We Fight Back! Take That, Winter! Welcome Back, Guest Blogger Richard Galgano

Rich's snowy deck and grill 2-16-2015CAM00220 Rich's Snowy Front Yard 2-16-2015 CAM00218

(Pic of mostly-shoveled deck and my accessible grill. Cheeseburgers in Paradise!)

(Pic of front yard from my living room window.)

If shoveling were sport, we would be competing in the “Snowbowl.” But as boxing is a better metaphor, how about, “The Battle of Beantown,” “The Rumble in Bahston,” or “The Thrilla in Dunkin Villa”?

For weeks now, You’ve been pummeling us with snow, wind, cold and ice. We’ve staggered a few times with wobbly knees, sore arms and aching backs. A couple of times we’ve barely escaped getting knocked out, saved only by the bell ending another round of snow.

Like Ali against Foreman, we’ve leaned against the snowbanks and absorbed your hits. (Actually this is a good way to make the sidewalk path a little wider.)

Beginning today, we fight back! The sequel: Revenge of the Snow People!

First, we need to set the proper mood.  Dig out your swimsuits and sunscreen. Wear white. (Yes, I know it’s not Memorial Day yet, but desperate times call for desperate measures.) Don’t forget the straw hats, visors and baseball caps. Ladies, put on your white cotton gloves and pastel colors. Well, okay, forget the gloves and pastels, but find those sandals.

Shovel off your deck and start grilling. Eat key lime pie while blasting Jimmy Buffett from your speakers. Don’t forget the pink flamingos. No more sanding the sidewalk – just put the snow in a big pile, make a small beach and build a sand castle. Drink lemonade. Make mojitos. And put those little drink umbrellas in everything!

Now, for the Plan of Attack:

Paint the top of the snow black. White reflects light and heat, but dark colors absorb it.

Cover your entire house with aluminum foil and mirrors. (Remember to put the shiny side of the foil facing away from the house.)

Find every light and extension cord you have and put them outside, around your house, and turn them on. Use bulbs with higher watts, preferably a couple thousand. (Be careful not to electrocute yourself.)

The snow will melt faster than the Wicked Witch of the West.

Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk!

Richard Galgano

February 16, 2015

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I’M SO SORRY TO WELCOME BACK SNOW-RAVAGED GUEST BLOGGER, RICHARD GALGANO

Guess what? It’s 4:00 a.m., it’s snowing again, and I’m outside. Thank God! I have a multiple-week streak of daily shoveling going and was afraid it would end. This may be my best chance to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. There are officially two categories in the book: pro and amateur. Technically I’m an amateur, but I don’t think the term is appropriate in this case. “Amateur” derives from Latin and means “one who does it for the love.” I think we need to develop a third category referring to necessity.

I’m sacrificing my parking spot in the driveway. I’m considering a mess of helium balloons to tether the car above the snow but I’ll probably just play “musical cars.” There just isn’t any more space.

Boston received five and a half five inches of snow through January 22nd. Since then, in 23 days, 84 more inches have fallen. A normal winter has about half that much snow.

Yesterday, for the fifth time, I removed the peaks of the snow piles at the foot of the driveway to about 4 and a half feet. All I can say is… They’re B-a-c-k!  The snow piles are over 7 feet right now, and growing. The taller mountains in the yard are so high that you need to wear supplemental oxygen when climbing them. This Spring, my yard is going to look like the summit of Mt. Everest with empty canisters all over the place.

After removing the peaks with my wheelbarrow, I washed clothes by hand. Yes. I am building the helicopter, using parts from the washer and dryer. (See prior blog posts.) As it took an hour to drive 3/4 of a mile, the chopper will free up a lot of time, for shoveling.

The local hardware store was packed yesterday. Unlike the big box stores which already showcase spring equipment, winter items are still available locally. Well, they were. There was a run on “ice melt,” the shovels are sold-out, and the bin with the grips for your boots had 1 pair left (men – size 15). Fortunately they had a chain saw (more on this below).

I considered buying salt but I don’t want to screw up the environment any more than necessary. Wandering through the aisles, it hit me. I ran over to the electrical department and bought every foot of wire they had. I stopped at the auto parts store and picked up a couple car batteries.

Last night I stripped about five miles of insulation off the wire. My dog is outside running around in a back and forth pattern, having the time of her life, pulling wire from a spool. She’s pretty fast and as soon as she’s done and back in the house, I’m going to hook up the wire to the batteries. (Safety Note: if you walk by our house today, please wear rubber boots.) Let the melting begin!

Years ago, I learned how to cut trees and got reasonably facile in having the trees (usually) fall in the intended direction. As the battery power is limited, I’ve decided to cut down the trees in our front yard and set them on fire. Hopefully they will fall in the direction of the sidewalk and driveway. Ha! With all that melting, I’ll be able to see one of my neighbor’s houses in no time! After the trees burn out, I can toss some furniture on the embers. I got the idea from La Bohème. But don’t worry — there are piles of rubber insulation in the house and they are comfortable to sit and lie on. I soon may be able to see out my windows!

Back after a couple hours. Huge miscalculation. HUGE. I cut the first tree but the snow is so deep, it’s holding the tree upright. And the electrical approach didn’t quite work as intended. From the window, my dog and I witnessed one major league spark (okay, explosion). The dog had run around the fire hydrant a few times and I think the metal hydrant caused a short circuit. However, the area around the hydrant is totally clear and the five-foot hole in the ground should fill up with snow quickly.

My dog is sitting at the kitchen table, pawing the keys on my laptop and has my credit card. It appears that she is trying to book a vacation package in Cancun. She is willing to take me with her but I’ll have to ride in the cargo area with the other humans.

Time for breakfast while listening to music — Christie McVie was right: “I’m over my head, over my head in snow.”

Richard Galgano

February 15, 2015

Welcome Back Snow-Weary Guest Blogger, Richard Galgano

Armageddon Storm Team reporting live from just west of Boston.

It continues to snow and the piles in my driveway are taller than Kareem Abdul Jabbar. They are too high for Dwight Stones (high jumper) and too wide for Carl Lewis (long jumper). If they continue to get larger, Boston will change the bid and go for the winter Olympics instead. I’ll have a front yard view to the super giant slalom.

We have no place to put the newly plowed snow in the driveway so we cleared the lighter, 3+ feet of snow in our front yard to make a large, open area. We found our wheel barrel and have been “trucking” the heavy, salted snow from the driveway to the yard. Fortunately that section of the yard is half weeds, so the salt shouldn’t matter.

My hands are frozen despite wearing ski gloves. Time to use the Kelvin thermometer.

I have to dig out the crampons and ice ax. The icicles hanging from the gutters are now large enough to climb.

Watching a really proficient truck driver plow is a thing of beauty.

What’s this? Just turned on the TV and regular programs are airing! The meteorologists are on “assignment” in Key West.

The snow is so deep that our dog is teaching herself how to use the loo.

Wish I had taken up fly-fishing. Hip waders would come in handy right about now.

Call the police! The 5 feet tall wooden post fence in our back yard is missing! Never mind, it’s just buried under a drift.

Santa just called. He wonders if it’s okay to move his operation here.

Breaking news from the American Geological Institute. The earth has “rotated” and the 42.3 north longitude is now where the north pole used to be. Can’t wait to see the aurora borealis — that is, if we ever have clear skies again.

Maple syrup should be very tasty this year.

I’m going to find a bear den and try to hibernate for a while.

Richard Galgano

February 9, 2015

QUICK NEWS COVERAGE UPDATE FROM A MAN WITH NO DRY CLOTHES SHOVELING AGAINST THE TIDE — WELCOME BACK GUEST BLOGGER RICHARD GALGANO

“If one more plow fills in my driveway while I’m standing in it…”

Armageddon Storm Team 6 update: “It’s still snowing.” Thank God. I couldn’t tell with all that white stuff pelting my windows. So far, 24-plus inches have fallen. I’m grabbing a bite to eat and trying to warm up – for the past hour I’ve been attacking the glacier at the end of my drive. The glacier appears to be winning.

One of the city barns is on my street. All the trucks in our end of town have to drive by to get back to the barn to reload with sand, and so our street is always well-plowed. The disadvantage is that there is a whopping 10 feet of hard packed snow in our driveway.

Special Alert: As all the meteorologists are working, the broadcast cuts back and forth between them. One meteorologist standing outside near a highway, just announced, “When it’s snowing hard and it is very windy, you can’t see far.” She also said, “When there is a ban on driving in the Commonwealth, the highways tend not to have many cars on them.” God, what an education I’m getting.

Cut to the beach. It’s snowing.

Breaking news: “If it snows a lot, it can get deep.”

Ahhh! Something different! The station is now advertising their continuous coverage of the storm as well as cell phone apps.

Oh, Thank God… a real commercial!

Here’s something: One of the Armageddon Storm Team 6 vans is reporting and broadcasting as they drive down a local street. Sure hope the camera operator isn’t the driver. Oh well. It must be considered an essential vehicle. I wonder if they could pick me up a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.

More news: “If you see the snow blowing sideways really fast, it’s probably windy.”

Change of pace: The regular news anchors are talking about… (wait for it), the weather!

We are at number 8 of the biggest snowfall totals of all time. Worcester is at number 3 all time. The airports are the official measuring points. I’m guessing they didn’t record the Ice Ages because there were no airports then.

Back to the beach. Do I see someone surfing? It must be the total white-out conditions wreaking havoc on my brain.

I changed channels; a rerun of a 70s police drama is on. Those ties are back in style.

None of my four pairs of gloves are dried yet; I can’t go back out. Why aren’t Dunkin’ Donuts delivery vehicles considered “essential”?

I need a change of pace. Time to flick on the radio and get the latest on Deflate Gate.

Richard Galgano

January 27, 2015

WELCOME BACK, GUEST BLOGGER RICHARD GALGANO – A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE TRACK MEET, PART II

I arrived at the Reggie Lewis Indoor Track for day 2 of the United States Track and Field (USATF) master’s national championship just after the events began. I checked in, informed the official that I wouldn’t be running the mile as I had planned months ago, and then learned there were enough volunteers for the day. Looking around, I saw some members of Mass Velocity Track Club, my team, and joined them in the bleachers. I met several teammates for the first time and watched the events. The 60 meter sprints, long jump and pole vault were in progress.

I’m not sure what is more impressive: watching graceful, athletic and powerful middle-age sprinters fly down the track or seeing the very elderly athletes do their sprints. There were world and American records set and frequent applause and lots of oohs and aahs. Occasionally an athlete would do something really spectacular and the air would be filled with cheers. Everyone seemed to know everyone and athletes mingled and renewed acquaintances. I met people who were world-class athletes in their twenties and thirties and heard some great stories. Although the competition is fierce, the friendships are deeper.

I was sitting next to a woman who hails from Australia. Her husband was entered in the long jump and the 200 meter relay. They now live near Washington, DC and we chatted about DC, Boston and Australia. We joked about the trials and tribulations of masters athletes and she laughed when I told her about my ill-fated attempts at long-jumping and breaking my rib high-jumping. She recommended that it may be best for me to stay away from pole vaulting just as the first vaulter made his approach.

If you have never seen the pole vault in person, it’s awesome. As the athletes takes flight, the pole bends backwards under their weight. It then recoils and you can see the force applied to the vaulters as they are thrust upward and forward. Feet above head, they somehow turn their bodies around and then fall backwards onto the mat. Occasionally a vault will not go as far as planned and the vaulter will have to adjust on the fly to make sure he or she lands on the mat. Michael Jordan was noted for his “hang time” when soaring in the air for a dunk. His maximum time aloft was calculated to be 0.92 seconds. One of the male pole vaulters cleared 14 and 1/2 feet and he was in the air for a long time. I found myself holding my breath every time an athlete made an attempt.

One of my favorite events to watch is the shot put. One doesn’t throw the shot put like a ball. Doing so would probably rip your shoulder out of the socket. I’ve tried doing the event a little, mostly to help coach children. Depending on the sex and age, the shot can weigh 16 lbs. It’s a very technical event and the putters aren’t just strong but also explosive. As a distance runner, I resemble Charles Atlas before he started working out. The “weight people” are BIG. Their arms are larger than my thighs. However, they are also graceful and have great balance. I’ve seen them train on balance beams. Most of them are also very fast. I raced some high school weight athletes last year over 40 meters and it wasn’t even close.

While the sprints were underway, I started thinking of entering the mile. Although I wasn’t prepared, I was well-rested (an old runners joke). There was a chance that I would be on a relay team later in the afternoon. Our team had a couple runners interested and being a warm body in the right age group could mean a ticket to race. A couple teammates encouraged me to enter the mile and I went back to the official table to let them know. I changed into my red singlet and running shorts, put on my warm up clothes and started to jog. I had also gotten the word that yes, indeed, I would be racing on a relay team later in the day. One of the problems of being 55 is the length of time it requires to warm up. It’s kind of like starting an old car in the middle of winter. Sometimes I wonder if there will be any energy left to race after warming up. After about 15 minute of jogging I went into the gym and started to do my dynamic warm ups (leg swings, skips, drills designed to prepare one for action). I ran a series of short strides to get used to moving faster than snail pace and went over to the starting area. Unlike road races where one can warm up until a couple minutes before the start, track races require some standing and waiting for your race. The trick is to stay warm while waiting. My age group was pretty large and we had two sections. The slower one usually goes first and I was in the first group. I shook hands with a few of the runners and lined up. The gun went off and I tried to run with effort but sensibly. I was near the back quickly and went through the first 200 meters in 50 seconds or 6:40 pace. This was much slower than I planned a year ago but was hoping it wasn’t too fast for my lack of training. I stayed on this pace for a few laps and while working, I wasn’t gasping either. Some of the faster runners started to pass me but my teammates were scattered around the track and I heard their encouragement. I finished in 6:40 and walked off the track and got a drink.

Running two events is a rarity for me. The last time I tried it, the second race was torture. I decided to jog for a bit then stretch. I hydrated and had a small snack and then went to watch more runners. Inactivity can increase the muscle tightness and an hour before our race I headed back to the gym for a warm up. My muscles were already a bit tight and I thought about Bill Cosby and the can of 3 in 1 oil in his go-cart skit.* (Bill Cosby was a fine athlete who competed for Temple University.) I got as loose as I could and went back to the track.

Teams of relay runners waited on the infield for their races to begin. The wait was longer than expected for my team’s relay race and we all started to tighten up a bit, so we tried to jog in place a little. Some teammates, aware of my injuries, gave me valuable training advice during the wait. The race officials had combined two age groups for this race because seven teams total had entered. In this race, 4 teams were in the 40-49 age group, and 3 in the 50-59 age group, my group. All we had to do was get the baton around the track and we would score points for our team. I was going to run the 2nd leg. My teenaged children had arrived to watch. They both run in high school and we were doing a bit of role-reversal. As a parent and volunteer assistant track coach, it’s good to feel their “pain” once in a while. I’ve learned not to yell “Go faster!” at their races. (I’m waiting for the day when a runner stops and yells back, “If I could go any faster, I would!”)

The runners in the first leg lined up at the start. On the outside of the track near the start, the runners in the second leg formed a group. The third and fourth leg runners also formed groups. My teammate took off and stayed with the main pack through his leg. Relays can be a bit of organized chaos at the exchanges, especially for the sprints, but ours went smoothly. I took the baton (French for “stick”) and accelerated. “Don’t sprint. Don’t sprint,” I told myself, and resisted the urge to go at full speed. I didn’t see the clock as I took off and had no idea of my pace. Going down the back stretch of the first of my four laps, I smiled and thought, “This is a blast.” The first 200 meter lap went okay but a little fatigue started to develop at 400 meters. I was running harder than in the mile but didn’t know if my pace was faster or slower. My rib felt okay. A couple runners lapped me on the back turn during lap 3 and I hoped they were in their 40s. Heading down the home stretch with one more lap to go I was breathing really hard and straining and went through the checklist: “Stay relaxed, lower your shoulders, stay on your toes, don’t drop the baton.” Was my son going to yell, “Use it now!”? (His coach will do this.) I tried to accelerate in the last lap but was probably avoiding slowing down. The final 100 meters seemed to last a long time but the hand-off went okay and my race was finished.

Back on the infield, still breathing hard, we cheered our teammates. We finished 3rd in our group (10 minutes 27 seconds) but were in the same lap as the other two teams. My split was 2 minutes 50 seconds, only 2 seconds slower than my best! We took some team photos, shook hands with each other and the other teams and enjoyed the moment. I picked up a bronze medal and headed home.

Woody Allen was right. “90% of life is showing up.” I don’t care that we were assured of finishing third in my age group (assuming we finished) and that I got to run, in part, by virtue of being a warm body. I got a chance to compete at Nationals and came away with hardware.

Richard Galgano, D.O.

March 16, 2014

* “Reached into my pocket and pulled out my trusty can of 3 in 1 oil.” From the sketch, “Go Carts” on Bill Cosby’s 1966 album Wonderfulness. Go buy it. Trust me; you’ll be happy you did.

NOTE FROM KATHY GALGANO  My brother, running with a busted rib and recovering from just about everything, ran the mile, not in record time for running athletes, but really fast in my book, at a beautiful 6 minutes, 40 seconds and fraction change. Then, he ran the 4 men 800 meters relay, and the team racers picked up team points, and carried away the bronze medal. How cool is that! Image

For a picture of Richard running the relay, go to http://johnkeklak.smugmug.com/Trackandfield/2014-USA-Masters-Indoor-Track/Day-2-2pm-End-of-Day-4×200/37776473_xNMddJ#!i=3129126944&k=3FDm8D3&lb=1&s=M

Welcome, Guest Blogger Richard Galgano — A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Track Meet

Three years ago, I ran my first track meet since high school. It was a blast, and I caught the Masters track bug. Technically I’m a “senior,” being in my 50s. I did a few meets (mostly indoor, my favorite) and joined a track club called Mass Velocity.* It’s a club of Masters sprinters and everyone else; I’m one of the everyone else. Unlike road racing, which attracts a wide range of athletes who run for fun, fitness, t-shirts and charity, track is serious business. I can beat most of the runners in my age category in a local road race but only the really fast people seem to compete in track meets. Whereas I was a mediocre high school athlete, the Masters track folks competed in college and many were elite athletes. The times they run are mind-blowing: low to mid 50 seconds for 400 meters, and 4 minutes 30 seconds to 4 minutes 40 seconds miles. However, everyone is encouraged to participate and made to feel welcome.

I learned there is a yearly national Masters championship for indoor and outdoor track and this month, the meet is in Boston. Unlike the open championships, which have qualifying standards, any Masters athlete who belongs to USATF (USA Track & Field) can compete. OH YEAH! I’M GOING TO NATIONALS.

I planned my training: longer road races in the spring and summer of 2013 to build a mileage base; cross country in the fall for strength; and a season of indoor track to sharpen speed. Visions of breaking six minutes in the mile kept me motivated. (I ran 6:02 two years ago). Sure, I would likely be lapped during my race, but that’s okay. Plus, in most of my adult running career, I have trained by doing my normal running with just a few faster runs. Imagine what I could do with some speed work. In addition, I would be 55 years old at the meet. Most of the age groups are split into 5 years (55-59) making me a relative youngster. With all this training behind me, I figured my times would make me competitive, well, maybe for the 70-79 age group range, but again, that’s okay. I’m going to Nationals!

I should have paid more attention to the omens last spring. I was part of a team, running a five-and-a-half mile leg of a marathon relay last May. It was really cold and raining, and I had to wait a couple of hours before starting my leg. Luckily, I didn’t freeze to death. Anyhow, I’m three-quarters into my leg, trying to stay with a group of runners who were in their 20s and 30s, and I’m running flat out, just killing myself. The people around me are chatting and looked relaxed. We ran by a woman and her young son who were waiting for Dad to pass by. The dad was running the full marathon. I heard the child say, “Hey Mom. Look at that old guy.” I started looking around to see who he was talking about and there wasn’t anyone old in our group. The guy next to me looked at me, and sheepishly said, “He means you.” UGH! GROAN! DAGGER TO THE HEART! Deflated, my pace slowed a bit and I finished my leg. I ran by Bill Rodgers** who was anchoring his team and waiting for his teammate at the exchange zone. Well, at least I wasn’t the oldest person out there.

Two days after the race I went for a slow jog. A couple miles into the jog my calf seized up and I could barely walk home. Undaunted, I cross-trained by swimming, spinning and starting to aqua jog. I stretched, iced it, heated it, saw a PT and finally had acupuncture. The acupuncture allowed me to jog, but not to run fast. It slowly improved over the fall, and by early winter I could run reasonably well. Although my training schedule had been destroyed, I thought a few weeks of intense work could increase my fitness enough to compete.

You guessed it; I got injured again with a strained tendon near my ankle. Heavy sigh. “W-e-l-l” (sounding like Ronald Reagan), there goes Nationals.

All of a sudden, it occurred to me. “Track” is really track AND field. I could do a field event. In high school I triple jumped. Unfortunately, I can’t jump as far now and may not be able to reach the sand pit. The notion of landing on the runway, in spikes, and breaking both legs didn’t sound too good.

I can’t hurdle or shot put. Scratch those from the list.

Sprinting. Definitely not. That’s how I got into trouble in the first place.

Pole vault. I could learn to pole vault. How hard can it be? I’m not talking 18 feet, just 7 or 8 feet. I contacted a local pole vault club and they invited me to try. Unfortunately it was too late to train for the meet. We’ll put pole vaulting on the back burner for now.

Long jump. I never really could do this well. My “hop and skip” in the triple jump was much better than my jump. However, as bad as I am, it would at least get me in the meet. I started practicing. I even made 12 feet and I wasn’t expecting to go 10 feet. With a longer approach run, a bit more speed, I could make 13 feet.

You guessed it; I tweaked a hamstring (just a little).

High jump. Ugh. I learned how to do the old “forward roll” over the bar in high school, but three years ago, when I tried it again, I only managed to clear 3 feet 10 inches. Some of the competitors soar well above 5 feet and some are close to 6 feet. Not clearing the opening height would be pretty bad. Just as gloom struck, I checked the meet information. The opening height is 2 feet, 9 inches. TWO FEET, NINE FREAKING INCHES. SIGN ME UP BABY!

My son’s school track coach agreed to give me a lesson. No forward roll for this athlete, I’m going to learn how to do the “Fosbury flop,”*** where you go over backwards. On my third week of practice, I cleared 4 feet 4 inches. It would have put me in 6th place last year (admittedly, a lean year at the meet) and scored a point for my team. A quick sip of water, a chat with the coach for a couple minutes and I was ready to try for 4 feet 6 inches.

You guessed it. My approach wasn’t very good and I hit the bar. The bar landed on the mat and I landed on the bar. Oh crap. I felt a sharp pain in my rib cage after landing on the bar. I haven’t had it X-rayed but am pretty sure I broke a rib (the crack in the rib is palpable). The first week was pretty tough but Ibuprofen, Tylenol and menthol pain patches helped a lot. I didn’t get shortness of breath and it has improved enough for me to spin on the bike and jog slowly on the treadmill. Sneezing still hurts, but the one advantage of a really cold winter is no pollen. At least I can laugh about it now without wincing too much.

W-e-l-l” (more Ronald Reagan), there goes Nationals.

I’ve decided to volunteer at the meet and cheer on my healthier team-mates. It’ll be fun. And safer. Besides, I did set personal bests for the two jumps. Once the rib heals up, it’s back to my old training style. Running in the back of the back in a track meet is better than not running at all.

Though I wonder…How hard can pole vaulting be?

Richard Galgano, D.O.

March 1, 2014

* Mass Velocity, https://sites.google.com/site/massvelocitytrackclub/

** William Henry Rodgers, Famed marathoner and Olympian http://www.runningpast.com/rodgers.htm

*** Fosbury Flop, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id4W6VA0uLc