Seaport Striders, Thoroughly Awesome

One of my great joys is the way the running community gives back to the rest of the community (think of all those charity walks and 5K's) and to the younger runners around them.

The Seaport Striders have an event every year, the Benefit Run, where they generously split the proceeds with our three local high schools. Wait, hold it - I'm incorrect.

They match the proceeds.

That's right - they pull money out of their own funds to help the kids. All we have to do is show up and run/walk/stagger for a 5K. Optionally, you can buy an entry and cheer, knowing that twice what you paid (it's only $10, BTW) goes to the programs as Asotin, Clarkston, and Lewiston.

So, Friday evening, 7PM, Chief Looking Glass Park. Low key, no awards, no times posted to the internet. Want bragging rights? We'll have a clock going for you. Don't care about bragging right? Ignore the guy with the watch and enjoy the company.

Snag an application here - or show up at 6PM and fill out an application on the spot.

See you there!

And thank you to the Striders!

Asotin Bird Sanctuary

No running today. Instead, I got in a four mile hike with a son-in-law, traipsing through the Asotin Bird Sanctuary. Technically named the inelegant Asotin Slough, the locals call it the Bird Sanctuary and it's part of the runs we do with the junior high kids a couple of times a year.

Looking south to Riverpointe, one of the higher end communities in town. I don't live there. My abode is more modest, and leans a bit to one side.

Looking south to Riverpointe, one of the higher end communities in town. I don't live there. My abode is more modest, and leans a bit to one side.

From Chief Looking Glass Park, you can follow Corps of Engineer land east along the river to get to there. (If you are, please remember that you're traversing people's backyards.) When you get to the osprey nest (tall pole, big nest, can't miss it,) drop down to the river to pick up some single track.

 Not being in a hurry, we chatted along the way. None of my son-in-laws are runners, though all three are outdoorsmen. The pace was conducive to a relaxing vent. I had a few (they were going to frame today's post, but life interfered, in the pleasant way.) Will, the son-in-law that was with me today, used to work for me long before me married my middle daughter, and he's used to some of my peculiarities, like adding running commentary to audiobooks.

Looking up the Snake River from the SE corner of Asotin. Hells Canyon lay that direction, the deepest step canyon in North America.

Looking up the Snake River from the SE corner of Asotin. Hells Canyon lay that direction, the deepest step canyon in North America.

We spotted - Will spotted - a pair of deer, does, as we left the boat launch area and entered a lightly wooded section. A couple had already bounded past with their graceful and bouncy gait. These watched us and then slowly sauntered away, mostly unconcerned. This trail is the same one that I brought the kids on a couple of weeks ago. At the start of the season, only four could run that far and get back at the end of practice. At the end of the season, it was more than a dozen. 

We broke out from under cover and stuck to the faded trails. Before the Corps had put in a bypass for the river to ensure that the flow, well, flowed correctly and that stagnate water was minimized, this used to be a favorite running route. With the channel, it's more challenging. summers aren't bad as the channel they built is dry, but winters see bank to bank water that necessitates fording in icy currents. I usually find other runs.

The single track follows along the river bank for another half-mile before it peters out in a mix of deer trails near a couple of white sandy beaches. The Corps tried planting (I'm assuming) native trees. The soils here lack nutrients and the annual rainfall matches that of a desert. The trees, shall we say, failed to thrive. Now, they look like random twigs stuck in the ground, marked by square red flags on wire sticks to mark their passing.

We looped over the far end of the new channel, working our way down the river rubble embankments and crossing to the side of the sanctuary that borders the highway. Once upon a time, the cross country team would head out to Snake River Road. A couple of close calls from speeding drivers who approach the road as though it were Le Mans, and that adventure got cut short. It's a shame we can't trust the drivers as the views up the river are spectacular.

Will and I came back along the trail I used the one -only!- time I swam the Snake River. Along with a few bruises from hitting unseen boulders, I got a first-hand appreciation of the power of the river that I used in my book, Trail of Second Chances. (an aside - I am offering free Kindle copies of Trail in return for honest reviews.)  The path wound its way past the basalt formations, and ducked through a low smattering of trees. 

In the shade of the trees, we came across a box bolted into the basalt rock. Narrow in depth, but wide, it took me a second to recognize it. Will, trained as a biologist, was much quicker. "For bats," he said. It made sense and was preferably to having the bats establish residence in the attics of local homes.

I come across bats on an infrequent basis, and almost always as a surprise. The town that I've found them in most, locally, would be Potlatch, Idaho, about 25 minutes north of Moscow. In one year, I found bats in four separate homes. They typically don't bother the inspectors, but homeowners are not fans of these particular types of freeloaders. Still, I find them preferable to termites, and in their own way, kind of cute. Definitely interesting.  . .

The trail came back into open ground as we head back to my house. We had some warning, seeing the head of a doe rising, dropping in front of us. I slowed up to see if maybe I could get a clear picture (I was using the great-grandson of the Indestructible Camera.) Luck was with me, plus I think the deer, understanding Will and I were unarmed, posed.


In all, a pleasant walk. I think the ratio ran to three deer per mile, with assorted birdlife (jay, magpies, sparrows) sprinkled in for seasoning. No snakes, which was fine with me, and a sun that came out and made me sweat the last mile.

Chief Timothy State Park with the XC Kids

A great day for our first training run away from the school campus. The kids were awesome and we had a lot of smiles over the course of the run. Plus playing in the water and tossing footballs waiting for the high school team to finish up.

The Asotin Junior High squad at the top of the hill at Chief Timothy State Park. Getting a feel for the course. Island run is in nine days.

The Asotin Junior High squad at the top of the hill at Chief Timothy State Park. Getting a feel for the course. Island run is in nine days.

Figuring out the start line - most of them have never run a race.

Figuring out the start line - most of them have never run a race.

How to confuse the kids

I played hooky from work today so I could go to school. Which isn't that different than when I used to play hooky to get outside, though the first time was to avoid lunch. Didn't want pigs-in-a-blanket, so first grader me hid out under the steps until the bus left.

Instead of working, I went to Asotin Junior High School and talked to the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade classes about writing and publishing. Mrs. Beggs, one of my daughter's former teachers, was the teacher for the four periods I attended. She did a great job of bailing me out when the conversation would slow down by asking a few questions of her own.

The kids were also pretty terrific. Since I coached a bunch of them at one time or another, I wasn't surprised. I hadn't seen the 7th graders in a while - the girls en masse decided to play basketball last season instead of running cross country, and the head coach and I wished them the best of luck. Junior high is a little too early to worry about specialization. There's plenty of time for that later. Still, it was nice to see familiar faces. I suspect a couple were trying desperately not to be noticed. The sixth graders had a slew of my runners, including Thing 1 and Thing 2, Version 2.0.

The fun part for me, though, was getting introduced to them as an author since most of them had no idea that I had written a book, much less three. The ones that know me think of me as "Coach Paul." The second fun part was surprising my two beta readers, Carmen and Maia (the original Thing 1 and Thing 2 from cross country), by showing up. Carmen I had seen over the weekend at her sister's graduation party. It somehow slipped my mind to mention I might be presenting in her class. Pure accident that I forgot.

The cool thing about junior high kids is they will try to embarrass you. Maia introduce the whole class to the nickname she and Carmen gave me.

No, I'm not sharing it. Ever, if I can help it, but I got a good laugh and a lot of weird looks.

The kids also asked some great questions. Natalie wanted to know about my writing process. That answer could've taken the entire period, so I gave her the brief version. I'll write out a longer answer later.   

One asked why I always wrote from a female perspective. Interesting observation and question. I didn't have a great answer other than, that was were the story was.

Some of the questions were more traditional, who my favorite authors were (Hemingway, Heinlein, Doc Smith, Robert Parker), did I travel for my stories (not yet, planning a trip to Kenya next year), what was my style (darned if I know), why did you start writing (I wanted to actually finish a run without ideas distracting me. Hah, like that worked.)

One girl, and I'm afraid I didn't catch her name, wanted to know what to do when you didn't know how to end things. That led to an interesting discussion about never being nice to your characters.

More than a few like the brief synopsis of the book I'm working on now. One question directed by Mrs. Beggs concerned the lack of reading by boys. I gave a two part answer, based on my boyhood. First, I usually preferred to be outside and playing when the sun was up. Second, modern boys' books pretty much stink. The second generated a rousing shout of agreement from the boys. Time to figure out some ideas for the dudes. Got one already, so we'll see. Mysteries seemed popular with them.

The Kenya trip comment didn't draw a stir except with the eighth grade class and only from Carmen and Maia. Go figure, the two runners that made me look good as a coach want to go see the great runners. I'll have to remember to check my luggage for stowaways.

As usual, I ran out of time with each class.  Also as usual, visiting with the kids made my day.

Even though Maia, code name Thing 2, tried really hard to make me squirm.

Finally! Got to watch a JR HS meet yesterday.

I've been working six and seven days a week but finally managed to carve out time to go watch some of the junior high kids competing out in Lapwai. When you don't have any kids running, watching is much more enjoyable.

I also had a chance to visit with a former Asotin runner, back to cheer on her sister, and several of the families who's children were just behind mine at the school.

The first one to spot me was Sam Dickerson as he sidled up next to me with a "What's up, coach." I missed his 1600m race but it was good to see him. He said the heat got to him a little bit (it was our first day pushing 80 degrees) but seemed pleased with his effort.

Didn't take many pictures, too busy cheering instead.

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Track is Starting . . .

So I plan on picking up on race coverage pretty soon. First race will be on April 1st, in Lapwai, Idaho.

Unrelated to track coverage, but affecting runners, I came across an article on plyometrics specific to distance running with - tada - a downloadable chart to guide you on a 12-16 week program. The whole site is filled with interesting stuff about running.

Texas is dumping its anti-doping program for high schoolers. Bad program design (deliberate?) and low detection rates are to blame. Just for good measure, the WSJ weighs in on drugs and the NCAA, just in time for March Madness.

With the steady drip of bad news for the sport coming out, I'm excited to go watch the kids run. I've already set aside the time and I'm making arrangements to catch a couple of meets in the Spokane area. Mostly though, I'm going to stick with the small schools around here.

End of a Season

We celebrated the end of the cross country season yesterday with ice cream, cookies, and laughter. A lot of laughter.

One of the best moments of the party occurred when Maia and Carmen handed over titles. Early in their xc career, Coach Cowdrey nicknamed them Thing 1 and Thing 2. We never quite nailed down who was which, though it seems that the girls did. It also turned out to mean a lot to them and they decided to pass down the titles.

Ultimately, it turned out that Carmen was Thing 1 and Maia Thing 2. At the party, Maia went first (after rattling a list of nicknames off for everyone including coaches - Coach Cowdrey got "Coach That Only Pretends to be Mean; I got "Magic Pony.") and handed over Thing 2 to Natalie. Carmen read a short piece about what it means to be a Thing and relinquished her Thing 1-ness to Rilynn.

Natalie and Rilynn were both happy to be the new Things, version 2.0 as it were.

Maia asked if we could make this a team tradition. So did Carmen. I told them both the same thing. We don't have to.

They already did.

Back row: Natalie (Thing 2, v2.0), Sam, AJ, Asher, Wyatt, Rilynn (Thing 1, v2.0), Head Coach Steve Cowdrey, Coach Paul.  Middle row: Kyler, Mary Ann, Taylor, Joey, Ryker.  In front: Maia, the original Thing 2 (Left) and Carmen, the original Thing 1 (right.)   Picture courtesy of Suzy Cowdrey.

Back row: Natalie (Thing 2, v2.0), Sam, AJ, Asher, Wyatt, Rilynn (Thing 1, v2.0), Head Coach Steve Cowdrey, Coach Paul.

Middle row: Kyler, Mary Ann, Taylor, Joey, Ryker.

In front: Maia, the original Thing 2 (Left) and Carmen, the original Thing 1 (right.)

Picture courtesy of Suzy Cowdrey.

Asotin Training Day on Chief Timothy Park

Field trip time for the Asotin Junior High  cross country as we headed to Chief Timothy Park with the high school team to explore the course for Saturday's race. With only three returning eighth grade runners, and no seventh graders, the trip opened up a few eyes to the process of getting ready for a race.

Coach Cowdrey walked the kids through the check-in procedures, and simple things like how to line up at the start. Experienced racers take it for granted, but for kids facing a race for the first time, everything is daunting.

Teaching from the start . . .

Teaching from the start . . .

We ran and walked the course, taking note of the turns and describing what they could expect in a race - the crowd at the start, the habit of young runners to roast off the start line, how to present themselves into the turns, to watch for the other runners on the course beside them.

Pretty much the kids were allowed to run themselves out, to find out how it felt to actually be on the course. The wiser older kids paced themselves, and I could see the two girls, Maia and Carmen, making some mental notes of the footing. They also did a great job of working with the younger kids when things got to rambunctious with pace.

Along the way, we practice some things for hills - a couple of the runners were massively over-striding at first. Fixable and they catch on quick. The same thing with using their arms on the uphills.

I had a chance to work with the more experienced racers on some tactical things that they could do mid-race, including a demonstration of the effectiveness of a well-timed surge. After I surged out on a turn and short uphill, we talked about how it made them feel - and what it would make other runners feel in race conditions.

A group went out for a second loop, a group stayed behind, and one bright young lady grabbed her school books and studied.

A fine group of youngster and one coach

A fine group of youngster and one coach

What really made the day personally gratifying is having more than one of the kids tell me they were loving cross country - one asking if the season could go all year. That's kind of cool for this part-time coach

Hells Canyon Tour

I took Sunday off and went up the Snake River on Hells Canyon Tours, a local sightseeing group with a friend, Colin. We slipped away from the dock around eight in the morning and proceeded south under a pretty sky and cool temperatures for a day away from cell phones, computers, and work.

The first stop was at Heller Bar about an hour up the river from Asotin. Time for a cup of coffee and to stretch legs. Stretching felt good. . .

A view north with the tour boat at the refueling dock.

A view north with the tour boat at the refueling dock.

Onward into Hells Canyon proper.

Onward into Hells Canyon proper.

There was plenty of wildlife - an abundance of deer and several herds of big horn sheep.

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The sheep were not truly impressed with us, turning their tushes to demonstrate their level of regard.

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We continued the journey up the river. The boat handled the rapids easily. One thing that impressed me, even if it didn't the sheep, was the habit the skipper had of slowing the jets and easing past the other folks on the river - rafters, kayakers, and boaters. It seemed that the habit is for the folks on the beach to wave as we went by. The waves were returned by most on the boat, except the one guy who looked a little frustrated at the lack of cell coverage. I don't think he got the same memo I did.

Lunch was at the Kirkland Ranch. The Jordans raised sheep and sons on the ranch. When Lee Jordan decided to try his hand at politics, it eventually led all the way to the State House where he served as Governor. The house has been turned into a museum worth spending some time exploring.

A favorite quote from the Kickland Ranch museum. "The government bet you 160 acres that you couldn't live on it three years without starving to death." Ace Barton

From the Kickland Museum

From the Kickland Museum

The return trip went much faster as we ran with the current - the skipper said the river flowed at eight mile per hour there. The first part of the run was done at speed to get over the shallows that were present. Along this stretch of the Snake, I saw an otter. There, gone, no time for the picture thought the image is solidly in my head.

I think this little fella was the entire greeting committee for the Copper Creek Lodge while we were there.

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An ancient wheelbarrow and gold pan at Copper Creek.

The view from Copper Creek Lodge.

The view from Copper Creek Lodge.

A quick stop at the petroglyphs but not allowed to exit the boat at Buffalo Eddy.

And on to home.

Benefit Run

If you're looking for a 5K next weekend, the Seaport Striders are hosting their annual benefit run. This run contributes all the proceeds to the local cross country programs at Lewiston, Clarkston, and Asotin High Schools.

Here's the application. The race starts at 7PM on Friday, August 8th. I have received a tentative agreement from Mother Nature to turn down the heat a bit but she's got to balance out the weather everywhere else to do it, so cut her some slack.

Starting location is Chief Looking Glass Park in Asotin.

For $10, you receive a shirt (while they last), a water bottle provided by Peak Performance PT,  and the satisfaction of knowing your funds are matched by the Seaport Striders. Timing is provided by the mostly reliable right thumb of this author. Prizes will be by lottery based on bib numbers.

A special thanks to Peak Performance Physical Therapy for their very kind donations.

Group Run in Asotin, Tuesdays & Thursdays

Any of you junior high or high school runners that would like to jump in for a run, there's a group run Tuesday and Thursday mornings. All runners, regardless of ability, are welcome.

Currently, there are athletes from Asotin, Clarkston, and Lewiston participating.

The runs start at Swallows Nest in Clarkston in the park along the Snake River. Distances vary - I stay short and run with the young runners - the older kids have been known to rocket off.

Fun starts at 7:30 am.


Washington IIB District 9 Track and Field Championship

District 9 Chamionship 2014 001 The Steeplechase Pool

The Washington IIB District 9 Track and Field Championship began today in Idaho. To some foreigner from, say, Seattle, that might seem odd but living on top of a border alters the way you look at towns around you. Intellectually, we understand the University of Idaho isn’t in our state, but, in practice, they’re a close neighbor, as is the City of Lewiston.So the event is being held at the recently renovated (2012)Dan O’Brian Trackon the U. of  Idaho campus. Idaho staff demonstrated their competence and were very helpful getting all the systems –power, sound, and such – up for the teams. Field events started promptly at 4PM and the running events were close. The meet is spread over two days to allow the athletes an opportunity to recover from multiple events. The top three go to the State meet.

District 9 Chamionship 2014 012 Holbrook and Ray 4x200m

The first running event, the women’s 4x200m relay saw Asotin, with Sarah Nicholas anchoring the squad, win handily though DeSales refused to quit. An intense battle between TO-GP and St. John-Endicott for the fourth slot wasn’t decided until the last five meters as Katie Holbrook (TO-GP) and Jazmyn Ray (St. John) swapped placements on the last straightaway, with Holbrook having just a touch more speed at the finish. The ladies at Walla Walla Valley Academy secured third place.

District 9 Chamionship 2014 014 Womens 3200m

The next event, the women’s 3200m was not nearly as close as Lucy Eggleston (Asotin) ran a smart tactical race in the warm conditions for the first five laps before opening up a large gap on Heather Siegel (St. Johns) and exploding on the last lap. Emily Adams of Waitsburg-Prescott continued her solid freshman season by taking third, headed for State, likely not for the last time.

District 9 Chamionship 2014 Asotin Crush

The men’s 1600m was dominated by the Asotin squad. Headed into the final lap, Asotin had runners in the top five positions, all poised to break 5:00. Chandler Tiegan led them all from start to finish, virtually unchallenged. Thomas Weakland took second with Brian Strobel uncorking a powerful kick to round out the state entries.

On a side note, one of the Asotin runners went down in the heat. I’d like to thank EJ Meserve of Waitsburg-Prescott. While Cap Perry, the TO-GP coach, seeing the situation, hollered at me to direct me into their camp for water, EJ had already grabbed a cup and was handing it to the Asotin young man. Good and fast thinking for an athlete who, seconds before, had been running the mile. If anybody knows EJ or the Waitsburg coach, give them a thumbs up.

Off to the intermediate hurdles, men first. Owen Lanning (Waitsburg) and Wesley Hendrickson (WWVA) followed up last week’s close race with another beauty, Lanning winning again. I think Sergio Alexis Pena was third but I was distracted by the battle up front and didn’t refocus on time.

In the field events, we led off with women’s javelin, men’s triple jump, men’s shot, and women’s pole vault. For the second half of the afternoon, we flipped men’s events for women’s.

District 9 Chamionship 2014 Annie Bailey Javelin

Results aren’t up (as yet – I’ll update as new info comes in) on but there was a nice competition in the women’s javelin between Dayton’s Kaitlyn Andrews and Annie Bailey (St. John). Piper Loop was her usual dominating self in the women’s shot and had a good set of puts, perhaps season bests, just in time for the state meet. Skylar Olsen (Desales) looked good, too. Emily Adams (Waitsburg) showed surprising (to me, at least) hops in the women’s triple jump. Olivia Pakootas looked good but the couple of jumps I saw were a little short of her usual but I only caught two of the six jumps as I drifted to the men’s javelin.

Update: Kaitlyn Andrews (Dayton) edged out Olivia Pakootas by 4" to win the triple jump. Rachel Gfeller (St John) took third and is headed to State.

Cody Whitmore, if I heard correctly, blasted a javelin throw of 150+ feet which would be a new PR for the young man. Update: Cody threw 153'08" while brother Dirk threw 149'02".  Dayton Krull completed the sweep for Asotin. 

The men’s shot put was very competitive with the Waitsburg men putting pressure on a traditional Asotin strength in the power event. Nate Barlow and Zion Branson (Waitsburg) took second and third while Jacob Swearingen (Asotin) won.

That’s it for now. I’ll get numbers into the report when I have them.

Thanks to Sal Lopez for giving me permission to get on the infield to take some of these photos. He called me 'media'. You guys deserve better but, still, we're making progress.

If you want to follow me on Facebook, you can like my author page

A Day for Odds, Ends, and a Long Run

Before I roll out for a run up North Asotin Creek with my new GPS watch (so I can see how slow I really go), here's a few articles that caught my attention. First up, sent over by the Asotin JHS xc coach, an article from Runner's World on footstrike. From the blurb that the article offers, there really isn't enough information to make a call either way. I'd like to see all the data on the types of injuries experienced, types of shoes, experience of the runners, mileage between groups, etc. They don't mention a whole lot about controlling for all other factors which would be necessary to move it out of the junk science category. Also, given the forefoot strikers were faster, does that imply that they were able to exert more force creating the injuries and would their rates drop if they slowed down. I'm betting that when all the details come out, the issue still won't be definitive.

For those who would like to keep up with events on the world stage, RunBlogRun is a great aggregator of news.

And I wish I still lived in San Diego - it would take a PR effort for me to hang, but Meb Keflezighi is pacing the 1:30 half-marathoners at Rock 'n Roll on June 1st. It wouldn't take that much of a PR, either. . .  on a side note, my first marathon was the Rock 'n Roll in San Diego in 2000. It hurt so bad, I moved up to ultras a year later, clocking 65.61 miles in 12 hours.

And last up, a blog post by author Hugh Howey on goals and dreams. Go, read it, set some challenging goals - but don't forget to dream of greatness, either.

We had a gentle rain out here last night that will help my little vegetable garden grow and soften the trails. It's play time.

Run gently, friends.