Sunday, March 1, 2015

Left to Stu's on His Own

Like yet another rite of spring and training for the Boston Marathon, Sunday marked a return trip to Clinton, Boylston and Sterling for the hill workout known affectionately as the Central Mass Striders' Stu's Run, a 30K (or 18.6 mile) meandering trek around some of the more scenic vistas you'll encounter locally courtesy of the Wachusett Reservoir.
Which this year, was nothing but a pure white blanket for as far as the eye can see.
But this year, unlike past years, Andrew - starting off his Spring Break with a long run - was fated to log the miles alone, as schedules and lack of Boston participation for others kept the masses away.
But that didn't affect this lone wolf.  Just the opposite, in fact.  He reveled in it.
But first, before heading out of the gym at Clinton High School, Andrew some inspiration from words that don't inspire fellow Avenger Nick Laganas.  It's an interesting, introspective, and motivational story for another blog.
Speaking of words of inspiration, I had a few to offer the lad before I headed out to meet him in one of multiple locations along the course.
The first location being alongside the Wachusett Reservoir, where Andrew was literally jumping for joy at seeing his father. 
Looking solid in his stride. 
Thumbs up at the 4.6 mile mark.  Only 14 miles left. 
And then there's THIS guy, who ran the race carrying not one, but TWO American flags.  So stop complaining about your aches and pains. 
Another staple on the course, a cookie shop sharing its name with this blog (check out the profile pic to the right to see it in a past year.)  Andrew makes a point of pointing it out. 
A rare, and maybe even a first father-son selfie.  Because you know, we really ARE Wicked Good Cookies. 
And with that, he's off again! 
With less than five miles to go, Andrew points the way 
Coming around the OTHER side of the vast Wachusett Reservoir
Paying the first of two homages to Leonard Nimoy, buried on Sunday, Andrew reminds us all to Live Long and Prosper 
A couple more shots of the Reservoir Dog 
And finally, at journey's end awaits the conqueror's medal 
Andrew notched a 2:20 18.6 miler, averaging a 7:27 pace throughout.  Not once during the race did he crawl north of an eight minute mile!  A feat made even more impressive by the terrain of the course, which boasts some of the steepest hills you can run in Central Massachusetts.
See how well he does when he doesn't have the rest of us E Streeters holding him back?
Quite the outing Andrew, you did us all proud.
May you Run Long and Prosper! 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Running By the Woods on the Road Not Taken

(With apologies up front to the poet Robert Frost)

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promised to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
So there's this great scene in the Fellowship of the Ring, where the nine members of the fellowship try to climb the pass of Mount Caradhras, and Saruman is working his wizardry, sending blizzard conditions to stop the intrepid nine.  And leading the way, Legolas the elf walks atop the snow, not breaking the surface, while all his fellow warriors trudge through feet of untouched snow.

Here's a reminder, in case you've forgotten the classic scene:

So Sunday, it was time for Andrew and I to try our hands at recreating that scene during Andrew's 13 mile Boston Marathon training run.

The results were more along the lines of this:
Yeah, even Gandalf's staff or Gimli's battleaxe couldn't help us Sunday as we forged new paths in Paxton.
So the story behind the story - there's a terrific run through Paxton that Andrew and I have done in the past.  Scenic, quiet roads with gorgeous vistas and tree cover that really helps you appreciate nature and the views add an extra step to your run.
But as Andrew and I learned on Sunday, it turns out Paxton doesn't always plow those roadways.
The result, nearly a mile of trudging through three foot drifts of snow to get to the other side.  The other side being Moore State Park.
A couple of decades of running, and I have to confess, this turned out to be one of the most strenuous runs I've ever logged.
Just before we took our first steps onto the roadway, one of the crankiest old farmers we've met in some time basically told us we were jackasses for doing what we about to attempt.  He was like something you'd see in a Stephen King novel.

Turns out he was a fairly intelligent cranky old farmer.

Not even ten feet into the trek, Andrew gave me the thumbs up.  Or maybe it's the middle finger.
Really, he's asking himself, Dad, what the hell are we thinking?
And just like that, he was off.  He didn't really get that much of a lead on me.  I just lagged behind to catch this dramatic shot. 
See?  Eventually, I caught up to AND PASSED him. 
Cleverly, we both wore bright clothing in case rescue choppers needed to spot us from above later. 
Andrew got so excited when we finally spotted the other end of this maniacal mile, he just took off like the Flash.
Leaving the Jedi Master to follow in his apprentice's ample footsteps. 
Out in the free world, Andrew is dwarfed by the snowbanks, but he was just thrilled to be back on solid ground.
At run's end, Andrew's backside was a casualty of the messy roads. 
Seriously, this one was one for the history books.  Sure could have used Scott Graham's trusty snowshoes.  Course, we didn't KNOW we were heading up Mount Caradhras when we set out.
But I suppose, in hindsight, Robert Frost may have been on to something in another of his poemts when he wrote:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I (and my son)
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

We Are All Patriots Parades

"I never thought another trophy could feel as special, but this one absolutely does!  Every true Patriots fan understands it.  I want to thank the coaching staff, all the players, tonight we are all Patriots and once again the Patriots are world champions."  - New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

"We're going to another Duckboat parade!" - Heather Cook.

Any followers of this blog know the Cook family are staples at Boston sports team celebrations - see any Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, or Patriots victory blog from anytime within the last 13 years.
This year's Super Bowl 49 Patriots championship posed a difficult proposition, coming as it did on the heels of four feet of snow and an ungodly cold snap.  So this time out, stalwarts Jackie and Andrew couldn't make the sojourn to Boylston Street because of pressing commitments elsewhere, but Heather and her best bud Chloe Manousos donned their red, white, and blue Pats garb and braved the mean - and snow-packed - streets of Boston.
Here's the Patriettes themselves, waiting for the parade's opening shot from the Minutemen.
Yes, we are the champions, and we've got the video to prove it!
(Click here)

This outing would prove a challenge trek, joining tens of thousands of others as we tried to plow our way into Boston, one millimeter at a time.
We queued up at parade's start, at Dalton and Boylston Streets, by the Boston Fire Department's Ladder 15, and just up the street from the Summer Shack, a mere 40 yards away from the legendary Hereford Street of Boston Marathon lore.
Boston's Finest were out in force to help keep the route safe.

Behind us, we could hear the constant cacophany of car horns sounding their championship support, until suddenly - the air fell silent.  We turned to look down onto the Mass Pike, and suddenly, the constant stream of cars had came to a complete stop.
And then the State Police escort roared into view, followed by more than a dozen of these babies, carrying their Most Valuable Players.
Just a common sight on the streets of Boston these past years, a Patriot
Let's see that trophy, Mr. Kraft!  Today, we are all Patriots parade-goers!
Okay get this this crazy train started!

(click here)
CRAZY TRAIN


A beaming Bill Belichick led the team, once more unto the fray.  The guy's a master.
Time for Tom Terrific.
Oops - wrong pics.
We last caught Mr. Brady - Tom, not Mike - at a broiling hot training camp at Gillette Stadium last August
Now, in a much colder February, here he is giving his son Benjamin some pointers on how to wave to a throng of more than 100,000
Obviously, Benjamin is a quick learner.
The guy who'll never have to buy a drink in New England ever again, the hero of the nanosecond, Malcolm Butler.  I'm still not sure it's all sunk in with him yet.

Danny Amendola, Brian Tyms, and Julian Edelman follow their leader into battle
We caught Edelman before he started shedding his wardrobe as the temps rose.  There's no one I'd rather see get the football when we need a First Down than this guy. No one.
And then there's everyone's favorite Minion, Gronk.  Really, not too much I can say about this guy that hasn't been said in those dime-store romance novels, or any other talk show program in the last past few days.
Ready for their Julian Edelman Best Friend Smoothies, Heather and Chloe were among the best dressed on the parade route.  The guy behind them in the circa-1950s football helmet?  Not so much.
And finally, valiantly representing Clan Cook - and quite possibly the New England Patriots most steadfast fan, Jackie
So that's the Duck Boats Parade 2015.  Didn't say it was the LAST Duck Boat parade of 2015, just the last one of this sport's season.
Heather and Andrew, like Chloe and most kids their age, have happily gotten spoiled by the flood of New England sports teams championships of this century.
And happily, there's always a celebration at the end of these winning seasons that allows us to come together to pay homage to the champions once again and to mark another milestone in the family's sports memories.
Thanks, New England Patriots, for yet another great season.  See you at training camp in August!