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Guest Post: Gettting to know Dan Cass

By | August 20, 2014 1:15 am | 0 Comments


Photo by Eloise

By Larry Kisielewski

Editor’s note: Hey….I know this guy….

“Behind every good man, there is a good woman.”

An old phrase, definitely dated. Maybe, in today’s equality-obsessed and politically correct world, outdated. In some cases, it would be “Alongside every good man…” or even “Behind every good woman…”

You know his wife. She is definitely “out there.” She has been featured in all the local major media – on TV and radio, and in the newspaper when she wrote a regular column for the Erie Times when she was employed there. She is the originator and driving force behind one of the more popular local periodicals and one of the most popular 5K races, both coincidentally called “Her Times.” She also authors not one but two popular blogs on the internet.

He, on the other hand, prefers to remain low-key, contributing in his own right, but certainly no less important or interesting. I would like you to meet Dan Cass.

Daniel Lee Cass is the third child of Greenfield Township residents Jim and Donna Cass. He is sandwiched between older siblings Jeff and Rhonda and younger siblings Steven and Jodie. While attending Greenfield Elementary, Dan played Little League until 8th grade and wrestled for a year. In lieu of participatory sports, however, he preferred hunting. He learned from his dad and his two uncles, and this will be his 30th consecutive year for the annual family deer camp in the mountains.

He graduated from Seneca High School in 1988. In 1989, Heather Bruce and Dan were introduced by their respective cousins and went on a “first date” to the North East Cherry Festival. Dan went on to earn his degree as an electrician at Vo-Tech, and would occasionally run into Heather at Loblaws, where she worked while getting her marketing degree from Edinboro. They started dating steady and were wed in 1994.

Heather interned for a while at the Erie Zoo before working at the Times, and is now public communications director at Penn State Behrend. Dan was snapped up by Griffith Electric where he completed his apprenticeship and became a full-time employee. He left Griffith for Bay Harbor Electric, where he was employed for 10 years, the last five as head foreman.

He has been the head foreman at Arrow Electric out of Greenville since 2003. In this position, he has supervised a number of major local electrical projects, including Lowe’s, Sam’s Club, Giant Eagle, and Gannon University’s new 5-story dorm. He has also taught Arrow’s apprenticeship program for the last eight years. This work is worlds away from Dan’s first jobs, where from age 12 through high school, he baled hay every summer and worked as a butcher, doing everything from slaughter to wrapping. His current rise in management responsibility came with a price, however. Dan bemoans the fact that less hands-on electrical work is making his hands soft, although his firm handshake suggests otherwise.

Dan is not just a master electrician. He has learned carpentry from his brother Jeff and is proficient enough to tackle any major home improvement. In 1997, Dan and Heather moved into a ranch home in Harborcreek. Dan, his dad, and jeff added a second story with 16-foot cathedral ceilings, plus six feet of frontage and a porch. He is now in the process of re-finishing the entire interior before he moves on to the garage/man-cave expansion. The Cass’s 18’ x 36’ in-ground pool is a neighborhood oasis, providing both socialization and relaxation. Dan is truly a handy guy to have around.

Somewhere around 1995, Heather got into an exercise kick and, never doing anything halfway, it wasn’t too long before she coerced Dan to join her. This was before the kids, and by 1999 they were full-fledged runners. The Hash House Harriers were in stride about that time, and Dan and Heather joined Chuck Orton, Dale Werner, and their cohorts on their merry jaunts. (Bad visual: Dan in a red dress!)

Although he prefers 10Ks, Dan’s most recent run, the Waterford 5K, was an impressive 21:11. He has run ten marathons, lowering his PR from 4:15 in Cleveland in 2008 to 3:22 in Pittsburgh last year. He is planning to run both the Erie Marathon at Presque Isle and the Wineglass Marathon in Corning, NY later this year.

When the kids came along, a new dimension was added. First daughter Kelly, now 13, is the runner, and Dan frequently accompanies her on her cross country jogs, especially Jim Lang’s weekly Tuesday night 3-milers. Lauren, 11, is the gymnast/swimmer of the family.

Although short family runs are immensely enjoyable, Dan is still a long distance runner. His 1:31 Presque Isle Half marathon last month is further proof of his progress. He finished his first endurance run last October, and hopes to one day complete a 50-miler. He participated in last year’s 18-mile Barber Beast on the Bay, although Heather topped that with her One Tough Mudder this past May. When not competing, Dan tries to volunteer for ERC events, particularly the Turkey Trot, the marathon, and Her Times.

As the working day wraps up, Heather arrives home and Chef Dan has supper ready. It may be a roast or meatloaf or even a specialty from his smoker – anything from turkey to baked beans. Husband, father, electrician, carpenter, outdoorsman, athlete, volunteer, and chief cook. Now you know Dan Cass.

Dan Data

Pets – Sam the dog, and cats Ollie and Bella

Last vacation – five days in Florida: Universal, Disney, water parks

Dream vacation – the Grand Canyon; running past giant sequoias

Hobbies – hunting, fishing, hiking, home carpentry projects, his smoker

Music – 70’s and 80’s, rock/country

TV – cop shows

Website – not a computer guy

Motto – Always finish what you start.

Admires – LK: Who do you admire?

DC: My wife, Heather.

LK: Hmmm, good answer.

DC: No, really. She loves to do things for other people. I really love her.

Fantasies – Boston Marathon, a 50-miler, retirement

Charities – United Way / Young Leaders Club

Blood donor – Yes

Cool vehicle – company truck

Sports teams – Steelers, some Penguins

Running regimen – three days a week: two 8-milers, one 12-20 miler with hills and stretches

Motivation – competes with self

Scouts – a bit. Currently “Den father” for the girls

Last words – Thank you, race volunteers!

** Getting To Know You is reprinted with permission from the August 2014 Erie Runners Club newsletter.

Things I found — 8/14/14

By | August 14, 2014 1:39 am | 0 Comments

Worth Reading

Why running –no matter the distance — makes you live longer.

Want to find new routes, ward off injury, or stay safe? There’s an app for that.

Robin Williams had deep running roots.

New to running? Don’t make these 9 mistakes.

Need to incorporate some cross training? (Trust me, you do) Try this 8-minute medicine ball workout.


Funny Stuff

Context is everything. Here are 22 words that have a totally different meaning when you’re a runner.

T-shirt of the Week


Color Run well run

By | August 11, 2014 11:08 am | 0 Comments


All I heard from the moment The Color Run in Erie sold out (in record time for an Erie event) was “Where are they going to put 10,000 people in the city of Erie,” and “It’s going to be a mess,” and “Better get there early…or you’ll have to park two miles away.”

I’m happy to say that it was none of those things. It was probably one of the most well organized fun runs I’ve ever been to.

I didn’t personally pick up our packets, but my niece who went with my daughters to pick them up at the Millcreek Mall reported that it was fast & easy (as did all my Facebook friends who commented on it). The Color Run “store” there had some fun, reasonably-priced things — socks, sunglasses, etc. The sunglasses proved to be a worthy $5 investment as they were practically a necessity on race day (otherwise you would get colored cornstarch in your eyes!).

We got to the race a little later than I wanted to (as always!) — about 7:45 a.m., but we had no problem parking as the garages and surface lots all around the event were open and free (FREE! Try that in a big city). Volunteers pointed us into a ramp and we walked two blocks to the event where we headed right through Perry Square to the start line in front of the Court House.

We didn’t make it into the first wave, but I actually think that might have been better because as we ran through the color stations, the streets were covered…so you could pick some up and throw it at your friends or make color angels:

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As our wave waited in the corral, there was (as is common at many major “for fun” events) a guy pumping the crowd up…playing great music, getting everyone excited…giving a countdown and tossing down free stuff into the crowd.

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At the start line

One they let us loose, we ran up and turned west. We encountered our first color station — blue — less than a 1/2 mile into the race.

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We learned very quickly to cover our mouths with our shirts when we ran through a station. Kelly is shown just above. After this station, she took off and ran the rest of the way. My niece, Lauren and I walked the rest of the course.

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I’d say that 70 percent of the participants in The Color Run walked the course. You could run…but why? It wasn’t timed and I’m sure it was kind gross to get shot with the colored cornstarch if you were sweaty. That said, my girl Kelly raced the thing like there were awards. There weren’t (awards) and, as I said, it wasn’t timed.

There were a total of 5 color stations — blue, yellow, pink, purple, pink — on the course. They were easily identified by the inflatable colored arches across the road and, oh…yeah….a gigantic cloud of colorful “dust.”

It was pretty cool.

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Fun signs also announced the upcoming color station.

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At the finish (below) every runner received a packet of color for the finish line party.

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The party was a blast with a DJ, a charismatic “host” (how do I get that gig?) pumping the crowd up, and race staff on stage tossing chalk and Color Run swag into the crowd. There were beach balls being bounced around and water guns being sprayed.

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The highlight of the post-race party though, was the color toss when the DJ/host counted down & encouraged everyone to toss their colors into the air.

Here’s what it looked like from the outside:




And, here, is what it looked like on the inside:

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Why do I feel like this is a future glimpse of my girl at 18 at some rock concert?

There were also lots of photo opportunities — photo booths, photo ops…like this cool kaleidoscope you could shoot through:


All in all, it was a great event and it was very cool to see 10,000 people in downtown Erie having a good time doing something related to fitness.

I heard a lot of grumbling from “real” runners (and, let me remind you that you all started somewhere) that this wasn’t a “real” race (well, no, it wasn’t) and that these types of runs are stupid, but…here’s the thing: if this inspires one person to start running or walking or take steps to get fit — if only so they can participate in “stupid” races like this — well, then that’s still an awesome thing.

I also heard some criticism about big races coming in & charging big money and taking participation away from other area events. But, A.) this wasn’t a real race…so “serious” runners who want a timed race wouldn’t opt for this over another, B.) I paid $25 each (early bird team pricing) which is what most local organizers are now charging for a regular 5K (which I think is absurd…as a 5K race director, I know what it costs to put on a race). And, we got a lot more than just a t-shirt for our $25.

Here’s our “after” photo:

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The only thing I can say I was a little bit disappointed about was that the color didn’t really stay in our shirts. I wish there were a way to keep the colorful shirts we earned (say, stick it in bag with vinegar for week or whatever…), but most of it washed out. On a related note, it also easily washed off my body and out of my hair…out of my ears, etc.   (Blowing your nose was kinda fun all day…like…ooh…wonder what color it will be this time! Gross? Oh…come on, we’re runners!).

I’d highly recommend the event to anyone. Just come with the mindset of having fun…and know that you are likely going to walk most or all of the 5K course.

I’m glad The Color Run came to Erie. I’m glad it sold out out quickly and that it helped with tourism this summer because that’s why the Erie Sports Commission brings these events, you know…it’s not really about us….but we get to join in the fun, too.

More than 500 photos from the GoErie Street View crew here.

Things I found while surfing around — 8/7/14

By | August 7, 2014 2:21 am | 0 Comments

Worth Reading

Sometimes these types of articles annoy me and I realize I’m preaching to the choir here, but there’s some thought-provoking info in Salon’s 10 reasons America is morbidly obese.

Are you new to running and just can’t seem to get your breathing right and/or keep getting side stitches? Runners World has some good advice for you. 

I love this woman for being true to herself: Maggie Vessey’s Racing Outfits Punch up Track Fashion. A true trendsetter.

Got a bumper zucchini crop this year? Here are 35 healthy things you can make with it.   I can’t wait to try this and this (I totally just bought a shredder thing so I can make it) BTW…if you are drowning in squash, I’m jealous because I’ve gotten, like, two zucchini and one yellow squash out of my garden this year. I don’t think the square foot gardening thing is working out for us.

Runner Claire Wyckoff elevates running route mapping to an art form — making drawing with Nike+ Map.

Worth watching

In no way related to health or fitness or running, but too awesome not to share. Also, she reminds me of my daughter when she was a baby. Enjoy!


T-shirt of the Week

You know who you are. LOL.


Just Write 49 ~ Freedom (child’s play)

By | August 5, 2014 3:35 pm | 0 Comments


A bead of lake water mixed with sweat rolls down and drips off the end of my nose into the sand below me as I settle down into the sand on my elbows (body lifted, butt down) for 50 partner plank claps. About 20 of us have gathered for an early Saturday morning Beast on the Bay training session at Presque Isle’s Beach No. 1.

John is lining up next to me with his partner for plank claps. “Hey,” I say. “Lisa said you guys might do some tri training at Findley Lake tomorrow. Let me know when you’re going. I might join you, if that’s OK.”

“Are you doing Presque Isle?” he asks.

“No, but I like tri training. It’s kinda fun.”

“OK,” he says with a laugh.

More sweat drips off my face. The sun is hiding behind morning clouds, but the humidity more than makes up for the heat. I want to wipe my face, but my hands are covered in sand.

I groan and whine and hang my tongue out in an effort to commiserate with the rest of the gang, but I’m actually really loving the whole thing. It’s fun. It’s fun to do something different. It’s fun to have no idea what the leader is going to tell you to do next. It’s fun to challenge yourself. It’s fun to jump into the lake and roll in the sand at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Who does that? Not most 42-year-old mothers.

This is how I play.

I get up at 5 a.m. on Saturday so I can meet my marathon-training friends for a quick 6 miles before the Beast training. Then I run another 5 miles with two other friends after the Beast training. Just because I want to. Just because I can.

I’m not really training for anything — just the Beast on the Bay and the PI half marathon in September (which I could — and often do — on any given weekend).

I’m enjoying the freedom of a nearly blank race schedule, untethered to any training plan or charts or mileage requirements. I can do whatever I want right now. No plan is the boss of me.

I can go to speedwork or I can skip it. I can run 12 on Saturday or I can run 5. I can go to a Team Adrenline workout on Tuesday or I can swim laps. I can go for a bike ride on Thursday or I can go hiking in the gorge with the dog.

Mile repeats at a 7:50 pace? OK.  Join friends for a 20-miler to North East? Sure, why not. Bike from Behrend to Sara’s? Hell, yeah. Swim, bike, then run around Findley Lake Sunday morning? Count me in.

I used to be so regimented, so adamant about what I did on which days and exactly how far I had to go on those days. I thought discipline and strict adherence to a plan was key to staying fit.

Now I know the real key — friends who make fitness fun and give me lots of opportunities to play.


About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.

Things I Found — 7/31/14

By | July 31, 2014 1:31 am | 0 Comments

 Worth reading

* rom Runner’s World blogger, Kristen Armstrong:Like a Girl (Really insightful and well written. Wish I’d written it!)

* The post-run shivers explained! (Interesting info on our body’s internal heating & cooling system, i.e. thermoregulation).

* Thinking about running your first 26.2? Here are some of the best marathons for first-timers.

* How (and why) runners should flex their hips.

* Completely unrelated to running, but…fascinating: Alex Hannold’s Van Life

T-shirt of the Week


Know the lingo: Packet pickup

By | July 30, 2014 1:44 am | 0 Comments

When you’re just getting started in a sport, it’s hard to learn all the lingo. Running and walking, like any sport, has it’s own special language and local phrases. Each week, I’ll define a term or phrase that will help you not only walk the walk (or run the run), but talk the talk.

Packet pickup

Where you go to get your race number and t-shirt (or other race premium) and, possibly, a  goody bag.

At many local races you can do this on race morning, but most races also offer an early packet pickup that gives you the option of picking up your stuff the day before the race. This is a convenience for you (less to do in the morning before the race) and also for the race directors (fewer people to get through the line before race start). Whenever possible, it pays to pick up your packet early (plus, when goody bags/giveaways/extras are available…the early birds get the worms).

At some races, especially marathons, there is no day-of-race packet pickup and you must pickup the day before.



Mud Run at Miracle Mountain – Oct. 18

By | July 30, 2014 1:35 am | 0 Comments

mud run

Looking for a little muddy fun this fall? Look no further than Corry.

The APEX Run is one of Erie’s first “Adventure/Mudder” style runs, and is hosted by the YMCA of Corry and by Miracle Mountain Ranch. The run starts on October 18th at 9:15 a.m.  and runners will go in waves.  The run is 5-6 miles with 12 or more obstacles along the way.

Mid-October will be a gorgeous time of year to take a drive to Corry and to run around the mountain getting muddy (though, it could be a wee bit cold then!).

By the way, this is an obstacle run, not a race. It won’t be timed, but they will put up a clock so you can check your own time. Cost is $75 for individuals, with teams of four or more getting a $10 discount each ($65 registration fee per member for teams)

After the run, you’re invited to stay for the Miracle Mountain Ranch Harvest Party.

Here’s more info on the party:

Join Miracle Mountain Ranch’s staff and students for an afternoon of western activities for the whole family. The day will include hayrides, pony rides for kids, a hot dog and hamburger dinner and desserts, a Message from the Mount by Matt Cox, a pie baking contest, an auction of the pies following the contest, a cider-press demonstration, trail rides, and harvest games! This is a perfect event for families, and youth or church groups.

Events will begin at 1:00 p.m. and wrap up at 8:00 p.m.
(1/2 hr. Trail rides $8; meal on a donation basis)

There is no registration required! Just come.

Planned Obstacles

According to the race organizers website, these are the obstacles planned (not sure if they are doing all of these…or if this is just a list of potential obstacles):

  1. The Pit – Muddy, steep incline, climb out of mud pit
  2. Road Cavalettis – series of jumps along the road
  3. Switchback Trail – Natural, steep, wet incline
  4. Spider Web – Rope maze that you weave through
  5. Tire Flip – Tractor and truck tires
  6. Sluice Pipe Crawl
  7. Paintball Run – Wooded area
  8. Britches Burner – Natural, steep, loose rock
  9. Creek Crawl – Natural, wet, cold
  10. Apex Climb – Natural, steep
  11. Apex Wall – Climb over an angled wall w/ ropes to assist
  12. Log Haul – Pick up a log and run it around to a designated spot
  13. Sand Bag Challenge – Fill a bucket, move sand to a different spot
  14. Quarter Pipe – climb up and hit a marker
  15. Pond – Natural, wet, cold
  16. Hydrant – Wet, cold
  17. Orchard Bog – Natural, muddy, stinky
  18. Log Landing Bog – Natural, muddy, stinky
  19. Saw Dust Bin – crawl through saw dust

More info

* Registration here.

* Website here.

* Race  FAQs here.
* Pictures from last year here.

Things I found — 7/24/14

By | July 24, 2014 1:55 am | 0 Comments

Worth reading

* This blog post — Do you have good scars? — is pretty awesome. Seriously…read it.  Very inspiring.

* What goes through your mind on a run? 75 thoughts every runner has when out for a run.

* Need motivation to exercise? Reader’s Digest say they have 13 tricks you haven’t tried before.

* Outside  magazine says smaller runners have the advantage at Badwater.

T-shirt of the week


Know the lingo: Finish chute

By | July 23, 2014 1:43 am | 0 Comments

When you’re just getting started in a sport, it’s hard to learn all the lingo. Running and walking, like any sport, has it’s own special language and local phrases. Each week, I’ll define a term or phrase that will help you not only walk the walk (or run the run), but talk the talk.

Finish chute

The cordoned off area at the finish line that keeps spectators from encroaching and narrowing the course.  If race officials don’t cordon or fence off the finish line, spectators at large races will soon clog the finish area by stepping onto the road and leaning out to see down the course to watch for their special finisher. Every person has to step just a bit in front of the person next to them (to see around them) and soon…your finish line narrows to a few feet wide.