Monday, July 09, 2018

My Tax Dollars At Work: WTH?

As I was riding my bike down the road this morning, a town truck slowly passed by me. It had the town seal painted on its doors, and the words WASTE WATER DEPT. printed prominently around it.

And I thought, ”What a crazy way to spend town money!”

Friday, June 15, 2018

Sometimes The Old Ways Are The Best To Catch A Nice Trout

I should have listened to Eve Moneypenny:

If you've read the post below about Czech nymphing, you’ll know that I’m intrigued by that technique, and have made several initial forays using it on my home waters. I decided the other day to fish the same quarter mile twice, once nymphing, once resorting to my good old dry flies. I had no luck with the nymphs. So I went back to the car and switched rods to the one rigged with a #16 Ausable Wulff. In a short run of nicely rippled water, I took this stream-bred 12” rainbow.

I’m keeping the 8’ 6” rod rigged for Czech nymphing. But when the water is too deep or too far away for dry flies, I’ll return to some really old ways and toss a 1/8 oz. Panther Martin out there with a 6’ ultralight spinning rig.

There! I’ve said it, and it feels GOOD. Fly fishing purists, including bobber fanciers nymph fishermen, should feel free to fall onto their fainting couches.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Freshly Killed Wild Trout Pan Fried In Butter Are Really Tasty!

If you’ve read any of the fishing entries below, you know I love to cast flies to stream-bred trout. You’ll find no mention of trolling. So please accept my apologies for the wording of this post’s title if you’ve arrived here in high dudgeon with blood in your eye.

I released the first trout I ever caught, in 1962. The site was the Cohocton River near Atlanta, and the fish was maybe 5” long. When I told my mentor, he was horrified: you threw back perfectly good breakfast food? The 13 year old who tossed that fish back was not clever enough to have invented “catch and release,” so the conflict between the historical “let’s catch a few fish to eat” and the new fangled “a wild trout is too precious to be caught just once” must already have been splashed all across the sportsmen’s magazines of the times.

I still catch a lot of 4” and 5” trout in my home water. I’m not a fisheries biologist, so I don’t know whether these small fish are all that’s left after “meat fishermen” have taken all the 9”ers, or if, on the other hand, these fish can’t get any bigger because they’ve got too many mouths for not enough food. I repeat: I don’t know.

But I think it’s a good question that deserves a well researched answer.

So I was interested to read a meditation on this subject in the back-page article of the Spring, 2018 TU magazine. The piece, which you can read here, is titled “Trout” It Was ‘What’s for Dinner!’,” written by Paul Bruun. Here’s how it opens:

“‘OMG, those guys are keeping a fish!’ chimed the lady in the passing driftboat. ‘What are we going to do about it?’ she wailed.

Despite current incendiary mores toward this once normal but now frowned-upon practice, ….”

Bruun reminisces from there in a warmly nostalgic way, thus guaranteeing his vilification in the Twitterverse and a dearth of Christmas cards from TU members.

For a deeper dive into wild trout management, take a look at “Lost in the Driftless” by Tim Traver. After not so many pages you — like me — will probably get fired up to buy a half dozen Cress Bugs and head for the streams of SW Wisconsin. But “Lost” is not a travelogue. Traver frames his themes around the career of Roger Kerr, a retired Wisconsin county fish manager who has strong opinions about trout fishing. Depending on whom Traver was interviewing at the moment, Kerr is either Gabriel or Lucifer. If you’re like me, you tend to view trout management in Wisconsin by TU apartment dwellers in Manhattan with a cocked eyebrow. But Traver does a good job of reporting instead of lobbying, and the book is a tasty if complicated intellectual chew.

I’ll close this entry with a question about Wulff’s dictum. Please understand that Wulff was a much more skilled fly fisherman and pilot than I am, and I greatly admire his body of work. But still, I wonder whether a few 5” trout that a youngster has caught, maybe on her initial outing, are really fish that’re too precious to be caught just once?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

WTH? What A Wreck! Made A Trek To Check Czech Nymphing

After spending too many unproductive hours last summer exclusively fishing dry flies, I resolved over the winter to learn more about nymph fishing. I recalled reading something from Joe Humphreys years ago to the effect that a man could easily fish out a section of a good trout stream just nymphing (obviously that was many years ago.) I don’t mean to fish any creek out, even figuratively. But fishing where the fish mostly are instead of where I want them to be just makes sense.

So I watched lots of internet videos of nymph fishing. “Czech nymphing” seems to be the hot item these days. So I bought a neon colored leader section, tied a tippet beneath it and bent another tippet onto that such that I could add a dropper to the trimmed tag end. With a split shot a bit ahead of the bugs, I was ready to go!

For some reason, the videos do not show how to remove one or both bugs from budding willow trees; or how to keep the bugs and split shot from balling up into one hellacious mess; or how to keep one of both bugs from hooking your boots, or your fingers, or your hat; or how to keep your scant bit of dangling fly line from sliding back down your fly rod’s guides and getting tangled into the brush at your feet.

My inaugural nymphing outing wasn’t a complete disaster though. I enjoyed a terrific double-decker of Perry’s Ice Cream on the drive home. One scoop was Caramel Praline Turtle, and the other was Sponge Candy. Yummers!

I made a few notes to make the next trip simpler and hopefully more productive as I get the hang of this new thing. Here’s what I’ll do next time:

• I’ll use a leader that’s shorter than my 8’ 6” rod;

• I think I’ll try fishing with a 7’ leader as a beginner. I’ll trim a new leader to 5’ 6” and tie on an 18” tippet. I’ll tie on a single unweighted nymph, probably something familiar like a Hare’s Ear. And I’ll pinch on a split shot of appropriate size just above the knot securing the tippet;

• I customarily walk a half mile or so downstream from my car and then fish my dries upstream back to the car. To learn how best to fish nymphs, I think I’ll walk downstream from the car for about half of my time, then fish my nymph back upstream. In this way I hope to learn which attack plan works better for me;

• I’ll choose for my nymphing classroom a stretch of water that has lots of pocket water and short runs rather than long stretches of shallow riffles interspersed with gigantic pools; and finally

• the Sponge Candy was specially tasty, so I’ll go with it for both scoops.

Friday, May 18, 2018

On The Road Again 32 Years Later

When I met Nancy at the Skylon Marathon in 1977, she was already an accomplished, record-setting road racer. She continued to work hard after we married in 1978, and in spite of my help, she got even better. Lots better.

We've got a shoe box full of clippings and notes from most all her races. I'm going to use Cold Duck as a vehicle for revisiting some of them with family and friends. Entries will be added in reverse chronological order. I've invited Willie to set the proper mood.

May 18, 1986

Event: Lilac Festival 10 KM
Location: Rochester NY
Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 37:30
Place: 4
Prize: $300 + $200 appearance money
Career Prizes: $15,065 OK

The Skinny: Julie Isphording, Nancy's pal from the Avon Series, won.

May 4, 1986

Event: NJ Waterfront Marathon
Location: Jersey City NJ
Distance: 26.219 miles
Time: 2:52:30
Place: 15
Prize: $500 + $500 appearance money
Career Prizes: $14,565

The Skinny: Rita Borralho of Portugal’s 2:35:37 finish won her $25,000! These were heady times for us runners!

March 23, 1986

Event: Chopperthon 30 km
Location: Schenectady NY
Distance: 18.641 miles
Time: 1:59:16
Place: 2
Prize: $500
Career Prizes: $13,565

The Skinny: Jane Buch won in 1:54:45.

January 3, 1986

Event: Charlotte Observer Marathon
Location: Charlotte NC
Distance: 26.219 miles
Time: 2:50:13
Place: 1
Prize: $2,000
Career Prizes: $13,065

The Skinny: Nancy had run the Charlotte course twice before, and knew it was difficult because of its rolling terrain. So she paced herself early, and hoped she’d have a chance to chase down the hopefully-fading leaders on the back end. I love it when a plan comes together!

Nancy had come to know Kathrine Switzer through Kathrine’s work with the Avon series of races. Kathy, you might recall, was in 1967 the first woman ever to officially enter the Boston Marathon. That was quite a story at the time. You could look it up.

Anyway, Kathy sat down with Nancy post-race for an interview on the sponsoring local TV station. We still have a VCR copy of that interview (Millennials may also look up “VCR.”) It was fun for me to hear Kathy - neutral as a sportscaster should be - nevertheless mention during the interview that the wily veteran Nancy looked very strong at the half-way mark, and that she was not at all surprised when Nancy was able to run the early leaders down.

October 6, 1985

Event: Twin Cities Marathon
Location: Minneapolis MN
Distance: 26.219 miles
Time: 2:46:47
Place: 13
Prize: $383
Career Prizes: $11,065

The Skinny: Nancy ran a solid race as a member of Team Moving Comfort, finishing about 10 minutes behind race winner Jan Ettle.

November 25, 1984

Event: Philadelphia Marathon
Location: Philadelphia PA
Distance: 26.214 miles
Time: 2:47:27
Place: 2
Prize: $500
Career Prizes: $9,482

The Skinny: Barbara Filutze won the women’s race. Other than Nancy winning $500 for second place, I recorded no further notes at the time. I must have been underwhelmed at the time. You may recall W. C. Fields’ epitaph….

October 28, 1984

Event: New York City Marathon
Location: New York NY
Distance: 26.214 miles
Time: DNF
Place: DNF
Career Prizes: $8,982

The Skinny: Nancy never ran well in high heat and humidity. At NY this year, the high temp was 79°F, and it was very sticky. Since she started with the elite women and I started in a different area with the also-ran men, we began the race on different courses. When I ran into Nancy at about mile 10, I suggested she drop out and we’d try a cooler marathon later in the Fall. As you’ll read next time, this was probably a good call.

June 2, 1984

Event: L’eggs Mini Marathon 10 km
Location: New York NY
Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 35:57
Place: 22
Prize: $100
Career Prizes: $8,792

The Skinny: Nancy and I were surprised to learn how hilly a course could be routed through Central Park. There was a strong field present for this at-the-time A-lister event; but Nancy’s time also reflected a building fatigue factor in the aftermath of training for and competing in Olympia.

That said, we got to stay in a spiffy room at the St. Regis, got $50 a day for cheeseburgers (almost enough ;-) and were invited to a VIP sitting area one night at a huge NYC hotspot that year: Studio 54.

May 20, 1984

Event: The Lilac Festival 10 km
Location: Rochester NY
Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 35:26
Place: 4
Prize: $400
Career Prizes: $8,692

The Skinny: This was Nancy’s second of seven consecutive Lilac 10 km races. The race staff was always extremely thoughtful to her (and me), the drive over from Buffalo was not a bother, and there was always a great after-party at a saloon whose name I can’t remember (I told you they were great parties.) Nancy’s 4th place finish this year must be leavened with her Olympia marathon performance just 8 days before.

May 12, 1984

Event: US Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials
Location: Olympia WA
Distance: 26.214 miles
Time: 2:40:57
Place: 37
Career Prizes: $8,292

The Skinny: Nancy trained very hard for these first-ever women’s marathon Olympic Trials. I know she left quite a bit of herself “out there” in some very rugged runs in February, 1984. The invitation to and good performance in the Trials remains one of the high points of her career.

I am surprised to find how few mementos we’ve kept of the Trials. I have just one photo, and it’s simply of Julie Isphording and others with Nancy outside their dorms in Olympia. I’ve done a bit of ‘net searching, and found a nice account of the Trails. You can enjoy it here.

March 18, 1984

Event: RRCA National Championships
Location: Albany NY
Distance: 18.642 miles
Time: 1:50:24
Place: 6
Prize: $350
Career Prizes: $8,292

The Skinny: The Chopperthon 30 km was Nancy’s final tune-up for the Olympic marathon trials coming up in May. Anne Hird outclassed the field in 1:45:15 over a tough enough course on a grey day.

October 9, 1983

Event: Miller Lite Marathon
Location: Milwaukee WI
Distance: 26.219 miles
Time: 2:39:15
Place: 1
Prize: $3000
Career Prizes: $7,942

The Skinny: What a great race for Nancy! Her time was a new PR; it won her $3,000; it earned her an invitation to the first women’s Olympic marathon trials; and, we have recently learned, it remains the course record after 32 years.

Milwaukee was very kind to us. Post race, we enjoyed a dinner with friend Dick Kendall and his daughter at a German restaurant. By evening’s end, and much beer, the owner, by now celebrating with us, invited us to his cellar for secret schnapps. Whee! and ouch….

September 25, 1983

Event: WBEN AROCC 20 km
Location: Buffalo, NY
Distance: 12.418 miles
Time: 1:11:54
Place: 1
Prize: $0
Career Prizes: $4,942

The Skinny: On weekdays Nancy trained almost exclusively on the loop in Delaware Park. She was quite prepared for this 20k held on a glorious Sunday morning in September. Her time was the 9th best 20k performance of all American women in 1983.

Nancy was introduced to the local media after this race. She was quite a hit, and was often the “color commentator” for occasional local broadcasts of racing events.

The autumn of 1983 was a high point in Nancy’s racing career. It was Good to be Queen.

June 5, 1983

Event: Linde Run
Location: Buffalo, NY
Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 35:20
Place: 1
Prize: $300
Career Prizes: $4,942

The Skinny: The Linde Run — Linde is now Praxair — was held in the afternoon, somewhere near 5 or 6 o’clock. That was not Nancy’s favored time of day for racing. Further, she had been traveling and racing quite a bit over the preceding month and a half. Her time, if not her prize, is reflective of her fatigue.

May 28, 1983

Event: L’eggs Mini Marathon
Location: New York City
Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 34:46
Place: 15
Prize: $100
Career Prizes: $4,642

The Skinny: L’eggs Mini Marathon was a biggie back in the ’80s, attracting the world’s best women racers, including Greta Waitz who won it 5 times.

Nancy is pictured here with her Moving Comfort teammates including Ellen Wessel, Eleanor Simonsick, Elizabeth Goeke, and Gail Kingma.

May 22, 1983

Event: CTFA Senior Championship
Location: Southern Ontario
Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 34:00
Place: 3
Prize: $392US
Career Prizes: $4,542

The Skinny: I’m surprised that I have no photos, newspaper clippings or notes about this race, as it is Nancy’s career PR at 10 km. There must have been a very good field, as 34:00 and $500C is pretty rich for a 3rd place finish in 1983.

May 15, 1983

Event: The Lilac Run
Location: Rochester, NY
Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 34:02
Place: 1
Prize: $600
Career Prizes: $4,150

The Skinny: On Nancy’s first ever visit to the Lilac Run, she set a new PR and the course record. In this initial and in subsequent years, the Lilac Run proved to be generous sponsors and great friends. Those were very happy times!

Here’s Nancy and men’s winner Sosthenes Bitok mugging with their awards.

May 7, 1983

Event: The Elizabeth River Run
Location: Norfolk, VA
Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 34:41
Place: 1
Prize: $1,000
Career Prizes: $3,550

The Skinny: The Elizabeth River Run turned out to be a wonderfully enjoyable affair. Nancy was treated like family by personable race director Roberta “Bert” Cake of The Virginian Pilot. Nancy smashed the old course record in 34:41. And we both got to enjoy watching his girl friend haul star runner Adrian Leek around by the ear.

January 27, 1983

Event: The Birth of Paul Donnelly
Location: Buffalo, NY

The Skinny: Nancy’s sister Martha raised 4 wonderful children who are now outstanding young adults.

In addition to being whip smart, Martha’s kids have become very good athletes as well. I often send them additions to this blog not just to acquaint them with their favorite aunt’s accomplishments, but also, because they’re so fiercely competitive, to maybe fire them up to pursue even greater accomplishments.

“The kids” have grown up in a microchip age and, like their hip peers, are firmly dialed in to the digital age. They might be wondering why Harold Tinsley, in the prior entry, sent us a hand-written letter instead of just texting us. I guess the kids could be forgiven not “remembering” that there were no text messages 32 years ago. Remember? They hadn’t yet been born!

But that has changed overnight. Today’s entry therefore does not reference Nancy’s racing, but rather celebrates the birth of our godson Paul Donnelly 32 years ago. As Nancy was at the beginning of her racing successes, just so Paul was at the beginning of his life. I’m proud and happy that they both have succeeded so well in their missions.

In the photo below, Paul is seen with his young and lovely mother Martha lo those many years ago. I hope your birthday, and every day, is perfect, Paul!

Editor’s note: Nancy tells me that some of the preceding language may be construed as insensitive. She reminds, and I append with apologies, that Martha remains lovely to this day.

Thanks to AP, AN and ACDA for their effusive support and encouragement with this entry.

December 11, 1982

Event: The Rocket City Marathon
Location: Huntsville, AL
Distance: 26.219 miles
Time: 2:39:41
Place: 2
Prize: $0
Career Prizes: $2,550

The Skinny: Jane Buch beat Nancy over this hilly course. But Nancy’s 2:39:41 set a new PR and got her plenty of notice in women’s racing circles.

Harold Tinsley communicated with me in hand-written notes like this one. This was less a thoughtful and classy gesture (although Harold was certainly all that) than simply the way things were still commonly done in 1982.

July 17, 2014

Location: Buffalo, NY
Career Prizes: $2,550

The Skinny: Events in this blog happened 32 years ago today. This one, however, seems like it happened only yesterday. That’s probably because it happened just yesterday.

Our local newspaper published an article that referenced Nancy’s absence from a certain local race some years ago. The reference provides half the answer to the question of why there are so few local races mentioned in this blog.

July 11, 1982

Event: The Utica Boilermaker
Location: Utica, NY
Distance: 9.321 miles
Time: 0:55:45
Place: 2
Prize: $50
Career Prizes: $2,550

The Skinny: Earle Reed once again invited Nancy, this time a past champion, to have an enjoyable gambol over severe hills on a hot, sunny morning. What’s not to like?

Nancy had a good day, but couldn’t keep pace with Laura deWald (54:41) over the last 3 miles. The ice-cold post-race beer was, as always, superb.

June 6, 1982

Event: The Avon International Marathon
Location: San Francisco, CA
Distance: 26.219 miles
Time: 2:45:50
Place: 10
Prize: $2,250
Career Prizes: $2,500

The Skinny: The first-ever women’s marathon was scheduled to debut in the 1984 L.A. Olympics. Avon used their race and its relatively lavish prizes to focus attention on the considerable abilities of female distance runners.

The invited athletes got a pre-race bus tour of the course, and not surprisingly discovered that it was quite hilly. On a warm day, Lorraine Moller’s winning time was a modest 2:36:12. Of the 13 racers headlined in Avon’s pre-race press literature, Nancy beat all but 5 of them.

Nancy’s prize was her first large paycheck. It was huge for its time, but specially so for a 10th place finish in a women-only event. The incentive of such prizes fundamentally altered the way that Nancy would select and train for events in her racing calendar.

April 19, 1982

Event: The Boston Marathon
Location: Boston, MA
Distance: 26.219 miles
Time: 2:44:17
Place: 10
Career Prizes: $250

The Skinny: Charlotte Teske won the race on a blue sky 65°F day that was a bit warm for many marathoners’ preferences. Nancy’s 10th place finish established her as a serious runner on the national stage. The BAA medal she earned, while among the smallest she ever won at an important event, remains a talisman of one of her proudest achievements.

December 12, 1981

Event: The Avon Series
Location: Deer Creek, FL
Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 34:30
Place: 2
Career Prizes: $250

The Skinny: The Avon Series was not just a lot of fun for a great many female athletes, but it also was a launch pad for a number of successful racing careers. In this race, Nancy broke her own PR at 10 km, and nearly ran down Nancy Conz for the win. We were both a bit surprised and delighted.

There was an after party that we traveled to by boat at night. It was a long time ago, but I recall that we all enjoyed a great night.

October 17, 1981

Event: The Skylon Marathon
Location: Buffalo, NY
Distance: 26.2 miles
Time: 2:40:48
Place: 1
Prize: $200 appearance fee
Career Prizes: $250

The Skinny: The day dawned cool, blue and windless, and it had Nancy all pumped up for a good race.

As usual, Nancy started at a conservative pace and gathered steam as she went. Onlookers were letting her know that she was the first woman, and this caught the ears of several of our male running club friends. They fell in step as sort of an honor guard, and that happy crew chugged along until near the very end.

Here’s a photo of Nancy setting a personal and course record just above the Horseshoe Falls. On her feet are a pair of the orange and white Etonic “Eclipse,” by far her favorite shoe over her career.

March 15, 1981

Event: The Cherry Hill 10-Miler
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ
Distance: 10 miles
Time: 0:57:10
Place: 1
Prize: none
Prizes: $50

The Skinny: Nancy and I flew into Philadelphia with tickets provided by the race director. He also found lodging for us with a well-intentioned couple eager to host an invited “star.” The couple was ever so sweet. They fussed around Nancy in anticipation of her every need, insisted that we take their bedroom, and were completely and impossibly nice. We phoned the race director and begged him to please get us a quiet room at the race hotel.

We breakfasted on race day with Bob B., a fellow we’d met some years before at the Maple Leaf Half Marathon in Manchester, VT. He was a middlin runner who was well enough connected to appear “at all the right races.” Over oatmeal, he casually mentioned that Ellison Goodall was going to win the race going away “because no one else is here.”  Nancy appeared to let the remark slide while we were at table, but she actually took it like a hard punch to her gut. Channeling Knute, I reminded Nancy of Bob’s withering assessment on several occasions prior to race time. Nancy made a point of finding Bob at the post-race ceremonies so she could ask him how he’d done. Like the commercials say, “priceless.”

Miss Goodall was a gracious good sport after the race. She not only congratulated Nancy, but promised to talk to her sponsor (Adidas) about adding Nancy to its team. Both Goodall and Adidas came through, although those particular shoes never proved to be a good fit for Nancy’s foot.

Her first place finish at the Cherry Hill 10-Miler was a significant victory for Nancy, bringing with it her first sponsorship and several invitations to coming races. She had arrived on the regional scene.

January 3, 1981

Event: The Charlotte Observer Marathon Race
Location: Charlotte, NC
Distance: 26.2 miles
Time: 2:47:08
Place: 1
Prize: none
Prizes: $50

The Skinny: The Charlotte course is quite hilly, and is not a place where a racer is likely to set a PR. Nancy did, however, smash the former course record by 11 minutes and 18 seconds (!!) with her time today. This win set the tone for 1981, and even better things were soon to come.

The men’s winner was Steve Podgajny. He and his wife Marjorie became new friends after we met at the post-race ceremonies. The morning-after headline: Editor’s Nightmare as Podgajny, Mieszczak win Charlotte Marathon.

We’d driven to Charlotte, lugging a case of one Canadian beer or other to share with friends we were making “on the circuit.” While recovering from the race with these potassium-enriched fluids, we heard of deteriorating weather in Pennsylvania and western New York - we used to have “old fashioned” winters then - and so, after we’d all polished off the case, we decided to head home around 3 a.m. Everything went smoothly if darkly through North Carolina. But we ran into some snow in the hills of West Virginia, and it continued to worsen through the swing east at Erie. The stretch from Pittsburg to Erie was a real bear after having driven red-eye all night and with the west winds now making the driving treacherous. I recall two campers who were very happy to arrive home two or so hours later.

July 13, 1980
Event: The Utica Boilermaker
Location: Utica, NY
Distance: 9.321 MI
Time: 55:02
Place: 1
Prize: $50 appearance money
Prizes: $50
The Skinny: The Boilermaker is a tough, competitive race. 15 KM is a long way; in the severe hills surrounding Utica on a hot and steamy morning, this race ain’t no day at the beach. Winning this race did a lot to establish Nancy’s regional and national bona fides as a competitor tough as, if you’ll forgive, a boilermaker.
This great photo popped up in newspapers all across the country:

For those keeping careful score at home, notice that this race was the first in which Nancy either received appearance money or won prize money. Stick with her here: she’ll do even better soon enough. 

June 22, 1980

Event: Mentholatum 10K
Location: Buffalo, NY
Distance: 6.214 MI
Time: 35:48
Place: 2

The Skinny: Almost exactly one year later, Nancy still almost catches Jackie Gareau.

Moving off the “32 years ago today theme,” it was on this very day 35 years ago that Nancy D. moved in with Michael M. And exactly one month later, they were married. Aw shucks.

November 4, 1979

Event: Avon Series 
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 
Distance: 12.42 MI 
Time: 1:15:52 

The Skinny: From the Buffalo Evening News: “Nancy Mieszczak of Buffalo’s Checkers Athletic Club finished fourth in a 20-kilometer race here Sunday and won a trip to the Avon National Championships in Pasadena, Calif. next spring.”

In a pre-race article the Ottawa Sunday Post wrote: “Among the Americans traveling to Ottawa is Nancy Mieszczak of Buffalo…. She is the Road Runners Club of America 1978 20K Champion.”

The winner of the race was Karen Doppes of Cincinnati. Karen, Julie Isphording and Nancy would become friends over the years of the Avon circuit. It’s a small world. Two years ago, I met Bill Cosgrove whose Springer was competing at a local field event. Bill is quite a star - deservedly so - in the spaniel world. We got to jawing about this and that. While making small talk, I may have mentioned Julie as another name I recalled from Cincinnati. He knew her well: she used to run around with his wife Karen… Small world, indeed.

June 24, 1979

Event: Bonne Bell
Location: Buffalo, New York
Distance: 6.21 MI
Time: 37:56
Place: 2

The Skinny: This was one of the slowest 10Ks of Nancy’s career. My notes are sketchy, but I suspect race day must have been hot, or the course perhaps a bit long. In any event, she was the first local finisher, and second only to that pesky Jacqueline Gareau woman. Nancy recalls that Tom Donnelly paced her on his bicycle.

In the pre prize money era, the Bonne Bell bell was a tasteful and sought after prize, and it still remains in the trophy case. We’ve always liked this photo taken at the awards ceremony.

May 13, 1979

Event: The Ottawa Marathon
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Distance: 26.2 MI
Time: 2:55:58
Place: 3

The Skinny: Nancy and I enjoyed racing in Ottawa. We’d drive north several days ahead of the race and visit with Doc and Mom Dragoo. Then we’d overnight in Ottawa the night before the race and scoot back home when it was over.

Nancy set a PR at this race even though she developed a bad set of blisters en route. She was third to Jacqueline Gareau who ran 2:47:58.

This was the first of several races having a Husband - Wife Division where I gravy trained my talented wife’s performance with a modest one of my own. We still have the beer mugs proclaiming us Labatt’s Husband - Wife Champions of Canada.

September 24, 1978

Event: Maple Leaf Half Marathon
Location: Manchester, VT
Distance: 13.1 MI
Time: 1:20:00
Place: 2

The Skinny: Nancy had not been racing quite a year when I met her in October, 1977. She had done very well in that time, including victories - as a rookie! - in two marathons. In one of these races, she absolutely destroyed a particular fellow who was desperately trying to keep pace with her.

We know this because Guy Thomas told her so, on the phone, when he invited her to run his inaugural Mapleleaf Half Marathon in Manchester, VT. He was a great sport, and in no time we became friends with Guy and his wife Vivien.

For some reason, I neglected to keep a journal record for this race. Nancy didn’t take a lot of seconds in those days, so I suspect whoever beat her was quite good. It may well have been Patti Lyons, a superstar in road racing in 1978. In any case, Guy’s promotional efforts and the fast 1978 times helped the race to grow in stature over the years.

Nancy and I were there again a year later when Patti set a world record with a 1:14:03 time. You can see Patti hoisting the cutting board that was a cool prize in those just-before-prize-money days. Nancy has one, too; we’ll use it to chop some cheese the next time you’re visiting.

May 14, 1978

Event: Revco Classic
Location: Cleveland, OH
Distance: 10 KM
Time: 36:40
Place: 1

The Skinny: Revco was a fore runner of stores like Walgreen. Its chain was wide spread and healthy back in 1978, so its signature race attracted strong men’s and women’s fields for both the 10 KM and marathon events. Revco disappeared after its stores were bought and renamed by CVS in 1997.

Nancy beat second-placer Kitty Consolo by 43 seconds, finished 68th overall, and continued to garner regional and national attention.

I had a good race, too. I finished in 32:33, at the time a personal best that was good for 23rd place and bragging rights as first western NY finisher.

This race pre-dated the prize money era in road racing. One of the attractions of the event was the offer of Revco merchandise in addition to traditional “statue trophies.” I don’t remember what Nancy won; but my age-group award was included in Webster’s definition of irony: a hair-drying iron.

April 17, 1978

Event: The Boston Marathon
Location: Boston, MA
Distance: 26.2 MI
Time: 2:55:00
Place: 20

The Skinny: In the week before the race Nancy and I flew to San Diego for a National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference. Although working math teachers and genuinely interested in the Conference’s programs - specially hands-on events using those new personal computer thingees - we were also delighted to absorb some sun and get in some easy training before flying into Boston for the Marathon.

A woman for whom I’d worked earlier in the 70s was nice enough to host my fiance and me for dinner at her club in La Jolla. I recall gentle conversation and a great view of the ocean. The evening was a special engagement present to a couple of starry eyed kids. Thanks, Mrs. Kellogg.

In Boston, we crashed with my school days pal Peter O. We slept either on floor-laid mattresses, or futons, or something; I don’t exactly recall. Except that if we slept on them tonight, we’d be dead by morning.

Anyways, we got up, went out for breakfast, and - incredible for us - finally committed around 9 a.m to actually starting the race.

Nancy’s 20th place was therefore darn good. If Cold Duck lives long enough, I’ll be able to blog an even better finish.

March 19, 1978

Event: AAU National 30 KM Championship
Location: Albany, NY
Distance: 30 KM
Time: 1:58:23
Place: 1

The Skinny: Nancy and I were engaged at the time of the 30 KM Nationals in Albany. We bunked with Richard J. and his lovely wife Kathy. Cold Duck regulars will recognize him as Cousin Richard of Speculator fame.

A day after the race, I kissed Nancy goodbye and while she headed back to Waterford, I drove home to Buffalo. In addition to teaching math there during the day, I was also teaching applied trigonometry to machinist apprentices at night. I had a tradition - enabled by an administration that looked on with benignly blind eyes - of taking the class out for an adult beverage after I’d rated the last student’s terminal exam.

After buying the first round and reporting that everyone had earned a passing grade, I discovered that the men were still thirsty - and generous. An hour and too many beers later, all tongues were loose, if a bit thick, and conversation flowed freely. Proud of my bride-to-be's recent win, I blurted out that I was engaged to the national trucking champion, except that I did not say "trucking."

After the slightest of pauses, the guys all gave me a look - visualize the Last Supper - and asked in one voice, "You're marrying the national trucking champion?" And a spontaneous cheer broke out.

This story is now known word for word by the whole extended family, down to our nieces and nephews’ college friends. There’s usually a call for the story, somewhere after the second bottle of wine, at all the major family feasts.