Bur Oak

This is my most favorite tree in the world.  It may look small but it’s the biggest bur oak I know of.  I’ve seen both the tallest and largest tree in the world but this is still my favorite.  It’s easily over 300 years old.  That trunk is about 3 feet wide and the span is probably around 80 feet.  For perspective on how slow northern bur oaks grow, a branch from one of my smaller bur oaks got torn off 40 feet up during a storm.  It was 11 inches wide and had 110 rings.  The trunk of that tree is about 20 inches wide.  That’s why it’s easy to see how this big tree is at least 300 years old!  There’s not a person alive that has seen this tree in their lifetime as anything other than a mature, giant tree.

How did it survive?  This was prairie when it was “born”.  You wouldn’t have seen another tree around in this photo back then other than perhaps a cottonwood on the bank of the nearby creek.  This is prairie land.  The mighty bur oak has thick bark that can withstand the fires that prevented other trees from surviving, but it takes years to develop that thick of bark.  It can survive severe drought with its deep taproot.

Perhaps the somewhat narrow steep valley that this creek cut has something to do with it.  Could it have been much wetter ground 300 years ago that prevented the fire from burning the grass around the tree?  Maybe the fire rarely went down into the valley.  This could’ve gotten it to 30 years old where it could survive the fires.

What then of the bison?  What few trees that would’ve been around were used heavily by the bison as scratching posts.  Bison herds were very destructive at first glance.  They’d eat the grass, chew up the dirt, and rub trees raw.  But, the prairie needs that!  The newly exposed dirt would bring forth wildflowers and other forbs.  The bison eating the grass is what actually adds carbon to the soil by the plants trimming some roots after grazing and making new roots.  Prairie grass roots go down deep, some over 10 feet.  That’s what actually built up the soil, not the decay of old dying plants.  Seems strange at first, but yes grazing grassland takes more carbon dioxide out of the air and puts it into the soil than just letting it grow wild does!

Quick side note just to prove the point more fully.  Only 40 miles or so from here is Jeffers Petroglyphs.  It’s an area where humans have been carving into the exposed rock for 7,000 years.  The entire surrounding area is still intact prairie because it was impossible to till the soil with the large exposed rocks.  On a tour I asked if they’ve ever dug down to find more rocks that used to be exposed.  Sure enough they had recently dug down in an area and showed it to me.  They started where the rock was exposed and followed it down its natural slant, deciding to quit about 3 feet down from the surrounding soil.  All the rock they exposed had carvings on it!  And that’s just were they decided to quit.  That’s what prairie grazed by animals does, it builds the soil by adding carbon.  That’s what makes our topsoil so black in the prairie states, the carbon from centuries of prairie grass roots.  Experiments in the last 30 years has confirmed it.

Okay, back to the bison.

Perhaps the bison preferred the small river just a mile away that has a sandier bottom to drink from, or even the large Minnesota River 2 miles downstream to bathe in.  We’ll never know.

What then of the Dakota that lived here in this tree’s early life?  They used trees for various things but maybe not the bur oak.  Either way, they let it stand.

Tornadoes, thunderstorms, and windstorms are a constant threat on the prairie for a tree that stands above the rest.  I’m guessing it was protected in this 60 feet deep valley from the full force of the storms it’s seen.

Then what about when this tree was middle aged?  When Europeans first settled the land and began to till the soil.  Lumbar was very expensive.  In fact most settlers, including my ancestors, lived in sod houses or caves before they could build a house.  Even at 140 years old, this tree had enough lumber to build a small house at the time.  Why wasn’t it cut down?

We’ll of course never know the answer.  My hope and belief is this.  That everyone that has ever seen this tree saw it in the same way that I did the first time I laid eyes on it.  They saw the beauty.  They saw the perfection.  They saw that some things are worth more than money.  They realized that this tree was more important than their current needs.  Perhaps they even thought they’d like their great, great, great grandchildren to be able to have a picnic under it.

I’m so thankful!

Thankful for everything that others have done for me, both in my lifetime and before I was born.  From people who know me, and from strangers alike.

Even those who had no idea that a decision they made would make me smile every time I run past this tree.

I know it may look small from a distance, but it’s even bigger than the barn that is 100 feet closer to where I was standing.

Today I Had A Great Run

Today I had a great run.

A 15 mile run that felt effortless.  A 25 MPH wind that pushed me one way, and made me work on the way back with dirt hitting against my face.  I laughed at some great podcasts and learned from others.

I planned the hikes I would take my children on in the mountains next summer.

I thought of my favorite hikes I want to take them on when they are old enough.

I hoped for a day when they ask me to go on their favorite hikes they discover as adults.

No wildlife made this run great, there were none to be seen.  No interesting scenes of nature.  No cars.  No people.  No crops.

Perhaps the nothingness was part of what made it great.  Getting lost in the constant effortless pace.  I didn’t need to look at my watch to know I would average under a 10 minute mile pace.

With just 1 mile left to go I almost felt sad.  I felt like going another 5 miles but knew I didn’t have the time.

I felt like a sled dog that wants to keep pulling the sled with the rest of his pack over the next hill.  Like a 12 year old that just wants another hour to play with his friends before going home.  Like a teenager wanting time to stop, so that his date can go on forever.  I felt myself pushing even harder into the wind and lengthening out my stride.  It felt awesome!

Some days I don’t want to run but I do.  Some days the run feels horrible.  But today I was reminded of why I run.  I run because someday I won’t be able to run any longer.  I’ll remember days like today for years.  A simple 15 mile run that made my life better.

Pity Party During An Ultramarathon

I’ve noticed in every 100 mile or longer race that I’ve done that there is a definite period of mental negativity during the race.  What  I mean is that there is a point where your brain tells you that you should stop because of X.  Then Y. Then every other excuse it can come up with.  To me this is the hardest part of a longer ultramarathon.  It used to show up towards mile 80 or so of the race when I was physically in pain.  Lately though it’s been showing itself sooner.  Both seem like logical times.  You are tired and hurt by 80 miles.  You still have a long ass way to go at 30 miles of a 100 mile race.  I basically just call these times, my pity party.

I don’t really know how I get over these negative times other that to just keep going.  I know some people have a mantra they recite but I’ve never done that.  I guess the best thing for me is to KNOW that things will get better.  I’ve been through this before and got through it and I WILL this time too.  At my first 100 mile race I just listened to the advice I got from others which was basically the same thing.  Don’t dwell on any pain you have because something else will take it’s place in 5 miles.  Just accept that it hurts and then move on and ignore it.  Sure enough they were right.

Your body can handle the effort!  Seriously, even if you think it can’t, it surely can.  Your mind is what will  stop you.  This has been proven by research.  A person will say they are completely drained to the point of collapse and if enticed properly, they can go longer still.  Even without research you should know this as common sense.  Go run some long distance to the point you can barely shuffle along.  Then add a pit bull chasing you.  You will be sprinting, I guarantee you.  You’re body can handle it.  Ready your mind.

Something will surely go wrong during an ultramarathon.  You’re out there for a day or more so there’s plenty of time for things to fall apart.  The point is to plan for as many contingencies as you can so that you’re mind is already in what I call McGyver mode.  Even if you don’t have what you need, there is likely another racer who will help out.  That’s one thing our sport has going for it more than most.  Volunteers are awesome at aid stations as well and willing to help.

Everyone can find the will to finish the race if they want to.  And you should want to.  Really, why the hell else are you signing up for a 100 mile race.  If you just want to see the course, save yourself the $250 entry fee and go hike or run it yourself.  Quitting unless truly injured I think cheats yourself.  By the way, I’ve seen very few DNF’s from true injuries.  Most people who have DNF’d will admit this, at least to themselves, if being honest.

One of the best things about ultramarathons is seeing how much more capable you are than you thought.   I still to this day am amazed that I can run 100 miles in a day.  It just blows my mind the human body can do that.  Nothing about my body is special.  Nothing.  If you’ve been to an ultramarathon, you’ve seen that any body type can finish one.  Not all are fast, but all can finish.  Of course you need training but it isn’t as much as you think.  If you can finish a marathon, you can finish an ultramarathon.

I guess the whole point of this is to say it’s worth the effort.  It really is.  Yes you get a belt buckle to remind you of the race.  But, it’s reminding you of how awesome you felt.  Not necessarily just when you crossed the finish line, but the memory of when you KNEW you were going to conquer the distance and the course.  That might be mile 99 or 39 of the race, but there will be a moment of clarity that you just absolutely know nothing will stop you from finishing.  And that moment is amazing.  If you quit, I don’t see how you could get that feeling of accomplishment.

I love the feeling the whole week after a long ultra.  Not the physical feeling, cause that kind of hurts.  It’s the emotional wonderment of the feat you accomplished.  “How the hell did I do that?”  “Yes, I trained and planned, but still how did I do it?”  “100 freaking miles!”  “And the winner did it in like 18 hours, humans are amazing!”  Those are the usual things I say to myself.

My new favorite song relates to this all somewhat.


Last Annual Vol State Race: Pre-race Report

So I’ve decided to go on with the race.  I still haven’t figured out my foot issues totally.  I can run without pain but there are still lingering things going on in the same spot as during my Brown County run.  Things hurt some the day after running.  Stretching helps a lot so I suspect it’s mostly muscle related but I have yet to find a way to prevent it.  The podiatrist said there’s no stress fracture or anything major like that.  He thought I should always hurt the way my foot is shaped, even just walking around.  Not very helpful but at least I know it’s not some major thing.  I’m still trying new things every long run to see if it helps.  Running on gravel hasn’t helped so I think I’ll continue to mostly do asphalt on the long runs going forward.  Some other racers have even joked that I have an unfair advantage since I’ll be used to running on painful feet.  This race is guaranteed to make your feet hurt, A LOT!  Blah blah blah is all my wife is hearing by this point so I’ll move on.

I plan on having a plan for this race but I know full well it won’t last more than a few hours.  I hope to be done in 7 days.  My usual ways of planning my time says I could be done in 5 days.  With my foot and knowing this race, everything would have to be perfect to get 5 days.  It just won’t happen so don’t even think about it.  Way too many variables with this race.  The weather will be a huge factor.  I felt overheated Saturday at the end of my 20 mile run and it was only 73 with a low dew point.  I need it to get hot here soon!  So I won’t bore you with my plan since I still don’t really have it all worked out anyway.  It may seem pointless to make a plan you know you won’t follow but it will help me memorize the course better and where things are along the course.  Those will prove useful I think.

I do have some rules/wants/goals I plan on following as best I can:

  1. Don’t die.  Kind of an everyday goal really.
  2. Don’t eat more than 1100 calories of solid food at a time unless I plan on resting for more than 3 hours.  This is based on past experience.  I’ve never had an issue eating up to 1100 calories of food and then immediately running 20+ miles.  In fact I get a nice energy boost about 3 hours into the run due to the food hitting my intestines.  I can drink some fluid calories on top of this but I’m not sure exactly how much.  Probably not more than 200-300 calories.  If I rest for 3+ hours most of the food should be out of my stomach so I can eat more than 1100 calories.  I know if I eat 2600 calories, I’ve had issues of feeling full for almost 8 hours so I still probably want to keep it under 2000 calories.  This may change after a couple of days of solid running but for at least the first few days this is rule #2.
  3. Sleep during the afternoon when it’s hottest.  This race is often as hot as the Badwater race when you use the heat index scale.  Plus I don’t have the benefit of a crew like you do at Badwater to cool you with ice water every 30 minutes and sit in an air conditioned car.
  4. Take advantage of the night.  Cool and few cars.
  5. Remember to take photos, videos, take notes the entire race.  I have a problem sometimes remembering everything when I’m super tired.  Plus this race could take 10 days.  That’s way too long to remember something without making a note of it.
  6. No whining.  I’ve never had an issue with this before during a race but again, this race could take 10 days.  Everyone who’s finished this race that I’ve talked to says you will have a meltdown at some point.  I’m fine with a mental meltdown or even a pity party.  I’m sure I’ll hate it at the time but they don’t last long and you won’t whine about them later.  The point is to get over it and move on.  In the long run it probably helps since you’ll realize how stupid it was in the first place to have one.
  7. Finish.  I really want to finish this.  Not only because I think it’s awesome but because I don’t want there to be a reason to do it again!  This will be the closest I get to doing a Forrest Gump style transcontinental run.  In fact there are several people doing this race that have done that several times already.  The course record holder is returning this year.  He’s one of the few people on the planet to ever run 600 miles in 6 days.  These are the amazing athletes I’ll be going against/with.  Finishing a race these people consider difficult would be a big deal to me, even if I’m last.

I guess that’s all I can think of right now.  So here’s the other reason I’m doing a pre-race report.

I know a lot of people say they’re doing some athletic thing for charity.  While there are some good organizations that put on athletic events to raise money, there are also lots of DIY fundraising being done by people on their own.  I don’t really get that and honestly I’m pretty suspicious when I see it.  There are a lot of people who just want donations so they don’t have to pay for their adventure themselves and maybe donate whatever is left over after all the expenses they can think of.  Some think that “raising awareness” counts so they just keep all the money.  Those people suck.  I’m not those people.  How doing an event on your own volition became a call for donations I’ll never understand.  It’s not like you aren’t going to do it if you don’t get donations.  Maybe people should ask for donations for reading a book too:)

So, since there is a precedent for this sort of thing, and since this race is kind of a big deal for me; I thought I’d give suggestions on things you can donate to if you want.  I guess this way I have a better answer for “Why are you running?”  They are all related to human trafficking and women’s protection.  I’m doing this race whether or not you donate.  Your donations won’t make me run a step further than I would’ve anyway so don’t donate if that’s your only reason. I will donate as well to the ones I haven’t already donated to.

So why human trafficking?

The spark to all of this was first off having a daughter.  The first week of school last fall, she was bullied on the bus by 2 boys.  Now, while I knew I loved her very much, I never knew how much until she repeated the things they said.  I really don’t know if I could’ve stopped myself from beating those boys if they were near me I was so mad at them.  They’re only 6 years old, but I just went into this “dad protection” mode.  It’s something I don’t think you can ever understand unless you have a daughter.  I certainly wouldn’t have been able to truly understand it before having one.

Anyway, even before that I watched a Frontline report on the mass abduction and rape of the Yezidi women by ISIS in late 2014.  I should correct that to say young girls and women.  These sick f**ks think it’s in total accordance with their religion to “marry” 9-year-old girls to rape them and pass them around to friends and then sell them off to make money.  This is because the girls are not Muslim.  Almost all of the women who have been rescued from ISIS have said they prayed for death.  This stuff is still happening and most of those who were abducted are still being trafficked.  Abductions continue to happen.  Horrible things are happening in the refugee camps all over the world as well.

Then there is rape.  I know of victims that said it’s completely ruined their life.  They want the legal system to punish rapists equal to or even more than murderers because of the damage it causes.  I will not argue against that.  All sexual abuse messes people up.  It’s not always as severe as depression, suicide, or worst of all the victim doing it to someone else.  But there’s always something.  Maybe they don’t trust people, maybe they won’t ever enjoy sex, etc.  The point is, it lingers your entire life.

What would I do if this happened to my daughter?

People need to talk about this stuff more.

So I have been pondering all of this on many of my runs the last 10 months, praying about it, and trying to figure out what can be done.  Surprisingly, it took quite a bit of effort to find good organizations set up for fighting human trafficking.  Since this race is so long, I’m sure these victims will come to my thoughts often.  I know the action169 organization mostly just wants prayers so that’s what I’ll do during the race.  In addition I felt compelled to tell people about this issue.  Yes I know everyone knows there is a problem, but do people realize how close this is to home?  Probably not.  There is human trafficking everywhere, including all the small rural counties where I live.  I’ll admit I wasn’t aware how prevalent it was until I started looking.

These are all Christian based organizations.  If you have a problem with that, get over it; You’ll find there are few that aren’t religious based.  Pathetically few government based organizations either (although they probably don’t do as good of a job anyway).

When some women would rather die than continue in their situation, I think you can start to understand why they will need lots of long-term help to get over what they’ve been through, especially in countries where women have no power what-so-ever.





The first 3 are purely to fight human trafficking and provide support for victims.  Samaritans Purse is an international charity organization with many programs for women, in addition to their other programs.  Look them over.

Grit (how I’ll miss you)

So for over 6 months I’ve had this topic on my sheet of potential future posts but never got around to it. Now I have to.  Seems one of my favorite real meaningful words has become a corporate buzzword!  Yep, just last week I heard an ad for Monster.com that said they had grit.  I started to yell at my radio for about a minute.  I’m so pissed!

I really like (soon to be liked) the word grit.  It just summarizes so much the quality of people I admire and most of the ultrarunning community.  As I said, I had planned on writing a long post about it but now there’s no point since it will very likely catch on and become another stupid horrible buzzword that posers and high school kids say.  Here’s a short list of comparisons I made in my 1 minute tirade at the radio.

Anyone over 70 years old that’s finished a 100 mile race: GRIT    Monster.com: No

Any single parent raising a child: MAJOR GRIT   Monster.com: Nope

The soldiers that survived the winter at Valley Forge: SUPER GRIT    Monster.com: Not even close

You get the point, working in some office or being a website does not give you the quality to say you have grit.  Not that a person who works in an office can’t have the quality because of other things they do.  But working for 60 hours in a chair is not something that gives you the right to say you have grit in my opinion.  Working 80+ hours on your feet like most farmers do and you’ll start to get my attention.  Please use the word responsibly!


So if you get the joke of the title being in all caps then you are probably pronouncing it correctly and can skip this.

If you are using forte with the meaning of something you’re good at, and pronounce it for-tay, you are wrong.  I don’t care that some dictionaries have started including that pronunciation, you are just wrong!  Using the word with that definition means you are using the French word and it’s pronounced fort.  It has only one syllable.  You pronounce it the same as a strong structure known as a fort.  The way you are pronouncing it means LOUD in Italian and if you have played any musical instrument you should know that already.

I blame Hillary Clinton for this among others.  I remember the first time I heard the word used was from her in the early 90’s.  I swear every speech she made for a few months back then had the word in it.  Then of course all the talking heads started pronouncing it incorrectly as well.  In fact, since so many “smart” people pronounced the word wrong for so long, it is now considered appropriate by some.  Bull!  Unless I hear Frenchmen start saying for-tay, it’s not correct.

Personally I’ve always used strong suit for something I’m good at.  Forte is really kind of an uppity word anyway.  I’ve never heard someone say something WAS their forte.  Only in the phrase “not my forte”.  So not only are you admitting that you suck at something, you are trying to cover it up by using a fancy word.  Plus I’ll once again say you are pronouncing it wrong, unless you do actually mean that it’s not your loud.

Next up: Veterinarian

It’s 6 syllables long.  This is how you say it.


Not ve-tre-nar-e-an or vet-eh-nar-e-an.  It’s Vet-er-eh-nar-e-an.  Hope that makes sense since I can’t put the fancy dictionary pronunciation letters in this blog for some reason so had to try to phonetically write them.  Now I usually don’t correct clients when they say this wrong since I know what they mean and there’s no reason to be a douche.  I just want their animal to get better.  Also I’ve heard many veterinarians and even more office staff themselves pronounce it wrong so it’s hard to blame the clients for pronouncing it wrong.  I have no clue why it’s pronounced wrong by so many people.  I grew up saying it wrong since everyone I knew said it wrong.  So now I’m trying to get the word out on how to say it correctly.  Please!

Ok so those are the only words I’m going to vent about today.  I could go on but most people already know they sometimes pronounce the word espresso, escape, federal, arctic etc. wrong.

Political Correctness (PC)

So after writing my about page I realized I had more to say about PC and comments made online.

So first off everyone needs to stop with the going berserk when they read something someone says online they don’t like.  I submit that most of the time you are taking what was said in a manner different from the authors true point of view.  Politely ask for clarification before calling someone Hitler or racist.  I see that stuff on comments all the time.  Sometimes things come out wrong or auto-correct does something unexpected.  Give people the benefit of the doubt and you’ll keep your blood pressure down.  If you want to change someone’s behavior or view, you won’t do it by calling them Hitler.

I’ll give some background of me.  I read Fahrenheit 451 in the early 90’s when the PC movement was on the rise and I’m glad I did.  I saw people at that period of time choose not to say anything and stifle their views on certain subjects because someone somewhere might get upset by it.  I think the same thing is starting to happen again.  Communication is necessary! We have the first amendment for a reason.  If something can be said without causing hurt feelings, we should all try to do that.  But never stifle your well thought out opinions just because someone doesn’t like it.  The devil doesn’t like words of love and encouragement, should we not say them to each other to make him happy?  Likewise, sometimes uncomfortable things need to be said, but try to say them without sounding like a douche.

One thing that really bothers me is when people (usually white) are PC and think they are more enlightened than everyone else.  They say some of the dumbest things but think they are right because they used the “correct” words.  For example, just last week I was watching Antique Road Show (The DVR changes to that channel to record kids shows so it’s on when I first turn on the TV at night) and there was a painting being appraised.  The owner described the painting as having Indians in front of an adobe house.  Now the appraiser made a point to say Native Americans the first time she described them.  You could really tell by how she emphasized the words and the look on her face while staring at him that she was scolding him for saying Indians.  She then went on to say that they were likely Sioux.  I was always taught that Sioux is a derogatory term for Dakota that the Ojibwe and later French used for them meaning snake.  There are bills put forth by Dakota leaders trying to change all geographical locations with the name Sioux to Dakota in MN.   Obviously they think the term is derogatory.  They don’t call themselves Sioux so why should we?  Point is the lady is a giant douche for scolding him when she was just as “bad” as he was.  I doubt either of them meant any harm by the words they chose.

On a short tangent, Indians is a confusing word nowadays.  I meet many more Indians (people from India) than I do Natives so I assume when people say Indians they actually mean Indians although many still mean Natives.  Yes I don’t say Native-Americans.  I think all those hyphenated terms are annoying.  I kind of like Canada’s term First Nations but really that only applies to all the different tribal nations together.  I’ve heard Canadians say First Nation person and person of First Nations when describing an individual person and that just sounds so categorical and cold to me.  Plus the tribes that exist now aren’t the same tribes that existed thousands of years ago when people first came to the western hemisphere so First Nations isn’t really even accurate.  I know the Grand Portage Chippewa Tribe has a sign in their casino that they want to be called Natives.  See, many people think that is somehow an insensitive word.  It’s not a lower case native like you would see in an old book to describe a savage on some island.  It’s Native with a capital N.  Really if I know what tribe someone is from I say the tribe name since that is their country.  If you know someone is from Ireland, you’d likely say he’s Irish, not European.  Get what I mean?

OK, end of tangent.

PC people who get all in someone’s face lose all respect from me.  I’m sure they think they’re actually helping some group of people by doing that.  I’ve come to realize that people by and large can fight their own battles and don’t need outsiders coming in to “help” them.  Certainly don’t need the in your face kind of “help”.  To me it’s degrading that they think the particular group needs their help in the first place.  There are actually people who can’t fully speak for themselves like children, people with intellectual disabilities, people who can’t speak a language common to the area, etc.  HELP THEM!  Women don’t need help from a man.  There are men who consider themselves to be feminist.  How is that possible?  The fact that you think women need your help shows you don’t understand feminism.

How about you spend your time bringing awareness to tragedies many people are unaware of.  Such as the huge problem of rape in immigrant workers and custodial workers.  The human trafficking and sex slave problems happening right here in America, not just world-wide.  The Islamic terrorists that say their religion allows them to “marry” 9-year-old girls that they abduct so they can gang rape them.  Those things completely sicken me.