October 5, 2006 at 7:28 a.m.
Cross country season is in full gear. High school athletes run on golf courses and through parks in 5K (boys) and 4K (girls) races. most of us have never run that far. We consider the marathon (26+ miles) to be quite a test of physical endurance.
A current trend among endurance runners is the Rim-to-Rim run. That is, running from one rim of the Grand Canyon down to the Colorado River and then back up. Runners who attempt this face additional obstacles to the length of a marathon.
Elevation changes pose problems. Climate changes can be severe. It’s not unusual for runners to encounter ice and snow near the top and Phoenix-like temperatures and humidities on the Canyon floor. And the last seven miles, returning to the rim, are nearly vertical.
Some of the best conditioned athletes in the world have ended up in hospitals while attempting to complete rim-to-rim runs. Some haven’t fared so well.
Survival in Minnesota weather
Last week I was driving south on county road 77, north of Chisago City. It was a cool 48 degrees, with a predicted high of 80. It was early in the morning and I noticed a young girl (maybe 9 or 10) waiting at a driveway for her school bus. She was prepared. She was wearing short-shorts and flip-flop, along with a winter coat and a stocking cap.
How ‘Bout Those Twins
On June 8, the Twins were 25-33 and most of us were getting ready for a “wait 'til next year’ season when something happened.
Hometown boy Joe Mauer had been about the only bright spot for the team. Even the Twins’ trademark strong defense had forsaken them. About the only constant was Gardy’s frustration driven tirades getting him thrown out of games - on a regular basis.
Since June 8, the team has gone an amazing 71-33, including a spectacular 33-14 on the road (this from a team that couldn’t win a road game in its winning World Series appearances in 1987 and 1991).
Something happened. The Twins seemed to have a lot of potential on the mound. Perhaps the combination on Santana, Radke and Liriano could keep them in games long enough to steal a fair number of wins.
Things looked a little better when Liriano started looking like a Cy Young candidate and Radke came out of an early season funk and started to win. For the most part, Santana had been very steady.
But then, Carlos Silva’s sinker was defying gravity and opposing batters were finding the seats almost at will. Kyle Lohse was his inconsistent, immature self. Francisco Liriano’s unhitable slider had apparently torn something loose in his pitching elbow (the same injury that turned former Twins’ phenom Roger Erickson into just another pitcher). Longtime Twin Brad Radke’s shoulder finally broke. The master of control was throwing his fastball at a blazing 82 mph.
ALL this happened and they were still winning.
But, they were 12 games behind Detroit. Not only were they so far behind the Tigers, to catch them, they’d have to climb over the defending champion (and favorites to repeat) Chicago White Sox.
Then they were winning, but they couldn’t gain any ground on the Tigers. They gradually closed in on the ChiSox, but the team from Detroit was SO good.
The Twins won a few more and we started having dreams about a possible wild card berth in the playoffs. Sure it was a long shot, but there was hope.
Something happened about June 8. Justin Morneau started hitting like the Twins thought he could. He even started to catch the ball at first base. Mauer continued to play well behind the plate, but those stinging line drives to the gaps were few and far between.
Almost unnoticed, a trend was starting to develop. If the Twins got a decent performance from their patched together starting rotation, they almost always won the game. The set-up men were giving Joe Nathan a chance to save the win...and he almost always did.
Michael Cuddyer, a player without a position for several years, established himself as a dependable hitter and RBI producer. He also proved to be a more than adequate right fielder who frequently prevented runners from taking the extra base.
Castillo, Bartlett and Punto became a cohesive defensive infield unit. Not only that, they provided unexpected offensive firepower. Tyner, White and whoever else played left field acquitted themselves admirably and filled in for the oft injured Shannon Stewart.
Gold glover Torii Hunter was off to a slow start and went down with an injury. Lew Ford filled in. Morneau stopped hitting home runs in mid August. Hunter returned and took over. He carried the team through September.
Something happened about June 8. The Twins became a TEAM. No Matter what happens in the playoffs, this season was something special.
How ‘Bout Those Twins!
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