Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Twenty miles south of where I'm typing this lies the grave of Adam Ingram - my great-great-great grandfather. He immigrated from Scotland in the 1850's - settling in Cass County, Nebraska in 1857 - only three years after the US signed a treaty with the local natives which helped to make Nebraska an official territory and opened the area up for european settlement.
So, you could say that moving to Nebraska is kind of a homecoming for me. I've never lived here before, but we used to come out almost every summer to visit relatives. I'm guessing that most of you picture Omaha as being on flat land in the middle of corn fields. You're only partially correct. Eastern Nebraska and western Iowa are actually hilly. Driving along I-80 you feel like you're on some kind of slow motion roller coaster - you are always going up or down. Most importantly for me, it's almost exactly the same terrain as just outside Madison, WI.
There are no major bodies of water nearby to moderate the temperature - so, it gets very cold in the winter and relatively hot in the summer. The rest of the time the wind blows relentlessly. Sounds like a pretty crummy place to train - doesn't it?
If you go on Letsrun - you can find several posts that claim Omaha is the worst metropolitan area in the country for runners. It's true that there's not a big competitive running scene here - but, being only an 8 hour drive from Boulder, CO - the running mecca of America - that's not totally unexpected. And yes, the weather is difficult - but most of my formative running years were spent in Michigan and Chicago - I can deal with bad weather.
This last weekend I was arranging some stuff in our garage when a little girl walked up our driveway. She introduced herself - followed by her mom. It turns out that this couple, who live basically across the street, both ran in college and help to organize local track workouts. Here's the kicker - the husband, Gerald, has completed two ironman's and is part of a local group that swims every Saturday morning starting in May in the open water at a lake seven miles away in Iowa.
Gerald even volunteered to head out with me on a bike ride to show me the lake where they train. On our way back he asked, "Do you like to drink beer?" - I felt like I was in the episode of The Simpsons when Gerald Ford moves across the street and asks Homer if he likes drinking beer and watching football - except watching football was replaced with open water swims and brick workouts.
I haven't even mentioned yet that I have a run/bike trail literally out my back yard. It's only about 1.5 miles - but it has markers every tenth of a mile - no need to drive for tempo or track workouts. There are several other trails (mostly concrete unfortunately) in town - some that go for over 20 miles.
So for those of you worrying about me - I think things are going to be fine. Yes, it might be a rough winter - and I'll have to put a little more effort into finding challenging races - but it will be almost perfect for my training for next September. As I ride over the wind swept hills on a contraption that would have boggled Adam's mind - I'll think about how hard he must have worked to scratch out an existence here. Physical endurance wasn't recreation for him - it was how he survived.