Saturday, March 18, 2017

Tall Tales: the Piekos Projects

Now I think I'm going down to the well tonight
and I'm going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it
but I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days

Despite what Bruce Springsteen might espouse, when you run with John Piekos on any of his old stomping grounds, the Glory Days stories are anything but boring.
Nor are they always steeped in facts.

tall tale is a story with unbelievable elements, related as if it were true and factual. Things are often told in a way that makes the narrator seem to have been a part of the story, and are good-natured. The line between legends and tall tales is distinguished primarily by age; many legends exaggerate the exploits of their heroes, but in tall tales the exaggeration looms large, to the extent of becoming the whole of the story.

And so it was, this balmy March morning, that John ventured beyond the icy driveways and cantaloupes of Westford to return to his roots in the Mill City, and log some miles running through Lowell's downtown and Centralville neighborhoods.
Naturally, Barry and I were there to capture pictures of the rare occurrence and once again found ourselves immersed into a 2017 volume of American Folklore Tall Tales, the John Piekos Projects
John was still smiling here, because he didn't realize we were about to ascend Third Street, one of the steepest hills Lowell has to offer runners.  He was too busy remembering stories of E Streeter bachelor party surprises that had German Shepherds cowering under tables.  Don't ask, the story can't be repeated on a family blog.
Once he realized he was in the wilds of Centralville, John called an audible to extend the route to include running past a relative's home where Tall Tales of Muhammad Ali abounded.  Again, don't ask, some stories won't make sense even when recounted.
In the thick of Centralville, we witnessed some of the fury of this past week's storm.  Beneath some of these fallen branches sits a parked car, its windshield shattered by the downed branches.  This particular scene caught John completely by surprise, as he wasn't aware that Lowell boasted any flora or fauna.
Newsflash, John: even this guy made a pass through the Mill City in his heyday, because he, too, knows there's a Lot to Like About Lowell.
And then it happened.  Apparently the bases-loaded epic tale of Chelmsford Little League has a Big City Rival.  This one at Harry Allen Field involves a heckler who needed silencing, another bases-loaded situation, and yet one more tale as grandiose in its scale as this pair:
We'll just move on and let your imagination take you to where John is pointing 
Coming back across the Ouellette Bridge after somehow managing to bypass Top Donut without stopping, it was time to take in some trail running, Lowell-style
So it turns out the walkway behind the Tsongas Arena and Boott Mills hasn't been completely shoveled out.  That's okay, we've run John's driveway before, these conditions are mild compared to that.
John's giving Barry the Boott here 
One final victory lap past my place of business.  The throngs of spectators were inspirational. 
That's it for this round of John's Tall Tales. We'll be sure to post the next volume once we run past yet another baseball field that was once the scene of one of his historic home runs.
Until then, Piekos Bill says keep on riding them tornados!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Stella(r) Blizzard Run!

Guten Tag!
First off, can I just rant for a second?  I think the naming of these snowstorms is one of the most ludicrous additions to our weather-watching news cycles that I have ever witnessed.  I think Nemo was the first time I realized we were now naming our snowflakes.  Apparently, it's the creation of the Weather Channel, round-a-bout 2012.

What would the Blizzard of '78 be recalled as, if not the Blizzard of '78?  I shudder to consider the amendment to history.  I prefer more dramatic namings, like Snowmaggedon, Snowpocalypse, or Snowzilla.

Then today, along comes a whopper of a blizzard that some meteorologist with too much time on his hands christened Stella.   Naturally, I immediately went here:
Turns out there was a LOT to be desired on the streets of Lowell today.  But that didn't stop Boston Marathoner-in-training Heather - home for a quick visit after her amazing reise de Germany - from lacing up and getting out there to run six miles before the vicious afternoon winds kicked in!

(Watch for the infusion of several of the new German words Heather picked up on her trip.)

Naturally, dad was there to chronicle it with his handy-dandy Blizzard-Cam
You can tell this was still early in the run, because Heather's still smiling at her vater. 
We tried to stay off the main roads wherever possible, not that there was much traffic out during the early part of the storm.
Anyone know the actual name of this body of water over behind Shedd Park, across from the Lowell Cemetery?  Since I was young lad visiting my Aunt Virginia on nearby Park Avenue East, I always just knew it as Frog Pond.  Don't tell Andrew, he'll never run there again. 
Winter runner's tip that anybody who's tried to slog through the snow knows: find a tire track and run in it, for better traction on the slippery underfoot straben
Done storming the ramparts, Heather makes her exit from Fort Hill 
Slogging it in to the office even during a blizzard.  Dedicated. 
Yes, the wind whipping the snowfall into Heather's face as we cross the Cox Bridge is indeed, as painful as it appears to be. 
Why's she still laughing?  Because dad almost went down on his @$$ after spinning to take a picture as we crossed the Hunts Falls Brucke, heading back zuhause
Not many other signs of life out on the roads, other than the occasional plow.
Heath was convinced she could outrun this juggernaut
The final mile.  Conditions had REALLY started changing at this point, as well as our excitement level at being out in this historic snowstorm.  By now, we had reached the "dad put the camera away" phase of the lauf, and we just needed to fertig
Huge round of applause for this stellar performance from my favorite snow bunny!
Two weeks in Germany, and she hasn't missed a step!
Stella got her groove back!
Auf Wiedersehen!!!!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Stu Breeze

Stu's Run, a 30K (that's 18.6 MILES!) ordeal over some of the hilliest terrain to be found on the pre-Boston Marathon running paths, around and around the Wachusett Reservoir and up and down the hills of Clinton, West Boylston, Sterling, and any other Worcester county community that boasts a spirit-breaking hill.
But for me, one of my favorite races to photograph.
Because I get free advertising every year for this blog at Mile 9, that's why.
Wicked Good Cookies.  That's us Cooks, indeed.
ANYways.... on to the race.
This year's Stu's Race, while run under clear azure skies, also boasted the fiercest, most unrelenting winds we've experienced out on this course.  It hearkened back to that still famous 2010 Eastern States 20 miler that still ranks atop the list of most inhuman weather conditions under which to conduct a Boston Marathon training run. 
Sunday's winds pretty much accompanied the runners throughout their 18.6 miles, and unfortunately, any time the vista became especially photogenic, the winds increased exponentially.
Mile 5 at the Old Stone Church, site of one of Jackie and my first dates way back when I had hair and Jackie had no idea what she was getting herself into.
But there was no time for sight-seeing as suddenly, like a bolt, there appeared Rick Sobey, he of the fleetest feet in the Lowell Sun.  Sorry, Barry, he's got you by a couple of steps.
The Most Valuable E Streeter running buddy nod goes this year to Scott Spence, who opted not to just go for a simple 10 mile loop to assist in pacing Andrew, but went all in, logging nearly 14 miles on the course with the lad!
That kind of friendship deserves a fist bump, at a bare minimum. 
And just like that, the pair was off and inseparable for the next 2+ hours 
How windy was it?  The gale force gusts blew Rick's Patriots' knit hat clear off his head, as caught on camera.
But that's okay, Rick's still smiling.  That smile can't last the next 9+ miles, can it?  (See further below) 
Time for an updated blog profile pic?
I'm thinking there's a branding opportunity somewhere here for me.
And as I ruminated on new marketing opportunities, the Pernicious Pair was upon me again!
The Dynamic Duo is still providing thumbs up, despite the mile-long ascension up toward Shrewsbury
And there's that aforementioned smiling Sobey again.  Just dawned on me now: Shorts, Rick?  It was ARCTIC freezing out there with the damn wind chill, Rick!  Are you NUTS?!?!?
Speaking of nuts
Their shadows are outpacing them
Heading into the home stretch, Rick made special note of the 25K signage to his left.  That means he has just 5K, or 3.1 miles to go to finish this bad boy off!
And he never looked back
How many kilometers you got left in you boys? 
The wonders of Snapchat, and my son gets to tell mom and dad he's doing just great out on the open road.  You know it's windy when Andrew a) has his hat now turned around frontwards and b) has his hood up
Heading down through Clinton Center, Andrew openly ponders when this runner's long winter ordeal will finally end
With dad pointing the way to the finish, Andrew lets readers of this blog know how many miles he has left to run.  Could have explained it better in retrospect, Andrew.
Is that a finish line I see before us?  Hard to tell.  We're all pretty bleary-eyed at this point
Andrew discarded his running entourage and claimed his medal solo, to the throngs of fans foolhardy enough to stay outside in these wind chills
Inside, the two young mustangs share a laugh.  Actually, this pic is just proof of what so many hear rumored.  You lose control of all your faculties after such a grueling physical test.  Some cry, others laugh maniacally, others collapse in exhaustion.  And other big blows grab a cup of soup, a banana, and cookie and just document the day's true Wind Warriors with his iPhone.
Exceptional job, boys!