Category Archives: Sporting

2023 Biking

I biked 1,037 miles this year on three bikes:

  • Road bike: 558 miles
  • Mountain bike: 358 miles
  • Fat bike: 121 miles

I don’t have much other info for a frame of reference, except I know I did 239 miles on the mountain bike in 2022 (and didn’t start until July, when I got the bike).

For the mountain bike, I tracked individual rides:

  • 2023: 358 miles, 45 separate times at 17 different places across 4 states
  • 2022: 239 miles, 37 separate times at 19 different places across 8 states.
Continue reading 2023 Biking

I Started Mountain Biking and Didn’t Die

In 2022 I did a thing. I started mountain biking. And I didn’t die. (Whenever I go out, my wife tells me not to die.)

Instead I biked 239 miles, 37 separate times at 19 different places across 8 states. (And that’s just mountain biking, not counting my road biking.)

It was not without incident.

  • I managed to bruise my tailbone on my second ride out and couldn’t ride for three weeks. I had to sit on a donut. So I bought knee pads.
  • My brand new bike fell off my bike rack. Let’s not talk about how I didn’t notice right away and dragged it let’s not say how far.
  • How hard can a teeter totter be? I never found out, because I fell off the raised platform before I even got to the teeter totter.

But it was also incredible fun. I saw mountain rivers and fall colors, winter frost and waterfalls. The exercise kicked my butt, but it was fun so I didn’t care.

Continue reading I Started Mountain Biking and Didn’t Die

Council Member Lisa Eng-Sarne’s Last Roller Derby Bout

Recently appointed West St. Paul city council member Lisa Eng-Sarne hangs up her roller-skates after 11 years of playing in the Minnesota RollerGirls roller derby league.

Known on the track as “Diamond Rough,” Eng-Sarne’s last game will be Saturday, March 30.  Grab some tickets and check this one out.

If you’ve never seen roller derby before, it’s pretty epic. The rules… well, I still can’t explain them, but basically two teams muscle their way around a flat track while trying to slow the other team down. Points are earned, elbows fly—it’s all pretty wild. Continue reading Council Member Lisa Eng-Sarne’s Last Roller Derby Bout

A Black NASCAR Driver in the 1960s?

This quick, animated history of Wendell Scott is pretty great. He was the first black driver to race and win at NASCAR’s highest level. And he did it the early 1960s facing incredible racism—this was the age of Freedom Summer, Birmingham and Selma.

The hatred even led to denying Wendell Scott his only win. Here’s the story:

They didn’t acknowledge the win until two years later. NASCAR awarded his family the trophy in 2010, 47 years after the race and 20 years after Scott’s death.

NASCAR is just now acknowledging this mark in its history. In 2013, Darrell Wallace Jr. became the first black driver in 50 years to win in a NASCAR national series race with his first career win at Martinsville. In 2014, Wallace repeated at Martinsville driving a truck with a special paint scheme honoring Wendell Scott. In 2015, NASCAR inducted Scott into its Hall of Fame.

There’s a great children’s book, Racing Against the Odds: The Story of Wendell Scott, Stock Car Racing’s African American Champion, that gives a good overview of his grit and determination.

Running 13 Miles for the Homeless

On Saturday, Jan. 25, I’m running a half-marathon.

That’s 13.1 miles.

It’s a little crazy. I’ve never run that far before (12 miles is my record). But this is where my running is taking me and I’m giving it a shot.

I’m a little lacking in motivation, so I decided to use Mark Horvath and his work with to help the homeless as inspiration. I’m trying to raise $500 for with this half-marathon.

So please, cheer me on by making a donation.

I’m feeling pretty good about it today as I write this, but come Saturday I’ll need all the inspiration I can get. I felt pretty bleh when I ran 12 miles a few weeks ago, and I don’t want to feel that way on Saturday. I’d rather think about Mark Horvath and how running those miles is helping him and the homeless people he serves.

I’d appreciate your support. And does incredible work telling the stories of the homeless and being an advocate for a people who have no voice.

You can make a donation here.

Thank you.

Thoughts About Running

I’m not exactly athletic. Anybody who knew me growing up knows that I stayed far away from most anything athletic. I liked hockey, bike riding and rollerskating, though I never played anything more than pond hockey. I did actually play intramural broomball in college, but that’s the beginning and end of my team sports experience.

My high school history teacher, who also happened to coach the cross country team, once told my parents I’d make a good runner. Maybe I should have listened.

I ran a 5K on Saturday and with the Twin Cities Marathon yesterday, running has been on my mind.

Personal Best 5K
I hate it when people constantly brag about their running achievements, so I try to keep mine to a minimum. But I did manage a personal best in the 5K on Saturday with 28:13. Most of the summer I’ve been doing longer runs (5-7 miles) and I’m not well adjusted to the relatively short distance of a 5K. But I did pretty well on Saturday, running hard early, not dying in the middle, and pouring on a ridiculous sprint I didn’t know I had in me at the end. It’s not a particularly fast time for a 5K, but the low-9 minute miles is a lot faster than I normally run.

The funny thing about running is how much work it takes to get better. This is probably obvious to most people, but my complete lack of athletic experience gives me nothing to base improvement on. I have no idea how hard athletes work. Now that I’m running, I have an idea.

The problem with running is that there’s such a chasm between milestone achievements. If you don’t run at all, a 5K sounds daunting. Who wants to get up on a Saturday and run three miles? A few years ago, that’s the camp I was in. But now a 5K is too short. All that effort for 28 minutes of running? I’d rather run twice that far.

Of course getting to twice that far has taken about six months. This spring I actually read a book on marathons and thought maybe someday I’ll run a marathon. I wasn’t incredibly serious about it, but I did think it was conceivable. I checked out upcoming marathons and mapped out the training schedule to see if I could do it. If I followed the training schedule this book laid out, I would have been ready to run the Twin Cities Marathon with a week to spare.

That’s hilarious. Simply building from three miles to seven miles has taken me six months. Getting to 26 miles feels like an impossibility. I realized how crazy I was being when I noticed a 13-minute per mile minimum pace for the Twin Cities Marathon. At the time I was averaging a 12-minute mile on my longer runs. But I frequently started at over 13 minutes, and sometimes even 14 minutes for that first mile.

These days I’m running in the high 10-minute range, so improvement does happen. But it comes slowly. (For comparison’s sake, the winning marathon runners yesterday were in the 5-minutes per mile range. That’s freaky. A friend of mine ran in the 8-minutes per mile range.)

In the end, I have an incredible appreciation for people who run. It’s seriously hard work and requires tremendous dedication of body and spirit. It’s one thing to keep your body going, but it’s another thing to keep your spirit motivated when your body hates you. The time commitment alone is staggering. Serious marathon trainers run at least three times a week and those longer runs take time (it takes me an hour to run six miles). Simply finding the time to run (and get cleaned up afterward) is intense.

Sometimes I hate running. It hurts and my body is tired and I don’t want to crawl out of bed. But some days I crave it. I itch to get out and move my body. I’ve learned that sometimes stopping is the worst thing you can do and even when you think you’re completely spent and can’t go any farther, you can.

Digging the Racing this Year

Cedar Lake SpeedwayI’ve been a NASCAR fan for a while, but for some reason this year I’ve been getting more into it. It started with watching the truck series race on dirt at Eldora. Trucks racing on dirt? Awesome.

Because of that race I looked up a local dirt track and took the kids to see some Saturday night dirt racing at Cedar Lake Speedway. We’re definitely going back.

I think what I’m enjoying about NASCAR this year is diversity. They raced on dirt for the first time in 40 years and it was incredible. It also seems like there have been more road courses than in the past. Between Cup, Nationwide and the trucks, there were six road courses on five different tracks this year. I love road courses and that’s just fun to watch. (Trucks on road courses? Yes! With a last corner wreck/pass, it was an incredible race.)

It was also fun at the start of the year to watch Danica Patrick make some waves by scoring the pole in the Daytona 500, becoming the first woman to lead a lap in the 500 and then getting a top 10 finish. Unfortunately, the rest of her season has been downhill and she’s usually running a lap or two down in the 20th-30th position. Makes me wish she’d spent another year in the Nationwide series learning how to race stock cars.

But aside from Danica, there’s not a lot of diversity happening in the Cup series. It’s mostly the same bunch of guys running up front and it’s pretty hard for new guys to break in. I get tired of rooting for anybody but Jimmie Johnson. And let’s not talk about the recent controversy of collusion to get drivers into the post-season Chase.

That’s why the truck series has been so exciting. They raced on dirt. They did a road course. They’ve got a bunch of young, up and coming guys like Darrell Wallace Jr., Chase Elliott (who won with that controversial last corner road course pass), Ryan Blaney and Jeb Burton. They’ve got some international flavor like Brazil’s Miguel Paludo and Mexico’s German Quiroga Jr. (with Juan Pablo Montoya going back to Indy, NASCAR needs some more international talent).

The Nationwide series could be that exciting. They’ve got young guys like Kyle Larson and Brian Scott, international flair with Brazil’s Nelson Piquet Jr., and their token female with Johanna Long (running a less than full season with less than stellar equipment and being ignored because Danica Patrick gets the woman racer spotlight). Unfortunately instead of watching all these up and comers duke it out for wins, you have to watch Cup series regulars run away with it. Kyle Busch has 10 Nationwide wins this year. Brad Keselowski, last year’s Cup champion, has five wins. Brian Scott was even on his way to winning his first race and was going to do it by leading every single lap, until Brad Keselowski passed him on a questionable restart with 11 laps to go and stole the win. Lame.

This is an age old complaint that goes back to my favorite driver Mark Martin racking up a record number of Nationwide victories (until being bypassed by another Cup regular, Kyle Busch). NASCAR has even tried to stem the flood of Cup regulars by not allowing them to compete for the Nationwide championship. But still. This year Nationwide regulars have only won four of 28 races so far. And that’s not abnormal. In 2011 it was six of 34. In 2010, 2009 and 2008 it was only one race in 34. Last year was actually a breakout year for Nationwide with 16 out of 33 wins coming from Nationwide regulars. The last time the series had those kind of numbers was 2003-2005 when Brian Vickers, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. were coming up and hadn’t graduated to Cup yet.

There’s lots of fun racing to watch this year, I just wish those Cup guys would stick to their own series and let some new stars grab the checkered flag.

Love Runs

Love RunsI love it when things come together. When different concepts merge into a brilliant idea and when overlapping people start working together toward the same goal. That’s good stuff.

That’s what is happening with Love Runs. It’s a remote 5K that’s happening on Saturday to raise money to build a classroom in Uganda. What’s a remote 5K? It means you can do it anywhere. You don’t have to be part of any official run.

I’ve been running lately. Some days it’s horrible and I hate it and (less frequently) it’s awesome and I love it. But every time I feel good. Even when my feet hurt or my knee is acting up or I’m just exhausted, it feels good. So I keep doing it.

Then Allison Vesterfelt comes along and wants to celebrate her 30th birthday by raising $30,000 to build a classroom in Uganda. That’s the kind of crazy thinking I like. Allison has been kind enough to support my recent book by letting me write for her blog and for Prodigal Magazine. I kind of owe her. I wanted to support her effort, but I wasn’t sure how. Then I saw she was doing Love Runs.

Things come together.

Now I can do my run and support a good cause. Plus I can help out a friend. Plus, the school in Uganda that Allison is helping is supported by Bob Goff, the author of Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World, a book that’s been on my reading list for a while. I saw Bob speak last fall and he’s the kind of ridiculous guy who puts his phone number in his book and urges people to call him. (He genuinely wants to talk to you. So of course his phone rang while he was speaking. Awesome.) It should come as no surprise that when Bob saw I was doing the run he thanked me on Twitter. When I responded and mentioned that I needed to read his book before Saturday, he offered to send me a copy. The guy’s got heart. So yesterday I picked up Love Does from the library (yes, I should probably buy it—it’s good stuff) and I’ll probably have it done before the run on Saturday. I get bored with nonfiction books, but this one is captivating. Bob loves people so much that he’s just crazy. I think that’s kind of the point.

Things come together.

So Saturday I’m doing this run for all the reasons I just said. Want to join me?

It’s a remote run, so you’re welcome to take part. Pony up some money to Allison’s cause and let’s do this. Strap on your shoes and go! You can walk if you want. 5K sounds like a lot, but it’s only 3.1 miles. Go 1.55 miles from your house, turn around and go home. Done. Take a picture and let’s celebrate with Allison.

If you don’t want to run (or walk) but still want to support Allison’s birthday project, you can make a donation here.

Things come together.

Born to Run

Last week I finished the book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Chris McDougall. It’s easily in the top five best books I’ve read this year. And that’s not just because I’ve been doing more running this year than any other year. It’s an incredibly interesting book that makes the most mundane things completely fascinating.

The writer starts off the book with a running injury and wants to know how he can run without getting hurt. His doctors tell him to stop running. It launches into an exploration of running shoes, which didn’t come into use until the late 1960s. The author ends up pursuing a lost tribe in Mexico called the Tarahumara who easily run up to a hundred miles a day in ridiculous canyons with little more than sandals for shoes.

Personally it’s engaging because I’m fighting the same battle. I’ve taken up running recently but I’m terrified I’m going to hurt myself. Something like one in three runners get injured every year. I was going to run a 5K this weekend, but I came back from a run on Thursday with my knees hurting. Pushing it didn’t seem wise. The idea of barefoot running that’s explored in Born to Run suddenly seems appealing.

The fact is that for all our fancy cushioned shoes, running injuries have only increased. Running shoes actually increase the power of your footfall, magnifying potential damage to your feet, ankles and knees. But people have run for millenia without such fancy shoes, so why not do it that way (or at least in minimal shoes—I’m too much of a wimp to go completely barefoot). This barefoot or minimalist trend has skyrocketed recently, to the point that Nike has released their own “barefoot” running shoe. Here’s a good summary from the author’s site.

I’m not sure where I’ll land. I know I need to ease into minimalist shoes if they’re going to work for me, and with my iffy knees right now I need to be especially careful. Exercise shouldn’t be this difficult.

And that’s the most compelling part of this book, that perhaps we’re doing something wrong. Virtually every disease that plagues Western nations can be blamed on poor diet and exercise. Many of our health problems could be solved if we simply went running. We need to re-learn how to run, both to get back into the practice but also to learn how to do it right so we can avoid the epidemic of running injuries.

Which brings me to what I thought was the most fascinating portion of the book. McDougall talked to some evolutionary biologists who theorize that the human body was made to run. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which holds that our design is for walking. But as they compared human and animal physiology, they found that we have more traits in common with runners than walkers. As they explored further they found that we’re especially designed to run—but not sprints like a jack rabbit or a cheetah, but long distances. More than any other animal, humans have a capacity to go fast over long distances.

At first this stumped the biologists. How could that be helpful? Long distance is no good if a tiger catches you in the first 10 seconds. Likewise dinner would manage to escape in the first 10 seconds as well.

Then they discovered an ancient art of hunting that involves literally running an animal to death. It’s very rare today with fenced in preserves and what not, but they managed to find a tribe in Africa that would hunt this way: Persistence hunting. They would run an animal down over 20 miles, tracking them, herding them to keep from losing the stragglers and eventually the animals would overheat and die. A deer might be able to outrun you, but if you keep after it, the deer has to slow down to rest and you don’t.

That’s incredible. I’m probably summarizing the story poorly, which is why you should go read the book, but that’s just fascinating. I’d like to see how it goes over with my hunting friends. What if instead of grabbing the rifle or bow, they headed out in shorts and a water bottle, ready to run that buck to death? Think you need a hunting license for that?

Here’s a good video that summarizes the book and includes persistence hunting:

Olympic Fever

We’ve been swept up in Olympic Fever around here, taking in as much Olympics as we can. And since it’s a vacation, I’m probably watching more Olympics than I have in a long time. It’s really fun getting into the drama and the stories of each athlete.

But I have to say it breaks my heart when the silver medalist breaks down in tears. I know it’s not gold, but you’re second place in the entire freaking world. Buck up.

That was the image we saw of Russia’s Victoria Komova after the women’s individual all around. She lost to Gabby Douglas (Could anyone have a more infectious smile? Yes, Missy Franklin.) and collapsed in tears, inconsolable. She could barely even stand to wear the silver medal.

I get the disappointment, but it’s also the Olympics. You’re awesome. In a world of 7 billion people, you’re number two.

That was the sentiment of the jovial Missy Franklin: “I don’t think fourth at the Olympics is a disappointing swim at all,” she said, talking about teammate Lochte’s finish (though she had a fourth place of her own).

Then there’s 15-year-old Katie Ledecky who destroyed the field in the 800 meter freestyle, winning by more than 4 seconds. Afterword when asked how she did it, she said something to the effect of, “I set high goals and reached for them, and this just blew everything out of the water.” She gives the impression that her “high goals” were far short of gold. But there she is, a shocked and glorious winner.

Then there’s the Chinese athlete who won silver and broke down crying on live national media coverage, apologizing for letting his country down (it was an NPR story, can’t find it online). That’s harsh.

There’s also the 3-time gold medal winning Chinese diver who after winning her medal learned that her grandmother had died–more than a year ago. And that her mom had been battling breast cancer for years. Her family didn’t want the death to distract her from the Olympics. That’s a little too intense.

The Olympics are an amazing opportunity and a chance to celebrate human achievement and skill. It shouldn’t be a time for sore losers. Personally, I’m sitting here on the couch amazed at how these athletes can contort their bodies, whether it’s the cyclists pouring on the speed for the last sprint, the runners with their feet flying a fluorescent Nike blur, the gymnasts spinning in the air (and with biceps bigger than my head) or the soccer players running for 45 minutes straight. It’s incredible and inspiring.

Makes me want to run and bike and swim. And yesterday I did. One lap of the pool left me gasping. Not like the women’s 100 meter sprinters who hardly looked winded. That’s just incredible.