Saturday, January 10, 2015

Still the Ravens, Nevermore!

This is a piece I wrote in 2012, when the Baltimore Ravens came to town to do battle with our esteemed New England Patriots.  Dusted it off and updated it for a version to honor this year's AFC face-off.

With apologies, of course, to this guy, Edgar Allan Poe.

Once upon a January dreary, an important football game drew neary,
A team of mighty Ravens spread their wings and roared;
And came the mighty Patriots never bitter, sayeth Pats fans all a-Twitter,
Our Team's focused not on snow or score;
The Pats are ready for their visitors, knocking on the AFC door
Standing in the way of Super Bowl victory Number Four.
"Slow down," says Coach Bill. "Only this game. Nothing more."

Ah, distinctly, I remember, it was back before November
When the pundits labeled Brady's Pats as ghosts of Pats teams yore.
Yet to the Jets' and Broncos' dismay, valiantly they reached the game today
Another battle in the quest for Super Bowl victory Number Four.
But before those victory marches take place 'neath the Gillette arches,
Lie another challenge, that of Baltimore.

And here in Lowell, 'neath a fresh blanket of snow,
Is a link to poet Edgar Allan Poe.
It's a tavern, to some a haven, that played host to Poe, post-Raven,
In the shadow of City Hall's spire, across the street from Goodyear Tire,
Lies the Worthen, its flags a-wavin', 'neath a sign sporting Poe's Raven,
Not Baltimore's.

Once a House quite uncanny, it's where Poe, it's said, met Annie,
And would frequent several times in days of yore.
Trips to Westford and to Lowell, all to meet with his good "friend,"
And by-the-by, where did the vaunted Raven's author meet his end?
Why, Baltimore!

And so on Saturday, the other Ravens, we will pity, watching here in the Mill City
As the Ravens' vaunted players, just the latest Brady nay-sayers,
Watch the Patriots march down the field and score.
Yes, Tom Brady, king of Uggs, will make short work of Terrell Suggs,
As darkness falls once more on Baltimore.

Have the Ravens, at last count, heard about our guy named Blount?
But in case they think we're foolin' wait until we unleash our Julian,
And Ray Lewis, well he'll still be a boor.
The Patriots miss, yes indeed, the braggart boasts of Edward Reed,
You know the Pats collect the quotes of Baltimore.

If the waiting makes you sick, keep the faith in Belichick.
He's withstood all of the crying, from the jealous like Rex Ryan,
He's the mastermind uncanny,who found a way to stop Manning.
He's focused on ONE GAME, nothing more.
Bill's got tons of playbook manuals, and don't forget there's Josh McDaniels.
Belichick's got his sights fixed firm on the Ravens of Baltimore.

So tailgate with your dips and tacos, Bill's ready for QB Joe Flacco.
At press conferences, they'll play nice, even without that guy Ray Rice.
And to no one but themselves they're beholdin', unleash the weapon Brandon Bolden.
On Monday morning, they'll be sore.
And Lafell, Wilfork, Grey and Gronk? Their horns on Sunday we'll be proud to honk.
Just keep perspective Pats: First beat Baltimore.

And so the Ravens, never flitting, will be sitting, will be sitting,
Surrounded today by the mighty Gillette roars;
Their eyes will have all the seeming of a demon that is dreaming
Watching as the Pats rack up the score.
And our souls from winter's shadow shall rise soaring, higher more
And our spirits will be lifted as our Pats seek Super Bowl victory Number Four!

Course, my favorite version of this poem remains:
By the way, don't worry about this guy.  He's ready.  Just give him the ball.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy Trails to Soup

New Year's Day, which means all over the world, people are embarking on their new fitness commitments to meet their New Year's Resolutions.  A time of rebirth, renewal, and re-invigoration.
For the E Streeters, as regular readers of this blog know, it's also a time for soup.
In an annual tradition almost as world-renown as the dropping of the crystal ball in Times Square, we gather together in Westford every New Year's Day for our first running excursion of the year, a workout that always ends with the Great American Soup-Off, courtesy of SouperWoman extraordinaire, Karen Cambray.
We were missing some of our stalwart runners for this year's outing, but worry not, we ate their share.
The Founder of the Feast chose to avoid the camera this year, most likely for fear of having her chicken spinach stew recipe pirated by the North Korean regime.  But make no mistake, Karen still wields the Mighty Ladle.
While the New Year's run is always an event, the course isn't always as forgiving as Kim Jong Un, throwing some of the steeper hills that we'll see all year at us.  The course also includes the most competitive and one of the more challenging Town Line races of the entire year.
This year, John went to great lengths to provide us with multiple options of courses, using the technology that he wields as heftily as Karen does her Mighty Ladle.
Knowing how much time and effort it took to chart those courses, I'll confess to a slight pang of guilt when I called an audible and asked that we instead run trails to take advantage to the warm weather and the ability to still run trails in January before Old Man Winter leaves his mark on them.
And luckily, John's back yard provides immediate access to a series of trails, complete with a motion-activated Wildlife Cam.
With that, we were off!
Mean Pat and Mean Carlos, running the Mean Trails 
For the recreational runners who are readers of this blog, if you haven't experienced trail running, there truly isn't anything that compares, on the running front at least.  As you can see below, you need to allow some space between one another to ramble over the rocks, fallen trees and brooks, but it's a different workout, it's easier on the knees, and seriously, how can you not just bask in the opportunity to run among such a gorgeous landscape, all while notching some great exercise?
Barry takes the hill with a smile!
Trail running requires you to pay attention to every footfall.  And occasionally, to work some different muscles to fjord the streams!  Andrew takes them with ease!
Time to hit the streets for a connecting link 
The Soup Run provides a perfect opportunity for these brothers-in-law to catch up 
Running into the sun, but I'm running behind.... 
Thankfully, Westford takes great care to let us know where its trails are. 
Carlos stops to give a shoutout to his pride and joy 
After a brief pounding of the pavement, it's time to hit the trails again at Misery Meadow! 
Thanks to Scott for venturing into the marshes for the bridge shot!
And heading into the homestretch, we're once again blessed by the Westford Trailmarkers.  Good thing, because otherwise, Scott might not have known where to go.
And finally, after a hardy 6.5 mile loop, we're back at Dunstable Road, for the reason we run.  Well, that sounds fairly pathetic, so let's just say the reason we run at 11 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. on New Year's Day!  Soup!
This year's offerings from Karen: chicken spinach stew and her specialty, pasta fagioli!
Every year, all runners sample both and vote, a democratic process that usually splits the choice right down the middle.  Not this year.  For the first time in history, the choice was unanimous: the chicken spinach stew won in a landslide!
Thanks again for hosting, Karen and John!  You won't have to contend with all of us darkening your doorway for another 365 days!
Happy New Year to all the followers of this blog's exploits.  Thankful we're all still together and healthy enough to log the miles and spend some quality time with a loyal group of friends.
Oh, and soup too, always thankful for that.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Running for Rachel

For regular readers of this blog, you probably have glommed onto the fact by now that we E Streeters are a hardy bunch of runners.  We run all year long, through all conditions, all kinds of distances, and all kinds of locales.  And as often as possible, to help support worthy causes when we can.
This weekend, we took part in unquestionably one of the worthiest of those causes ever - Rachel's Run, in memory of Rachel Anne Morrison.
Rachel was an avid runner whose dream to run the Boston Marathon with her father John was tragically cut short just a month before this year's Marathon, when she was struck and killed by a drunken driver in California, just days after her 27th birthday.
Every year, Rachel used to organize a post-Thanksgiving run on the cross-country trails behind Notre Dame Academy in Tyngsboro.  All participants were asked to bring food donations for local food pantries.
This year, in her memory, her family pulled off their first 5K on the course, Rachel's Run, drawing in nearly 150 runners to traverse the icy terrain behind the Tyngsboro school.
Needless to say, the E Streeters were there in full force.
Special thanks to running photog extraordinaire Jim Rhoades who was snapping pics feverishly out on the course itself, many of which you'll see below.
Some runners, like Barry and Tommy Scanlon, came prepared, wearing spikes.  It helps when you put them on the right way, though.  You figure out which one would have been better suited to run the course backwards.
An E Streeters group pic, sans Scott Graham, who was out getting his striped pants groomed for the run.
Case in point.  Two Great Scotts
Barry tried to glean some racing tips from veteran runner Scott Spence.
Then realized none of them would help and tried to get a head start before race officials reeled him back in.
And they're off!
Scott represented the E Streeters well.
With Kara Haas dogging his trail.  Needless to say, Kara took first place in the women's division.
A striped tiger, running through the jungle
Seriously, if you've dabbled in running and haven't tried trail running yet, you're missing out on a world of fun.  Not to mention treacherous footing, slippery slopes, and extra-hard workouts!
Andrew's got the edge on his old man at this point
John just makes it look like he's struggling.  He's not.  Really, he's not.  Okay, maybe just a little
Keep on trekking, Lauren!

Miles to go before he sleeps, Andrew has the trail all to himself
Tommy takes the hill.
Coming down the other side of said hill, the pack is all bunched up again
John's got a message for both Scotts - Spence and Graham.  Either he's getting cocky, or he just figures they're going to be passing him soon on their second lap
Getting ready for a patented Scott Rocket
Proudly representing the Greater Lowell Road Runners, Graham takes the second hill
Andrew makes his point
Tommy can run this course with his eyes closed
Steve Vachon just laughs to himself.  He knows what he's doing to do this pack of misfits on the second lap
John broke the cardinal rule of always knowing where the camera is.  Clearly, I did not.
Dan Bradley does his Tyngsboro clan proud
With his old man Tim right on his heels
Finally, it's finish line time - in no particular order:
Vachon cackling to himself after his second lap strategy paid off in spades 
Even without Carlos there, it was still a group run for the ages.  Not to mention a group finish
Andrew clearly wants to make sure everyone crosses the line together
Except his old man, who got boxed out of the group photo
Fortunately, we had Ann Scanlon there to document the thrilling Group Run finish
Way to go, Dan
Valerie is a blur, she's running so fast
And somehow, Tim still musters a smile.
In closing, so that no one forgets the reason we all ventured out on the trails in the first place, we'll let the woman in whose memory the race is run have the last word, in a special poem she wrote that was handed out to all the participants, called

I am not shy
I am thoughtful
I am not plain
I am beautiful inside
I am not nosy
I am curious
I am not inconsistent
I am spontaneous
I am not loud
I am expressive
I am not unusual
I am unique
I am not a rebel
I am opinionated
I am not wild
 I am free.