Saturday, December 17, 2011


Last week, WKCTC (which I shall always call PCC)finished in the top five for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. They received a $100,000 prize for doing so. This of course reminds me of my days there and how much I enjoyed it and how great a place it was (and still is).

I had some great professors there. Jackie Moss made Calculus I seem pretty easy. Sarah Penry got me through the mysteries of Calc III and IV. John Robertson taught me a lot of things about Economics that I still remember. Dr. Neil Adams was a great Physics teacher. Dr. Counce made Psychology an interesting topic (even though I was forced to take the class for my degree). And who could ever forget Dr. Chun Ro? I made some great friends there. They let us play basketball in the gym and I probably played every day I was there. The main thing though is I was well prepared to move on to UK when I was done. The only thing they lacked with a few of the freshman-sophomore level Computer Science type classes I would need. But, I managed to get those in at UK later. I also never worked up the nerve to ask out one of the several nice, intelligent, pretty young ladies I met there (but that worked out for the best).

From my understanding, it's still a very good place to attend. They've expanded their offerings quite a bit in 30 years. They merged with the vocational school next to it to be able to offer a vast array of options for students. It's good for people who are wanting to start college right out of high school or go back to get a degree later in life.

The costs there are pretty reasonable. The tuition costs are about 2000 a semester (based on 15 hours). This is comparable to 3300 at Murray State and 4600 at UK (and even more at private schools). That doesn't even include the fact that most students attending there don't have to leave home and save all that room and board cost. There is also plenty of scholarship money available. In fact, all you have to do is make above a certain GPA or ACT score (or a combination thereof) and you can get part or all of your tuition paid. Plus, Kentucky residents can use their KEES money with this. If you have good grades and a decent ACT score, you can pretty well cover your tuition with no problem. Going there can save a student a lot of money and even keep them from running up the large amount of student loan debt most seem to exit college with nowadays.

The other benefit is a high school graduate can more gradually ease into college life. College classes and expectations of professors/teachers are radically different than high school. If you couple that with the newness of living on your own for the first time (and everything that goes along with that), it's a lot dumped on an 18 year old. I know a lot of young people who went away to school and end up back at home in a year because they simply couldn't handle all that. If they go to WKCTC, they only have to deal with the first issue and can get used to that before having to deal with learning to live on their own later.

Of course, one needs to research whether the college they plan on transferring to after WKCTC will accept all of the classes they take there. They also need to be sure they can get enough of their pre-requisite courses at WKCTC. There can be colleges and majors that simply are not good fits for a person to complete by starting at WKCTC.

Finally, I will hear the argument that "It's not a real college" (my own son most likely will tell me this after reading this entry). I can tell you of numerous colleagues and friends who went there (back when I did and even recently) who have done very well in their careers. I know in hiring where I work, I never knew PCC/WKCTC to cause the least bit of hindrance in hiring someone.

I would tell any young person (or older person) who is planning to attend college to at least consider the option of WKCTC. I certainly feel it's a very viable option

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Day John Lennon Died..

(I am ignoring the obvious story of the day for what I originally planned to post here today). This is one of those days I will always remember. 31 years ago, I was watching Monday night football when Howard Cosell broke in with a stunning announcement. John Lennon had been murdered outside his apartment in the Dakotas in New York City. I was not a huge Beatles fan at the time, I became one over the next few years. But I remember thinking how sad this was.

John Lennon had taken five years off from his singing career. He had started to become successful again. His freshly released album "Double Fantasy" was climbing the charts as well as the ironically named single "Starting Over". After he was murdered, the album rose to the number 1 position and stayed there for almost two months. The single stayed number 1 for five weeks. The album ultimately won the Grammy for Best Album. I remember watched the Grammy show while at UK and being surprised that it won. "Starting Over" lost out to "Bette Davis Eyes" for Song of The Year.

I remember this day for an entirely different reason now. It's my lovely wife's birthday. It's always a running joke when Donna will say "What's tomorrow?" and one of us will say "It's the day John Lennon died".

Proving that you can find anything on Youtube, here's a clip of Howard Cosell breaking into the Monday Night Football to announce John Lennon's murder. This moment regularly makes Top Ten list of the MNF most memorable moments. Howard Cosell announced it as New England tried to win the game on a last second field goal (which was blocked) and the game went to overtime. Notice how primitive the graphics look compared to today.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Marathon Man

To all my readers, I owe you an apology. I've been keeping a secret from you for the past five months. It's part of the reason I've not been blogging as much (only partly, partly is sheer laziness). I've been working on something on my bucket list; something I said I'd do for the first time when I turned fifty (which I turned last month). I've been training to run in the St Jude Marathon.

I got a plan from Runners World that was an 18 week training plan for the marathon. I got very familiar with tempo runs, Yassos, and strides. I also got used to the weekly "long run". With most training plans, you build up gradually to several long runs of 20 miles. The most I've ever run at once is 14 miles (in training for a couple of half marathons I've run). When those long runs started hitting 16, 18 and finally 20 miles, that was rough. A lot of it is mental, it's hard to keep your mind occupied on a task that long. I listened to a lot of Dave Ramsey and Clark Howard pod-casts to make it through. The first 14 weeks or so went really well. Then, on my second 20 miler, I couldn't make it. I ragged out at 15 miles and was really discouraged. The next week started my taper where you reduce your mileage in the few weeks before the race to allow yourself to be fresh for the run. So, that little bit of doubt started to creep in.

Then the week before, I felt myself starting to get sick. I had congestion and a cough. I toughed it out til the Monday before the big day and finally decided to go see the doctor when I developed pink eye. My doctor (Dr. Pittard) wasn't in, but I saw the urgent care doctor (Dr. Grumley). He gave me what he called a "cocktail" of medicines plus antibiotic eye drops (which I referred to as magic eye drops). I dutifully took them even taking liquid cough medicine (which I usually cannot handle). I started finally getting some sleep and recovering.

That old enemy doubt kept creeping in. I kept saying how I didn't finish that last long run and now I've been sick. I tried to talk myself out of going. My two encouragers keep me going though. Donna told me she had been so impressed at how I'd stuck with my training and she knew I'd be able to do this. Jonathan gave me "tough love" saying "Old Man, don't wimp out now". I made sure to get plenty of sleep each night. I carbo-loaded all week. When Friday came and it was time to leave, we got our rental car and headed for Memphis.

The drive went well. Donna drove the whole way so I could rest. We stayed at the Hampton Inn on near Beale Street and the start of the run. I had managed to get a very nice two room suite with our Hilton Points. Donna and I walked to Huey's to eat dinner and had ice cream at Maggie Moo's. I felt fine and thought just maybe I'd pull this thing off. I went to bed early and offered up a prayer that I'd do OK the next morning.

The next day dawned with temperatures in the mid 40's. It was going to be a perfect day to run. I would not have to weigh myself down with gloves, hat, or sweat pants. I ate a good breakfast and loaded my pocket with my Mp3 player and a couple of packets of Chocolate GU and I was ready to go. We walked to the start about 7:30am to wait for the 8:00am start. I used the bathroom one last time and got into my corral. At St Jude, they have corrals you get into based on your projected per minute pace. I knew especially having been sick I need to get in one of the back ones. I got in the corral and found the pace man for a 5:10 marathon (they hold up a big stick with that number on it). Donna gave me a hug and kiss and one more word of encouragement and I lined up with my corral to start.

They release each corral about 2 minutes apart as to not clog things up. So, it was about 25 minutes before my corral got up to start. I was still OK. We got the signal to go and off we went! Everything was good. The only issue was people had gotten in corrals that were meant for faster people and we ended up having to slow down and ultimately dodge them. There were even walkers in front of us (which should never happen). We ran through down and past the Mississippi riverfront. Then, we ran down Beale Street. Donna was there and I waved and gave her the thumbs up that I was still fine.

After that, we turned and headed for the actual St Jude property. On the way, there were all sorts of young people entertaining us with singing and music. Running through the St Jude Campus is amazing. A lot of the kids and parents are out there high fiving you as you run through. It's hard not to get a lump in your throat when you see them holding up signs saying "I'm a Survivor thanks to you" or "I'm alive because of you". There was a lot of parents holding up signs thanking you for helping their kids. If that doesn't encourage you, nothing can. The race has fabulous encouragement all the way through. Even the policemen and women doing traffic control shout out encouragement all the way.

The first 13 miles went well. My pacer went a bit too fast though. He was supposed to do about a 11:49 mile and he did about 11:29. I did fine though. At about the 12.5 mile mark, the half marathon's head for Auto Zone park to finish and the crowd thins out. You loop back through Beale Street again. Donna was there again and I gave her the thumbs up to let her know I was fine. Now, you head out to the Fairgrounds (which I remembered from seeing UK's Liberty Bowl victory in person there a few years ago). Things started to get rougher and as I knew it would, my pace slowed. I had one more ace up my sleeve. Kentucky was playing North Carolina and I was able to listen to it. That got me through the next 8 miles. I am sure people thought something was wrong with me as I kept yelling and grimacing as I ran. I walked through the water stations as I drank powerade and water each time. I had a packet of GU each five miles. The encouragers were still there though and it helped a lot. I crossed the 20 mile barrier and was still OK. I kept up fine. At mile 24, a lady and her son had pretzels and Dixie cups of coke. That gave me a nice little boost and I knew I could make it. I got to mile 25 and I knew I'd make if I had to crawl.

Right before you get to Autozone ball park, you have to climb a ramp. I made it fine though and I knew it was downhill into the stadium. I was able to pick up my pace and run in just fine. There were plenty of cheering people there and I held up my arms in celebration as I ran around the warning track and across the finish! I had done it! I looked at my sports watch and saw I'd run a 5:32 time. I was very pleased with that. I got my medal and looked for Donna. She hugged me and told me how proud she was of me. She said how impressed she was with how strong I looked at the finish. They had a food area and I went through grabbing all sorts of things to eat as I walked. They even had Krispy Kremes so I had to grab a few and eat them as we walked back to the hotel. My legs were tired, but I had no pain. When I took off my shoes, I had no blisters or black toenails. My knees were fine too. I went back to the hotel and spent the rest of evening resting. I did manage to get up about five and walk a block with Donna to get burgers at Dyer's. I felt OK the next morning and we headed for home. We worshiped with the brethren at Hayti church of Christ (who were very friendly) and got home about 2pm.

I still have the glow of this accomplishment. I finished and I didn't finish last in my age group or overall. I had set a goal and made it. If a fifty year old man can run his first marathon and finish, you should be encouraged to set a goal for something you've always wanted to do and pull it off.