Sunday, June 19, 2011

Horseflies and Handgrenades .... and My Father

Apparently we are under attack.

While we foolishly concentrate our attention on mosquitos with their West Nile virus, and deer ticks with their Lyme disease, and lions, and tigers, and bears, the horse flies have been silently building a squadron of terror, patiently waiting for the perfect time to unleash holy hell on the running paths of the world.  It would appear the time is now.
My last three longish runs on my familiar trails have been marked by repeated strafings from these aerial demons.  They are large, and they are many.  And, at least on the trails of NC, they are pissed.  I haven’t been bitten yet, but it only seems like a matter of time.  May be time to invest in some sweat-proof bug spray.  I recall from swimming at lakes as a kid that horse fly bites are no joke.  I’m hoping the conflict doesn’t continue to escalate, or you may find me rolling down the trails in a giant hamster ball by the end of the summer.

As for the hand-grenades, we’ve had a series of short, severe thunderstorms over the last couple weeks in the area, and the trees have taken a beating.  Last night we were poised for another blast, but it was mostly just an abundance of wind.  Net result is this morning’s trail run was as much about dodging branches and debris as it was about knocking out the miles.  We could use some rain, but ideally more of a sustained storm than a Chuck Norris roundhouse-kick of wind/rain/pain.

Despite the kamikaze flies and the obstacle course of dismembered tree parts, this morning’s run was a thing of beauty.  Great weather, and someone had replaced my regular legs with Folger’s instant legs that were ready to rock.  Had planned on a nice steady 10-miler somewhere around 9:00 pace, but my legs were feeling so good that after 5 miles around 8:30 pace, I decided to step it up and throw in a 5k somewhere between 7:30 and 8:00 pace.  I may have slightly overestimated how good I was feeling, but I got through the next 3 miles at 7:51, 7:34, and 7:32, then closed it out with 2 miles at 9:00.  I was put-a-fork-in-me done by the 10 mile mark, but it was a great way to start the day.  I have a slight groin pull/strain that has been acting up over the last couple weeks that I may need to dial down my training a bit to get healed, so this will probably be my last tempo run for a week or two.  Considering it wasn’t intended to be a tempo run, I’m happy with the results.

Today being Father’s Day, I find myself less focused on my own role as a dad, and thinking more about my own father.  I’m blessed to have two healthy parents who have always been incredibly supportive and influential in my life.  My dad has always been an important person in my life, and as I’ve gotten older I consider him one of my best friends.  So many of my interests are a reflection of his.  My passion for home-improvement and woodworking are born of hours watching him build and/or fix anything and everything.  I’ve yet to see anything home-related that he can’t do.  I drove a ’65 Mustang in college that he rebuilt himself.  We bought the house we live in now in foreclosure and badly in need of far too much work.  My dad showed up and he and I spend two solid weeks redoing everything in the house with the exception of the kitchen cabinets.  Neither of us will ever set any speed records for project completion, but the finished product rarely disappoints.  He is one of the best fishermen I have ever seen, and the majority of my favorite memories as a child revolve around fishing.  Thanks to him I enjoy and have moderate skill at fishing, and I’m now able to share that with my own kids.  This past year, I had the unique pleasure of seeing a reversal of the usual pattern, when my interest in running sparked his interest in walking to get back in shape and lose some weight, which culminated in our both finishing the Outer Banks Marathon in November (me running the full, and my Dad walking the half).  One of the best days of my life, and another great memory shared with my dad.
He is by no means perfect, but who is?  It’s the imperfections that make us all unique, good or bad.  My wife often comments how much I remind her of my dad, and I take that as a compliment.  He was career Navy, but passed up several promotions so we could stay in Northern Virginia and my sister and I could go to good schools.  As a senior in high school I had scholarship offers for soccer, and an ROTC scholarship.  One fateful collision towards the end of my senior soccer season resulted in a gruesome shoulder dislocation, and I would never again play another game of soccer.  The athletic scholarships disappeared, and when I got to college I was unable to complete the ROTC physical test while I was rehabbing my arm, so the ROTC scholarship was in jeopardy.  Without missing a beat my parents stepped in and offered to pay for my tuition, all four years, and insisted that I drop the ROTC scholarship and end the drama.  I own them both a great deal, and hope that I am carrying on their legacy as a parent.

Happy Father’s Day to my father, and all the dads out there.  Hug and be hugged as much as you can today.  You’ve earned it.


  1. Fairfax County? Your dad sounds great and I love that you two did OBX together like that.

    I hate summer horseflies...just one more reason I always wear a hat when running. Helps to some extent. Nice run, btw!

  2. Awesome post. You really are a talented writer. You and Patrick from "The Road: A multi-sport Blog" are the two best writers I know. Must be that UVA education.

    Luckily no horsefly's in San Diego. At least on the coast.

    Awesome tribute to your Dad. He sounds like a true Man. I bet he's a great Grandfather too. My Dad gave me zero guidance and taught me nothing. You are very lucky. And so is he.

    Happy Father's Day.

    Wait, great run too. I don't think I've seen the number 7 in your posts in a long time.

  3. Beautiful sentiments about your dad. Happy Father's Day!
    I remember horse flies from living in the Midwest...ugh! I sympathize.

  4. Great post about your Dad!! Very nice.

    Horseflies are scary!! Hope you don't get bitten. Good luck with all that!

  5. What a wonderful post to your dad! He sounds amazing. I hope he reads your blog!!!

    And horseflies sound straight creepy. I might be looking for some new trails to run...

    And 7's, seriously?!? I bet u could jump up a few weeks in that training schedule!!! ;)

  6. I hope you both had a good Father's Day

  7. Love how you inspired your dad to do the half! I convinced my mom to walk a half as well when I ran my full and it was awesome sharing that accomplishment together. Happy belated father's day!

  8. The state park by my house is my favorite running spot but this time of year the horseflies are out in forces and I have to hunt down the bug spray. Missed a spot on my back and I have the welt to prove it. Hate those things.

    Looks like your dad did a great job in his dad role - hope you had a fantastic day!!

  9. that's a great photo : )

    I HATE horse flies, or any flies really. It drives me nuts when they get stuck in my sweaty hair during a run. ugh.

  10. You must be running through Umstead.. the horseflies there on the Turkey Creek Trail are KILLERS! I swear they stalk me, and I have actually stopped on the trail and tried my best to stomp one, but it was as evasive as it was persistent!
    I did the Komen 5K last month, and they handed out these neat little mini towels at the end, and now I keep one tucked into my fuel belt for my trail runs, specifically to swat at the horseflies! I find if I keep running AND swat, they eventually lose interest. Rotten buggers...