Friday, June 9, 2017

Rugby Season 12

Above: I've got the ball! 1 November 2003 match against Rocky Gorge "B."

From November 2003 to February 2004

Did you ever see Forrest Gump? At one point in the film, the title character walks out to his mailbox, looks around thoughtfully, and begins to run. He runs down the street, runs across town and keeps running. I did something like that at the tail end of the last season. For some reason I just felt like running. So, hearing club participants talking up the Marine Corps Marathon that was held last October, I decided to train for one myself, and that's what I've been doing for the past three months. I started out at three miles in early November, and my longest long run to date is seventeen miles, run in 3 hours and 45 minutes. I have lost twenty pounds since the end of last season. (Good thing. Looking at those excellent quality photos from last fall, I look like a whale in a scrum cap.)

I'm planning on running the Frederick Marathon this May. I would have run the Marine Corps Marathon, but seventeen miles means that I'm at about the 2/3rd mark, and I really didn't want to try to maintain that level of fitness and training thoughout the summer. So it's a matter of timing. I might just run a half-marathon at the MCM. I've run a number of those, now, and they're fun. So... my running this means that I won't be very active with rugby this season. (I suppose it's possible for younger, fitter guys to do both - but I don't quite fall into that category.) I suppose I'm due a season off after eleven active seasons.

I gave up being the secretary and the webmaster of in the December meeting. I had mentally debated this for months, but decided that I needed to do it because it was the right thing to do for a number of reasons, a main one being spiritual - to focus more on my church calling. The problem is that the decision hasn't felt right since I made it. Doing the right thing for the right reasons should make me felt right about it, right? Well, I'll get over it. There are bigger concerns in my life right now.

Thursday night practice, 2/12/04

I showed up to put the pads on the scrum sled and to sell CDs of match images, but that's it. There weren't many at practice, 19 plus the coach. Ouch. I did a 30 minute walk as per marathon training schedule and didn't go out to the Hop Frog afterwards. This will be an odd season, no doubt about it.

Thursday night practice, 2/19/04

Showed up to sell photo CDs and to hang out at the Hop Frog afterwards. I listened to accounts of various drinking incidents, and realized again what a gulf there is between me and everyone else. It felt odd - very much "taking part but not really being a part." Watching practice, I do not miss playing rugby on the hard dirt floor of the Dustbin at all, but that night I dreamed about playing rugby. I guess I'm mentally conflicted about the whole thing. Marathon training continues. I ran nineteen miles on Saturday and this week the organizers posted a course map, so now I can start mentally picturing the route. What's odd is that Kelly Watkins asked if I wanted support when I run the marathon - and I didn't know how to answer the question. On one hand, yeah, it would be great to have rugby players encouraging and congratulating me, but on the other hand, the notion of doing this alone (as I've run, up to this point) appeals to me, too. I guess I really can be a loner sometimes.

It's odd. I'm 47 - well into middle age. One would suppose that one would know oneself by this time. But I find that this isn't the case with me and my interests. A recurring question these days is, "What made you take up running a marathon?" I'm at a loss to answer, any more than I could explain why I enlisted in the Marines when I was 18, took up being a Mormon at 23, Civil War reenacting after that, rugby after that or, now, running. I'm just sort of blown about by curiosity and my nature as a participant.

A few months or so ago I was worried about my decision to play less rugby this season - would I feel a void in my life? I'm now used to the idea. In fact, I can now see myself pulling away entirely. I never really made a decision to quit reenacting - it just sort of happened due to a loss of interest. I now cannot see my ever doing it again. Maybe I'm now done with rugby and it's on to the next thing...

Thursday night practice, 3/18/04

Showed up to consult with Doctor Watkins about a knee ache I'm getting while running, and to eat at the Hop Frog Tavern afterwards. The knee ache is described in the marathon training journal link below.

Monday at the Doctor's, 4/5/04

The Rugby Gods are laughing at me, I know they are. They must be. After eleven active seasons of rugby, assuring anyone who asked that "I've never had a knee problem," I take a season off to do some simple, intelligently-scheduled running to prepare for a marathon and acquire... a knee problem. The classic rugby guy thing, too - a torn meniscus. At first I thought it was an ITB strain, but my doctor, after some prodding around and torquing my leg, has determined that it's a torn meniscus. (The meniscus is the cartilage in the knee, used to cushion impact and stablilize the joint. The main problem with a meniscus tear is that because there isn't much blood flow in it, there is no real healing that can take place. The usual solution is to cut out the torn part to keep the joint from becoming painfully inflamed.) So... the doctor recommended a prescription anti-inflammatory which I take every twelve hours, ice every night and a knee brace. At this point I do not know if I'll be able to complete a marathon run in early May or not. And if I do, it'll probably be with some significant pain - which removes the simple recreational value of doing it that I was seeking in the first place. All of which leads to my usual conclusion about idiot injuries: "I might as well have played rugby."

I can hear them, laughing.

Thursday Evening Practice, 4/15/04

Showed up to borrow Jeff Gardner's knee brace for running. Wound up drinking Coke with Kelly at P.J. Skidoo's, of course. When I got home I tried on the brace for a mile's run and discovered that it just didn't give the same amount of support the other one I borrowed did - and then found out that my car had a dead battery afterwards. So, a shove down the street into my garage concluded the evening's activities.

Thursday Evening Practice, 4/22/04

Showed up at P.J. Skidoo's to eat with the boys and to consult with Kelly Watkins about the upcoming marathon. Also gave them the news that a TV producer is flying me out to Kansas City to be interviewed for a documentary about rugby in America! Naturally, I shall be wearing a Western Suburbs jersey...

Thursday Evening Practice, 4/29/04

Cokes with the Boys at P.J. Skiddo's. This visit was mostly to coordinate last minute details with Kelly Watkins, who kindly agreed to cheer me on at the Frederick Marathon.

The Alumni Match, 5/1/04

I showed up to take photos, but didn't take many because it started raining. The cardinal rule of using an expensive digital SLR is Don't Use It In The Rain - so I left.

The Frederick Marathon, 5/2/04

Whew! It was muggy and humid. And a lot hillier than I was led to believe. (According to Kelly, hillier than the Marine Corps Marathon route.) Try as I did to thoroughly hydrate myself beforehand, it wasn't enough. I started getting dopey at mile 17, and by 18 I ran out of gas and the torn meniscus in my knee forced me to walk. So... I walked along with a fellow named Rob who was suffering from an ITB strain. Around mile 21 my nipples started bleeding - a unique and embarassing experience. But... I persevered and... well... look at the photos and the training journal below.

My watch recorded 6 hours 3 minutes, which closely agreed with the clock at the finish line. The following was posted to the Internet site as official times: 6.5 miles in 1:17.00 (11.51 pace); 13.1 miles in 2:45.01 (12.36 pace); 16.25 miles in 3:42.13 (13.41 pace); 22.5 miles in 5:10.51 (13.49 pace); 26.2 miles in 6:02.58 (13.51 pace).

This was my first and last marathon. The half-marathon is a much more sensible mileage for a man of my years, fitness and running enthusiasm.

Here I am at mile 1, Runner #74. (Coincidentally, the year I graduated from high school - 30 years ago, if you're counting.) And note the Western Suburbs shirt. So bring on the miles! Marathon! Yeah!

Feeling okay at mile 7, I gave Kelly an attitude check. That fellow in front of me would end up crossing the finish line with me (sans red windbreaker).

This marker - which I point to - was at the top of a long hill. You can't see my face - but I'm not smiling.

This was about mile 15 or so. Another hill. No smiles. I wasn't aware I was actually ahead of anybody at this point - but the camera doesn't lie.

Represent! (Sort of.) This was at mile 24, so, with the end in sight, I could act goofy again. The guy in red is Rob Thomasson, who was walking due to an ITB strain.

Here we are - red, white and blue - the Three Caballeros, jogging out the last quarter mile or so. We weren't the last to finish - but we weren't far from it, either.

Nike! And here's the medal to prove it.

MARATHON TRAINING JOURNAL - Which was the "rugby thing" I did in this particular season.

Jack, me and Gwen (the documentary producers) at the Kansas City steakhouse.

Interview in Kansas City, Missouri, 8 May 2004

From a posting on


Sorry I wasn’t at the RAF match on Saturday - I was in Kansas City. A producer flew me out to be interviewed about rugby in America. (They found me by way of my Rugby Reader’s Review website.) The documentary is being shot in high definition video, and their intent is to sell it to PBS (unlikely), ESPN (possible) or Spike TV (most likely). I tried to wear a WSRFC logo jersey or polo shirt for the interview, but due to the way the lighting was set up they liked my red, white and blue USA Rugby jersey the best. Oh, well – I tried.

What was really cool about this trip – in addition to a free flight to Kansas City and a lunch at the steak house where the interview was held – was getting to see the Kansas City Blues RFC vs. Boston RFC Super League match played at no less a venue than the big football stadium where the Kansas City Chiefs normally play! You don’t often see that in club rugby…

Naturally I brought the Nikon and the 300 mm telephoto lens, but I felt decidedly second-class. The photographer traveling with the Blues had what looked like a 500 mm lens – one of those big ol’ paparazzi things. Anyway, it was cool strolling up and down the sidelines at a major stadium like a wannabe member of the press. I took over six hundred photos - but many were blurry due to the stadium lights. Sunlight is far better. I'll post the better ones soon.

Kickoff was at 9:30 PM (after a Kansas City Wizards soccer match), and it was nearly midnight by the time we left the stadium. It was a good match – the Blues looked very strong in the first twenty minutes or so, but Boston rallied and the final score was Blues 23 – Boston 19. My first impression of those farm boys is that they’re BIG! There were some guys I had to look up to – that doesn’t happen very often - and their big South African coach had a handshake like a metal vice. He was also the possessor of the worst cauliflowered ears I have ever seen – second row player, obviously.

I know what you’re thinking - why would anyone want to interview me about rugby? Well, I made some observations about what I’ve seen of the game and its players based on hanging around you guys for five years (fear not – I named no names), and spoke in front of the camera for about an hour and a half. I hope I don’t wind up being a total embarrassment if and when this documentary is finished and aired, but one can never tell. Once, when I was at a Civil War reenactment, a reporter from a local paper talked to me and, naturally, used my off-hand quote about Confederate reenactors generally being wacko. I had to go under cover for a while after that one.

I forget the working name of this production, something that had the word “ruck” in it, and I suppose it’ll be at least another two or three months before post-production is completed. It’ll probably only run about a half-hour long, which means that most of my insightful and trenchant observations will wind up on the cutting room floor. But – if you see a HDTV documentary about rugby on Spike-TV or ESPN, check it out. The match footage ought to be awesome, even if the interview isn’t.

I'd close here except that tradition dictates that I write up a Highlights and Lowlights section, despite the fact that it wasn't a normal rugby season. This is easy to do.


1. Completing the marathon. I had always planned to finish it with a time between five and a half hours and six hours, but the knee and humidity situation necessitated the longer time. In all, it was a great experience and I'm happy to have done it.

2. The Kansas City interview and match photography. (In retrospect I liked photographing the match in the Arrowhead Stadium more than I did doing the interview!)


1. Torn meniscus. At this point I do not know if I'll need surgery somewhere down the line. I suspect I will.

2. Missing the RAF match.

Now, bring back those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. The hammock, the pool, a vacation to California, my thirtieth anniversary high school reunion.

Rugby Season 13 Journal is here.

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