Monday, December 29, 2008

Is Winter Almost Over Yet?????

Let me start by saying that I am a believer in the messages delivered by Al Gore et al related to global warming. But, the last two winter's have really challenged my faith in the concept.

As some of you may know, we live on a hill with a very steep driveway. (When you think steep, think the 2nd hill of this year's Montana Cup, then add a couple percent!) When it snows, we are no longer able to drive up and down. At that point, we resort to an ATV, a Kubota tractor, and good old foot power.

But, for the 2nd year in a row, we've had heavy snowfall. At this point we've had well over a foot of snow sitting on the ground (beginning the weekend of the USATF Cross Country meet in Spokane). That presents it's challenges; but, it's mostly manageable. And, the two weeks of single digit and below zero weather again presented some challenges; but, other than going through lots of extra firewood - it too was manageable.

What is kicking my ass for the 2nd year in a row is having spring come in late December. Just like last year we had nice steady rain all day on Saturday. With temps right around freezing - that made for a nice, thick coating of ice on the entire driveway. At this point, the ATV and the tractor are pretty much useless (try driving anything up or down a near vetical skating rink). And, walking is a study in personal safety every time that we leave the house.

Over the last 10 year years, there has been little snow during the winter seasons. Other than a day here and there, we were able to drive up and down the driveway with no problem.

Now, over the last two years I've spent significant portions of my winter seasons shoveling, and least enjoyable of all, chipping ice from about a quarter of a mile of driveway.

It's great to have the moisture - really helps to keep the forest fire potential down during the summers. And, makes for some beautiful forest growth during the spring. And, I know it's selfish of me; but, damn, I could really go for a bit of a warm spell right about now.

The Muddy Buzzard

Saturday, December 27, 2008


As we perch on our winter roosts, here is the hope that your holiday season is fruitful and filled with joy.

May all of your runs be with the wind at your back and pain free.

With the coming of the new year here's to hoping that you meet all your fitness and pesonal goals.

The Muddy Buzzard

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Spokane Story

All Right, so Alan King and I hit the course in Spokane for a preview about 3:30 in the afternoon. As we are running along, it gets comical. Heavy wet snow, temp is dropping, course is covered in slush, etc. At one point we just sort of start to laugh. The group ahead of us turns around to see what is so funny and we start to visit with them.

They turn out to be a team from Flagstaff, AZ (home of Northern Arizona University). When we say that we are from Montana, they say - "we have a guy on our team from Montana". Turns out it was Seth Watkins (Kalispell native and NAU alum). We visited with him a bit as we wrapped up our run.

[Bret Winegar (Kalispell native) and Ted Zderic were two other runners with Montana ties that competed; but, we didn't catch up to them during the weekend.]

So, there we are at the post-race party. Alan has had a couple (or 3 or 4 or more) of cold ones to celebrate the end of a the season. Sort of late during the night, I come upon him and Matt Winter visiting with Seth Watkins. After visiting for a couple more minutes Alan says - "How did Seth Watkins place?" About this time, Matt and I look at each other, thinking what the heck?

Then Alan says "You know, Seth Watkins - from Kalispell - how did he finish?" Well, Seth and I look at each other, then Seth looks at Matt, all the while we're all thinking - has Alan lost his mind?

Then Alan says "Seth, Seth Watkins, where did he place?" Finally, Matt says why don't you ask him yourself, he's standing right there. About this time, we can't hold the laughter in any longer.

Poor Alan, the beer was causing a problem with the messages getting from the brain to the mouth. He was thinking "Bret Winegar"; but, what was coming out was "Seth Watkins". Knowing that Seth knew Bret, he was trying to find out if Seth knew how Bret had made out in the race. But, imbibing and coherent speech are not always on common terms at the post race celebration.

Turned out to be one of the more comical moments of the weekend.

The Muddy Buzzard.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Couple Of Steps Ahead (and a little one back)

So, first the backward step. After a satisfying performance in Spokane, I took a couple of easy days early this week. Then, in the midst of a two day business trip, I came down with a bit of a flu bug. Body aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhea, mild fever - heck, even my eyeballs hurt. So, I had to actually take a few days off (Thurs. to Sat.). Certainly not the end of the world; and, probably helped me from getting even sicker and missing even more time. But, still don't like going backwards when the momentum finally seemed to be swinging forward.

But, back to the good stuff. I walked away from Spokane feeling good about my performance. I've had better days at USATF XC Nationals. Twice I've been top 15 in my age group and top 20 overall. But, all things considered, I'm quite happy with how things developed.

In the 5 or so weeks between Montana Cup and Spokane, I made some nice advances in my fitness. I felt as if I had some solid training. My mileage was creeping upwards in a nice steady progression. My hard workouts were improving in quality. My knee was holding up nicely to the daily training stresses. And, I was mentally feeling as if I was actually ready to race.

My primary goal had been to close the gap between myself and Tom DeLuca and Craig Kenworthy based on Montana Cup finishes. An secondary goal was to be within :30 per mile of Ray Hunt. Given the way that Ray had been running this year, I knew that this would be a good marker of how I actually stood.

As the race started out, the pack basically ran away from me in the first 1K. I was pretty concerned that my fitness hadn't actually improved. Tom and Craig were well ahead of me, Kirk Keller was barely in view and John Herring was out of sight. Ray was also out of view; but, that was pretty well expected.

At about a mile, I started to get into a groove and people started coming back to me. Before long I saw Kenworthy. He was clearly having an off day; but, I was still happy to pull up to him none the less. Shortly after that, I felt as though I was back in contact with Tom D. It took a bit longer; but, I ultimately was able to get up to and past Tom as well. Unexpectedly, Kirk was suddenly in view and it looked as though he was slowly coming back to me. I can't remember where it was that I got to him; but, there was still at least a full loop (2+ miles) left.

I then had illusions of being able to get to John Herring. He was now in sight; but, getting up that far was just a pipe dream. However, I continued to pull people in all the way to the finish. (Even though I didn't quite have the drive in the last couple hundred meters to get to one last batch of runners.)

And, in the final results, I was 2 minutes behind Ray (20 seconds per mile). So, all in all the race was a definite success based on my goals going into the event.

(Don't get me wrong - none of this was about me versus them. But, in a race of this nature - national championships with runners from all over the country - you have to consider known athletes to be able to use as markers to gauge your level of performance.)

In the end, I raced well and competed well. I felt strong all the way through the race. I felt "connected" to the race and wasn't just there running through. I was actually competing and racing. I stayed in race mentally the whole way. I'm still missing the general fitness to be able to be "fast"; but, it certainly was a huge improvement over where I had been in the last couple of months.

For the first time since April Fools Day, I think that I was actually able to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

The Muddy Buzzard

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holy Crap It Was Cold

I think that this picture pretty accurately portrays the conditions that we saw earlier today in Spokane. It was perhaps the worst conditions that I have ever raced in. 25 degrees or so, 10 to 15 mph winds and light snow cover. It was brutal. But, that was the good part of the day. By the time that the open men hit the course, it was 20 degrees and 20 mph +. It was not pleasant.

In spite of the conditions, fun was had by all those that braved the trek. Given the weather, the team logistics and all the other factors, it was so much more than just a race. It was an adventure. To use a favorite term of my Billings friend Coah Jay - it was an epic day.

Performance of the day was Matt Winter. He ran with the top tier throughout the race, looked great, and ended up with a 33:08 10K on a day that was far less than conducive to fast times.

Next up was Alan King. Although not as sharp as he would have liked, he still pulled off a 34:30ish performance. That's a time most of us are striving for on a nice day on the roads. It was a studly performance in the wind and on the snow.

Matt Seeley was the #3 guy and ran a strong, solid race from start to finish. Dewey Peacock had a bit of an off day; but, survived the conditions. Chuck Dumke, who had come along with Matt Seeley as a spectator, filled in for the late scratch of Jimmy Grant. He gets an all star award for racing and allowing the open men to have a scoring team.

Ray Hunt ran super on the men's masters side. Like Matt Winter, he was along the tail end of the top tier runners and pulled out a 37:15.

John Herring ran in as the number 2 guy in about 38:45. Tony Banovich was able to make some improvement since MT Cup and was our 3rd guy in 39:20.

Kirk Keller had been battling some illness in the 5 weeks since MT Cup; and, unfotrunately it caught up to him today. Tom DeLuca and Craig Kenworth rounded out the team finishes. But, due to a "wardrobe malfunction" of the timing chip variety, they didn't make it into the official results.

The open women ended up with only two runners. Jenni Brown of Polson looked great the whole way. She was running strong on the two 3K loops and had a great performance. Nicole Hunt had an off day; and, as seemed to be the case with many athletes, her success today came from surviving the conditions.

Demaris Taylor was our lone master's women. She started off the day of racing as a flash of gold and black.

For full results, check out the USATF site at

Check back for more of the stories within the stories from the snowy NW.

The Muddy Buzzard

Race Day Dawns White and Windy

5:00 a.m. and the day looked great. Light winds, no snow. Not a bad day for running.

6:30 a.m. and not so great. East winds, horizontal snow, forecast for temps to drop throughout the day (to 15 by 5:00 p.m. with below 0 wind chill). Not a bad day for hot toddies and a good book. But not so much for racing.

Everybody's ready to go. Looks like both are men's teams are staying intact.

The master's men's fieled is stacked, both individuals and teams. The open men's field isn't far behind. The level of compeition at these club championships has certainly risen over the years.

But, the great equalizer is going to be the weathr . How you handle the conditions will be a major factor in how you perform today.

Nicole Hunt is down getting in a shake out run on the treadmill. She continues to impress as she returns to high level racing after the birth of Mr. Eon.

Ray also looks like he is tuned up and ready to go. It will be exciting to see how he stacks up agains the rest of the old guy studs.

Alan King and Matt Winter are both full of nervous energy and ready to race. I have hi hopes for both of them.

Well, time to get ready to prep to head to the course.

More post race.

The Muddy Buzzard

We'll be off to the race soon ourselves.

Friday, December 12, 2008

We Made It, Me Made It, We Made It

Here in we are in Spokane on the eve of what is probably going to be a wet, windy and wintery XC meet for the USATF Club Cross Country Championships.

It looks like we are going to have a complete men's masters team and men's open team. We've lost one man on each of those teams; but, fortunately we had enough depth to still field teams (5 open men running, 6 masters men).

On the women's side, we had enough people choose not to chance the drive that we don't have teams for either open or master's. In the end, it appears as though we'll have two open women and two master's women. But, we aren't going to know for certain until the morning. There are a few people who are planning to come over in the morning; so, we'll have to wait and see how that shakes out.

Alan King and I drove over and arrived about 2:00 p.m. Spokane time. Roads were dry and clear all the way to about 30 miles out of Spokane. Then we hit the big fluffy snowflakes. Actually, the ride over this morning was quite pretty. Clear, crisp skies from Butte to Drummond. From Missoula to Lookout pass the fog and cold air inversions left the pine and larch trees coated in silvery ice. It was actually quite a pretty drive.

Things are a bit different here in Spokane Valley. The temp isn't bad right now - right around freezing. But, we've seen snow and rain and the course is likely to be a bit soggy. When we toured the course just before dark, it was a blanket of white, wet snow.

The prediction for tonight is for snow (up to 6"). Temps are expect to be high 20's - then as the wind picks up, the temps will likely drop during the day. It's likely to make for some interesting racing and some challenges on clothing selection.

But, the BSDP runners are excited and ready to go.

Check back in the morning for a race day weather update.

I'll also try to update the site with some reports post-race (and prior to the post race imbibing).

Till tomorrow

The Muddy Buzzard

XC Rules

Spokane, here we come (Snow Be Damned)

Here I sit in Butte en route to Spokane. The Buzzard’s wings are tired after a lot of travel time this week. Started Monday from Plains and traveled to Butte in the evening. Then to Bozeman on Tuesday for some meetings. On to Sheridan, WY Wednesday morning, a few meetings, then to Billings that night. Yesterday (Thursday) were some more meetings. Then left in the evening with Alan King, stopped by Bozeman to see Kelly Fulton (and his lovely wife Liz), then back to Butte. Today it’s Missoula then Spokane. Going to be happy to be able to roost for a day. By the time this trip is done the old wings will have seen about 1,500 miles of wear and tear.

It’s a crisp, clean morning here in the Mining City. And, yesterday was a beautiful throughout the state. Hard to believe that we are on the cusp of a big storm. It has the potential to make for some challenging race conditions (and some even more challenging return driving conditions).

Because of some of the forecast conditions, we’ve had a couple of people drop off the team. It’s been an interesting dilemma. Here we have a national championship race right in our backyard. Which should, in theory, make it easy for bunches of us to drive over, hit the race and then drive home. But, because of the potential for snow, slick roads and sub-zero temps, it’s actually more of a challenge for us to get there and back than it is for someone from, say, Atlanta. They drive to the airport, take a plane, rent a car to just travel around town in Spokane, get back on a plane and leave. No fuss, no muss. Meanhwile, we may be driving 30 mph over a couple of icy mountain passes and working hard to keep it out of the ditch.

We’ll see what today brings. At this point it looks like we are likely to have both of our men’s teams intact. And, for those of us who do make it to edges of the Palouse, we hope that the weather will actually give us a psychological advantage. Remember, we’re hardy old souls descended from mining camps, timber villages, railroad towns and cattle ranches. We’ve seen the worst before and are ready to overcome once again.

Late morning update - we just landed in Missoula. John Herring, Matt Winter, Ray and Nicole Hunt, Kirk Keller, Demaris Taylor, Alan King and myself are all on the road and en route. So far, we've only lost a total of 4 runners; and, all but the open women's teams are intact.

The excitement is building for what promises to be more than just an race - we're going to have us a genuine adventure.

Go BSDP!!!!!!

The Muddy Buzzard

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's A Cold One, Mr. Grinch

Looks like Grinch is going to make his prescence known at the USATF meet in Spokane this weekend. Based on the weather forecast - snow and cold may be coming to town. I guess as a silver lining, the weather should be setting the way for Santa to make his visit in a couple of weeks :-)

Sort of reminds me of the last time that XC nationals were in the region. In 1993 the meet was held in Missoula. In the days leading up to the meet, snow and cold moved in and left a couple of inches of snow on the course and a temp of low teens at the start of the meet.

Should make for a bit of a challenge. We're hoping that the warm weather states are a bit caught off guard and it helps give us a competitive advantage.

The first of us will be starting the trek westward tomorrow (Thursday). Alan King and I will be leaving Billing after work tomorrow afternoon. (I'm just happen to be in Billings on Business this week.) Several of us will be in Spokane Friday afternoon to preview the course and take in some of the technical meetings.

The Buzzard will do his best to keep you all up to date on how the meet shapes up.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Competition

As the Big Sky Distance Project harriers hit the turf at Plantes Ferry Park in Spokane for the USATF Club Nationals Cross Country Championships, they’ll be competing against some of the best athletes in the country. (Or as Bobby Bouchet (aka The Waterboy) would say – “That there’s some high quality athletic competition.”)

On the men’s open front, we have some of the best Training Groups/Distance Teams around. This includes the Hanson’s/Brooks team (Olympic Marathoner Brian Sell is listed as part of their team), ZAP Fitness, McMillan Elite (Andrew Carlson) and the Oregon TC Elite (Ryan Bak, Don Sage and Louis Luchini). Some of the individuals who are listed to compete include runners with Montana connections including Brett Winegar, Seth Watkins and Ted Zderic.

The women’s side seems to be a bit more wide open and doesn’t have some of the top end elites on the men’s side. But, I can guarantee you that the teams will racing hard and looking to take home top honors.

The men’s master’s 40+ team competition could be the most closely contested of the day. Front Line Racing, Fluffy Bunny T.C., Fleet Feet Racing – Boulder, and Club Northwest. Some of the best men’s master’s runners in the countries are competing on these teams. And, I know that some of them take this meet very seriously and structure their fall racing campaign around this meet.

The women’s master’s 40+ team is no cakewalk either. With the Impala, See Jane Run and Club NW teams, the medal slots will be hotly contested. For a full view of who’s competing, check out the confirmed entry list at

We’ll see what Saturday brings. It would certainly be an early Xmas present for The Buzzard if one of the 4 BSDP teams had a podium finish. He would even consider a top 5 team finish as making for a Happy Holiday season.

Here’s to hoping that we have fun; but, that we run hard and run fast.

Wish us the best.

The Muddy Buzzard

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Make It Hurt Baby, Make It Hurt

So, I knew that it would be a long, hard road back after a fractured patella. I didn't think it would take quite this long; but, I knew it wouldn't be a matter of a couple of weeks and all would be back to normal.

But after 3 months of no running, a month of easing back into it, then a couple of months of easy mileage, I still didn't think it would be quite so hard to get back to being able to really push the hard workouts.

Part of truly competitive running and racing requires learning to deal with discomfort. And, in order to be prepared to deal with the discomfort of racing, you have to practice dealing with that discomfort during training efforts.

What I'm discovering, much to my dismay, is that I'm finding that it is a challenge getting back to the point of pushing my training efforts to that point of discomfort. I'm getting better at it; but, after so many years of running and racing, I thought that it would be easier to get back into the mode of hard training efforts.

In some ways, I'm finding it to be a unique challenge. It's almost like being a beginning runner again and re-learning all about training effort. A fascinating and unique challenge; but, not an enjoyable one.

But, every workout brings me a bit closer to my personal version of "normal". I've had to come to grips with the fact that it will likely be spring before I'm back to the type of race fitness that I want. But, we'll just keep picking away, step by step, mile by mile.

The Muddy Buzzard.

The Countdown to Spokane

So, a week from today the Big Sky Distance Project will be getting ready to toe the starting lines at the USA Track & Field Club Championship Cross Country meet in Spokane.

We'll be taking 4 full teams.

First up will be the Master's Women's team (hometown)(MT Cup age division placing) - Julie Gilchrist (Ovando)(2), Debbie Gibson (Helena)(3), Pam Schiemer (Missoula)(9), Jennifer Straughan (Missoula)(11) and Demaris Taylor (Helena)(12).

They'll be followed by the Master's Men - Sandbagger (aka Ray) Hunt (Deer Lodge)(1), Kirk Keller (Three Forks)(3), John Herring (Missoula)(5), Craig Kenworthy (Bozeman)(6), Tom DeLuca (Bozeman)(10), Tony Banovich (Plains)(13) and Chas Day (Bozeman)(N/A).

The Women's Open will be next - Nicole Hunt (Deer Lodge)(2), Jenni Brown (Polson)(6), Rye Palen (Missoula)(7), Marta Fisher (Helena)(10), Jenny Newton (Missoula)(13) and Michelle Bazzanella (Helena)(14).

The last of the teams to hit the line will be the Men's Open - Matt Winter (Missoula)(1), Alan King (Billings)(2), Kelly Fulton (Bozeman)(5), Jimmy Grant (Missoula)(6), Dewey Peacock (Bozeman)(13) and Matt Seeley (Polson)(N/A).

So, you can see that we have great representation from across the State with 6 of the 7 Montana Cup regions represented (Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Helena, Kalispell and Missoula). We have large cities (Billings) and small (Ovando & Plains). Young (24) to Less Young (65+). Based on Montana Cup finishes (which is the most competitive single head to head race in the state), we have some of the best athletes in Montana competing as part of our motley crew.

The teams are getting excited and looking forward to the fast and furious fun next weekend.

Check back often for team and meet updates.

See you in cross country's mud pits and the frozen tundra

The Muddy Buzzard

Little Bitty Baby Step

Okay, so last week the Buzzard was excited about hitting 40 miles for the week. Well, this week he's done 2 better - that's right - a 42-mile week. 6.00 miles per day.

Over the next few weeks, the Buzzard hopes to fly right through a few more barriers. First a 45-mile week. Then 7.00 miles per day average (49-mile week). Then, the preferred base for weekly mileage - 50 Miles Per Week. May even have to break down a have a couple of cold ones at that point.

So - again - we'll keep taking the minor victories. It's sort of like the football season. Even the little victories count as a W. And, you get enough W's and pretty soon you have a successfull year!

See you on the roads, tracks and trails.

The Muddy Buzzard.