Thursday, June 2, 2011

Teaching a bird to fly

This wasn't on my bucket list, but I'm adding it to my life goals. I can now check off the item that says "Teach a bird to fly."

The almond tree in my backyard was overgrown and I decided to tackle it with a chain saw. I sort of bulled my way into the thick of the tree on a ladder with chain saw in hand. Unfortunately, one of the branches I cut held a dove's nest, and as the nest hit the ground, a tiny bird fell with it.

Amazingly, three cats quickly appeared on the fence and each was thinking that bird was lunch. The bird was scurrying around on the ground, flapping its wings, but not getting close to going airborne. The cats began to move in.

I grabbed the bird and told it to fly. . . Not a chance. For the next 20 minutes or so, I tossed the bird in the air, its wings would flap and it would hit the ground. Finally, though, the bird made some progress and went about 5 feet before hitting the ground. I grabbed it again and tossed it in the air a few more times.

Each time, the bird seemed to get stronger, until finally it flew to the fence and then away. I'm not sure if the bird survived the cats that day, but I figured I did what I could to give it a chance at life.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Watch out, I'm throwing the Black Star discus

I just bought a new discus that is an upgrade over the basic discus that I've been using in practice and meets. I don't know if better equipment will help me get better distance, but I couldn't pass up the Internet deal on the Black Star discus. The regular price was $75 and I got it for $25.

I'm holding the Black Star in the accompanying photo. I think it looks very cool -- way cooler than the green discus that I have been using. I'm anxious to throw the Black Star, and I will have many opportunities as the weather gets better and there's more daylight after work.

I'm looking to improve in both the discus and the shot put. I will have several senior division meets this summer. Those will be my opportunities to put up good marks. The first meet of the season a few weeks ago at Stanford was disappointing -- at least my performance was. I had a great time at the meet and met up with close friends who live in Moraga. But I thought I should have done better.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I survived turning 60, but will 61 be a bigger challenge?

You been following my adventure as I turned 60, and I thank you for your encouragement along the way. Turning 60 was easy, but suddenly I'm 61 and pushing 62. Life moves quickly at this age.

There are times when I long for the days of being 35 -- what I always thought of as an invincible age. Young, strong and dumb enough to think you know everything. But for the most part, I like my current age. The main exceptions are those daily trips to the medicine cabinet for blood pressure, cholesterol, and other age-related medications. I understand why pharmaceutical companies make so much money. Baby boomers have traded the illegal drugs of their youth for very expensive legal drugs.

The job at the newspaper is still a wonderful challenge -- much more now that we have fewer resources. But I have been blessed being in a business that has allowed me to meet presidents and foreign leaders, and seeing firsthand what has been called the "first draft of history." I've covered tragedy and scandal. And I have been able to fight for the underdog, even as government at times has used all its resources to unfairly overwhelm the innocent. We won a few of those, and they represent proud moments in a 40-year newspaper career.

I also know that when I get a letter from a state prison and the inmate says he's been framed, he probably hasn't been. I have received dozens -- maybe hundreds -- of those kind of letters over the years. But there are a few who are innocent, like the parents wrongly accused in the Bakersfield child molest debacle of the mid-1980s. The newspaper made a difference when it exposed the phony charges and drew a line against the hysteria.

People ask me when I'm going to retire. I don't have an answer for them. I love my job and I think I can still have an impact. If I hit the Lotto, I might change my mind. But until then. . .

Monday, March 28, 2011

First meet jitters

I'm not sure why I couldn't hit my goals at Sunday's Bay Area Senior Games, but I had a lackluster performance at the Stanford University track. This was the first meet of the season, and I think I was not mentally prepared as I got into the throwing ring. This will be a learning experience for future meets.

The meet, which doubled as the California Seniors State Championships, was held at Stanford's Cobb Track & Angell Field. This is a world-class facility that has hosted numerous NCAA Championships, the U.S. Open and U.S. Nationals. So I can't blame the facilities for my performance.

My goal for the meet in the discus was 90 feet and I hit 76 feet. I was hitting 90 in practice and was looking forward to the competition. But I just couldn't seem to get a good release and 76 feet was my best of four throws.

In the shot put, my goal was 26-6 and I could only toss it 25-4 -- more than a foot off my goal and 18 inches short of my best throw in competition.

I understand the discus marks. You have to do so many things right in the discus so the throws can have varying degrees of success. Technique is crucial. But in the shot put, the margin for error is much smaller. Strength is the key, although your technique is important. But I'm so far off last year that I must be getting weaker as I get a year older. I need more time in the gym with heavier weights.

At age 61, I'm competing in the 60-64 category, so I'm at the younger end of the age group. The one thing I will say is I never picked up a discus or shot put until last year. Most of the competitors have been throwing since high school and there techniques are much better than mine.

I'm a beginner and on Sunday I sure threw like one.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Track season starts anew

I'm starting the 2011 masters track season with the hope that I can compete in several meets and put up marks that show continual improvement in the discus and the shot put. My first competition is Sunday at Stanford for the Bay Area Senior Games. I hoped the meet doesn't get rained out.

There is a possibility that the storms that have been drenching California will break on Sunday. Because you throw in a small concrete circle, the officials will not allow the event if the ring is wet. They almost called off the shot put last year at Stanford because a light rain made the throwing circle dangerous.

I have been training especially hard for this meet, but the weather has slowed me down the past few days. I have not been able to throw since Tuesday, and I had hoped to throw every day through Friday. But I have been at the gym trying to get stronger. I need that in the shot put.

My biggest challenge is working on my throwing technique. That takes practice in the ring. I'm not exact a Tiny Dancer in that small ring as I spin to throw the discus and glide to throw the shot.

My goals for Sunday are 90 feet in the discus and 26 feet, six inches in the shot put. The discus goal would be a PR and the shot put goal is just under my best. For some reason, I've gone backwards from last year in the shot put so the 26-6 goal is a good one for the first meet. If I hit my goals, I'll likely finish in the middle of the pack. I'm not a threat for a medal.

I'll try to throw tomorrow, even if I have to do it off my patio in my backyard. I need to get one more good practice in.