Ryan Welton

Sports + Digital + Music + Life

Category Archives: my journey

Runners blog: smoky skies a reason to take my long run inside

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The plan was to run around Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City, 9.73 miles to prove to myself that my legs are ready for the OKC Memorial Marathon half on April 29.

Mother Nature had other ideas.

If it had been cold, rain or some combo thereof, I would have powered through it. However, these were wildfires in northwest Oklahoma — and the smoke blew into the city.

Friday night, Oklahoma City looked like fallout central for a large volcano. Hazy. Smoky. Tough to breathe.

My little run? Not so important.

First-responders were working their tails off in Dewey County and Roger Mills County. Homes burned. Cattle was lost, as was a human life.

Nevertheless, I didn’t want to run outside in compromised air, not two weeks before my half. The air quality was mostly better the next morning, but the Oklahoma wind was blowing at 40-50 mph.

Ridiculous.

So, I hit the treadmill at the Northside OKC YMCA for 10 miles. And came out a-ok.

Treadmill running is b-o-r-I-n-g. Zzzz.

No foot pain. Legs were a little tight. And I was good-to-go the next day.

I’m ready for another year, more and more convinced that even running novices (moderate novices) overtrain for half-marathons. They’re not that hard if finishing is your main thing.

Finishing faster? That’s a whole other thing — but keeping the legs and feet fresh these next two weeks is priority No. 1.

3 weeks until Oklahoma City half + Redbud Classic

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We’re headed down the homestretch now. Three weeks to go until my third half-marathon in Oklahoma City, and my fourth time participating in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon event overall.

But first, it was Redbud Classic weekend in the city, and I’m a board member, which means I volunteered. Usually, I’d add “all weekend” to that, but we canceled the bicycle event this year due to ice.

That’s right. Wintry precipitation in Oklahoma.

In April.

However, the weather was perfect for runners on Sunday: 48 degrees, cloudy and moist. Ideal.

And this was my third and final year to serve on the board. It’s been a real honor. I’m excited to run this event next year!

As for this weekend, I did my long run Saturday. Nearly five miles in 43-degree weather.

In April.

It’s not my coldest run to-date. That would have been my Alexandria, Virginia, run when I visited my girlfriend’s sister and brother-in-law. I ran a trail out that way in 38-degree temps.

And then tonight (Monday), I did a quick two miles to focus on form and speed. Finished in under 24:00, which is well ahead of my corral time of 12:30.

I should move up and run faster with the fast peeps.

The rest of the week will be focused on short work, honing in on form, posture, good foot strikes and maintaining this breathing technique that I believe has really been helping. The technique is simple. I focus much more on breathing out than sucking in oxygen.

I find that I feel more energized when I focus on ridding my body of CO2.

Maybe I’m crazy.

Alas, I’d like to run another 3 and a 2-miler this week before doing 9.73 around Lake Hefner this weekend. That’s my final big test to ensure my body is up for a half-marathon challenge.

Where I find my digital inspiration

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I had a coffee with a friend of mine a couple months back, and we discussed our careers and digital and marketing and social media, and we discussed the things and people who inspire.

We’re close to the same age. We both work in TV news. And I think we both are pretty danged sharp with ambitions to maintain our edge.

I thought about sending him a note with all of this, but then I thought, “Are you crazy? This is perfect fodder for a blog.” (I’ll send him the link though!)

And then we (both) had lots of big news to cover, such as severe weather, wildfires and this week’s Oklahoma teacher walkout. I’m also involved with the Redbud Classic as part of its board of directors, and I recently accepted a spot on the JayMac board of directors for the University of Oklahoma, my alma mater. Actually, I accepted that months ago and have yet to be able to attend a meeting with the flu getting me last go-round.

All of this has me super excited and sounds like a humblebrag, except that I have to admit: I work hard and go go go, and I’ll eventually get really tired tired tired and need to recharge. And when I need to recharge, I really need to recharge. I need sleep. I need healthy food. I need lots of water (or a couple beers). I need to run. I need to meditate. I need to create.

And I need inspiration.

I wrote about my passion for running recently, so now I’ll tell you about my inspirations. These are the people who pick me up on a regular basis.

My original digital sensei was Gary Vaynerchuk. I met him at Google’s New York City offices back in 2016 as part of this group I belonged to called The Conference Board. Although Gary is famous for selfies with fans, I didn’t ask for one because I’m a bit shy and embarrassed to ask, and I was genuinely satisfied getting to meet him and ask him questions. There were about 15 of us in the room, and we peppered him with questions.

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Jeremy Smerd, Executive Editor of Crain’s New York Business hosts Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO at VaynerMedia for Too Good To Fail at Internet Week HQ on Day 2 of Internet Week 2015 in New York May 19, 2015. Insider Images/Andrew Kelly (UNITED STATES)

One digital communications professional worked for a firm that sells military equipment, and she asked how social media could be used to market a B-2 bomber, for example — and he proceeded to tell her. And he was absolutely right. What’s crazy is that he’d be the first to admit, as founder and owner of Vayner Media, that not even half of his big-name clients go all in on digital content as he’d wish they did. I say that to say: not even Gary Vee’s proclamations were likely enough to cause that pro’s boss to consider Instagram as a platform for telling stories about B-2 bombers.

But Gary goes all in, and his content is fantastic. His books are useful. And I’ve consumed them all to the point that nothing he’s saying in 2018 is new to me. I’m pretty sure I could write Gary Vee fan fiction at this point. Mostly, I listen to the “GaryVee Audio Experience” podcast or watch his YouTube videos. But if you don’t know this guy and you need the basics for how to do digital or entrepreneurship in 2018, spend time consuming all his content.

And then do.

This just happens to be his most recent video. I went to his channel to find one that epitomizes his personality, and I didn’t need to look far. This is quintessential Gary.

What makes Vaynerchuk especially inspiring to me is that his philosophies on life and the way he treats people are aligned with the values to which I aspire. It’s basically: work hard, be self-aware and be kind. And that’s it.

However, he’s not the digital personality I’m most into right this second.

That would be Casey Neistat.

Casey is much less tactical in terms of what he tells you and much more tactical in what he shows you. If you’re not familiar with Casey, he’s a videographer who had an HBO show and then became a YouTube star with 9.2M subscribers, many of which were earned when he started daily vlogging a few years ago.

It helps that he’s a fantastic videographer and storyteller.

He’s a stellar digital marketer because he understands the need for delivering content often. To the extreme. Quantity IS important.

Casey Neistat

Casey Neistat

The inspiration is in seeing him create this content day after day after day, knowing full well that he accomplishes other things in life and business, enjoying it and understanding that there is as much magic in consistent content creation as there is in the high-level art that is his videography.

What you want to learn then is: what are the efficiencies in shooting, writing, production and — heck — life that can allow you to achieve at such a high level? I get that from other folks as you’ll read here momentarily, but I digress.

Casey Neistat has a tremendous energy, and he has started a new daily vlog called 368, named for a collaborative space he’s opening for YouTubers and others in New York City. It’s short for 368 Broadway, which is in lower Manhattan. I don’t know exactly what it will entail exactly, but Neistat’s is a brand I trust to offer entertainment and video inspiration.

I’ve seen two episodes so far, and it feels a little more like a digital-TV hybrid, as in: what if Casey’s daily vlogs were made for episodic television. Here’s the first episode:

Another inspiration as a fellow named Tim Ferriss, best known as a podcaster and author, who gained fame writing the book ‘4-Hour Workweek,’ ‘4-Hour Body‘ and most recently ‘Tribe of Mentors.’ I own the latter and have read some of the two former. ‘Tribe of Mentors’ is a fantastic encyclopedia of life advice from hundreds of successful people in a wide variety of occupations.

And that’s what Ferriss’s podcast is about: breaking down big concepts into bite-sized chunks for self improvement, tactics that people can do each and every day. And in my case, I pick and choose what I can and want to apply in my own life. For example, he turned me on to mushroom coffee. Sure, it was an advertisement, but Ferriss talked a lot about Four Sigmatic’s mushroom coffee “lighting you up like a Christmas tree.”

Let’s be real. I love me some coffee, but the primary appeal is that it wakes your ass up.

I tried the coffee, and it was fantastic. It even tasted good, and I didn’t expect mushroom coffee to taste anything beyond gross.

Tim Ferriss

My favorite episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast ever was his interview with Terry Crews, former NFL player, actor and author of the book, ‘Manhood: How to Be a Better Man — or Just Live with One.’ I won’t delve into it much, but Crews became one of my favorite people after listening to him talk for 45 minutes. Fantastic human being.

So, as you’ve been able to glean, I mostly listen to podcasts and watch YouTube. I don’t do a lot of television, and while I read books more than I do watch TV, I don’t do either all that much. On the other hand, I do listen to audio books on Audible. My two most recent selections have been “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance and “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain.

My belief is: consume content how you’d like, and don’t let anybody tell you that watching videos or listening to audio books is inferior. The grand arbitrage in 2018 is time and latching onto anything that can help us save it while at the same time doing more.

Speaking of podcasts, my first one was “WTF,” the vehicle that re-launched Marc Maron‘s career. To be perfectly honest, I rarely listen to his interviews. I mostly like his monologues before the main event.

I also listen to several other podcasts on the regular, including “Marketing School” with Neil Patel and Eric Siu, “ProBloggeer Podcast” with Darren Rowse, “The Life Coach School” with Brooke Castillo, the “YouTube Creators Hub Podcast” with Dusty Porter and “Reliable Sources” with Brian Stelter. Each one of these podcasts fits a pocket of my life and my interests. They get heard in the car during my commute to work each morning.

Likewise, there are a lot of other YouTube channels I follow pretty religiously, including one from an up-and-comer named Amy Landino. Her primary expertise is vlogging, as evidenced by the book that made her famous, ‘Vlog Like A Boss: How To Kill It Online with Video Blogging.’ However, her channel is mostly focused on tactics that help you become more productive. Work productive. Life productive.

Amy is a more tactical version of another digital marketer I like named Marie Forleo. Both refer to their channels as “X-TV,” as in “Amy TV” and “Marie TV.” Forleo used to be much more tactical in her content relative to business and marketing, but I’m sensing that she’s shifting to more of an Oprah-like personality that’s directed much more toward women.

So, I’m way more Team Amy at this moment.

There are several YouTube-centric vlogs I follow, including channels from “Video Creators,” “Video Influencers,” “TubeBuddy,” and a pair of channels from Nick Nimmin and Brian G. Johnson. All of it is super educational for anybody interested in creating video content meant to grow an audience.

I’m also a pretty regular viewer of Peter McKinnon’s fine work on YouTube. The best way I can think of to describe him is as the Canadian version of Casey Neistat. What both he and McKinnon have in common is that they’re tremendous videographers.

Anyway, I don’t spend all my time consuming this content. I listen to it during commutes or watch it while I’m unwinding from the day. Most of the books I buy from folks who inspire me are ones that I use as resource guides or for when I need a kick in the butt. For example, I think I need to spend a few minutes this weekend with Vaynerchuk’s ‘Crushing It’ just so I can get back on track after a long week in the newsroom.

Ten minutes of inspiration from folks who know what they’re doing in the digital space is all you need.

I’d love to know who or what inspires you!

I’d love for you to follow me on Twitter (@ryanwelton) or subscribe to my YouTube channel. Please – and thank you!

 

 

 

Runner’s blog: How I got started running and why I love it

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The minute I felt it, I knew my back was screwed. At least for awhile.

I used to get sciatica pretty bad in my early 30s, and then I didn’t get it again much until the past year. Yet I don’t know for sure that the thing keeping me from running this past weekend was sciatica. It might be muscle spasms of some sort. It might be arthritis. If I check WebMD, I’m sure it will be cancer. I don’t think it’s anything terribly serious since, after 48 hours, the pain and discomfort has largely subsided.

However, it’s mighty inconvenient.

I have a half-marathon to run in five weeks.

Here’s the reality: Come April 29, I’m traveling 13.1 miles, even if I crawl it. Last year, I over-trained in my most humble of opinion, and while I bested my time from the previous year by five minutes, I also wasn’t sure I’d be able to run it at all, as late as the night before, when I was pounding Advil because of foot pain.

Mind over matter. Good chemistry over both.

But I’m not messing around with an achy back. I spent my Saturday largely on the couch with an ice pack and a fair amount of ibuprofen, before I was told by my chiropractor sister-in-law that I needed to be walking. That led me to go to the grocery store, and I freely admit that the walking helped.

Sitting bad. Walking good. I guess it keeps the joints lubricated.

Nevertheless, I wanted to get some kind of value out of a wasted weekend. I say “wasted” because I’m not the type of person who sits around and does nothing. This was a wasted weekend, but yet it was valuable because rest and recovery are valuable. They’re absolutely necessary, and if I’m guilty of anything in my journey to improve as a runner, it’s that I’ve taken the running part of it seriously but not any of the rest of it.

The recovery. The stretching. The strength training. The diet. Documenting it all.

I’m the Allen Iverson of running. “Practice?”

I’m the anti-Joel Embiid of of running. I don’t “trust the process.”

That’s two 76ers references in one post. Impressive.

I joked in one of my recent YouTube videos that I’m not a runner, I just like to run. That makes no sense. Of course I’m a runner. Look at all them selfies!

But I’m a slow runner compared to most. I’m really rollin’ when I average a 11:30-12:00 mile. Most of the time, I hover around 13:00.

All that matters is that I started running.

And I got started running nearly four years ago when I started walking.

And I started walking because of work.

I worked in the corporate communications department for Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores. They’re super passionate about supporting Children’s Hospitals across the country, and especially the Children’s Miracle Network. I worked closely with the Love family on this. Their support is genuine. They’ve raised $20M over the years for this terrific organization.

I did NOT get to meet Marie Osmond. That would have been cool. I would have told her of my love for the song, “There’s No Stopping Your Heart.” Seriously, I would have.

Anyway, CMN had this new thing called a Miracle Marathon, where folks would walk a mile each day over the course of a month, eventually reaching 27.2 miles, which is one mile more than an actual marathon.

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Our team walked together each morning, a walking morning meeting of sorts. I was into it, even buying a pair of walking shoes from Amazon so that I could walk without wearing out my dressier shoes. And that walking turned into lunchtime walking, which turned into running.

I think the thing that really made running click with my personality is the idea that I could compete on a regular basis, and it was all on me. Yes, I’m referring to 5Ks and 10Ks, not that I didn’t know they existed. It’s just that I never really put it together in my head that, theoretically, I could go to any city, anywhere, and run their event. By myself if need be.

The sheer solitary nature of running is appealing to me as an introvert.

I don’t want to run with the pack.

I want to run by my ********* self.

Once this clicked, running clicked, at least mentally.

Except for the running part. The one-leg-in-front-of-the-other part of it. The slowness. The heavy breathing. The out-of-shapedness. It took some time for the sport of running to click physically with me.

I attacked the sport (yes, it’s a sport) the same way one would attack eating an elephant: one bite at a time. I couldn’t run a full mile without stopping at least once. I might have been able to run three total, if I took enough breaks. However, I was determined to give it a go, setting a goal for myself to run the 5K at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in April 2015.

That causes me to chuckle a bit in 2018, the idea that I was kind of intimidated by a 5K. Alas, while I laugh about it relative to me, I’m hyper-sensitive about that relative to other people, folks who might feel inferior because they can’t run a mile much less a 5K. In my eyes, anybody who decides they want to run, to take a serious stab at the sport, is embarking on the holiest of personal efforts.

Running is about improving physically.

Running is about sharpening mentally.

Running is a competition of one: You vs. yourself.

And, truth be told, you could substitute walking for running, or make it swimming or any activity that gets the blood pumping. I find all these quests to be sacred.

However, I chose running.

I finished my first 5K in 2015, the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon 5K, in 43 minutes. It’s my slowest race 5K to-date with my best being 33 minutes. I have yet to break the 30-minute mark, but I truly think if the weather were just right and I had an extra bounce in my step and the right tunes, I could break 30.

Truly, I need to be doing more 5Ks. They satisfy the itch to get out there among other runners and test yourself.

For my first one, I was truly worried about finishing it, and was slightly embarrassed that I wasn’t able to run the whole thing — that is, until I realized that maintaining a gallop isn’t required. You can stop and walk for a bit if you feel like it.

That’s right. Other people do that, too. Heck, nowadays, I run races where packs of good runners walk often to catch their wind and drink a Gatorade.

And just like that, a little more shame peeled away. Shame is everywhere on this planet, and the more we can rob it of its power, the better.

Alas, I thought, “I can do this!”

Of course, the competitor in me wanted to finish a 5K faster, much faster than 43 minutes. There are ultimately limits to how fast I’d be able to go. I’m 47 years old, and I wasn’t fast when I was 15. It’s funny. I asked a friend of mine, a fantastic runner, about speed. He told me it’s shockingly simple. You just have to run faster. Your body will get used to it after awhile.

He’s several years older than me and in killer shape.

I don’t think it’s that simple.

At first, I trained by running the treadmill at my local YMCA in Norman, Okla. Eventually, I took it outside and started running around my block. Five times around is exactly three miles. Ten spins around the ol’ block is just about a 10K, and I guesstimate that 22 times around constitutes a half marathon.

However, I graduated from that quickly. I plotted a course in my neighborhood that runs up and down Robinson Street. I started running to the beautiful University of Oklahoma campus and back. After awhile, I started running at Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City. One trip around the dam is exactly 9.73 miles per Map My Run from last year.

The idea that I’d run 9.73 at any point with only a couple of walking stops was ludicrous to me in 2015.

And yet there I was in 2016, preparing for my first half-marathon.

For the record, I didn’t follow a plan or run with a training pack, although I did run a Red Coyote event at the Oklahoma City Zoo that was really enjoyable. I’d use apps like Map My Walk or Run to keep track of my miles, and I’d loosely review half-marathon plans to gauge whether I was doing too much or too little.

I tried to be sure to listen to my body religiously, to the point of not taking Advil when I was sore because I needed to listen to my body. I’m not convinced that’s a smart thing because NSAIDs help reduce inflammation, which I understand to be a good thing. I’m torn.

Eventually, I ran ten miles one weekend and then almost 12 on another, and it damn near killed me. I was gassed by the end of the run, walking into the 7-Eleven at Robinson and Flood and Norman and guzzling a Gatorade right there on the spot. Luckily, I carried some means of paying for the product, lest my running habit land me in the pokey.

In retrospect, two runs beyond ten miles for a half-marathon was overkill. Here’s why: whether it be a 5K, a half-marathon or probably a full marathon, if the event is worth its salt, then you’re going to be filled with adrenaline.

In the case of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, you’re also filled with a lot of emotion, especially if you’re from the Sooner State and happen to know anybody impacted by the terrorist attack of April 19, 1995. The emotion plus the adrenaline is easily worth three miles.

Add the cheering fans and drumlines and the gorilla along Gorilla Hill, and it might be worth five miles!

I recall at my first half-marathon in 2016 overhearing several people say they didn’t train at all. They’re just running 13.1 miles cold. Mind you, they’re in good shape. But still.

The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, as an event, cemented my love for running and absolutely set the bar for me as to what a great event should feel like. My first half-marathon in 2016 ended with a time of 2:53:00.

My goal was to be under 3:00:00, and I did that.

My next goal was to eclipse 2:53:00.

And I did. 2:48:xx.

Half-marathon, Year 2 disappointed me quite a bit, initially, because I was pacing at 2:30:xx for the first half of the run. I used my MapMyRun app, and I saw that I was running 11:30 miles from the starting line to the state Capitol. That’s pretty good.

But that gave way to 13:00 and 14:00 miles once the cheerleaders and drumlines and local cheerleaders faded away, by the time you’re running across Northwest 50th Street. The last 4-5 miles of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon half-marathon route are pretty sparse. That’s when runners need the encouragement the most.

If I may, a note about encouragement: The folks who cheer runners on are a big damned deal, and I never would have guessed that before I ran my first half. I had no idea how helpful it was, but that encouragement is powerful.

Nevertheless, I finished with a time better than the year before, and that was the goal. So, I’ll celebrate that. I’ll also recognize this: it felt significantly easier the second year than the first.

What was different?

Well, I was suffering from foot pain toward the end of April, probably from over-training, although I hadn’t trained as much in Year 2 as I had in Year 1. I did a 9.73-mile run around Hefner and called it a day as far as my longest training run. The pain was so bad that I was not 100 percent sure I’d be able to run the half, as late as the night before.

The other thing that was different was my carb loading and night-before routine. First, carb loading is real and effective for a long run. Basically, you eat as much Italian as you can stand between Thursday and Saturday before a Sunday event. Fill up those carb stores to the max. Second, Kristi and I got a hotel downtown, blocks from the race, so I didn’t have to wake up at 3:30 in the morning to eat breakfast and then drive downtown and park.

Again, that’s a secret for me that wasn’t a secret to anybody else. Of course it helps to stay close to the race, especially if it’s big. I get two extra hours of sleep and don’t have to expend as much energy between home and the course. Our choice was the Hampton Inn, and we snuggled in by 9 p.m. the night before and watched a re-run of Johnny Carson from about 1975. Back before 1980, Johnny was on for 90 minutes every night, and the absolute best era for Johnny was the 1970s.

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I brought my pre-race breakfast, too, and stuck it in the fridge: Waffles with breaded chicken breast and syrup. The waffles are frozen and the chicken breast, too. It was all soggy after I microwaved it the next morning, but my body couldn’t tell any difference in terms of energy. I needed that protein, those carbohydrates and all that sugar.

It fueled me.

And that takes me back to today, recovering from a tweaked back and a sore ass. Aging is not for the timid, but stretching and other techniques for self-care are available to the willing. I just can’t run and run and run without training and stretching and massaging, foam rolling and plenty of rest.

My goal for the 2018 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon half-marathon is anything below 2:48:00. My confidence isn’t real high; I’m 15 pounds heavier than I was last year.

However, I’m also a year wiser, and maybe there is something to not training as much. Maybe I’ll be fresher.

Besides, like my in-shape runner friend told me, “If you want to go faster, all you have to do is, well, go faster!”

Makes sense to me.

Basketball hoop dreams a nightmare to assemble

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We’re more than two months into the year, and I have a story to tell you about a Christmas present, a Christmas present that turned out to be the most challenging product assembly I’ve ever done.

We only got it all put together a couple of weeks ago.

It’s the Spalding Angled 54″ Portable Acrylic Basketball Hoop, and Kristi got it at Academy for her daughter. It’s one of those presents that’s for the kiddo but that the adults (namely, me) will use from time to time. Or a lot.

And by all accounts, it’s a fantastic little hoop for your driveway.

However, I have two major pieces of advice for you if you get this: Have somebody else put it together, and weigh it down, especially if you live in a windy place like Oklahoma. By my estimation, it took 20-30 hours to put the hoop together, complicated by the fact that I ended up making multiple trips to Home Depot, the first of which was for nuts and bolts that fit properly, the second of which was to buy two ground anchors and a ratchet strap to hold it down. The nuts and bolts included in the Spalding system mostly fit correctly, but there were a couple of exceptions.

The assembly documentation was awful. Dreadful. If you decide that you’re insane enough to put this together yourself, you’ll want to watch YouTube videos, especially this guy’s:

I don’t know who David Battle is, but he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for this video. I pretty much, maybe literally, love this man. He’s what YouTube is all about: he documented his work, and he has provided value to more than 168,000 people who are asking themselves,”Why the **** did I decide to put this thing together myself?”

He single-handedly kept me from pulling out all my gray hairs starting in late December. While the work only lasted 20-30 hours, it took us longer to finish this project over time mostly because we went through several deep freezes here in Oklahoma and then several wildfire-inducing windy days. I wasn’t going to torture myself in 19-degree weather or a 40-mph headwind trying to finish this SOB.

However, with the instructions in hand, I watched Battle’s video over and over and over starting on New Year’s Eve. He made it seem easy; his manner is extraordinarily easy-going (and he kind of sounds like Norm MacDonald!). But he explained the assembly much better than the instructions did.

Battle assembled his Spalding hoop himself (and did it barefoot!). However, he noted in the video that it’s better to have two people. I’d say unless you’re really strong and coordinated, you have to have two people as well as a mid-sized ladder or sawhorse on which to balance the hoop assembly while you’re working on it.

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It started out simply enough. The base is pretty easy to put together, and with a little help to angle it just right, the pole fits in nicely. The kickback board didn’t come with enough nuts or bolts, but I had all but one, so I don’t think I’m going to lose the kickback board on that account.

The tough part of this assembly is the neck and backboard, and when I say “tough,” I should note: we got it done. This is not an impossible task, but I watched the above video and deciphered Spalding’s documentation repeatedly before I did each step. What I’d say is this: it’s way harder than it had to be. If only Spalding’s instructions were worth a hoot.

The hoop cost $225 after tax, but at $50 per billable hour, it cost more than $1,000 when accounting for time. Part of me considered invoicing Spalding for my time, but in retrospect, I got a blog post out of it.

Kidding aside, we finally stood this puppy up, and it was hunched over — so, I went back to YouTube and watched as many Spalding-related videos I could find to look at different angles of the setup to see what I did wrong, and I went back to Battle’s video and figured it out. I had a couple of the brackets in the wrong hole.

Fixed that and stood it up. Woo hoo! We can play basketball. Right?

Well, in Oklahoma, during late February and early March, the winds start to kick up at 40-50 mph, and I quickly realized that a severe storm beyond a garden variety boomer was going to knock this hoop over or pick it up altogether. For what it’s worth, we did put the wet cement or sand or whatever that mess is into the bottom of the base.

That base is not going to hold it down in Oklahoma: I promise you.

So, I went back to YouTube and found this video from another Dave, Dave O.

Brilliant! Two ground anchors and a ratchet strap. After watching the video, I immediately sprinted to Home Depot and asked the good man to find me these wares. Then I installed them before dark and kept shooting.

I even added a cinder block.

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And I realized…I hadn’t tightened my nuts nearly enough. In fact, one bolt came off completely, although I don’t know whether it was a Spalding original or one of the scab replacements I bought from Home Depot. So, Kristi bailed me out and called a local hoop installer, who came out and tightened our work up for FREE! Left his card just in case Kristi needed any other repair or construction work done.

Think his name was Coby Sharp with CSS Custom Designs. I didn’t get to meet him, but what a smart move to do that for somebody. Good dude.

As of St. Patty’s Day night, the goal only stands 7-feet tall, but it’s perfect height for Kristi’s daughter to shoot.

And it’s perfect height for me to dunk!

And I’ve provided you with a little bit of value: Forget the Spalding documentation. Watch the two videos in this post, and you’ll be fine.

Cool getaway for cheap? Beavers Bend State Park brings the beauty

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Oklahoma is a much more topographically diverse state than most folks think, although I love referring to John Fullbright’s “All The Time In The World:”

Central Oklahoma
Is my land, it’s my country
Eastern Oklahoma is a beautiful sight
Nothern Oklahoma
Might as well be Kansas
Never go to Southern Oklahoma at night

To be fair to Southern Oklahoma, however, both the southwestern part of the state and its Wichita Mountains and the southeastern corner and its Ouachita National Forest are devastatingly beautiful. We just spent the weekend in the latter, at Beavers Bend State Park, near Broken Bow.

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Beavers Bend State Park is a 1,300-acre park built upon a Choctaw settlement and located along Broken Bow Lake, founded in 1937. It was not named for an animal, either. It was named after John T. Beavers, who is a Choctaw intermarried citizen according to Wikipedia, although I have to admit that I don’t know what that means exactly. Maybe he wasn’t a Choctaw but married one?

From Oklahoma City, it’s a 4-hour drive to Broken Bow as the crow flies. If you’re driving and plan to stop for dinner, you’ll want to plan for 5-6 hours. You get to wind through the landscapes south of McAlester, along the Indian Nation Turnpike, through Stringtown (home of Reba McEntire) and through Hugo, where I took my first job out of college in 1994. Even though we left mid-afternoon on a February Friday, we didn’t get there until almost 11.

We took our time. I’ll explain.

Also, get you a good deal. Ours came via Groupon, and it landed us a riverfront cabin. Check this out: We got a cabin for four (there were only two of us) for $175, and that was for the entire weekend. Kristi found it via the Groupon site, and while the offer came during the off-season, it was good through May. We didn’t pick April or May because it’s a hyper-busy time for both of us.

Besides, for the past two years, we’ve used this February seasonal state park jaunt to mark the end of winter and get our heads aligned with the onset of spring. When we went to Robbers Cave State Park in 2017, we lucked into a weekend with cloudy skies and about 50 degrees.

Cue up the same weather for 2018, just a bit southeast of last year’s destination.

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Check out this collection of nat-sound video I shot from my vacation to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Lots of water sounds for folks into ASMR, and it’s an all-around relaxing experience — on video as it is in person.

A big reason why that weather is perfect for a cabin stay, for me, is that by this time of year, I’m usually training for the Oklahoma City Memorial (Half) Marathon, and I love running in nature, in solitude.

However, the fact that we stayed at Robbers Cave last year and Beavers Bend this year leads to some opportunities to compare as well. Mostly, we both liked Robbers Cave a little better, and that could be for many reasons.

It was the first trip of its kind for us, together.

The cabins were a bit cozier.

And Robbers Cave had a pretty well-defined running trail, or at least an area where runners ran. When I asked one of the park clerks about a running trail, she said (and I’m not joking), “Running? Why would you want to do that?”

I get that a lot.

However, I was able to figure it out pretty easily. There are enough roads along the park that aren’t traveled too much such that a brisk walk can be turned into an easy run.

In terms of landscape and the look-and-feel of the outdoors, Beavers Bend and Robbers Cave are practically the same except for there being water at Beavers Bend due to its location next to Broken Bow Lake. Both are within the Ouachita National Forest, so to the eye, it truly looks the same.

Much like we did at Robbers Cave last year, Kristi and I mostly spent our time inside the cabin. We watched a couple movies, after I had gone for a run, and we mostly relaxed. We also made it a point to visit their gift store, which was much more substantive than anything I remembered at Robbers Cave. I even bought a few knick-knacks.

Also, we had been told about a winery and brewery in the area, although I had my own beer there. If we had more time, it would have been nice to visit the winery for sure. I’ve been trying to get more acclimated to the taste of wine and sophisticating my palate. We were told about this guy who gives patrons a ride to and from the winery for $5, and I don’t think he’s with Uber or Lyft. He’s just a dude who gives people rides from one place to the next and back for a little pocket change.

Likewise, there is a park restaurant near the cabins, within a walking distance, which is really nice. However, we cooked for ourselves instead. Kristi made some fantabulous tacos.

As I mentioned earlier, we took our sweet old time getting to the cabin, stopping in McAlester along the way and on the return trip home. Perhaps no other small Oklahoma town offers better food options than McAlester, which is chock-full of Italian restaurants due to the large number of Italian immigrants who moved there long ago. We chose Modo Mio Italian restaurant on the way down and Marilyn’s Cafe on the way back.

Anyway, we had a good time even if the weekend felt even shorter than our park trip from 2017. Time flies when you’re having fun!

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Back to Basic(s): Lots of people ‘cut the cord.’ I reattached. Here’s why.

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There are hundreds of stories of people who “cut the cord,” meaning that they eliminated cable and went to slimmer services or none at all. Some go to things like DirecTV Now, like I did, while others use Roku or some combination of antenna + Netflix + Hulu.

Originally, I went from Cox Communications to DirecTV.

And then I scaled back to DirecTV Now.

What I discovered in going with a digital-only service such as DirecTV Now was that my dependence on strong WiFi was pretty intolerable because I only had an average connection. It doesn’t feel that way when I surf the web or upload videos to YouTube. However, any time I wanted to watch, let’s say, “Big Brother,” it took DirecTV Now forever to open and get through an hour’s program.

And I could be sitting right next to my modem.

Not that I watch that much TV at all. You know my love for “Big Brother,” but aside from that, I watch “Amazing Race,” and a variety of other reality programs. I also watch the news, especially local news since I work in TV news.

I watch a lot of sports, especially baseball. Spring training just started this past week, I should mention.

And I have no patience for buffering.

Besides, I’d like to write more about television, and I have to look for any efficiency I can get. Financially, it’s a hit: $53 more per month than DirecTV Now. But if I actually watch it, then it’s worth it — and having a DVR is damned near worth the extra $53 because I want to watch things when I want to watch things. If I missed an episode of “Big Brother,” for example, I had to wait until the next day to watch it on the CBS app.

No bueno.

So, the reasons for re-attaching the cord were simple:

  1. Digital is still slow. There are things I like to watch, but even my home internet connection couldn’t keep me from spending minutes upon minutes buffering through basic programs.
  2. The DVR is convenient. I can watch when I want to, from the time the program starts to any time afterward. I don’t have to wait until the next day, like one does with these network apps.

And Cox’s Contour system setup could not possibly be more simple as well. Check out how their system box was set up:

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The cords are numbered. It’s beautiful. One goes from the wall to the Cisco box (the cable box). Another goes from that box to the TV, and one goes from the system’s outlet to the wall. Plus, there is a Cox Communications remote control.

This took me all of 5 minutes to put together.

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It’s as simple as following these instructions.

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And this is the screen you get. However, in my case, eventually, I got a message along with Error Code IA09 that said my system would not work at this time. What that error means is that you had another system established in your house before Cox, which requires their technicians to come out and re-install your cable.

That’s what I had to do.

So, two weeks ago, I scheduled Cox to come out to my house this past Saturday. The technician’s name was Rodney, I believe, and it was pouring rain outside. Cats and dogs and pigs, oh my! So much precipitation. Rodney stayed in the Cox vehicle until the rain let up a bit, at which time he entered my house and fixed all the cords while I made him a cup of coffee.

It was still 8 a.m. on a Saturday. Coffee, required.

Rodney was awesome and got everything set up, but he got rain all over my house, and so he graciously offered to waive the installation fee, which I gladly accepted. Truth be told, I’ve always been a fan of Cox’s cable system; just didn’t care for their Internet.

And now I have their cable system with AT&T Internet, the best of both home-tech worlds in suburban Oklahoma City as of March 2018.

So, now that I have cable back, what should I be watching? 

The story behind, “Dear OG&E,” & remembering the 2007 Oklahoma ice storm

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We had ice in central Oklahoma today, but I’m not sure we can call it an ice storm. Back in 2007, we had an ice storm.

And it was an ice storm of epic proportions.

I was in my third year of work at the ABC affiliate in Oklahoma City, and I spent my days writing stories and sending out alerts via email — digital tactics that were pre-Facebook. It’s bizarre to think about. There were no push alerts. There was no Facebook really, yet. Not for anybody but college students. Definitely no Twitter, no Instagram, no Snap.

We just wrote stories, posted video and sent out a lot of emails to subscriber lists.

It was late November. Freezing temps and a big patch of moisture converged on the Sooner State, and we knew it was coming. It dropped a ton of freezing precipitation, enough that trees in Norman bent over quickly. Ultimately, the city of Norman lost a bunch of historic trees — and those trees pulled out a bunch of electricity meter boxes from the sides of homes.

Everybody in central Oklahoma was without power, some for days.

Others for weeks.

I didn’t have electricity for two weeks. The station put me up at the nearby Best Western on Santa Fe and 63rd in Oklahoma City. I spent so much time at that hotel over the years that it’s officially my most-visited hotel, although the Omni in Dallas comes close. Editor’s note: I love the Omni in Dallas. Best. Hotel. Ever.

The reason I didn’t have electricity for so long was because the fallen tree pulled out my meter box. My electricity provider was backed up with thousands upon thousands of power issues, and my neighborhood was super low priority.

But I got homesick quickly.

One night, I skipped the hotel and drove back to Norman, determined to sleep in my own bed. It was 26 degrees in my house because it was 26 degrees outside, and I had no heat. I slept in my winter coat and a hoodie and pants and sweats and probably a gorilla costume. It was so damned cold, but I was in my own bed, and I was thrilled.

I got up the next morning and took the world’s quickest shower.

The whole experience led me to write a song called, “Dear OG&E,” which I posted to my YouTube channel. It’s gotten 3,300 or so views over the years, and it got the attention of some of OG&E’s communications team, whom I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know over the years while I worked at Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores. Fantastic people.

What made the video, however, wasn’t me or my creativity or even the timing of the song with the storm. Nope. It was my late cat, Finley, who meowed on cue at the end of the tune. Her timing was impeccable.

So, as Oklahoma dealt with its dose of winter Tuesday (with me now at the CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City, I should note), I shivered and bemoaned the fact that it’s not baseball season yet.

However, I didn’t complain.

It could have been a whole lot worse. Believe that!

 

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