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Thursday, June 30, 2005


Boston Marathon

Did I ever tell you about the time I ran the Boston Marathon? Ha, just kidding. It has only been recently people have stopped running when they see me coming. I was like Duffy on the old television series in the late 60's; F-Troop. Duffy was the only survivor of the Alamo, except for the Mexicans. If the Alamo were ever mentioned within Duffy's earshot, it was as if he were taken over by some power beyond. He would begin his long story with, "The Alamo. There we were . . . me and Davey . . . backs against the wall . . ." When this started, everyone's eyes glazed over and they tried to get away.

My reason for posting this photo is I just got it. I was not going to buy any pictures, but I got an email from Marathon Foto and it caught me in a weak moment. So here it is a picture of me not too far from the finish.
Click the photo for a larger version.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, June 29, 2005


5:53 AM The Moon and the Crow

It was just another day. I awoke at 5:00 AM and heard the coffee pot start its dripping thanks to its automatic on feature. The dog begins his stretching, snorting, and staring routine. He is waking up too. I shaved while drinking my first cup of the morning elixir. My mind is calm and contemplating nothing.

Walking outside with Bear I notice the weather a bit more muggy than usual. Today's 8 miler may be a bit more challenging than usual. The dog is breathing hard and bouncing around. He spotted his ball and now has it in his mouth awaiting me to take it from him and throw it.

After a few throws to limber him up and get his blood flowing, I toss the ball aside and attach the leash to his bright orange collar. Bear has to fight the urge to grab the ball resting only a few feet from him, but the prospect of the walk is enough to wrest his attention and now we are headed down the driveway, past the newspapers to our morning route.

I walk him to get him pooped and peed so I can run without worrying about him soiling the house. Amazingly, he gets his chores taken care of straight away and we turn back toward the house. It is early and the sun is still below the trees. The sky is beginning to brighten and colors are returning; I wonder where they go at night?

Piercing my awareness, above the background of birdsongs was the cawing of a crow. I looked up in time to see the large blackbird gracefully powering himself across the pale blue sky, eclipsing a crescent moon. I stopped and stared. The moment passed so quickly, but the snapshot is still vivid in my mind. I thought of how I wished I could have photographed that moment to share it with others, but it had passed.

I looked at my watch, it was 5:53 AM. I was alone on the streets. I wondered if anyone from their backyard or front porch had seen that bird fly beneath that moon. Had anyone noticed or been privy to the predawn spectacle? These things often escape the notice of the world. What's the big deal about a crow and the moon? Who cares? Yet that moment, that image and sound and feeling connected with something primal deep inside my chest. These very things strengthen and buoy me.

That's all from here, beneath the moon and the crows. All is well. All is well.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, June 27, 2005



Black Cat Firecrackers
This is from the archives.
Text Version

Part One:
this is an audio post - click to play

Part Two:
this is an audio post - click to play

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, June 25, 2005


Revisiting Hobo Garden

Remember: If you click the little pictures with your mouse you will get to look at a bigger picture.

BearHi folks! It's me, Bear, posting again. I have been looking through the archives on dad's blog and was fascinated with Hobo Garden. I have been watching my dad spray water on the garden every other day and keep the bird bath clean. The flowers have sure grown up nicely.

Front view of garden Here is what it looks like from the front. The garden is in the shade most of the day so the flowers do well. I watch the birds bathing and drinking out of the birdbath. It is a nice peaceful place to take a nap or play fetch the tennis ball next to.

Close up of garden and collar I have seen pictures of Hobo; dad's last dog. He looked like a good dog and we would have been friends. Dad keeps his collar around the birdbath so he won't forget him. I don't get in the garden and do my business out of respect. I think it is pretty too and don't want to mess it up.

View from the top Dad was taking pictures of the garden. I noticed him holding the camera as high as he could over the birdbath. He kept doing it and then looking at the back of the camera. He didn't look happy with the results. The next thing I knew, he had set the tripod down and started walking to the shed.

Ladder After a lot of noise, dad came out of the shed with two ladders and wound up tying the big one to a tree. He also tied the big ladder to the little ladder. It looked dangerous to me. I was wondering what his mother would think if she saw him way up in the air like that.

High view of garden He climbed way up to the top and took more pictures. He was frustrated a couple of times and said some words I don't think I am supposed to hear, but he ended up happy. Dad can get obsessed about things occasionally.

Bear looking at the tennis ball After dad got the photo he wanted, he put my tennis ball in the hands. Those hands give me the creeps. I am afraid they might grab me when I put my face down there to get the ball. Dad was trying to take a picture of me and kept telling me to get the ball.

Bear taking the tennis ball I finally got up the nerve and grabbed the ball, but I did it so fast, dad almost missed the shot. Oh well, maybe we can take pictures again sometime. It is fun. I just like being with dad. I never know what is going to happen next.

Another Garden View Here is another view of the garden. Oh, did I mention you can see a bigger picture if you click the little pictures with your mouse? I am getting better with the mouse, but I am still a little clumsy. I guess it is a thumb thing. All I have is do-claws.

Bear sitting with his tennis ball So that was the adventure of photographing Hobo Garden. It all kind of freaks me out. I suppose one day there will be a Bear Garden. I hope that won't be for a long time though. I really like it here and I think my new family really likes me too.

Well in the words of my master,

Until the next time
Bear (the dog)


Friday, June 24, 2005


Amazing Grace

John Newton (1725-1807)
John Newton Biography

The story of Amazing Grace - Urban Legends

John Newton (1725-1807) wrote the words to Amazing Grace. His mother educated him early on. She taught him to read and provided his Christian education. When John was 7 years old, his mother died and he was sent to a boarding school. By age 11, John left school to go to sea with his father.

Newton's life took on a downward trajectory. He kept the company of wretched men and by his own admission himself became a vile blasphemer. He nearly died on several occasions, sometimes because of his own drunkenness and poor judgment. He was in storms at sea. He was held captive for a year and forced to be a slave. He encountered illnesses that nearly took his life.

Finally at age 23, after surviving a severe storm in the North Atlantic, John became a Christian. His survival opened his eyes to God's grace, mercy, and justice. He did not change over night, but continued to work in the slave trade eventually becoming a slave ship captain. In those days, it was considered a genteel profession and certainly legal. Still, he had moments of conscience where he knew that slavery was wrong.

Due to illness, Newton had to give up going to sea. He began associating with ministers by the likes of George Whitfield and John Wesley. John Newton himself became a minister and in 1779, wrote Amazing Grace, 32 years after his initial conversion.

John Newton spent a lifetime becoming mature and wrestling with his own sin. He became outspoken against slavery and had a hand in abolishing slavery in England.

Amazing Grace was composed through a heart long bathed in the love of God. John Newton knew first hand how the grace of God can deliver even a "wretch like me."

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, June 23, 2005


Life is good

Everytime I hear this phrase, I take note. It is interesting to me what motivates a person to say, "life is good." My post about the Boston Marathon describes one such encounter.

Often the phrase is used when something is won or achieved. Folks may use it after winning the lottery, "Life is good, I'm rich. "Others utter the words after winning something, "I won! I Won!, life is good."

Wednesday morning I heard these words. This time, they came from the mouth of a family friend of Brennan Hawkins; the boy scout who had been lost in the Utah wilderness for four days before he was found. The man was talking about seeing Brennan in the hospital. He explained how his son and Brennan were good friends. As he spoke, his voice cracked at times, while at other times, he beamed a smile. The man concluded his comments with the phrase, "Life is good."

In this case, "life is good", refers to the joy of recovering someone previously feared lost. From time to time, we all take things for granted. I could list the things from hot water to electric lights we take for granted, but I am sure you can too. Is there a more satisfying shower than the one you get after an interruption of your hot water service? How precious is that first warm day of spring after a long winter? Who can imagine the joy of a parent who receives back into their arms a lost son?

It is sad many do not realize life is good by appreciating what they have, but view life as bad only after losing something. To appreciate now prevents regrets later.
Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
But now am found
Was blind but now I see.
-John Newton 1725-1807
Life is good.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Change in plans

Well shucks. I was going to take Wednesday off so LJ, Bear, and I could take the boat to the river. I was looking forward to seeing how Bear liked riding in the boat. I had the day off and everything. Then John got called in at his job; Circuit City.

Oh well, I guess I would rather work anyway. Rats!

This calls for a laugh or two from my inbox:

Dog Comic
Chicken comic

So if things aren't going your way, step back and have a good laugh. It won't get you what you want, but it will help you put it in perspective.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, June 21, 2005


A chip off the old block

My mother has a way of squeezing out new meaning from familiar things. This year for Father’s Day, I received a box containing a rock and the following note:

This may seem silly but I think it is perfect for Father’s Day. Do you remember working for Gene Lawson and how he dallied around here before he would finally go to work? One morning he was showing off his rock cutter and picked up this rock, cutting it in two. I always thought it was very pretty and put the two pieces on my special rock pile around the garage. Every time I passed by, I thought of both of you and that morning.

On one of your visits here, LJ picked up both pieces and brought them in for you to see. I knew he would like to have them so I told him those were special, and why. I told him to take one half and I’d keep the other. The thought came to me, that since you are so woven into that day and since LJ had the other half, I should send this to you on Father’s Day.

You are each part of a whole and together you make one. No matter how far apart the two of you may travel in life’s journeys, you will always have a part of the other. It’s the little things in life that bind us together. . . . . in thought and deed. I hope you find a nice place to put this to remind you how close a son and a father are.

With love,

Rocks separated now reunited

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, June 20, 2005


Name That Puppy

Give this puppy a nameThe folks at Other World Computing are sponsoring another Working Class Dog. This 3-week-old female puppy will be trained and placed with a child who has autism. The only problem is this pup does not have a name. If you would like to submit a name for consideration, you can go here and submit your entry.

So go over there and name that puppy.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, June 19, 2005


Happy Father's Day

Good morning and Happy Father's Day. To celebrate, I am going for a nice easy 10 mile run. As a special gift, God sent some cool air that is uncharacteristic for this time of year: 71 degrees and 86% humidity feels cool, now where's my long sleeved shirt?

After the run and a bowl of cereal, Bear dog gets to go to the river and retrieve his tennis ball. The other day when I came home from work, a baseball was laying by the porch. I let Bear come outside to do his business and as soon as he saw the ball, he grabbed it and hopped in the back of John's truck. His eyes sparkle and he is full of life. The dog just bounces. He did not get to go to the river that night, but he got to chase the ball until he was tripping over his tongue. If I leave his leash on the floor, he brings it to me wagging his tail and looking all cute, as if to say, "Let's go dad, hint, hint."

You may notice some changes to the blog. I spent all day yesterday making the horizontial menu bar under my banner and a few other "enhancements." I need to take a course in web design. It takes me forever to do simple things, because I do not have the fundamentals down. I have an idea of what I want to do, then search the web for examples, cut and paste, then tweak. Please let me know if there are any problems viewing this blog and tell me what browser you use.

Tomorrow, I am going to share something meaningful that my mother did to help me celebrate Father's Day.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, June 17, 2005



I planned to write a post about procrastination for today, but I did not get around to it. Maybe tomorrow.

In the mean time, have a great weekend and remember your father's out there.

A trip down memory lane

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, June 16, 2005


Hot as Hell

The DevilNew Orleans set a record today. The temperature climbed to 99 degrees. With the humidity, it actually felt like 3 zillion degrees.

I'm talking hot here. The photo is of a fellow I saw walking the streets. He looks familiar. I can't quite place him.

How hot was it today (Wednesday)?

It was so hot...

The cows are giving evaporated milk.

The trees are whistlin' for the dogs.

It's so hot, I saw squirrels fanning their nuts.

The birds had to pick up the worms with potholders.

I saw a dog chasing a cat and they were both walkin'..

With all of this heat, it is a good thing I am "cool." It's not even summer yet. I think it is going to be a long hot one.

May the breezes blow cool in your corner of the world.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, June 15, 2005


The Music of the Night

The Phantom sung of the night's music; tonight I was surrounded by it. I stepped out of my air-conditioned cocoon into the thick, humid air that embraced me like a lover. I was surrounded by it and I sensed it as a presence; more than just air. The perfumes of gardenia and magnolia floated on invisible currents, which brushed my face as they passed.

I felt as though I were on the floor of a great hall or stadium. The trees were the grandstands and they were populated with cicadas and locusts singing their night chorus. Passing over a small bridge, I heard frogs sounding like tightly wound rubber bands being strummed by intermittent fingers. The haunting sound of an owl turned my gaze upward only to see the nearly full moon peering at me through the towering pines.

Streetlights cast an eerie glow and I noticed my shadow grow long and then disappear only to repeat as I approached the next one. While the day creatures sleep, the night's denizens go about their ancient tasks. If I were to close my eyes and listen to the night sounds, it would not be much different than it was thousands of years ago.

My short walk ended and I re-entered the safety and comfort of my cocoon resolved to drink from this sweet vintage more often.
Softly, deftly, music shall caress you
Hear it, feel it, secretly possess you
Open up your mind, let your fantasies unwind
In this darkness which you know you cannot fight
The darkness of the music of the night
-Music: Andrew Lloyd Weber
-Lyrics: Charles Hart

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, June 14, 2005


When at first you don't succeed. . .

Let's try this again. I think I have the kinks worked out of the movie. So please try to view it again.

In other news, I am about to launch my web camera. I have it working and all, but my computer is located in the middle of the house. The problem then arises: How do you get the camera to a window or to anything interesting? My iSight camera connects to the computer via firewire and I have to buy special extension cables, which cost about $30 each. I can string 3 x 15' before I would have to stick in another firewire hub. All of that is a pain in the rump. I have also considered a wireless camera, but they cost from $200 on up. The most elegant solution is to purchase a laptop and move it where ever I want. I have needed a good excuse to get a Powerbook anyway. If it were not for the no money thing. . . Oh well.

I have fun tinkering around with this stuff and trying to do things. It is like a big puzzle or thought problem. I also learn a lot in the process.

Let me know what you thought of the movie.

Movie: Bear Goes to the River

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, June 13, 2005


Bear Goes to the River: See the Movie!

Bear's Face We had some fun Sunday and I have the video to prove it. Come along on one of our routine weekend adventures. See Bear dive into hostile waters to retrieve his prized tennis ball. You'll smile at the enthusiasm of this precious pup and just maybe, your Monday won't feel so blue.

Follow the link below to see the movie.
File size: 7 MB
Format: MPEG-4 (Quicktime)
Running time: 3 min. 10 sec.

This is a pretty quick download if you have broadband.

Movie: Bear Goes to the River

If the movie does not play, you may need to install Quicktime. You can get it here:
Download free copy of Quicktime"

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, June 11, 2005


I Almost Soiled Myself

Shocked lookFriday at work, I was looking at my email. At work, I have to use webmail instead of my usual mail program. I say that to point out that the interface at work is different than the one at home.

I had looked at a couple of messages, which changed the dark black display type into light gray type. I was expecting an email so while I worked at my desk, I would glance up and click on the inbox button every now and then. I didn't have my glasses on to read the computer, but I could see what I was doing basically. The top two messages were light gray, because I had already read them. If a new message were to come, it would be dark black.

On one of my refresh clicks, I hit the mother load. About 10 new emails appeared. Huh, I thought to myself, I sure got a lot of messages in 10 minutes time. I put on my glasses and began looking at the subject line of the messages. They were all orders from places I shop. They said things like, ORDER CONFIRMATION, SHIPMENT NOTIFICATION, and other "you just bought something" phrases.

OMG! I thought to myself. Some bastard must be using my credit cards to order all kinds of stuff. I thought about how I had just received 10 emails in a few minutes and wondered how many were in the pipeline still to come. I got that feeling in my gut and chest that says, "there is some major shit going down and it ain't good."

I was trying to think what to do to stop this pinball machine of purchases at my expense. I kept reading and noticed the dates were not current. Then I realized what had happened. When I went to click the "inbox" tab, I missed and instead clicked the "bidness" folder. When I did that, I brought up all of my email receipts for things I had purchased in the past.

Pheeewww! It was like waking up from a bad dream; all in about 20 seconds time.

That just goes to show you how powerful our thoughts are. I went from having my identity stolen and being in deep financial poop, to getting off scot-free. What a ride. The feeling couldn't have been better if I had been on a roller coaster.

No financial ruin or identity theft and luckily, no soiling of self. I did, however, get a good laugh out of it and another blog post.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, June 10, 2005


Funny Animal Photos

Dog on a raft

If you like photos of funny animals, check out these pics:
More Funny Animal Photos

Enjoy your weekend folks.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, June 09, 2005


When I Was Your Age. . .

I used to hear those words quite a bit when I was a tike. My dad would talk about how deep the snow was on his way to school; a trek of at least 20 miles. It seemed I had it made compared to when my folks were my age. I just could not grasp the emotion. I had no frame of reference, but I think I do now.

It only seems natural to compare yourself to whatever is in front of you. We all do it. If someone is talking about 6th grade, we recall our 6th grade memories and if there are glaring differences, we usually comment. One point of clarification, however, we usually only comment if our experience was found wanting compared to the experience being discussed. Parents feel compelled to make their children aware that life in the old days was a far cry from today. I guess it is an attempt to foster gratitude and to steer them away from taking things for granted.

Christmas is one time of the year you will hear these comments. With every neat toy opened by a wide-eyed tot, there is an adult there to tell said tot how that toy is to be appreciated because a long time ago, when he/she was a kid, they didn't have those.

I have done my share of letting my son know how lucky he is to have video games, computers, 10 zillion TV channels, and a cell phone.

Just for fun I thought I would predict what my son would someday be telling his son:

About college:
Son, when I was your age, I finished my degree in 8 years. At the rate you're going, it may take you 10 years.

About cell phones:
Do you realize I had to wait until I was 16 before I had my first cell phone and it couldn't take pictures or connect to the Internet either.

About video games:
Virtual reality! Why when I was your age, we had to use controllers to play games and they were connected to the console with a wire.

About school:
Shoot, I wish they had osmosis when I was a kid. We had to go to school and read books to learn, there wasn't any of this injecting knowledge into your bloodstream like they do now.

You probably get the idea. It is fun getting to play all of the ages in life. I had fun as a kid and as an adult; I am having even more fun. I think being old and senile will have its strong points as well.

Now where's that boy? I need to tell him what it was like when I was his age.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, June 08, 2005


An Evening at the River

My dog bear shows so much enthusiasm and joy I smile and laugh spontaneously. He watches my every move. It is as if he is waiting for the next fun thing. His river toy, a yellow chicken leg that squeaks when squeezed, was on the counter. As soon as he saw it in my hand, he began wiggling, jumping, and panting. His hopes were on high alert, but they went higher when I said, "Do you want to go swimming Bear?" His excitement grew even more when I picked up his red leash and headed for the door. Once outside, Bear was prancing and jumping. He kept his sparkling eyes on me and his ears were perked. I unlatched the tailgate on John's truck and before it was all the way down, Bear jumped as though powered by coiled spring legs. He would have cleared the tailgate even if I hadn't lowered it.

John drove and I rode in the back with Bear. It is only a mile to the river and the public boat launch. Once there, Bear jumped out of the truck and we walked to the water's edge. I threw the chicken leg and Bear stormed into the water like he was launched. It is so much fun to watch him perform. Watching him run and swim is like watching something that is perfect. He is doing exactly what he was meant for. He loves it and he is happiest when he is doing it. People at the boat launch pause and recognize this perfect thing.

Coming out of the water with the chicken leg in his mouth, Bear prances and high steps. A quick shake to jettison the water and he is quickly at my left side waiting for another throw. He does not seem to tire of this game.

When it is all over, Bear jumps back in the truck and we drive the short distance home. I rinse him off with the hose then have him hop back in the truck where I towel dry him. He especially likes this part. He just buries his face in the towel and rolls around while I try to dry him.

If you ever have the chance to make something this happy, do it. It is quite satisfying. To bring such happiness to another simply by tossing a plastic chicken leg in the river is itself a beautiful thing.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, June 07, 2005



By definition, an ultramarathon is any race beyond the distance of a marathon (26 miles 385 yards). I have run 9 marathons now and have 4 more in my sights. My coach has been asking me if I am ready to train for an ultra. I finally gave in, what the hell.

I have signed up for the Rocky Raccoon 50K (31 miles) October 22, 2005 at Huntsville State Park about 50 miles north of Houston.

I feel like I am moving from marijuana to heroin. The common ultramarathon distances are 50K, 100K, 50 mile, and 100 mile. There are other events that go across Death Valley, 135 miles. Some are timed races of 6, 12, and 24 hours.

Dean Karnazes wrote the book Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner. This guy ran 262 miles in 3 days. No one has yet determined the limits of the human body.

For some reason, these sorts of challenges appeal to me. I now have a new quest. Oh goodie.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, June 05, 2005


Running the Goat Milk Marathon

A generic goatFriday afternoon, Barb and I got off of work early. We drove the 3 hours to Vicksburg and met her Dad and step mom for an early dinner at Billy's Italian Restaurant. I was at first apprehensive due to the name; "Billy" did not sound like an Italian to me. Then I thought, "Billy - billy goat, this is a good omen." We were not disappointed. I had a pasta sampler complete with spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, and manicotti. It also came with warm bread and a house salad. I was finished eating by 6:15 PM which is necessary for waking up at 4:00 AM and trying to lose the Italian food. One of the major concerns of a marathoner is getting to the starting line with an empty colon.
Goat Milk Marathon photo merge

Photos of the Goat Milk Marathon

I was paranoid about over-sleeping so I had four alarms set. A wakeup call, the clock radio, my watch, and cell phone were all set to tell me when it was 4:00 AM. As it turned out, I kept waking up all night and didn't need any of them.

I began the marathon day ritual: First I made some coffee, stretched, went to the bathroom, shaved, Band-Aided my nipples, vasolined other parts of my body, got dressed, ate a banana, and headed for the race.

Barb's dad picked me up at 5:00 AM and we drove the 30 minutes to Utica from Vicksburg. It was a cool morning with fog and humidity. Temperatures were in the upper 60's and the damp air felt good blowing in from the car window as we traveled. Dawn was breaking and the country side had a surreal look with the dim light of dawn and the differing layers of fog. Cows in fields were in silhouette against the rising sun. It looked as though we were up even before the clouds as we caught them sleeping on the cool grasses of the meadows. New colors of orange, red, and purple were being introduced into the sky's palet with each passing minute. The sun was rising above the horizon to illuminate a beautiful spring morning in Mississippi.

The first order of business at the campground was to pickup my race packet. I walked to the table and told them my name and was met with, "Oh, the famous John Strain." I quickly began reviewing in my mind things I may have done to offend people. Then he said, "I loved your article about the course two weeks ago and I enjoy your blog." Throughout the day, whenever I told people my name, they seemed to know about me through the blog. I felt like a celebrity.

One last trip to the little boys room and I was ready for the start. As we lined up, a young man played the Jimi Hendrix rendition of Star Spangled Banner, then the race director, Don Curtis gave us a few last instructions. After he offered a sincere prayer, he started the race setting into motion a group of folks who find it fun to get up early on a Saturday morning to enjoy fellowship and to test the limits of their mind, body, and spirit.

I recently came across some quotes about running that describe the running experience for me:
It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being -- a call that asks who they are." -- David Blaikie, Ultramarathon Canada

From the Mississippi Track Club Website
Running is a road to self-awareness and self-reliance...
You can push yourself to extremes and learn the harsh reality of
your physical and mental limitations or coast quietly down a
solitary path watching the earth spin beneath your feet, but when
you are through, exhilarated and exhausted, at least for a moment
everything seems right with the world. -Anonymous

I felt pretty good at the start and I was running easy. Starting too quickly on a course like the Goat Milk in the heat is asking for it. I was running between an 8:00 and 8:30 pace. I fell in with a group of guys, Jerry, TK and another one who's name I cannot recall. We were running and talking as runners do. We regaled each other about our past races, trials, and injuries, sprinkled with information about our jobs and families. Runners share more than the common bond of running and these marathon course conversations point them out.

As we ran and the temperature rose, the hills began taking their toll. The early jovial conversation had changed to quiet and steeled resolve. It was now less of a community event and more of an individual trial. Each of us running with our thoughts, concentrating, wrestling the thoughts and the whispers inside our heads that tell us, "It is too hard, it is too hot, the hills are too steep. Instead we fight to hear the voice that is saying, "You can do it, it is not that bad, keep on running, just another mile until the rest stop."

The course was beautiful just like two weeks ago when I ran 21 of its miles. I especially enjoyed the stretches of road that were off of the main highway. These asphalt paths wind, rise, and fall with the contour of the land. The vegetation encroaches to its edges and gives the impression you are running in a tunnel of green. The only sounds you hear are birds, your breathing and your shoes contacting the pavement. Only a few vehicles passed the entire course.

The water stops were self-serve and spaced every two miles. They were welcome sights as the race unfolded. Along the side of the road a giant wooden spool served as a table that held two boxes of gallon jugs. One box held three jugs of Gatorade and the other held three jugs of water. At each stop, I drank a glass of Gatorade and poured a glass of water over my head to cool off. This strategy helped keep my thermostat from boiling over.

At the 20 mile mark, a message written on the road said: "The race starts here." I was hanging in there pretty well, but my fuel tank was getting low. 22, 23, and 24 went by OK, but I really had to gut out 25 and 26. I walked for 30 seconds three times in the last two miles. When I hit 26 I knew I only had to run for another 2 minutes. It is always a welcome sight to see the finish line. It was just over the last little hill.

I finished in 3:40:47 which is an 8:26 pace. Once finished I have to keep moving to avoid tightening up, so I walked a bit. There was a lot of good food, but I can't usually eat right after a marathon.

I felt good and had thoroughly enjoyed my Goat Milk Marathon experience. For a "no frills" marathon, this one delivered much more. I would give the course a high rank. It was difficult, but very pretty and the shade helped keep the heat down. It was also marked very well. The race was well organized and the aid stations provided what is needed. The best thing though was the friendly people who ran the race and volunteered to make it a good experience for the participants. The shirt they give is a good quality dri fit shirt with the unique, sure to start a conversation, Goat Milk Marathon logo.

I'll be back next year if someone hasn't gotten my goat.

Do you know the term: "Don't let them get your goat"?

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, June 04, 2005


Full Report Tomorrow

We are back from the Goat Milk Marathon. I was pleased with my results. 3:40:47. That means I beat my Boston time by 10 minutes on a tougher course in more heat. I now feel vindicated. I met some great folks and have some good photos. Tune in tomorrow for the details.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, June 03, 2005


Off to the Races

The Goat Milk Marathon beckons and I am heeding the call. This afternoon, Barbara and I will drive to Vicksburg where we will spend the night. Saturday, I have to get up at 4:00 AM in order to get to Utica, MS for the 6:00 AM start. The temperature is 10 degrees warmer than when I ran the course two weeks ago. At 6:00 AM the temperature will be 70 degrees and by 9:30 AM when I hope to finish, the temperature will be in the mid-80's.

We'll be back in town Saturday evening, so I will post my results. No chip timing for this race.

I purchased an iSight from Apple and have been playing around with it. Eventually, I will set up a webcam and it will be accessible from this blog. I was thinking about having a BearCam or a Squirrel Cam.

Enjoy your weekend folks and don't work too hard in those yards.

Surprise bonus link related to this post

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, June 02, 2005


The Least

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. -Matthew 25: 40

He was quiet and simple - intellectually slow. After conducting many interviews over the years, I have become pretty good at guessing the extent of a person's abilities. Tommy was in his 20's and by his Medicare number I could tell he had been declared disabled prior to age 18. He was a polite young man and cooperated as best he could with the interview.

Familiar bits of information emerged. He did not know his father, his mother was a drug addict, he was sexually abused as a child by friends of his mother. In the 8th grade, he dropped out of school. He had been attending special education classes, but still struggled with the work. It all piled up on him. Without support from home and having to deal with bullies and the endless teasing, he gave up.

Tommy was different and for that distinction he became a target for teasing, practical jokes, and bullying. He grew up without friends though he wanted them desperately. He wanted to blend in, but he stood out.

We have all had to deal with teasing and bullies. I remember some pretty stressful times, but they were only a few incidents. For Tommy, this was a way of life. I can remember hating the fact that I was different. I wore thick, coke bottle glasses and still had poor vision. I, however, had the ability to make people laugh and turn teasers and bullies into friends.

We all have seen this kid in school. He/she is the one we avoid, laugh at, and shun. They are often treated as though they are diseased. They are excluded from the fun, but even worse, the mondane day to day flow. They move among us, but they are not permitted be with us.

The movie "Radio" is about one such person. The love and perserverence of one man saved Radio, who was different. He was saved, not by any special medication or therapy, but by being loved, respected, and included in the life of the community.

There are different ways to harm people. The active ways are to verbally acost or physically abuse. The passive methods are to exclude and ignore.

The opposite of love is not hate it is indifference.

Society rewards the best and brightest. Fortune and fame grant access to a world with a set of rules different from others. Likewise, those who are mentally challenged and different are ignored. They are stepped on and walked over. Their advocates are also weak and do not wield influence.

Who will remember when it is Tommy's birthday? Who will care when he is sick? Does anyone care if he ever realizes his dream? There are a lot of Tommys out there a kind word or a helping hand means a lot to someone who knows exclusion as normal.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, June 01, 2005


A June Gestalt

Hello June. It has been a turn through the calendar since last we met. I have missed your sultry nights and tree frog serenades. Your warm breath encompasses me heavy with smells of loam, magnolia, and jasmine. As a young boy I chased fireflies through your enchanted evenings and dug for fishing worms in your steamy mornings silver with haze. Your color is green and during your watch spring yields to summer. My memories are fond because I was carefree and unhindered by the rigors of schoolwork. My days were free for pursuing quests and adventures in places that now no longer exist. Houses now stand where there were once haunted woods.

Those memories are stored in the precious moments section of my being. They waft out and mingle with your warm breath, and on certain nights and days, their power is strong and I am once again a child chasing adventures. These times make me smile as you allow nostalgia to wash over me like a cleansing tide.

The present is tied to the future and the past. This year is our 49th meeting. I am changing, but you are not and I find comfort in that. Your soothing smells and gentle vistas provide a kind of security that only comes with familiarity. We know each other well and I look forward to another walk with you through your thirty days.

Until the next time
John Strain