis Falls half marathon shirt just like the one I was wearing. He had to be somewhat local from back home. He was really hurting at this point in the race. Soon, we turned on to Boylston Street. This had to be getting close to the finish line. Soon could see it and picked up the pace a little as did many others. I really could have turned it up another notch, but cruised in comfortably hard, weaving around others to pass them. The time showing on the clock was 3:20:something, a time good enough to qualify me for the Boston Marathon in my current age group as well as my previous, younger age group. The actual chip time would be better yet, accounting for the minutes elapsed before I reached the starting line. We continued to walk along the street and were given a bottle of water and a cape to prevent hypothermia. Volunteers along the side of the street took the timing chips off our shoes and gave us our finisher’s medals. Off on one of the side streets were the buses with our bags. I got my bag and dug through my stuff to find some more Gatorade, rice crispy bars, and a map to locate the nearest subway entrance. I was right beside the one I was looking for, but was not experienced enough to know what one was supposed to look like and continued walking until I found the next one. Everyone wanted to say “Hi” and congratulations. It was as if we were famous. Runners including a girl from Washington DC wanted to talk about the race. I got on the train for the ride back to the hotel. Other runners were on the train as well just as they were in the morning heading out to the race. This time, we were kidding each other about how we all had salt on our faces and looked like crap!
Mary was waiting back at the hotel. She had seen the race on TV. The women’s race had an exciting finish. We rested for a while. I took a shower. We went for a walk to see if there was a good place to eat at a nearby strip mall we had seen from the taxi that took us to the grocery store. There was not much there. A couple cops pulled up to the donut shop. I asked them where I could find a comfortable family type restaurant. They gave us directions for about a half mile walk to the downtown area of Somerville to a mom and pop place called Mt Vernon. We found it a little tricky to get there, but it was worth it. This was just ahead of the dinner rush. It was a white table cloth restaurant. I had lobster, two big ones. The waitress showed me how to use a specialized tool to crack the shells. There was melted butter to dip the meat into. It was good stuff. She probably had no idea we were in town for the marathon. It was nice to get a break from people that wanted to talk about the race.
We walked back to the hotel (lots of other runners staying there as well). An Asian girl walked with us. She was going to school in New York and was in town visiting friends. She was trying to find the train station that we would pass close by on our way to the hotel. We rested at the hotel for a while and talked to Mark and Lauren on the phone. They were on a road trip looking at colleges. Lauren called back a few minutes later. She had gotten on the internet with her cell phone and got my chip time results. The official time was 3:15:44! Steve Dircks from back home also called to see how it went. We decided to get a look at the beach before dark. We took the orange line (train) to the blue line to get to beach area. A couple young gals on the train had a small and friendly dog that seemed to like Mary. We walked along the beach until dark. Mary instinctively started picking up shells just as she had done in San Diego. These shells were larger and more broken up. We got a couple drinks at a bar near the beach. This was also far enough away from downtown Boston so that no one had any idea I was there for the marathon…just a beer. We went back to the hotel. We had to get up at 4 am to catch the 7 am flight back to Chicago and Cedar Rapids. We flew back to Chicago with an older Wisconsin couple. The wife was from a small Iowa farm. The husband worked as corrections counselor at a prison. He was in his 60s (looked like he was 40) and was running his second Boston. His first Boston was during the 70s, when it was a big event, but nothing like today. I met a guy from South Dakota while waiting for the connecting flight to Cedar Rapids. He finished in the top 200. Lance Armstrong got in his way if you can imagine that. We were back in Cedar Rapids by noon. All the Iowa finishers were listed in the Des Moines Register and Cedar Rapids Gazette. It’s amazing so many people noticed I ran the race. I beat some of the best runners from this area, but they probably went out too fast and had a bad day at Boston. Mrs. Joe McGrane called to congratulate me. I did not know it, but one of her sons is a good runner, lives in Boston, ran the race in roughly 2:56 or something and works for Addias. He was working the expo when we were there if only we had known.
There is only one Boston. It lives up to all the hype and then some. The people who run Boston do not run the race just to finish and probably do not live their lives that way either. It is an event like no other. The people of Boston have an appreciation of what it is to not just finish the race, but to run it well.
At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I am going to try to put into words the reason why running the Boston Marathon is so important, even though it is exactly the sort of marathon I would otherwise avoid. It’s in a cluttered up, big city. When you’ve seen one big city, you’ve seen them all. They are full of people, buildings, streets, cars, and almost anything else one can imagine. All of this crap stands between me and whatever I’m trying to find in this mess. The streets are almost useless because so many only go in one direction, have limited access, and no handy place to park if even if one does manage to get anywhere. There is no point to renting a car. Instead of having the starting line near the finish line, it’s located 26.2 miles away. The bus takes an hour to get there. It took a five minute walk, a couple 20 minute train rides, another five minute walk, and a ten minute wait in line just to get to the bus. Then I’ll get dumped off with 20000 others waiting in line for a portapoty, and think about rubbing elbows with all of them during the much anticipated race. None of this was a problem in Bismarck, but everything is a problem in a big city. I don’t know how anyone gets anything done in these rat holes. These big cities are supposed to be like the center of the universe, but most of the time it seems they don’t even have a can of diet Pepsi much less anything else I want. There is little use trying to take any pictures with all the congestion and clutter. Even the stars at night are eclipsed by the city’s glare. None of this compares with Bismarck in North Dakota, Fairbanks in Alaska, or home in rural Iowa. The city environment and all that goes with it is normally the last thing I would want to face on race day, or any other day as far as I am concerned.
That being said, Boston is not just any marathon. At 112 straight years, it is the oldest annual marathon in the world. There is no ground more hallowed in the sport of running than the 26.2 miles that start in Hopkinton and end in Boston. This is where history is made. For that reason and more, the Boston marathon has become the most prestigious marathon in the world. As the sport has grown, many big city marathons now have a lot more runners than Boston. They tend to be run on wide city streets and freeways. The historic Boston course is only 38 feet wide and only accommodates about a little over 20,000 runners (25,000 entries are allowed, but a percentage will always be unable to compete or drop out due to injury or other reasons). The number of entries is held down by setting qualifying times for each men’s and women’s age group to levels are beyond the capabilities of most runners. Several other marathons routinely attract a few world class runners that are just as fast if not faster than the top finishers at Boston, but no other marathon has a field of 20,000 competitive runners that comes close to matching that of Boston. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon has become the single most popular challenge for marathon runners. Only the most gifted of athletes easily qualify for Boston with their first marathon. For many, several attempts are made over a period of years before they are successful. Most who go the distance of 26.2 miles will never live to cross the finish line with a Boston Qualifying time.
Finishing a marathon is a notable achievement, but qualifying for Boston is something special. It’s been said that it is better to be at the starting line of the Boston Marathon than to be at the finish line of any other race. Sometimes people mention they run marathons on their resume, but they often add the words “including Boston” if they have done so. It’s been said that some finish lines just mean more than others.
To run the Boston Marathon means that you earned your way there by doing whatever was necessary to become one of the best. Over 400 thousand marathon finishes are recorded annually in the United States. A small percentage of these are fast enough to qualify for Boston. Most attempts are made on marathon courses that are flat and fast. Each year, over 20000 of these runners from all over the country and the world congregate at all major hubs of transportation as they make their way to Boston. Upon arrival to a place like Chicago O’hare, it becomes obvious there are many other runners, all with a story of their own, taking part in the same journey. It is not hard to tell who they are. It shows in their eyes, their physique, the way they walk, the shoes they are wearing, the gear they are carrying, what they are eating, and what they are drinking. If that is not enough, they are probably wearing a sweatshirt bearing the name of a marathon they have run and probably have their nose buried in some of the official Boston marathon literature that would only be in the possession of an authentic entrant. After feeling the pain, shedding enough sweat to fill a bath tub, and pushing on to overcome the necessary barriers to a successful effort, one can recognize the same in others. With only the slightest look or nod of the head we otherwise total strangers from completely different worlds share one common bond unknown to our closest friends and family who have supported us every step of the way: we know what it took to get where we are. We are not the one in a million, world class athletes, but today we are getting a taste of greatness. We are average people who’ve taken a basic activity common to human existence to a level achieved by relatively few in our history on this planet. Because of this single accomplishment, we share a measure of mutual respect and a moment of anticipation. Something big is about to happen, and we are part of it. We are going to Boston!
Melissa Cruickshank: Why I left my child in the car unattended
A picture of a
Many of the discussions about the incident and the above photo are disapproving. The people who spotted the baby in the car also felt that way, staying by the car’s side until the mom was reached and had returned to the vehicle.
I understand why people feel strongly about this. Although the baby looks very young and well-cared-for (young babies sleep a lot), who knows how long the mom would have been in the store. Some people have called the mom lazy, wrong and neglectful.
But I’ll admit that I’ve done this.
My baby is 8 months old. I pick her up before I pick up my preschooler. Most of the time, she is awake when I get to my daughter’s preschool, so I lug her in her car seat into the preschool, jostling to hold her and enter my code at the same time. I then round up my daughter, her coat and papers and get us all back into the car safely, careful not to drop all the tiny scraps of paper and “artwork” my daughter made that day.
One day several weeks ago, however, I pulled into the parking stall on a snowy day, turned around and saw my baby was sound asleep. I poked her. Still asleep. Coughed loudly. Snoring. Opened my door and shut it. Asleep.
I sat and thought about my next steps for probably five minutes. I could be in and out of the building in under two minutes. I imagined my steps and thought through any hiccups in my plan, but came to the conclusion that I could be in and out in no time.
So, I locked the doors, started the car with my remote start and peeked in one more time to make sure she was asleep. Then ran. I literally ran to the door, ran down the hall and hurried my daughter to the car to find the baby still sleeping soundly.
I also must admit that I have done it again a handful of times again when she’s sound asleep as we pull into the lot. Not every day. Not every week. But, once in awhile. And, each time I come back to find her still asleep.
I understand that my plan isn’t foolproof. I understand something could go wrong, even in those short two minutes. But, in a very busy preschool parking lot during pick-up time, it’s pretty unlikely.
Am I lazy? Maybe. Am I wrong? Probably. But, am I neglectful. I don’t think so.
I wanted to write a note regarding yesterday’s show on the subject of the CR Casino. Our opinions are like this – Steve Gray and Clark McLeod have done their thing – made a lot of money in CR – and have irritated and disappointed a lot of employees, people of CR and crushed families and investors along the way. Many people suffered – job losses, loss of money from investing with their company(s) – including my husband and I as well as our kids that were employed there. These 2 men did NOT want their employees or the CR community to know any of the details – they kept saying everything was well within their company. So first hand we know the type of people these men were to work with – but you know darn right they didn’t suffer one bit over the downturn of the company but their employees and local residents sure did. Why they feel like they should come out again to expect CR support is beyond us – they should really be ashamed of themselves and sit quiet – like I said these men have already made their money in CR and took CR residents down while they prospered with no loss for themselves.
The other thing I’d like to discuss is your information given about the employees selling the stock if they didn’t like it! Not valid Bob. If you were employed by McLeod USA or the subsequent company names they kept changing to along the way selling stock was not an option until you were no longer employed in the company. Then the 401K you know as well as the rest of us that as long as a company you work for feeds anything in to that 401K it is stuck. When you leave the company you have the option to move it somewhere else but there is a timeline on that process to avoid any tax consequences. So we feel the ranting and raving you did yesterday about it being everyone elses fault is purely false.
We were traveling back to Iowa at the time we listened and were happy to finally be in the range to hear local WMT radio as we got in to Iowa. But we have to tell you the 30 minute commercial you gave from 5:30-6 PM about YES CASINO was absolutely disgusting. I’m sure a lot of companies in the CR area would have been pleased to have had a portion of that 30 minutes for you to offer FREE commercial for them as well. It would have been better to give you quick opinion and open the phone lines for local discussion but no you did a free 30 minute commercial in favor of the casino.
See it here.