Sunday, November 30, 2014

Clif Bar’s Decision To Drop It’s Sponsorship Of 5 Climbers

Dale Matson

As someone who has participated in several endurance sports for many years, I have consumed countless Clif Bars to avoid 'bonks' and return from bonks. In the early 90’s there was not much to choose from. For me, Power Bars were hard to chew especially in cold weather. Clif Bars were more palatable and easier to chew. There was also the sentimental but confusing ‘hook’ on the wrapper about how Clif bars started. While the wrapper showed a climber suspended from a rope, the bar was actually named after the founder’s father Clif.

Clif Bars are now gluten free and the ingredients are organically grown but they taste about the same to me. Clif Bar is on Facebook too. The marketing is keeping up with the times even if the product may not have kept pace with other energy gel formulations. I remember a friend giving me a Vanilla Bean GU packet on a long run and I thought I had taken on rocket fuel. I put four packs of GU in my Race Ready shorts pockets this year in my final marathon. I went away from Clif Bars when products like Hammer Gel came along. I ran Western States on Hammer Gel, Whatever appealed to me at the aid stations and lots of Snickers Bars. I did Hawaii Ironman on Hammer Gel. When Powerbar energy gels became available I included them on hikes and backpacking.

I think the company has done a good job of marketing the Clif Bar and they have made an effort to target to the trendy, politically correct age cohort their product appeals to. After all “…it’s about the winding road-not the destination-that drives Clif Bar.” Really? That sounds rather casual for the athletes they are sponsoring to go faster, longer and higher than ever before. They have a ways to go because while their paper caddies are made from recycled paper, the wrappers are not and they are not biodegradable either. Additionally, “Organic” Clif Bars are only 70% organic.

To sum thus far, I have a long history with Clif Bars as a consumer and have moved toward products that I feel are superior. I have always been an amateur athlete who has done what I have done for the sheer challenge and joy of it. I am a middle of the pack athlete. Much of Clif Bar marketing is directed to a target audience that purports to be environmentally conscious and trendy. The company’s decision to drop five of the world’s best climbers is based on a desire to keep from marring a carefully crafted image. “Ultimately, this decision came down to a sense of responsibility to our own story, what we endorse and the activities that we encourage.” Keeping an average product competitive in the marketplace requires an above average image.

It sounds like Clif Bar is saying that it made the decision because it did not want to encourage dangerous behavior that might lead to the death of an athlete or provide sponsorship of someone who would ‘model’ the wrong behavior to children. It is claiming to draw a line in the sand and hold the moral high ground. “We have and always will support athletes in many adventure-based sports, including climbing.  And inherent in the idea of adventure is risk.  We appreciate that assessing risk is a very personal decision.  This isn't about drawing a line for the sport or limiting athletes from pursuing their passions. We're drawing a line for ourselves.”

In fact, it really is about a corporate decision that limits the risk for the company name and less a concern for the sponsored individual. I believe these individuals would push the limits whether they had sponsorship or not because it is that very quality that makes them the best at what they do. Lynn Hill used to eat out of the Curry Village dumpsters.

Finally, this is not a case of capitalism exercising moral limit setting as much as it is a corporation making a decision about a potential threat to the bottom line. To those athletes who were dropped, I say you were fired for doing what you were sponsored to do. It is you folks who hold the moral high ground.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Brooks Glycerin Running shoes: Jumping The Shark On Prices

Dale Matson

There is an excellent and comprehensive review of the Brooks Glycerin 12 running shoes here:

Too bad I didn't read the review before getting the model 12. In the late 90s, after a long-term relationship with Nike Air Pegasus running shoes, I began having knee pain and a chronically sore heel cord. I tried other shoes but was limited to a neutral platform because I am one of those rare birds who supinate (feet roll to the outside) rather than pronate. Additionally, I have needed trainers that were well cushioned because of the high mileage I used to run (60+ miles a week). After beginning the Kettle Moraine 100 mile endurance run in a pair of Asics running shoes, I had to switch to a new pair of Brooks Glycerin running shoes after about 40 miles because of knee pain in 2,000. The rest is history since that has been my running shoe of choice since that time.

I've gotten quite a bit of ribbing over the years from fellow runners who laughed at the butt ugly colors Brooks came out with when the new models were introduced. The sizing and platform were so dependable that I could remove the sock liners; shove in my orthotics and run a marathon in brand new shoes. I usually changed out my shoes every 400 miles or so and you could see how the midsole would become more brittle and compressed at the end of the shoe life. I became a trail runner for many reasons but one reason was the forgiving nature of dirt when compared with asphalt or worse yet, concrete. I believe I have run extra years because of the running surface. I would also note parenthetically that being the correct weight and cross training is the best hedge against running injuries.

I ran in the new model 12 today and immediately noticed during my warm up walk that they were less cushioned than the model 11s. I’m sure you all know the ‘bounce’ you feel in a new pair of running shoes. In all my years of running with the Glycerine, I found this to be the first pair that caused heel problems. My left heel had a hot spot and pain after my 12-mile run today and I could feel my heel moving back and forth sideways as I ran. The running endorphins masked the pain while I was running. Well, I was not running but its not walking either. the scenery still comes at me fast at age 70. There is also no reflectivity for low light visibility.

The new price is simply outrageous. What a huge investment (I just bought a nice pair of waterproof insulated boots for $100.00). With the CA sales tax, I paid out over $160.00 for the Glycerin shoes. There is nothing in the technology or quality of this shoe to justify that price. I have always been willing to live with the ugly colors. I noticed that Berkshire-Hathaway bought out Brooks in 2013. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with my complaints but if you read the review, there are a lot of harsh comments by other runners about the model 12s. Brooks needs to attend to this ASAP. Until they do, I will be returning my model 12’s and running in my old model 11’s until the ‘new’ model 11s that I just ordered arrive. Brand loyalty only goes so far. Thanks for the memories Brooks but if you keep this up, I will say fare thee well. I will take the money from my returned shoes and buy a new wetsuit. Can you imagine that items like a wet suit and waterproof insulated boots are less expensive than a pair of running shoes?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Veterans Day, Tom Horn and Robert O'Neill

Dale Matson

This Tuesday we will celebrate Veterans Day to honor those individuals who are serving or have served our country in the military. While I am a service veteran from the Vietnam era, I did not have to make the sacrifice of other veterans who paid the ultimate price of service and died for their country.

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen including women of many generations have represented our country in battle both on native soil and in foreign lands. My generation was the last to be drafted into military service. The U.S. went to an all volunteer military in 1973. It is probably good because Vietnam was an unpopular war with many men evading the draft or fleeing to Canada if they were drafted. There were no heroes in the Vietnam era according to the press of the day.

Veterans Day is a holiday begrudgingly offered up by many as a token gesture by a society that little understands the daily sacrifices of those in the military. Civilians are hypocritical and fickle. They really don't want to know about the carnage that takes place in battle any more than they want to know the process that brings meat to their dinner table. Modern war reporting is sanitized with phrases like “targets of opportunity” and “surgical strikes”. Both phrases refer to killing other humans.

What the public wants are warriors who will do their bidding and accomplish in reality what they only fantasize about. They want men who will do the dirty jobs, sight unseen. Just don't let anyone know you hired him. When the war is over those same warriors are pushed aside, poorly compensated, given 2nd rate medical care and generally ignored. Some of our career soldiers have been recycled from battlefield to battlefield so often they are deeply bruised on the inside when they get outside.

These warriors lack the social graces of “civilized” folks (combat has a way of doing that) but the reality is they allow us to feel clean and above it all. When we saw the charcoal corpses of Iraqi soldiers that had attempted to flee Kuwait, we were appalled and stopped short of Bagdad. What we didn't see was even worse.

Tom Horn was a real life person who had a military background. He was a scout and tracker and helped apprehend Geronimo. Steve McQueen loosely portrayed his life in a 1980 movie. He was a warrior also with a presence that commanded authority. He worked for the Pinkerton Detective agency. He was hired by a cattle company to get cattle rustlers. He usually warned them first but often wound up killing them. This is a partial description of the movie plot, “Horn's methods are brutal but effective. After a public gunfight, the local townspeople become alarmed at his violent nature and public opinion turns against him. The owners of the large cattle companies realize that while he is doing exactly what they hired him to do, his tactics will ultimately tarnish their image and begin to plot his demise.”
Eventually Horn was framed for murder, put on trial on trumped up charges and hung by the ‘good’ people who hired him.

Robert O'Neill is the Navy Seal who was on the team that assassinated Osama Bin Laden. Here is a partial background. “One of the nation’s most decorated veterans, O’Neill has been decorated more than 52 times with honors, including two Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars with Valor, a Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor, three Presidential Unit citations, and two Navy/Marine Corps Commendations with Valor.”

He is the face of those who fight for us. He has chosen not to remain anonymous, to tell his story. There is criticism from some quarters that he broke the code of silence by disclosing his identity and the particulars of the mission against Bin Laden. There is even talk of bringing him back into the service and prosecuting him. Does this sound familiar? The fact remains that Leon Panetta also released details of the raid. “Then-CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed secret information to a Hollywood filmmaker about the Osama bin Laden raid when he gave a CIA speech attended by “Zero Dark Thirty” screenwriter Mark Boal, according to newly released documents.”

Additionally, Vice President Joe Biden publically revealed that it was Seal Team Six that killed Bin Laden, Putting them at risk. “The families of three fallen Navy SEAL Team Six members say President Obama and Vice President Biden are culpable for the deaths of their sons for publicly identifying the unit that killed Osama bin Laden.”

Robert O'Neill went on these missions willing and expecting to die for his country and for those who died on 9/11. He is a hero to me. I hope he has something to live for also.

On Veterans Day please do remember the military personnel currently serving and veterans who have served our country. They are to be honored not discarded, disparaged, patronized, ignored or pursued by hypocrites.   

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

We Cling To Our Guns And Our Religion

Dale Matson

I reside in a red area of the blue state of California. I vote in every election knowing that in the great scheme of things my vote will be a meaningless gesture. When candidate Obama spoke at a private fundraising dinner in San Francisco in 2008. He stated, “And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

He was referring specifically to folks in rural Pennsylvania but his comments generalize across the entire United States and include me. I take the comment very personally because I am a part of a huge demographic group president Obama does not understand or care to understand.
I am familiar with his elitist and condescending remarks. They are not unique to him. It is the ideation of the liberal left imbedded in and proselytized from the public universities. I worked as a plumber and heavy equipment operator for 17 years. I carried my lunch in a paper sack and listened to Paul Harvey on my truck radio as I ate. I had a blue collar and a redneck scorched by the summer sun and chapped by the winter winds.

I went back to the university I was drafted out of for Army service during Viet Nam. I served two years and returned to a university I no longer recognized. The students tore down and burned our flag as I watched in dismay. My commander in Chief Lyndon Johnson was a man I despised yet I served during his presidency because my country called on me.

Years later I finished my bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and Ph.D. I could not get a tenure track position in Wisconsin because I was a white middle-aged male. I did not fit an affirmative action category. A Christian University in Central California eventually hired me and I retired after 15 years as an emeritus professor 10 years ago. Even in that conservative setting professors who had gone from being a student to being a university instructor looked down their noses at tradesmen and agricultural workers. Those who worked with their hands were second-class to those who fashioned ideas.

I was born and raised in Michigan and hunted and fished with my brother and father for many years. My dad had a Model 99EG 300 Savage and a double barrel Lefever 16 gauge shotgun. My brother had a Marlin 22 handed down from my grandfather and a 16 gauge bolt action Mossberg. I started with a Daisy pump BB gun.  Guns were a part of my life and a part of the experiences, which forged a strong bond between my father, brother and me. My sons and I use guns but only for target shooting. Guns are still a part of my life.

I gave my life to Christ in Sunday school when I was eight years old. Except for a prolonged period of rebellion, I have been a Christian my entire life. In public school we said the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of every assembly. “Under God” was added to our daily pledge of allegiance when I was in fourth grade. We were well aware of those who were not Protestant. Eddie W. went to Catechism after school. Judy W. didn't list a doctor on her health card because she was Christian Scientist. No one was singled out for being different. We were allowed to be different. When we would sing the national anthem, many of our teachers would cry as they sang.

In sixth grade I was the student who raised the flag each morning and took it down after school each day. I can still feel the heavy texture of the flag in my hands. The Ten Commandments were on the wall in my senior year government class taught by liberal Mrs. Elvie M. My faith was a part of the culture and my public education. We received both “academic” and “citizenship” grades. School was preparing us for citizenship in a democracy.

I am an ordinary person who was born here and has lived in this country for 70 years. I am not afraid of those who are different than me and welcome anyone who is willing to work and contribute. I am willing to lend a hand up. What concerns me is that the man leading this country Barack Obama sees these values as anachronistic, simplistic and an impediment to his vision of progress. I feel he disrespects those of us who hold to our religion and our guns. Without help from many in our group, he would not be president today. Does he really care equally about all of the people he governs? Does he even respect us?  

Monday, November 3, 2014

My Final Marathon

Dale Matson

Receiving Finishers Medal

After a few years of relative inactivity during graduate school, I decided that it was time to get back in shape. I kept the weight relatively under control during my 17 years working as a plumber and heavy equipment operator. My weight went over 220 pounds in my early forties and I decided to start walking a couple of miles a day to get my weight, blood pressure and cholesterol down again. It was frankly embarrassing to pass by a store security monitor and see myself.

One thing led to another and 2-mile walks became 10K runs then my first marathon. It was a small marathon called “The American Odyssey” in 1991 in central Wisconsin. The course was hilly and I had not prepared for that. It took me about 6 and a half hours and I was the last one on the course. The chalk finish line had washed away in a thunderstorm that came up during the final hour of the race. Someone came out of a bar and told me that I had crossed the finish line. I was given a finisher’s tee shirt, which became a prized possession. I also did four other marathons before moving from Wisconsin.

My life motto has always been “Everything worth doing is worth overdoing.” I also did my first ultramarathon before moving to California from Wisconsin. Some running friends talked me into doing the Voyager 50 miler in Minnesota. During the run, someone spotted a bear and we all worried about that too. The stragglers I was running with made a wrong turn near the end and we wound up running an additional couple of miles. I went to bed so exhausted that night thinking I might not wake up.

After moving to Fresno, I fell in with a running group that required me to pick up the pace. Most of them had qualified for and run Boston. The first year was quite a struggle keeping up but I ran my first sub four-hour marathon at age 49. It was the rather dull but flat Sacramento Marathon. I weighed 190 and could have signed up to run in the “Clydesdale” division. I realized that running is a gravity sport and decided that I would need to be at my best running weight if I was ever going to qualify for Boston.

I lost another 30 pounds while training for the CIM that starts in Folsom California and ends at the capitol in Sacramento. At 17 miles, I looked at my watch and realized my pace was 8:01. I needed an 8-minute pace to meet the sub 3:30 time to qualify for Boston. I decided it was now or never and pushed even harder. I made it. I have always been a marginal athlete who is on the time bubble. A month later, I ran the same time in the San Diego Marathon in Carlsbad. I was supposed to run with my cousin but he was a DNS because of shin splints.

Over the years I have probably run over 100 marathons and ultramarathons including completing The Kettle Moraine 100 and Western States 100. There is nothing quite so free as running on trails and knowing that you can run all day long.

Yesterday was my final marathon. This was the Two Cities Marathon in Fresno California which begins one half mile from my house. The temperature was perfect and the air clean. My times are getting too long and a 6:37 was good enough for my final marathon. It is about where I began 23 years ago. It was also good enough for second place in my age group. I owe so many wonderful friends and memories to running. I literally owe my life, health and self-discipline to running. The discipline and training has kept me lean, fit and sound. The early morning runs and weekly long runs mollified the life and career stresses. While I also bike, swim and cc ski, running has always been my drug of choice.

There are many “first marathon” reports out there and congratulations to those who have run their first marathon. You are a different person now aren't you? For some, perhaps most, it will be their last marathon. I would encourage anyone reading this to train for and run a marathon if their health will permit it and their doctor gives the go ahead. When you finish, the first words out of your mouth may be, “Never again.” In a week however, you may be considering the next one.