28 April 2016

Fargo Marathon 2016: The improbable half from a 5K

Interesting running related story came out the other day: 12 Year Old Girl Accidentally Runs Half-Marathon. She came ready to run a 5K but instead ran a the half. Quite an achievement for the youngster and also a scare for her parents.  The organizers of the Rochester (NY) Flower City Challenge certainly enjoyed the the free press this story generated nationwide, but for a race day consisting of a little over 3000 runners they also must be scratching their heads. Starting line and starting time confusion generated the mistake.
Perhaps it could have been prevented with better starting line discipline and communication. The half supposedly started 15 minutes prior to the 5K. I can only speculate that there must have been some congestion at the half start which may have impacted the start of the 5K. The 5K appeared to have less entrants- about 1000 for the 5K and little bit over 2000 for the half. I am surprised that the 5K did not have more runners as that has typically been the case in Fargo.
5K has usually attracted the most runners for Fargo Marathon week. Fargo race officials decided to place it on Friday night prior to the marathon which naturally avoids a dilemma like Rochester. There may have been some runners who may have mistakenly ran other races but usually it is runners wanting to run in those races after registration has been closed. There must around 7000 or more entrants amassed at the start on Saturday morn of the race. Fargo's start line is massive but orderly. The courses are clearly marked and stationed with volunteers. If you get lost on the course I am sure there will be someone out there to give directions.
Of course there is the story of Cris Estes who ran the Fargo Marathon course 3 times in 2009. Nobody bothered to tell him to stop. He kept running.
Still plenty of room to sign up for this year's events in Fargo. If you want you can run it 3 times too. There just won't be much spectating or aid stations 6 hours after the race start. 

14 April 2016

Something new and something else for Fargo Marathon

The organizers of the Fargo Marathon as not struggling for ideas on how to expand the brand and participation.
The Furgo Dog Run has been added this year to cater to the growing number of canine runners. Well, maybe it is more for the owners of those canines who like to run with their furry friends. The 1.6 mile race is set for Tuesday of race week, which is really stretching Fargo Marathon's pawprint over the entire week. I cannot say that I know of many pet runs out there but this may definitely be a good move considering the amount of cash that Americans shell out for their pets. The event also has a mascot, MJ, who apparently is training for the event. MJ has been mum on the topic since the end of March.
The 2nd addition to the races this year is the Cyclothon. On Monday May 16 bicyclers will be able to do the marathon course and receive a shirt and medal. However, you need to finish the course in under 2.5 hours. Sounds like a strenuous bike ride. In previous years I have biked a vast majority of the course without it being an race event. It is an interesting venture and perhaps may stir a bit of interest in future bike races or bike-a-thons.
And finally the Fargo Marathon will be a drug free race. Actually it has always been one and open to random drug tests by USA Track and Field. The local paper brought to light that the 2014 men's marathon winner had been associated with a coach who is under investigation for alleged doping of the runners she coached. Race director Mark Knutson and 2008 winner Eric Sondag both doubted that the runner in question, Peter Kemboi, had used performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) to win the race noting that the prize money and the cost of  PEDs did not make financial sense. I believe the top prize for race winners is about $1500.
And on another note, Will Ferrell has still not signed up for the Fargo Marathon. Neither has Mike Farrell of MASH fame.

26 February 2016

A railroad hero for African American History month: John W Blair

John Blair stands 2nd from right
Scanning through titles of train books for children the other day, I came across this title: John Blair and the Great Hinckley Fire by Josephine Nobisso. At first glance does not appear to have anything do with a train. But then a 2nd glace- John Blair? John Insley Blair was a railroad magnate who at one time owned the largest rail mileage in the world. Then a 3rd look and check of Wikipedia proved that this book does not tell the story of the railroad developer but of an African American Porter on the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad. Silly me.
Hinckley after the 1894 blaze tore through town
September 1st 1894 John Blair's train came into Hinckley, MN just as a massive conflagration came busting into town. And this was no ordinary fire. Some have described it like a tornado of flames four and half miles high.
Probably over 200 passengers pressed into the train with hopes for survival in the hands of the train crew. Engineer James Root made the decision to put his engine in reverse and race the cloying inferno to a water hole he recalled seeing approximately 6 miles away. His plan worked but not without much struggle and hardship. The train started aflame during the trip and Root was badly hurt.
John Blair's role in this race with the deadly firestorm is difficult to find primary sources on the internet. The Minnesota History Center has the Charles W Blair papers in their collection and it contains his account of the Great Fire and his actions.
As Porter he no doubt aided all the individuals aboard the train during the terrible ride. I found a few accounts of him helping passengers including children escape the burning coaches and rush to the water hole known as Skunk Lake. Elsewhere there is a statement that he was final one to exit the train before it totally burned up. He did survive as can ascertained from the existence of his account. I suspect I need to read the book since author Nobisso has stated elsewhere on the 'net that researchers were employed in gathering data about Blair.
So there you have a real hero and hopefully I have brought a little more attention to him. Blair is honored at the Hinckley Fire Museum among other railroaders who did their part to help the citizens during this great catastrophe. And that link is the only place on the internet I could find a close up portrait of him.

16 February 2016

Unusual Star Wars foods

This is not about the foods we encounter in the Star Wars universe. Instead it is about Star Wars encountering food in our universe.
Hunting and gathering Star Wars material has been relatively easy these days. Since Disney swooped up the Lucas empire, Star Wars is even more embedded into American culture. I surmise Lucas did not intend to craft a story in which has a Darth Vader like force hold on the public. Turn to left or the right and some Star Wars tie in has been created. And it is now even reaching into the food we consume. Chez Its had it and now Campbell's does too. It would appear that the Empire/First Order folks have found a niche in the food market.

Soup is Star Wars food

Back in the day- the pre-re-release era - Star Wars kept to toys, T-shirts, books and trading cards.
But there was 1 anomaly- C3POs, the cereal.
I recall it murkily. We rarely had cold cereals. My childhood breakfasts included mostly Malt-O-Meal hot cereal or CoCo Wheats. But they were often eaten in an Empire Strikes Back bowl.

Probably one of the more collectible items which were not food but closely connected were the Burger King glasses. All of the original 3 films had a BK set. In later years these glasses have been scrutinized for their high levels of lead in the paint used for the graphics.

As is typical with most food tie-ins to movies, the food is considered unhealthy and targeted at youth. It is a rare thing to see movie marketing geared at eating vegetables or whole grain bread or fruit. In fact it probably does not exist because Hollywood deems those things unhealthy to their profits. But now I am getting into philosophical ideas that feed the dogs. But for the ardent fan Star Wars is sure to come to a table near you.

02 February 2016

GearCamp: The Wool Shirt

Pendleton Wool Shirt
The wool shirt has been with us for a while. Wool for even longer. Back in 1924 Pendleton decided that a little more color in a woolen shirt would sell more shirts. They were right. And today they are still making the same shirts.
Woolens for as sportswear have been out of style for quite a while based on my unscientific research. They are making a comeback. I think hipsters may have increased the popularity of this type of shirt in recent years especially since Portland is in proximity to the Pendleton mill.
I had a few wool shirts growing up. I believe I wore one of them in a yearbook picture my sophomore year in high school. It was a Navy surplus shirt.  I think I borrowed the another one from my father. By college I had rid my wardrobe of these shirts, mostly because they were often scratchy and were dry clean only.
I think the woolen shirt fell out of favor due to the increased availability of tech fabrics like micro-fleece. Nevertheless, The Beach Boys probably still wear wool. I began to re-acquaint myself with the miracle fabric of wool 5 years ago mostly because I noticed it languishing in the 2nd hand market for a few bucks. After buying one I was hooked.
Pendleton woolens are durable and to uniquely breathable. Also, they make great shirt jackets because wool is an excellent outer-layer. On a cool fall day out in the forest I like to wear a Pendleton with a puffy down vest. Makes a great combo.    

28 January 2016

The red University of North Dakota slippers

I know that the University of North Dakota recently approved their new mascot- although much talk surrounds that and I do not intend to enter the fray. However, I do not think that they approved of new school colors. A few weeks ago I was visiting the former coat purveyor now a bizzaro TJ Max clone Burlington and discovered these UND branded slippers in red. Red is not a official school color to my knowledge. But pink is.
So how did these get past the NCAA trademark legal eagles (or fighting hawks)?

Menards and O Scale prices

In the Upper Midwest and a few other outlying places the mention of Menards summons up a banjo ditty with lyric: "Save big money, you save big money, when you shop Menards." The big box home improvement retailer and its spokesperson Ray are responsible for etching those words into my mind and others. Their common sales approach is giving out rebates in the form of merchandise credit checks usable only at their stores. Clever way to induce cyclic patterns of shopping at Menards. And for the last decade or so, most of their outlets have added food stuffs, clothes, books, and a few electronics. Every Christmas they would also have a some Lionel train sets including a Menard's only set.
Then, back just a few years ago (perhaps 2011 or 2012) they began to release their own exclusive line of O scale train freight cars.
First it started with a trickle of flat cars with Menard loads: a Menards trailer, a Menards truck, a Menards racecar. They followed it up with flat cars with truss loads and lumber loads. I think they also added a few buildings too. In 2014 they increased their line to include box cars, basic flatcars, and flat cars with military loads with actual railroad names in addition to about a half dozen bui1dings. Above is a Menard Southern Railroad boxcar I own. Then in 2015 things started to explode with more boxcars, flat cars with different loads, tubular track and more buildings. A whole section of their website is dedicated to the train items. In 2016 they continue to release new items- this month alone they put out tank cars, hoppers, and a commemorative WWII box car set.
The good news is these items are probably the least expensive O scale items around these days. Most of the cars hover around $20. The cars are rather well made with metal trucks and wheels and an air brake. There is a minimal amount of detail but do not expect these to be spot on with a prototype. On the track they run very smoothly although the boxcars do have a little sway.

Above is a comparative image of the Menards box car with a Lionel Post-War 6464 series box car. You cannot tell, but the Menards car is a little bigger than the Lionel one. It is also slightly wider but still semi-scale.
The Menards Goldline buildings are a decent value at between $30 and $100 and most include light effects and figures. I have a corner 2 story store which appears to have been manufactured by Woodland Scenics. Some other interesting ones are Harry's Saurkraut Factory and a fire damaged engine shed.
The tubular track addition was a surprise. But since it appears Lionel has stopped tubular track manufacturing, someone had to come in to fill the void. Menards track is full profile O gauge and comes in quite an assortment of sizes at reasonable prices.
New O gauge cars at Menards

With the demise of K-line and Industrial Rail in the early aughts, there has been a great price gap in the O gauge market. Lionel and MTH have pretty much been producing items for hobbyists with bigger bankrolls. Atlas, Williams by Bachmann,Weaver have been somewhere in between although I am beginning to like Williams more. RMT has done a superb job at producing some fine models at reasonable cost but will be closing soon. So Menards' train line arrives at the right time. One could only wonder if they will ever be releasing engines.

15 January 2016

GearCamp: Coleman 502 Stove

Coleman 502
These posts are dedicated to the hard working gear that I have utilized on my camping expeditions. Might be something simple or vintage or cool.
Our first post for GearCamp features the Coleman 502 Single Burner Camp Stove from the 1970s.
Coleman has been around for over 100 years. They have made some pretty durable camping gear especially stoves and lanterns. I acquired the 502 at thrift shop for 2 bucks and it included a square aluminum pot that doubled as a case. Unfortunately the stove did not work, so it sat around for a while before I was able to tinker around and fire it up. The pump gasket just needed to be lubricated and away it worked. Despite its bulk, this is my go to stove for trips even though I do own a few lighter weight stoves. And the good thing about these stoves is that there are still parts around to keep these guys humming for another 30 years. I think it only burns white gas (aka coleman fuel). I have never tried the gas from the pump.
You have a little control of the flame in intensity so you need to fiddle with out to avoid scorching your food or having you pancake take like forever to cook.
502 in action
Found a scan of the manual here.