Musical Trails

” Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette. Puff, puff, puff them and if you puff yourself to death. Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate that you just have to make him wait, but you just got to have another…..cigarette”

Nothing like a little Texas swing from Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen to start a trail run. 924186 Now, I have always been a bit of a late bloomer as they say. I got married at a later age,had a child at a later age, still have not matured in many ways, and still put stamps on envelopes and mail my bills. But I am embracing technology and now have a new partner on my winter trail runs- Pandora. You might say, ” Pat- what is so novel about running with ear buds? Everybody does it.” Well I tried the I-Pod a number of years ago and didn’t like it because when I am riding my mountain bike, I like the feedback of sound from the trails. Same with skiing. If I hit an ice patch, I want to be able to hear it so my reaction is appropriate and not be distracted by Mick yelling in my ear that he needs some satisfaction. But running the trails- that is a horse of a different color. Thanks to Janet, JR, Chris, and Daryl, I have finally found Pandora on the trail and have loaded up my shuffle opportunities with some of my favorite music. download (3)

With the Byrds, Commander Cody, The Dead, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco and a host of other music from my college years, I can run over those logs and rocks and make time to the cadence of my favorite songs. I can get lost on those trails with daydream visions of my old dorm room with Bob Rose and his aviator sunglasses getting ready to put his KLH speakers out the window for spring term- blasting the Commander for everyone outside. I can see the cracked linoleum floors and see the packed refrigerator with Genesee Cream Ale provided by Jeff Ruggles. I can even see that curmudgeon of a lawyer Pat Clair, with his long black hair back in the day, tapping his toes to the rhythm of the Byrds. I can see the layout of that room with the early post office decor- because it genuinely was ripped off from the campus post office by a number of rowdies in our dorm. I laugh as I hear these old tunes and it helps me through the dark nights of the winter on the dark and desolate trails. I have run our trail system for 35 years. I have not become involved in the Fat Bike craze or the studded mountain bike tire craze yet because when it starts to get cold, sloppy, and icy, I park the mountain bike and pull out my trail running shoes. photo Something different and no hassle with extra clothes and a mud/ice caked bike. But again, I am a late bloomer and I may change. In my defense, my behaviors may be archaic, but I have always tried the latest sports equipment looking for an advantage. I did embrace the oversize tennis racquets, shaped skis, and 29er mountain bikes. But with regards to winter trail activities,I am still in the trail running,hiking,and snowshoe mode. But my new friend Pandora has made it all the more enjoyable. For 35 years I had to entertain myself with my own inane thoughts on those dark, lonely, winter trail runs. Now I have my old college musical friends running and hiking with me.

When the first real snow arrives, I pull out the snowshoes and am in a more contemplative mood. I like the beauty of the snow covered trees in the woods. My eclectic taste in music changes on these nights as I listen to Enya, Celtic Women, Sara McLaughlin,and Libera. The haunting Celtic melodies or the choir music of Libera almost elevate me as I hike the snow covered trails with my snowshoes. It is as if I am almost in another world of some kind with that peaceful, contemplative music in my ears coupled with the visual pastoral settings of a snow covered landscape.

It is interesting how music affects your mood and manages performance in activities like trail running. I like the shuffling of my selections but when that hard uphill comes into play right before the end at the parking lot, I like the ability to kick into my last effort with some inspirational music from ………..lets say……..The New Riders…….” Panama Red.” ” Just don’t know when Red’s in town, he keeps well hidden under ground…….” Ahhh, made it up the hill. Amazing how that music got me going. Hey- I am a late bloomer. You guys have had the ear buds for years. I am just now discovering and enjoying it. Keep bringing me into the 21st century my friends. Thanks for reading and enjoy the winter.

” The Autumn Weather…….turns the leaves to flame.”

” It’s a long long way.  From May to December.  But the days grow short, when you reach September.”

Kurt Weill

These haunting words from Kurt Weill in his famous ballad not only speak to the season change, but also to the seasonal changes in our lives as we age.  I have always enjoyed the fall because of the spectacular foliage and cooler weather.  Sweaters, fires, Halloween, Thanksgiving are all special to me and so important to take in every year.  As the masses head to the gyms because of the time change, my crowd is a bit different in that we embrace the shortened days and time change with our lights on mountain bike rides and trail runs.  Back in the day, I first started to ride a mountain bike in the fall.  It was a great departure from road riding and the solace of the woods which I have always embraced, is wonderful from the vantage point of a mountain bike.  No cars, technical challenges that keep your attention and allow your mind relief from the rigors of the day.  But what to do as the days grew short?  Lights!!  We have been through the evolution of lighting technology to the point where it is not necessary to purchase a light like we did back in the day that costs $300.00. Sure, there are lights that cost that much and even more today but with the technology coming from overseas with LED, the cost of really superb lighting systems can be attained for under $100.00.  night ride october (2 of 1)

As I have aged, I have migrated from the competitive mindset to the “enjoyment of the ride” phase of my life.  Used to be that we all did night rides as training for the now basically defunct 24 Hour races.  But the joy of night riding is now even more pleasurable for me as I have time to enjoy the rides versus the 4:30 AM pressure rides of the past when my boy was involved in sports.  I get some hall passes now as an empty nester and to take in the woods at night in a relaxed manner is a truly different experience.  Close your eyes and imagine what we are experiencing today.  The musty smell of fallen leaves on the trail.  That smell of a distant wood fire.  The distinct smell of a passing buck as you eyeball a 6 pointer almost face to face on the trails.  Oftentimes I turn my lights out in the middle of a night ride to experience the silence of the woodlands.  Early fall, the crickets are my only companions as I gaze up into the clear night and see multitudes of stars peeking through the canopy of the rapidly changing treeline.  When I ride with friends, it is really fun to watch the line of lights light up the trails.  The friendships. The accountability of the weekly night rides extending what has been an absolutely spectacular riding season here in the East.  Taking the time to stop and experience.  These are things that I didn’t value early in my riding years because of the constant pressure of maintaining fitness.  Sure, I like to stay fit, but the most enjoyable part of riding now is the experience of the trail and the congenial atmosphere of riding with friends or riding solo at my own pace.  NiteRider2

Night riding with friends generates some interesting conversations on the trail when we compare lighting systems.  It is amazing to compare the bright LED technology to the old days of the yellow beam generated by Night Rider or Night Sun.  Both of those companies have stepped up their game but there is so much competition today especially with all of the imported inexpensive lights flooding the market.  Battery life, wiring, lumens, LED and other issues are brought forth on the trail and also continued in our local after ride watering hole-The OTB Cafe.  My wife and non-riding friends are amazed at the enthusiasm and the conversations that are related to how many lumens a light will actually produce compared to the claims of the manufacturer.  The “oneupsmanship” is really amusing as guys compare their lighting systems on the trail only to be totally outdone by a new system utilized by the Dirt Rage Magazine crew.  This $1200.00 retail light is ridiculously bright and the mortal man would not spend that kind of dough to stay upright on the trails at night.  But it is fun to see how that drowns out all of our lighting systems.  photo

So, if you think that the waning daylight and pending time change relegates you to the local gym, think again my friends.  The trails provide enjoyment long into the late fall and winter if you are prepared and game for riding in the dark. I see trail runners with their headlamps, dog walkers with headlamps and lights for their dogs, hikers utilizing LED technology.  Lots of folks on the trails after dark.   My friend the Shark(Mark Sauers) also has some advice for night rides as the weather deteriorates.  He says there is no such thing as bad weather- only bad clothing.  How true.   If we remember that and prepare, our experiences on the trail at night can continue through most of the winter.  Keep riding/running/hiking and for those who don’t have a light…………get on it!!  Thanks for reading.

Navigating the Adventure Waterways

Piloting a water craft has never been my strong suit.  I have always been attracted to rafts, kayaks, canoes and the like, but my technique has never allowed me to be successful.  In fact some of the most humiliating experiences of my outdoor adventures have been my poor attempts to navigate the waters of adventure.  20It all started when I was a kid and our community pool manager,Don Geyer, took all of us to Ohiopyle,Pa. to go rafting on the Youghiogheny River.  It was fun and the large rafts navigated the rapids rather easily and I thought I was destined for greatness on the waters of the Laurel Highlands.  We had several trips over the years and I always went and my appetite for water adventure was created in those rapids on the Yough.  Fast forward to post college in my granola crunching years where I thought it would be cool to take up kayaking.  I took a 6 week course and felt really uncomfortable trying to roll myself upright in a pool in the kayak.  I always exited in ” save my ass” fashion and surfaced much to the disappointment of the instructor.  As patient as he was, he was not getting the rollover technique ingrained into his worst student.  I like to consider myself athletic but for some reason, the kayak and I were not friends and my balance sitting down in the thing was tenuous.  It was at this time of the year when we had our “graduation” on the Yough and I went to Ohiopyle with the group on a crisp fall day with snow flurries in the air.  Not the optimum conditions in my mind.  But I brought my state of the art Buckflex rain suit with me figuring that it would help me stay dry and warm as I navigated the river.  As expected, I went in the drink a lot and my rain suit was a poor substitute for a wet suit and I paddled soaking wet for most of the outing.  With snow flurries in the air and my teeth rattling from heat loss, I was a poor picture of a successful kayak whitewater adventurer..  My expert paddling friends Bert Davis, Jim Weaver, and John Hinderliter would not have been happy with my performance.  As I dragged the craft up the hill to the truck in silence, I knew that the kayak world of Ohiopyle was not for me and I had better find another pursuit.

7a8f5ae2-4c4f-439c-b3fd-312ea1779447_MSo moving on to the next opportunity, I entered an interesting race in the mountains that was a combination of skiing, mountain biking, canoeing and trail running.  My friend Dixon and I entered this race and I was undaunted by the fact that I had never piloted a canoe.  I figured that I had the skiing, cycling, trail running thing down pretty well and that the canoe would be a short venture into the unknown.  Was I surprised!!!  The skiing went well as we crossed the face of the mountain as fast as we could and were the first guys at the transition.  Dix and I both jumped on our bikes and rode the snow covered trails down to the Loyalhanna Creek where the canoe transition was placed.  Pumped up by the fact that Dix and I were both in the lead, I jumped in the canoe and promptly flipped it and I ended up in the drink again only this time, the water was bone chilling, teeth rattling, icy cold and it took my breath away.  As I saw Dixon successfully paddling downstream( he had been a canoe paddler all his life in his summers in New Hampshire), I scrambled to right the canoe and managed to drag my soaked frame into the boat and start the process of paddling.  As my legs started to cramp from the cold and wet, I once again told myself that I would never paddle another craft in my life as my teeth rattled in a deja vu fashion from my kayak days.  I managed to get the canoe to the shore for the next transition and changed into my wet trail running shoes and was able to catch up to Dix because he was not a runner.  We both were surprised that someone had surged ahead of us on the water and we ended up second and third, but looking at the snowy banks of the Loyalhanna from a submerged position in the water was an experience that I did not want again.

The last foray into the water craft world was right after I was married and much to my trepidation, I relented to take my father in law, mother in law, and my wife on a rafting trip on the Yough.  They knew that I had done it before and I was the household resident expert.  I ended up with my mother in law and my wife in a small 4 person raft as my father in law went with some other friends.  All was well until we approached the notorious “Dimple Rock” which had the reputation for bending canoes in half and sucking unsuspecting rafters into a vicious eddy before spitting them out into Swimmers Rapids. As luck would have it, my female companions were firmly planted in the front of the raft with yours truly at the rear piloting us directly into the path of the infamous, sucking rock.  No matter what I did, that thing was like a magnet and as we hit it flush in the center, the raft folded in half, I ended up 8 feet in the air and as the raft sprung back into shape after bouncing off the “Dimple” I was ejected out into the Swimmers Rapids.  My wife said later that she was talking to me and looked back to see no one in the rear of the craft..  I floated by them laying on my back with my life vest and tennis shoes protruding from the rapids and told them I would see them in a mile at the end of the Swimmers Rapids.  They were not too happy to be piloting the 4 man raft which was now the panicky two lady raft.  I climbed back in at the end of the rapids with my ears ringing with nothing sympathetic to say the least.

So as I see the leaves falling and the beautiful colors of the Laurel Highlands in full grandeur, I like to view it all from the seat of my mountain bike or on foot hiking the miles of available trails in our ridges to the east.  I have been tempted to try SUP and perhaps kayaking again.  But safe to say, those thoughts quickly vanish as I picture the drowned rat 59 year old kid on the waters of adventure.  Thanks for reading and don’t let me dismay you.  0fcb7bc6-f5b3-403f-98e3-006f9f8d1f5f_M


Next week I celebrate 26 years of marriage to my best friend and wonderful wife.  The picture you see here of Janet has been altered because I did not want to dilute the beauty of my bride on that wonderful day with my countenance as I would show that picture for the next 26 years.  It has been a great honor to be married to her and if I had not taken the opportunity that was presented to me 27 years ago, I might not be in the position that I am today as her husband and father to our son.

Let me take you back to the days when I was a 33 year old bachelor, living a rather structured life. Typically, my life looked like this:

  • Wake up
  • pack my cycling gear or running gear
  • go to work
  • drive to North Park and either run or ride with my posse of friends
  • summer time- Tuesday night road cycling time trials
  • summer time- Wednesday night road cycling Criterium races at the Highland Park Zoo parking lot
  • winter- run trails with lights
  • winter- ski every weekend
  • eat at the “dump” ( a local greasy spoon) or the default Italian restaurant with my cronies
  • go home
  • lay on the floor and watch HBO until bedtime
  • get up and do it all over over again – the next day or weekendphotophoto

This was very easy to do and all of our crowd would know where we all were every night of the week or every weekend.  The routine was great and I was getting used to not doing much in the evening but resting for the next days athletic activities.  I had an old TV that I pilfered from my mom and dad and got pretty good at laying on the floor and changing the channels with my toes because I had no remote.  My townhouse was pretty low maintenance and whenever I left for a race or a ski trip, I just locked the door and went my merry way.  Life was good and my friends were faithful and held me accountable to work out.

One day, my future mother in law, whom I have known for many years, asked me what I was doing lately. ” How is your love life,Patrick?”  I would tell her I was like a cactus in the desert with an occasional tumbleweed passing through on a late night windstorm.  She laughed and said that Janet ( I have known her since she was 8 years old- that is another story), was going to a party with her flight attendant friends and maybe I should go to meet all of them?  I responded that I would like to do that and when the day came, I was laying on the floor, watching the tube, comfortable after a shower, toeing the TV, and wondering if I really wanted to go seeing that I had  big ride scheduled for the next morning.  But I thought, “what the hell, might as well go.  You never know who you will meet and take advantage of the opportunity”.  Well, I went to the party and sure enough, the most attractive girl was Janet.  I was a slave to fashion at the time( not) and picked up all the girls in my Blazer with my baggy shorts, my grandfather’s fishing shirt, and running shoes.  Janet later remarked that she called her mother and told her about my crazy outfit.  I still wear that type of stuff today.  But as we talked at the party, I began to scheme how I would attract Janet into going out with me.

The long and the short of it was that I took her cycling.  I picked up her bike at her folk’s house and when they asked me what I was doing, I told my future in laws that I was fixing Janet’s bike.  They asked if I knew that she was dating a guy she worked with and I said,” I will make her forget his name.”  They laughed about that for years and our dating career started at the Park.  Janet was a little intimidated when she saw the sea of lycra, helmets and road bikes but I assured her that we would take a little ride and then go get something to eat.  Fast forward, Janet has been subject to all of my passions at the park and on the slopes and has handled it with grace.  She has had some mishaps as of late with a broken elbow last summer while hiking and a broken humerus ( not humorous) on a rails to trails ride this summer.  I have taken her skiing in the freezing rain, blinding snowstorms out west, bullet proof conditions at Whiteface in the Adirondacks, and various other adventures that she might have never experienced had she not met the 59 year old kid.  But the best adventure for me was taking the opportunity to go to that party and experience how a kind and loving person could enhance my rigid life.

I guess the point of all this is that if you don’t take opportunities in your life and stick to the mundane and the routine, you might never experience life to it’s fullest potential.  The operative word for all of us should be ” yes” because you never know what might present itself, what great place to be experienced, what wonderful people you might meet, and what life changing experience might unfold right before your eyes.  I have had a lot of experiences in my day because I was crazy enough to always say “yes”.  But the best experience for me was the day that I took an opportunity and said,” I do.”  Thanks for 26 great years Janet.  Thanks for reading.



All Hail the Bathtub Trail


Years ago when I first started to run the trails in the fall with our fearless leader, Jack McArdle, we were always treated to a description of the route at our local park.  If we complained, we were assigned “penalty hills” and as we groaned with a smile on our face, we dutifully ran the hills until the next assignment by the trail boss.  Invariably, each trail run always included a run up or down the “Bathtub Trail”.  At first I was confused as to what Jack was talking about until I came upon the ancient bathtub placed to collect spring water at the base of the trail.  It was always a curious placement and I always wondered who put it there and when was it placed?  It was always a topic of discussion and I was always way more curious than my fellow runners with my inspections of the clear spring water and the curiosity as to why on earth someone would take the time to put a bathtub there?

As time went on, the Bathtub Trail was a common route for runners and eventually mountain bikers in the park.  But the trail itself was a challenge to any newcomer on two wheels with its off camber construction and loose soil which if ridden with reckless abandon, would extract a flesh wounding penalty to the disrespectful or ignorant rider.  It was almost as if the bathtub itself was a sentinel which demanded respect and if the proper homage was not paid, the penalty for a rider down the trail could be severe.  The opposite could be true as well in that the unprepared rider or runner might not make it up the trail without dismounting and humbly walking up to the summit.  photo

I can remember vividly Pat” the nurse” which was his moniker by the trail runners, attempting to ride down the Bathtub Trail with his newly purchased hybrid bike.  Despite my warnings about hybrid rims and tires not holding up to the demands of the trails, Pat rode down the trail without respecting what was before him. As his rims both “pretzeled” under the rigors of the terrain, the nurse went careening into the trees and came up a dazed and bloody mess.  He agonized over his destroyed wheels and remarked  ” I just bought this bike and now it is trash.”  I warned him.  I thought to myself,” another example of not respecting the trail and paying homage to the reputation of ……..the bathtub.  It was almost as if positive execution required some sort of homage to this graven image or perhaps we should light yak butter candles or install prayer flags like the climbers who dare climb in the Himalaya?  I laugh at these fleeting, ridiculous ,thoughts but maybe there is something to it?  Just kidding……………maybe?  photo

Currently, the Bathtub Trail has some competition surrounding it as other trails have been constructed offering alternate routes for the trail runners, equestrians, and mountain bikers.  But for me, the familiarity with the trail ridden hundreds and hundreds of times in all weather is comforting.  Familiarity with any trail can make things a lot easier and riding them without much thought can be comforting or lead to disaster if you take for granted that the descent is still a little sketchy.  I was riding the other day with some guys and they inquired why I was riding down the Bathtub and ignoring some of the newer single track.  I remarked that you had to pay homage to the Bathtub Trail every once in a while to keep the “karma” positive.  We all had a good laugh at that one but as I passed the tub, I looked into the glass like water and gave it a nod of respect.  Not much different than I would have received a blessing from one of those Tibetan monks before attempting a daunting climb.  That bathtub has seen much carnage over the years and has extracted some serious penalties from some unsuspecting riders and runners.  But not me.  All hail……………..the Bathtub Trail.  Thanks for laughing but don’t do it near the trail.  🙂

The Adjustment

content_rayvactorspinal-cord-anatomy-diagram-en_medical512 A number of years ago, I was standing in line at the K chair at Killington,VT and I bent over to tighten my boots. The day was sunny and warm and I was a little hot and as I bent over, a cold wind blew over the snow and up my back and locked me up like a safe. I couldn’t move and my friend Eric had to physically help me out of my bindings and as I hunched over in pain, we made our way to the car and eventually I took a flight home in absolute agony. I had a little history of wrenching my back and also my neck as I toweled off in the shower sometimes. My neck would lock up and I would walk around for three days with no movement other than a grandiose rotation to the right or left from my torso. Same thing with my back. Very akin to Frankenstein movements. I would do something physical, and all of a sudden an intensifying spasm would incapacitate me for another three days. Not that I was out of shape. Quite to the contrary. I was riding a road bike, running and skiing whenever I could. But I had this chronic situation occur out of the blue at the most inopportune times. I had a heck of a time getting out of bed and the only relief I had was to get a hot shower and take Advil. Better living through chemisty as DuPont espouses. Somehow, I had to address this problem.

Enter my good friend, Ray Vactor…….the Chiropractor. I had known Ray when we were younger and I found out that he had a practice near my home. We were skiing buddies and when I went to Ray, he took x rays, gave me an assessment, and explained how a spine subluxation was not a good thing. Just like a car drifting sideways down the highway, if your spine is out of alignment, you will not function properly. Ray explained to me that a spine out of true will impede nerve impulses to the muscles and the nerve system and muscle system will not function. Pain ensues and often there are other consequences that subluxation will affect. Basic functions of the organs of the body can be affected by a spine that is out of alignment. So, I participated in Ray’s personal improvement program and allowed him to manipulate or adjust my spine and neck. I did a lot of investigating on the internet about chiropractic adjustment and a lot of it made perfect sense. Sports teams have chiropractic medicine as part of their wellness programs. Legend has it that John Smoltz, the famous reliever for the Braves, went into the dugout after every inning that he pitched for an adjustment. Imagine what the delivery of a 90 MPH fastball or a sinking curveball can do to you spine? I was a believer and I did all of my stretching exercises that Ray prescribed faithfully first out of fear, and then from the realization that stretching between adjustments was part of the healthy chiropractic regimen that is required for me or anyone who wants to be in good health and participate in the sports of their choice for a long time.

I am here to tell you that all these years later, I am still a patient of Ray Vactor………..the Chiropractor. I have been pain free for 25 years or more and faithfully get a monthly adjustment and do my floor and doorjam stretches every day. I feel good, I am able to ski without pain. I can run trails and mountain bike over variable terrain without any issue and I credit Ray for saving my spine and my eventual overall well being. One other benefit to chiropractic care is that most chiropractors are well versed in holistic health. They can tell you about vitamin therapy and also make dietary programs that make a lot of sense in overall well being. My son Jack had great difficulty breathing during exercise as a young kid. The pediatricians at the time had him take Albuterol because they claimed he had athsma. Janet and I had a long night one time in Children’s Hospital because of Jack’s breathing and they kept giving him Albuterol and he was not getting any better. We took the inhaler home and used it but as I mentioned it to Ray, he said that he noticed on Jack’s chart that we had done an analysis on his allergies at one time. He noiced that Jack was allergic to mold. He suggested that we take Jack off of dairy products because cheese, for instance, is basically mold. Almost instantly, Jack began to breathe more easily and never had any issues again with any of his sports. I threw the Albuterol inhaler in the trash can after a period of time and we never used it again. Jack began to get chiropractic adjustments and has been in great health ever since. He had allergies…not athsma!!! I credit Ray Vactor……………the Chiropractor for that call.

If you have any spinal issues or if you have ever been curious to how a healthy spine could aid your general well being, I would encourage you to read about chiropractic care, especially if you are athletic. Investigate who the athletes in your neighborhood are using and anyone else who has had good experience with a chiropractic physician. If you are in the Wexford area of Pittsburgh, look up Ray. He is very professional and caring. And,he can still turn em both ways on the ski slopes. Thanks for reading. Be healthy.

Its a Young Person’s World isn’t it? Sometimes!

IMG00251-20100811-2242earth-full-view_6125_990x742 So, I am out running the trails tonight and I see an old dog ahead of me plodding his way behind his master who is running ahead of me. All of a sudden, the old dog cuts up into the woods and cuts a corner and the next thing you know, he is ahead of his master. I made a remark to the owner how smart the old dog is and he said that he did that the very first day that they ran. Age and treachery can sometimes beat youth and skill. The old dog validated something for the 59 year old kid. You can take a short cut or cut the corner and there is no law against it.

Toby Keith says,” I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.” I love that line because sometimes you can shock some young people. Maybe you make that mountain bike climb in pretty good time and even perhaps still put some of your younger riding friends in the hurt locker. Not all the time and youth is served in athletics. But every once in a while, you feel good, you had a good night’s sleep, you ate well, you had your coffee strategically in the morning, and brother, you climbed that hill better than the average Joe. Maybe you are skiing and the conditions are perfect, the sun is shining, and you rip off a couple of high speed arcs and raise a few eyebrows. Some young guns come up to you in the lift lines and maybe say,” You old dudes can still rip em.” Not all the time, not in all conditions, but just once, you might be as good as you ever were.

I used to love my father in law’s line to his two sons when I was first married to their sister. My father in law was a semi-pro baseball player and played in the Army. He was a pretty good high school athlete and challenged the two lumps to a race between the telephone poles. He used to say,” Let’s go pole to pole.” They laughed and abused him, but you know what, they never took him up on it. The point is barring something catastrophic, if you keep yourself in reasonable shape, eat well, sleep well and take your exercise seriously, there is no reason that age should get in the way. You don’t quit playing because you get old, you get old because you quit playing. I saw my pal Lon Sonick out in the woods the other day with a big smile on his face riding his mountain bike with studded tires on the snow covered trails. Lon is ten years older than me and he looks like he is still in his 40’s. A bunch of guys out at Mt. Rose in Tahoe have been riding motocross and skiing since they were 16 years old. They are all in their 60s now and ski like banshees down the chutes of Mt. Rose. They just keep on doing it.

Mindset is everything. I look around my office and see all younger people. They call us the “legacy” people and I sit with the IT group and it sounds like a foreign language to me. The key is to stay current and don’t let technology pass you by. I killed my I-Phone the other day and had to get a replacement. I frantically was calling our IT guy Bill East to help me get it set up but with Bill’s instructions and a little patience, I was able to transfer all the information and redo my apps that I use. My friend JR gave me a portable cell phone charger the other day as a Christmas gift and I was amazed at how convenient that is. I never liked Super Mario or Pac Man and my son’s X-Box Live mystifies me especially the time he spends on it. But he probably thinks the time I spend skiing in the rain or riding a mountain bike is equally ludicrous. It is a young person’s world alright but if you keep up, you can still learn a lot. And…………if they listen a little bit, they can benefit from your experience. Its all good.

I am headed towards the fourth quarter of life. I don’t dwell on that but games are usually won or lost in the fourth quarter. Guts, determination, cunning, and character are what win races in the end, and win games in the fourth quarter. I will have a great quiver of skis, a new mountain bike, a tuned up road bike,and all the clothes needed to enjoy that fourth quarter to the fullest. Positive attitude will never waver, but also, I will focus on what really is important in that fourth quarter. Experience has led me to some conclusions which concentrate on what really wins the game or wins the prize. Kindness to people, a caring serving spirit, a focus on my faith, a love for my family, are really what matter and win the prize in the end. And you can never lose your sense of humor. I lost some good friends this year. Two guys to a heart attack and one guy to cancer. But as I ride the chairlift, run or ride, I laugh thinking about them because I can see Charlie skiing the Heavenly powder, Larry telling him that he needs to work on his turns, and Chip telling them both to take up bowling. That thunder I will hear this summer will tell me that Chip won out on that discussion. So, if you are like the 59 year old kid, get into the game and enjoy that fourth quarter. The game will be won or lost on your efforts. Thanks for reading.

What in the world is the “Polar Vortex”?

photophotophoto The country was gripped this week in sub zero temperatures and we all heard on the news about the “Polar Vortex”. I am amazed that now we have descriptions for phenomena like snow storms, and cold fronts that are named like Hurricanes. Polar Vortex? Hey folks- it’s January. Most of the country experiences winter and in January you get snow, ice, cold temperatures, darkness, and a general feeling of “woe is me.” Some of us have been spoiled with some milder winters as of late, but in International Falls,Minnesota, Fargo, North Dakota, Buffalo, New York, and all of New England, winter rules in January.

Now, you can either let yourself be gripped in fear and depression as the news media bombards you with tales of woe on a daily basis as you exit your home to school or work in the dark and return in the dark, and cold, and the feeling that you live in a Dickens novel. Or you can adhere to the wonderful description of attitude by Chuck Swindoll when he states that “life is 10 per cent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.” Personally, I like winter as you have seen from my blog posts this winter and last. I am a skier. I like snow. I don’t even mind if I travel and am hampered with delays because I have the attitude that I will get through any inconveniences and get to my destination bound and determined to harvest some of the great skiing conditions that are available. Even when I go to my local area early in the morning, when it is dark, and cold, and the roads are covered with ice and snow, I know that soon I will be making turns.

People asked me this week whether I still run the trails at night when it is in the single digits or below zero temperature. I smiled and said “sure- why not.” I love the air, the snow on the trails and trees, and the general good feeling of health when you finish a run in the winter. Like my friend the Shark says,” there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices.” He corrected me on that this weekend by saying,” choices Paddy!” I ski and run in Gore Tex Pro clothing. You can layer and be dry as a bone and protected by the wind. Patagonia makes wonderful clothing like this as seen in the pictures above. My “go to” outfit it the Patagonia “Super Alpine.” As they advertise, it is indeed bomb proof and is great for all outdoor activities. I have the down sweaters that I wear under a shell when I ski and I also have polypropylene shirts that I can layer to use on a run or a mountain bike ride. Layering is the key and if you can keep the wind from penetrating your clothing, you can easily ski, ride, or run in sub zero conditions. Check out

The main point here though is attitude. My dad always had an expression that said,” Smile- the fresh air is good for your teeth.” Sure it’s dark, and cold, and snowing, but it is winter!! Embrace the winter and thank God you are alive and have the health to enjoy the trails, paths, roads, and slopes, where you live. I heard a lot of moaning this week about the Polar Vortex and the bad weather and I laughed as I left work to go to the trails to run utilizing my headlamp. I will probably ski in the rain this weekend because we will be on the ass end of the Polar Vortex with warm air being sucked up our way as the Vortex exits out over the ocean. Take it as it comes people. Enjoy life. Enjoy the winter. Get snowshoes, cross country skis, alpine skis, ice skates, Flexible Flyers, toboggans and get out there and put that smile on your face. You might cover that mug up with a scarf but get out there and enjoy the winter. Spring will be here soon enough and we all will enjoy the transition. But in the mean time, enjoy what we have and you will be amazed at how positive attitude will help you in your work place, your home, and in your relationships. Try it. My friend Nancy Leverett who is an active skier and is visually impaired, read my recommended book,” Younger Next Year” by Chris Crowley and told me she went right out and joined a gym. She not only enjoys winter sports like skiing and ice skating, she now is motivated to work out to stay in shape for those activities. Check out Great book that I always recommend to help with attitude adjustment.

Polar Vortex? Bring it on man!! Get that positive attitude, get the best equipment and clothes, and go do it!!! Embrace the winter. Thanks for reading.

The Art of the Change

IMG00214-20100708-1448IMG00053photophoto I met a friend of a few years ago and he was amazed that I was fully dressed to ride mountain bikes after driving from work. He was sitting in the lot in his business casual dress and I was patiently waiting for him to get ready. He inquired how it was that I left work in similar attire and now was fully dressed to ride? I told him that similar to being in shape and concentrating on fitness, you also need to be well skilled in what I call “The Art of the Change.”

SUVs, like my Jeep, facilitate this type of behavior in that you need some room to switch from business clothes to recreational clothes. The proper use of red lights and putting the vehicle in park are key elements to this skill- but I will refer to that later. Let’s talk for a moment about some of the classic changes that have taken place in the life of the 59 year old kid.

One time I was sitting in the parking lot of the OSI Meat Company near Salt Lake City after a successful meeting. My co-worker said, ” We didn’t get our tour of the plant” and I said,” You drive- I have seen enough meat plants in my day and we are 8 miles down canyon from Alta Ski Resort.” As she took the helm of the rental SUV, I quickly made the Superman like change from sport coat and slacks into my ski gear and asked her to pull into the Cliff Lodge at Snowbird. I told her to get a massage and that I would be back to get her at 5:00 so that we could drive to the airport to get our flight to Las Vegas for a trade show. She was dumbfounded but amazed at the plan and to her surprise- in no time I was back to pick her up and was dressed in slacks and a sweater. I told her,” Great afternoon pounding the High Traverse, Eagles Nest and High Rustler and look, ready to go to the airport.”

Another co-worker was with me on a week long trip to our Salt Lake City location for the company. Every day after work, I would drive her up to Park City and tell her to meet me at the parking location in 2 hours. We then would have dinner and enjoy the town before the return trip back down Interstate 80 to the hotel. She saw me remove my mountain bike, which I had brought on the plane with me, and as she walked away, she noticed clothes flying in the car and voila- another Superman change. When she returned to the car I was standing there putting on some shorts behind the car door( some decorum is necessary some of the times) and a T-shirt and some deoderant so that I would not totally gross her out and off we went to get a cold one at the Wasatch Brewery and a burger. This similar routine allowed a full day of work, 2 hours of great riding up at Park City and a beer and a good meal before we got up and did it all over again every day of the week. She was astonished and said,” Pat- if you would not have taken me up there every evening, I probably would have just stayed in my room and done nothing.” I said, “Jamie- you need to enjoy every moment in life. Carpe Deium girl.” She laughed and shook her head in amazement.

One time the Art of the Change was challenged by an Ambridge,Pa. police officer as I was coming from skiing in the Laurel Highlands and dressing on the fly for a funeral in Ambridge. At one point, I was down to my boxer shorts and the lights from the police car came into full view in my rear view mirror. I pulled over to the side of the road like a good motorist and scrambled with my dress shirt and suit pants as the officer came to the window. He greeted me and fortunately did not notice my bare feet on the gas pedal. He said,” Not you sir- the guy behind you is who I wanted.” ” Thanks for pulling over though and have a nice day.” I returned the pleasantries and sighed with relief that he had not seen me two minutes earlier driving down Rt. 65 basically in my birthday suit.

One other time, I was in the Reno Airport and frantically ripping through my bag to put on my ski clothes right at the carousel. People laughed as I strapped on my ski boots and schlepped my skis and bag to the curb to be picked up by my friend Eric to ski up at Mt. Rose. He laughed when he saw the blue Lange boots in the distance and said that he had only missed three runs when we arrived back at the area. That quick carousel change assisted us with gaining some valuable vertical feet.

One thing about cycling and skiing is that you spend some time changing clothes to participate in the apres activities. As important as it is to be able to change out of your clothes, it is perhaps more important sometimes to be able to quickly change into your clothes especially if you are meeting some folks and you are late. This is where the Art is fully employed. Traffic lights are the friend of any car changer and it is most important to know what can be accomplished between red and green lights. After putting the car in park, a shirt change, sock change,and cycling short change can easily be accomplished. Ski pants can take a little longer and your timing must be perfect otherwise you travel “au naturale” until the next light allows the completion of the change. If you are really skilled like the 59 year old kid, you can even put in your contact lenses between traffic light cycles. But safety first!! I have often been tempted to change by steering with the knees and completing a final change cycle but I consider that like texting and driving and opt for the completion down the road a bit. Some things can throw you off like a big toe stretching the lycra of cycling shorts down to the brake pedal. Or perhaps a ski sweater put on inside out. Or even a clumsy change of a sock. But the better you get, the more you can utilize traffic lights, heavy traffic, and quick pull-offs to a rest stop on the Interstates.

One of my mantras is to always pack what you need before your day starts. A rookie would stop at home first and risk having a series of “honey-do’s” befall him or her. You can get sidetracked if you do not focus on your exercise after work by the faux pas of not packing ahead of time. Similarly you do not want to sit around drinking a post ride or ski beverage still attired in your workout or ski clothes. The change is necessary for full comfort and the more skilled you are at the Art of the Change, the better the experience and with a little effort, you can enjoy some things that you might not have even considered. Timing is everything in life and you must reach out and go for the gusto. Use your vehicle or rental vehicles for the appropriate changes, be courteous to your fellow travelers but never let decorum stand in the way of a good time. If they catch a glimpse of your Steeler boxer shorts, so be it. Life is short- grab it for all its worth. Thanks for reading and use those red lights.

Trail Running- Peace in the Woods”>02jaydash.inarticlephotoIMG00159 So, I am out on Monday early with my headlamp, rain jacket, shorts and new trail shoes (
Solomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2), and rain hat. It is pouring and I am kind of a slow starter when I run, so I like to warm up which is good advice for those of you like the 58 year old kid. I am watching out for slippery rock and leaf strewn areas along with wet roots which can play havoc with your stride in the woods and make for a potential header on the trail. As I mosey along, I am feeling better as a half hour passes and the stride becomes a little stronger and the pace a little faster and as is the usual case, I feel pretty good and loose after about 40 minutes. But I don’t usually run much longer than that-maybe an hour at best but it is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable workouts I do in the off season. This time of year, the days grow short and most often you need a light. You can get these on line or pick up a Petzl light at Dick’s or REI. They are easily found and are battery operated so have some double A’s in your glovebox. Good shoes are essential and the Solomons can be found for a pretty good price at Amazon. Foul weather gear is good and there are lots of choices for running jackets because you don’t need more than a polypropylene long sleeve running shirt, decent waterproof jacket with a hood, wool hat or baseball cap, and good wool socks. I wear shorts most of the time because I don’t like to be over dressed even in snowy conditions. A lot of guys my age complain about running on hard surfaces. That is the nice thing about running trails, they are more forgiving but you need to pay attention to obstacles.

I always ran, but was looking for an alternative to cycling in the really foul weather because I like to be outside. Years ago, I ran into Jack McArdle on the trails one night while we were cross country skiing in the dark with our lights on. He told me about his group that meets weeknights and on Saturday mornings to run trails. Now Jack knows most of the trails in our local North Park by heart and as the Pied Piper of trail running, he assembled a neat group of folks from all walks of life to follow him on the trail runs. The school teachers who tended to be a little left of center had great conversations with the business types who tended to be a little right of center and we all had a lot of laughs and solved the world’s problems out on those trails. When someone complained about the route, Jack would assign a “penalty hill” and we all would moan but laugh as we suffered up some mud encrusted slime hill for our penance. Those days have faded but there is still a trail group out there with some of the original members still running and doing the penalty hills.

As for me, I try to ride most of the year with my lights on the mountain bike. But there is the time of the year when the trails get so slimy and icy, the weather gets so foul that it is really not enjoyable to ride. That is where the run really amps up the possibilities for me. The great thing about running trails is that you can do it anywhere. When I travel, and I can’t ride my bike, I take my trail shoes, Google the local trail system and go out and do it! I can also find golf courses. I have utilized the Manassas Battlefield trails as well as the Yale University Golf Course. It has to be early there or at night because I have been bounced off that venue more times than not. But usually you can run golf courses in the off hours and there are always trails or a trail system in every town and city in America. Runnning on the road is tough on the knees anymore and the viable alternative is running golf courses or trails. This time of year with the leaves changing and the weather cooling off, it is a great alternative to cycling if you feel like doing some cross training or another physical activity.

Running trails is also kind of primal in a way. We have running in our DNA as our early ancestors ran to hunt food, or ran so as not to be food. I think of the Native American warriors in the woods in Pa. where I run. I can envision their lifestyle of hunting and gathering while running paths that are hundreds of years in the making. It is neat to smell a fireplace burning, see the changing leaves, or run in a light snow with the muffled sounds of civilization fading with each inch of snow on the ground. Trail shoes have lugs and are good in the snow and ice. They can be used with snowshoes in the winter to continue to enjoy the trails even when several inches of snow builds up. No cars, good scenery, peaceful contemplative running, even at night. I never complain about the time change, colder weather( I am a skier you know), freezing rain, rain, darkness, solitude in the winter because I know that the recipie for a potential depressing day is to go out and run when and where most people would not venture. Those of you who are looking to avoid the road running and fearing the wear and tear as well as the danger of running on a road at night- look to the trails. Those of you who are looking for an alternative to the boring regime of the gym and some fresh air as an alternative- look to the trails. You don’t have to start with running either. Buy the gear and start out slow by hiking or walking. Build up to the run. Rome was not built in a day and neither should you feel the pressure of trying to run when you can build up to it by hiking and getting used to being on trails out in the woods. Test your footing and become comfortable with the obstacles and working out at night with the lights. Trust me, you will like it and anytime the weather turns bad, you won’t have an excuse. Even if the weather is good, look for the alternative. You probably won’t get a penalty hill unless you run into Jack and Mare out in North Park. Thanks for reading and go to the trails my friend.