Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Chills Are Alive

A cold one this morning,with temperatures in the low teens as we ventured out to the Vineyards in Bolton and Lancaster to log a 10 mile run to help the member of E Streeters nation who has crazily set her sights on running the Boston Marathon this year.  *cough* looking at YOU, Heather Cook! *cough*
For those of us who've done this particular run, we know it's anything but a flat course.  In fact, it's got some of the more challenging long hills we encounter in our training runs.  And atop the final hill, we're presented with a vista that hearkens back to a certain nun-in-training frolicking in the fields of Austria.  We'll be back to this reference a bit later in the blog.
So what kind of hills are we talking about?
Via Runkeeper.....
Kinda wish we coulda spent a bit more time around the 6 mile mark, but so be it.
Anyone who knows us knows we're big fans of the Vineyard.
Downtown Edgartown is looking a bit different in the winter time.
Scaling the first of the Grant Tetons of Bolton, Andrew and Heather are all biz-ness. 
Nothing like a sibling Town Line race.  The image is a bit blurry, so it's hard to tell who claimed victory, but I was there.  Congrats, Heath! 
At the five-mile mark, we picked up a couple of those Lads from Lancaster, Ben and Josh.
 Ben wasn't quite sure what he was in for, running with us.  Pretty sure he wasn't expecting the mountain climb ahead.  Josh, who ran track in high school, had already conquered the course a number of times, so he was raring to go. 
Hey look, another town line!  And while it appears Andrew claimed victory with his Town Line Lunge, do I need to point out that SOMEONE had to already claim the Town Line in order to take the picture?  Ahem.... 
Finally, we made it!  After an arduous climb, we reached the apex of the run, the hilltop from which on a clear day, you can see forever, or at least to Boston.  Wasn't a lot of talking on the way up, but the satisfying feeling of victory at the top quashed any of the anguish quickly.
Climb every mountain!
How quickly?  Well quick enough for Andrew to launch into his best Maria Von Trapp imitation.
Might have been the lack of oxygen at the high altitude, I dunno.
Whatever it was, it was worth catching the Lonely Goatherd on film. 
From there, the rest of the run was all downhill, and we were running too fast to take any pictures.
But a solid 10 miler in the books, and all of it logged before the first snowflakes fell!
'Course, now that the storm's set in, we've got coffee aplenty, the beef stew is simmering, and football playoff games are on, it's pretty obvious what's next.
So long, farewell!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Still Souper After All These Years

January 1st, a time of rebirth, of renewal, of hope, of getting reinvigorated, of starting the year off keeping those healthy resolutions. 
And for anyone who knows anything about our band of rogues, it's a time for soup.
For more years than this blog documents (its previous life pre-2009, is alas, lost to time), a loyal group of friends and their family members have been meeting atop an icy crag in Westford, Massachusetts, to remind one another of long-lasting friendships, rivalries, and of course, to consume copious amounts of soup at the home of John and Karen Piekos.  A couple of times over those years, we took a detour to join with 700 other runners in the Lowell 5K, but for the most part, it's been a Westford rendezvous for these rugged runners.

Don't remember our past exploits?  Here's a quick trip down memory lane:

There's nothing like documenting the march of time than with a series of pics showing the evolution of a running tradition, at least via the last few years, so here goes a quick flashback:

Whew!  That's a lot of souperstars!
Okay, we'll be back to revisit this lineup at blog's end.
But now, it's time for the First Run, 2017!
Featuring among other stars, pasta fagioli and chicken spinach stew
A slow start doing some off-roading as we try to navigate the icy straits of Everest, and we were off!
Featuring, first time Soup Runners, Steve Vachon and this year's wonder woman warrior, Heather!
Posing proudly at the first town-line along the historic course.
It was a wild pack logging the miles in Westford and Tyngsboro this year.  Some can stand being in the spotlight.  For others, the constant glare of the media lights can be blinding.
Heather kicked butt along the mostly hilly 6 1/2 mile scenic course.
John was all laughs, because he knew a different road lie ahead for him (to get in position for the epic videos to follow)
Good thing these pics don't come with sound, you'd hear Heather cursing out her fellow runners for choosing this hilly course.
How hilly?  This hilly:
Remember how I said John ran ahead to get in position for the epic movies?  Here you go....

As the crowd begins to winnow, Carlos took a moment to help psyche Heather up for the back half of the winter run
It helps to stop and appreciate the views all around you while you're out there, too
Back on Dunstable Road, the soup, inappropriate jokes, and plans for the long runs ahead abounded.
Thanks again to John and Karen for hosting.
Thankful, also that we're all able to gather in one place to celebrate our friendship, health and prosperity every New Year's Day.
Yeah, it's a run, but it's a lot more than that.
It's a reminder that Mark Twain and Clarence the Angel were right - no man is a failure who has friends. And soup.  Always, the soup.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Make American Pie Great Again

Thanksgiving morning, and anyone who's ever read this blog since it started lo, so many years ago, knows what that means.
Running, pie, and friends.
It's official - it's not the invigorating 5K run that pulls us all out of our toasty-warm beds on chilly November mornings.
It's the opportunity to draw together friends and family from all over the place, many of whom could care less about running 3.1 miles - we just appreciate the opportunity to be gathered in one place again to say thanks for what we've got in our lives.
And every year, it takes on new meanings, as the other realities of life set in and make us realize just how lucky we are to still be able to do this.
And of course, there's always the apple pie at the finish line.
Super proud to be logging the miles with the kids - make no mistake, Andrew comes for the pie.  Heather battled back a cold after I guilt-tripped her into emerging from her cocoon of covers.
The Cassidy and Cook girls 
Inside the Elks, we're ready to hit the road! 
The Cassidy Clan of runners grew by one more this year, as Marcia logged her first 5K!  Welcome to the club, Marcia.  You can't get out. 
At the start, Rebecca and her sister Sarah are beaming.  They know Pokemon galore await them over the next glorious three miles 
Heather's looking pretty excited.  Course, we haven't left the parking lot yet.  Either that or she's just pumped to be running stride for stride with Carlos. 
Photobombing 101 
Even Steve's getting in on the action 
Thanks to the Lowell High School champion cross country team for staffing the water stop at the halfway mark 
DJ is setting a blistering pace heading toward the final mile on Pawtucket Boulevard.  Watch out for your brother behind you.  He's deceptively quiet out there! 
You'd never know the guy in the middle just ran 26.2 miles in the Philly Marathon four days earlier.  Not a sign of being worse for the wear.  At least none Barry's showing. 
Cockiness 2016 - when John stops in the roadway just to let everyone catch up to him.  He saves himself for this race every year.
They're laughing because they know Carlos just stuck a hot blade into the group run plan 
John - he knows where the cameras are at all times, especially when he's manning the selfie-cam 
In the finish chute, it's time to reap the pie rewards. 
I close this Thanksgiving blog every year giving thanks for everyone who's still around to read and appreciate these ramblings.
This year was a tough one.  We lost some loved ones in some pretty tough ways.  A couple of us have had our first skirmishes with some real health issues.  It's been a wild and woolly year of election politics.  Yeah, 2016, has been a tough one for many of us to muddle through.
But muddle through we have.
And here we are, at another Wicked Good Thanksgiving.
Thanks to everyone who's been there for all of us throughout the year.  The family, the friends, the co-workers, the extended families in other parts.
I can't personally thank everyone enough for the support Clan Cook has gotten through our ups and downs this year.  You know who you are.
I hope you all get out there and enjoy this entire holiday weekend with the ones you love.
And I hope we can all come back here next Thanksgiving for more pie, photobombing, and more run-cam shots.
A personal thank you for my rocks - Jackie, Andrew and Heather for sticking side-by-side through a whirlwind couple of months.  You guys are the best!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Annie Strong

Another crisp Fall Sunday morning in September, and another opportunity to walk to support a terrific cause, the Jimmy Fund, to help, in some small way, to contribute to the never-ending battle against the cancer that has claimed and impacted so many lives.
We first became involved with the walk more than a dozen years ago, because Jackie's sister, Anne Blake, convinced her sister to join her for a leisurely jaunt from Wellesley to Boston to take part in the fund-raiser.
We've been there in one form or another as a family every September since.
This year, though, is different.
We lost Annie in July.  She had twice beaten back leukemia, but the side effects of transplants and residual infections proved to be too much.
So in 2016, more than ever, Jackie and Heather are determined to log the 13.1 miles in Annie's memory.  Ugly socks and all.  They'll be joined for the trek by Jack's sister Cheryl, and Jackie and Annie's brother Don.
Andrew and I, as in most years, are running out from the finish to meet the walking warriors, and we'll all walk in together.  This year will be a special finish, but will unquestionably have a different feel to it.
Using this opportunity to look back on some of the times that Annie was able to lead the charge.  (Couldn't easily access 2004-2008 pics)
This year's for you Annie.





There's still time to donate to this year's member's of Annie's Army to help support their inspirational effort

Click on their name to link to their fund-raising pages:

and our friend Christine Cole, who also walks every year for her loved ones and beyond:

We'll be thinking of you every step of the way, Annie