Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmastime in Crockett

After a convivial send-off from the French Legation Museum (thanks again to Noel Freeze, its director, for her kindness and enthusiasm for our crazy project), we find ourselves this evening 190 miles north-east of Austin, in Crockett, Texas. We are staying at the wonderful Warfield House B&B, which is a veritable explosion of pre-Christmas cheer:

This is stage running grande luxe! Ten runners will toe the start line tomorrow in Moscow - 4 French, 2 Swiss, 2 American, a Dutch and a German. A leisurely 9:30am start time is dictated by our 7:30am breakfast seating. Quite the vacation!

Thanks again for support received from Rogue Running, Austin Runners Club and the FLM. Our European running guests are having a truly unique experience.

Napoleon Ultra Day 0

At least eight of the field are now assembled in Austin - race starts tomorrow in Moscow! Much French currently being spoken chez nous.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Austin Fit Magazine

Super piece about Napoleon Ultra by our good friend and excellent writer Leah Nyfeler. Find it at the Austin Fit website

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Napoleon Ultra - 3 days to go

Thanks to Rogue Running - to Erik, John, Chuck, and especially to Ruth and Carolyn - for all their Ultra-fantastic Napoleonic help and support. They have equipped our little army with a table for food, a cooler for water, and snappy drawstring Nike bags for our sweaty runners' clothes.

Good people!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lightnin' Hopkins and Crockett, Texas

Five days from now, the Napoleon Ultra heads off to our "base camp" in Crockett, 190 miles north-east of Austin.  An interesting sidenote is that Sam Lightnin' Hopkins frequently played there back in the day.  Lightnin' Hopkins was one of the classic blues figures my father introduced me to as a young kid, along with the likes of Brownie Terry, Sonnie McGee, Sonny Boy Williamson and Leadbelly.

According to the Houston Chronicle: 
Sam Hopkins was born in 1912 to a sharecropping family in Centerville, a few farms west of Crockett. His grandfather was a slave who hanged himself. His father, Abe, was a ruffian murdered after an argument over a card game.

In the 1930s Hopkins crisscrossed East Texas, playing for hat money in Buffalo, Brenham, Palestine, Leona and Crockett. On Camp Street, Crockett's hot entertainment district that somehow circumvented the county's prohibition on liquor, Hopkins found opportunity in music.

Hopkins served on a road gang for gambling and wrote up the experience in Penitentiary Blues. It was a song sung by many on Camp Street, where vice raids were commonplace. "When the police went in the front door, the gamblers were jumpin' all out the windows."
Conveniently, the jailhouse was down the street.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Groveton, Texas

The first stage of the upcoming Napoleon Ultra on December 1 will finish in Groveton, Texas.  Like much of Texas back in the early years of the state, Groveton has some pretty interesting history:

From the Cameron Herald, 2 May 1907

Shooting at Groveton

Last Friday, R. O. Kinley, an attorney, shot Texas State Ranger J. D. Dunaway six times. He also shot ex-county attorney Rabb, which he claimed was an accident. Neither man was killed on the spot. The shooting is an outgrowth of the killing of a Houston detective some time ago at Groveton.

Texas Governor Campbell had sent several rangers to Groveton to preserve order. Dunaway sent a masterfully understated telegram to the Governor saying: "Riot stopped. I am shot all to pieces. Everything quiet."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Napoleon Ultra starts in 2 weeks

Although I have directed a few running races before, the experience of directing a multi-day stage race is a new one for me.  I conceived the idea of a Napoleon commemoration run years ago, and was originally planning to run it alone and unsupported from Moscow to Paris, Texas.  But after observing first-hand the great and stylish job done by three of my French friends and stage race directors J-B Jaouen, Patrick Bonnot and Dominique Chaillou, I decided to try hosting an event of my own - something unique, quirky and fun. I hope it turns out to be so.

There's a huge amount of work involved in getting ready for this type of adventure.  The good news is that I know almost all of the dozen runners well; they are experienced and good natured, and hopefully they will be forgiving and tolerant when the inevitable glitches arise.  Apart from concern about logistics, the biggest stress is fear of traffic accident and/or police intervention. Hopefully it will all go swimmingly.

Yesterday was spent arranging our send off festivities with the nice people at the French Legation Museum, Austin's oldest building.  On November 30, after meeting and introducing the runners, we will leave from the Museum and head to "base camp" in Crockett. The run from Moscow to Paris will take 7 days - 230 miles averaging 35 miles per day - from December 1 - 7. We stop along the way at  Palestine, Athens, Canton and Sulphur Springs.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Outer Banks Marathon

Sunday will be my first true road marathon in three years. It has also been three decades since I was last in North Carolina's Outer Banks, where the Wright brothers took mankind's first flight.

Tomorrow morning I am scheduled to speak at the runners' expo. Then at 7:20am on Sunday, the marathon gets underway. I feel good, despite a sore hamstring which I managed to tie in knots two weeks ago in Suffolk. The weather is forecast to be perfect. I only need to get to the finish line in a reasonable time to qualify for the 2013 Comrades Marathon in South Africa. Things feel good - very relaxed and enjoying the trip.