Saturday, September 27, 2014
Four years of running, four years of complaining, it finally happened. What you may ask? Well, you'll have to wait until the end of this lengthy post to find out.
CT and I have been running a fair amount of races lately. Far less than in recent past, but we finally came to the conclusion that spend a lot of $'s running races. The bling is nice, but it's getting to the point where our walls are covered. We came to the decision this past week that we will only do a few select races from now on. We didn't exactly decide how that decision would be made, but the consensus being we'd stop signing up for any and every race that generated interest. Know where this is going?
Two days after having this conversation, I found this charity "run" scheduled for the coming weekend. The video sold me, but it help that the race was sponsored by our favorite store, Gazelle Sports, and right downtown where we like to hang out. I knew CT would drag her feet some, per our recent decision, but figured I'd try anyway.
CT wasn't thrilled with the idea, she did put up some resistance, but I got her downtown before the start to at least check it out (with the promise of wine). Once there, surrounded by enthusiastic people, seeing some of our friends, she was sold on this goofiness. Why do I say goofiness? Well, you probably didn't watch the video, but this race is .1K. Next to Olympic sprints, this has to be the only race where you can stand at the starting line, see the finish line, and the view the entire course! Needless to say, we didn't race, mainly because of the amount of people, but true to CT form, we walked side by side until the final few feet where she raced to cross the line before I did.
Is this what happened, that CT beat me? Nah, readers of my blog know it's happened before and probably will happen again. What really happened on this day? Well, I finally found an "easy run"!
Saturday, August 23, 2014
The toughest run, I love to hate, it's North Country time! Still waiting for a run to be easy, it's guaranteed, it will not be this week. This run is brutal, roots, narrow paths, dirt, mosquitoes, exactly what a trail run should be. Someone didn't get the message that is enough, instead hills were added and added and added and that's where the hate comes in. Speaking of hate, lets talk politics.
Let the pain begin, eeeeeeeeeekkkk goes the gun, creeeeeeek goes the joints, as race starts. The first year, was an epic disaster of having no clue what this trail had in store for me. Last year, conservation was the name of the game plan. This year's game plan, just repeat last year's! Duh! Don't change what worked!
A republican start would be an understatement, last year my first two miles were in the ten minute range which is almost unheard of for me. But, it felt necessary to be conservative. One major difference this year is they split the half marathon into two start times. This really helped thin out crowds on the narrow trails. The bottleneck of people on the trail aided me being conservative. Completely different story this year, from the start there were only maybe ten people total ahead of me.
What fun is being conservative anyway (anyone else sick of the political ads)? First mile, a blistering seven thirty mile. Nothing like sticking to the plan. Whoops, already flip-flopped, my vote. Even though the plan was ditched before the first mile was logged, I wasn't going Toronto Mayor crazy either. The Game Changer starts about mile two, but this is experience (lifetime politician) now talking. As I slowed down and watched a younger kid dart past me, rookie.
The Game Changer is about a mile long hill, it's perfectly placed where it's early enough in the race where you get tricked to using all that adrenaline and energy early. From the bottom, I could already see it claiming one runner who was walking close to the top and the guy in front of me was lagging. Two down, in the polls.
Just before the first water stop, I caught another. This guy had raised his hand that this was his first North Country prior to the race start, so I felt obligated to give words of encouragement as I passed. Hey, I'm not like a typical heartless politician. This whole time, I felt I was running fast, but also relaxed. In my head, I knew I had waited until after mile six before unleashing the beast last year. Since the beast escaped early this year, I wasn't sure what to expect come the later miles. But, I was doing something right, because I could see the kid who darted passed me in the early going, and I was gaining and I felt like debating him.
At the second water stop, I was right on his back. Here, I stopped to take my GU and the punk didn't even stop for water! Ugh, so close and now I was going to lose him. I got snapped out of my trance when a boy of maybe four years old complained to his mom that I didn't take "his" water. Sheeesh, now I understand this kissing baby's thing. Attempting to make him feel better, I explained that I needed to stop at the table, otherwise I would have grabbed "his" water. Time to hit the campaign trail again, one voter at a time.
This is part of the trail I destroyed last year, think I can even see some of the carnage of broken limbs and claw marks remaining. My legs felt tired and surge of power isn't here this year, but then again my plan completely changed of how I ran this race, so I figured maintain and see what happens at the end. Speaking of which, boy wonder, now shirtless, is starting to die out. As much as I almost wanted to wait to debate him on the next big hill to demoralize him, that would be dirty politics. Besides, he had slowed to the point I didn't even have wait, the press leaked his inappropriate pictures, and he was done.
The remaining miles were quiet. It truly became a tail run of man versus nature and I was content to let nature win. Anybody left ahead of me, I wasn't going to catch them, I was tired. Shouldn't I have a luxury campaign bus? Anybody behind me, would motivate me to push harder, but I couldn't imagine anybody catching me at this point in the race if they hadn't already. The projections were in based on the exit polls and there wasn't much left to do. The last mile, I even put the brakes on and took it easy.
Crossing the line, I felt pretty good, because ditching the plan did cut seven minutes off my time. Though, finishing felt completely different. Today, I was tired and ready to be done. Last year, it felt almost like I was just getting started when it ended. Two different campaigns, both unique in their own way.
The reason I could never be a politician, logic. Ha, I didn't mean that as an insult (yes, I did), but what I mean is I like numbers too much. Looking at the side-by-sides of my two runs, it's interesting. Of course starting out faster this year, all the early miles were much better. But, I really expected the final miles to be so much better last year when I was on that incredible runner's high. Instead, besides the final mile where I completely relaxed, my miles were still faster this year. Never would have expected that, but it tells me that training program I'm doing is working.
When the polls closed and the results were final, finished second in my age group and seventh overall! Not good enough to get me elected, really who wants that job anyway? This office nerd is running the hell out of these trails.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
It's "my trophy" weekend. Even though it's said like that, I didn't name it. The name comes from CT since the first time she saw the hardware given to the winner, suddenly it became her trophy and the name stuck. Even though it became her quest, it really did become "my trophy", last year. It was unexpected, but winning felt pretty damn good. This is going to be the year, we both come home with "my trophy".
There are so many things I enjoy about running, one being although you are really competing against others, it's really just a battle with yourself. Take two weeks ago for example, crushed my previous PR and only got third place, hell I could have got seventh, it meant more to me knowing that I bested myself. Something changed this week though.
The week before this race, there are some powerful forces at play, voodoo, black magic, but it goes beyond coincidence, injuries. This is the third year in a row that one of us has got injured the week before this race. Mom injured her knee and made the mistake of visiting the doctor prior to the race, which of course you never do until after, especially when she always follows all the rules. Of course the doctor is going to say, don't do it. CT has been back to her old form, even faster, until she pulled her calf muscle something awful. In CT's case, a doctor isn't going to tell her what she is or isn't going to do, but she wasn't going to be at 100%. Suddenly, things changed from this great weekend where we were all going to get awards, to being unsure what would happen and I felt this added pressure of having to do well to compensate.
Lining up, there were the usual suspects. Maybe it's only me, but imagine everybody does it, calculating who the competition is. I think I spotted the guy who sent his girlfriend to ask me my time last year, figure he's got a target on my back or is it that guy in the orange? Rrrrrrrrrrip goes the gun. More like exploded out, can't remember the time I've started a race this fast, but it was a bolt.
At the first turn, there were maybe six people ahead of me. Four were clumped together, the typical high school age kids who would win the whole thing with their ridiculous youth times. The other two were much younger kids who would burn out before the next turn. Here it is, mine for the taking, just have to maintain, and get "my trophy". Closing in at the first mile, I could feel breathing down my neck. Somebody was there, but who? Beep, first mile, glancing at my watch 5:55! I've never ran a mile under six minutes, ever. While excited, it also made me wonder if I didn't start out way too fast, no sooner did I think that then the breathing down my neck stopped as I got passed by not one, but two people. One of which didn't matter, the woman who always wins this race, but the other...Mr. Orange.
The worst part of the course is the second mile, when it transitions between wooden walkways, to grass, another wooden walkway and suspension bridge. How bad do I want it? I kept asking myself that as Mr. Orange continued to pull away. He built a lead, I fought with myself and told myself enough! He wasn't allowed to pull away anymore. With all the surface transitions, I knew this mile would be slower, yet it still felt crazy fast, yet I wasn't dying. Then I saw it, just before mile two, with the hill, Mr. Orange started to slow.
Just past mile two, only two turns remain and plenty of distance to see what's ahead. The woman is way up there, almost to the next turn. Mr. Orange is now within striking distance and now my mind turned to strategy. Do I slow with him, conserving energy and wait until closer to the finish to take him? Or do I pass him now, hopefully demoralizing him, and maybe worry about him coming from behind? As I debated this, it got answered for me, he slowed even more. At this point, I was already running more relaxed, so I just passed him. He'd have to have two other gears to take me, because I still had a spare for sure.
Only one turn to go now, heck I'm even gaining on one of those high school kids. Then EVERYTHING changed as that high school kid made the final turn, I could clearly see this "kid" had the receding hairline. It was too late. Even with another gear, there simply wasn't enough distance left. How did this happen? Maybe, that hairline meant even older and not in my group. I've waited four years to get in the 19's in this race, here it is, yet the pain wasn't from my tired heart as I crossed the line, it was from my gut that told me I lost "my trophy".
The second place medal in the picture sums up then entire situation. Six, seconds behind. Never had a race play out like this. Determination, excitement, doubt, fight, resilience, calm, confidence, shock, pain, and anger all within three point one miles.
For all those emotions in a few miles, the next day was even worse, I think I stewed all day. It was a looooong slow simmer all day. Jump back to the second paragraph (aptly 2nd for a reason), something change today. Simply wanting to get better works for every race, but this one. This is the one race I want to win and expect to win. Consider "my trophy" on loan, because next year it's coming home with me!
Saturday, August 2, 2014
It's been a while. Based on my previous entry, I probably should have at least did a few updates instead of leaving it "hanging" in a cloud of despair since it's been a few months. Whatever happened to my foot at the River Bank Run lasted for a few weeks, but went away. I've been running since, just haven't been doing any races, hence the quiet blog, but here we are again. So, what's up?
CT and I have been putting in miles training, but decided that we would really cut back on our races this summer. There are only two races we cared about, the one for her trophy and the brutal trail run that we love to hate. At least, that was the plan until this weekend rolled around and CT decided we needed a warm up 5K as preparation for her trophy run. That fact she decides this for her training, also means I have to do it too, funny how that works. Not only do we have to pre-5K for her trophy run, but we had to pre-pre-run this 5K course so she could be mentally prepared for this practice 5K. Can you see what I have to deal with? Ridiculous, who takes running to this level?
Ugh, okay pre-pre-running the course didn't help my confidence. I know getting older means getting slower and as much as I want to deny one is happening, both are happening. The goal has always been getting in the 19's for a 5K and it's happened once. Low 20's have been norm. After my pre-pre, I wasn't even sure the 20's were possible, I might be lucky to stay in the high 20's and even maybe flirt with 21. Here's where the picture for this post comes into play. Yes, this me actually weighing my shoes. Now, who's the crazy one? Had to do it, need every edge I can get.
Race morning, first thing I do is jump on the scale. Again, another blow to the confidence. Not feeling fast already, now have the scale telling me I'm running heavy. Sure glad I saved three ounces picking my shoes! One strange omen was the time on my watch when I picked it up to put it on. It read 6:27, which just happens to be the exact pace per mile I'd need to get back in the 19's. Is this a sign or is it a cruel joke tormenting me?
Time to weigh in for good, cha-ching goes the starting gun (okay I made this sound a register, because scales don't make sounds). This is one race where the first mile is the hardest, it has the most incline of this fairly flat race, so in this respect it's the perfect use of that extra adrenaline. 6:08 when my watched beeped, signalling the first mile. That's respectable, but mile two will be story maker. In my head, I was very surprised I clocked a mile that fast because it's seems like it's been a while, but also wanted to stay very realistic, but felt confident slipping in the 21's wasn't going to happen. 6:18, as the second mile beeped. Wow. Suddenly, thoughts of being lucky to get in the 20's switched to PR. Mile three wasn't easy, but I also didn't feel like I was doing everything possible to hold the wheels from coming off. When it clicked, it read 6:28. Even with bad runner math, I knew I was going to be in the 19's at this point. Just had to finish the last little bit, when I could finally see the clock the three extra beats left on my maxed out heart got used up seeing a 19:05 on the clock. NEVER would have thought low 19's would be possible. 19:16, when the scale finally stopped! Twenty-seven seconds faster than my 5K PR from two years ago!
Most days, I hate what the scale says, but today it weighed in right.
Saturday, May 10, 2014
The River Bank Run has always been my salvation the week after Kalamazoo punches me in the face. What started as simply needing a confidence booster, has now changed to wanting to continue my status in the "special" club. Once you have the perks, experience the perks, they are hard to give up.
The perks, as great as they are, didn't live up to exceptions. I strolled up to the police officer guarded door with my shiny yellow bib expecting access for my entourage, only to be told it doesn't work that way anymore. No friends, no family, yellow bib only. What fun is this club if it's a club of one? It's not, which makes the rest of the story that much more confusing.
The start, seemed crowded, yet not like years before. It always seemed like we were running on top of each other until about mile eight, this year there was actually some gaps of space. It is surprising and depressing at the same time how many people are able to run with me. I'd really like to write most of them off as results of the rampant drug problem, thanks Lance, but for now I'll pretend they are all WAY younger than me. This is the point where I did finally see some people start to struggle with the rising temps or maybe they started too fast.
At mile ten, I started feeling something a little different. My right foot, it's always the right side, began giving me twinges of pain. Running logic told me it was the damn roads. I've complained, make that bitched, about the unevenness of this course almost every time it's been under my feet. Doesn't matter if it's the marathon, the half, this 25K, all of them share this route and the first few times I even thought I was being a baby about it, but seriously there is something to this thing. I attempted to adjust as best I could find the flattest ground I could, while now actively trying to run in the few shady spots left.
Mile twelve, my foot pain became obvious there was more to it than simply running some miles on uneven roads, there was something wrong going on. Up until this point, I was hanging right with the 7:30 per mile group. To stay in the "special" club, the average needed is 7:47 per mile, so I had some breathing room, but really couldn't take a break either. The question became, how bad do I want to stay in the club or do I shut it down to hopefully prevent damaging my foot or at least making it worse? Ego, thick headedness, stupidity, desire to stay in the cool club that wouldn't even let me bring my friends, won out.
The last few miles were hard, painful, and hot, but I managed to fight through it to continue the streak of eligibility for the club. After, it felt like walking on a marble under my heel, sure hope it was worth it.
*Update* - Two days after, still could barely walk on it. Been icing it like crazy.
*Update 2* - Ten days after, haven't been able to run yet
Sunday, May 4, 2014
Three years, three humbling experiences. The Kalamazoo Marathon has my number. Inexperience, overconfidence, fear, so far have been the results, what will this year bring? Some friends refuse to do it. Others ask me why I continue to do it. Not even sure how to answer. It's not a rivalry, because it's completely one sided at the moment. The course is awful, the only miles I like are the first five. The weather, is always warming up at the worst possible time. It might be simply be because this is my city.
Two days after I committed to doing this race again, I mean officially by signing up and paying money to force myself, I found out the course had changed. They actually managed to make it more difficult, as if that's been the reason for my struggles, yeah, it's been too easy. So much of running is mental and I have to be honest, this is where I checked out. I can't say it's the whole reason I cut back my training, but it definitely played a factor. There is just something about this course that feels like kryponite to me. Even training runs on it, when the mileage is less, mentally it messes with my psyche now and easy runs end up stirring up memories resulting in bad times.
Lack of training, how does Murphy's Law get me? Why of course by giving me the lowest temperatures for this race since I've been doing it! Figures! Whoooosh! Went the start of the gun this year. While I got some reprieve with the temps, the wind was out in force.
The early miles were uneventful. My head was stuck thinking about the course changes and knowing that whole section would be where this race would be either be successful or turn into the nightmare. At one point I got snapped out my runner's haze coming out of campus where a dad gave his daughter a "shadow hug" as we ran under the bridge. That was kind of cool and made me smile.
Instead of the long, boring, stretch in the scorching sun like years past, the solution to the road maintenance is sending us uphill through a neighborhood only to be dumped on the road that I'm convinced finishes me off every year with more hills, making us run it twice out and back. Then add to the mix, wtf is up with this wind which is blowing directly at us running out. I'd like to say this was my superior strategy, for this long stretch of road, I tucked in behind a clump of runners and I pretended they were my windbreaker. While already in my head, I was convinced the wind would be in my face both directions, there were a few spots (while I'm still not convinced they equaled out) where I could actually feel the wind pushing me. That was a nice surprise. An even nicer surprise was the energy boost seeing the other runners in the out and back section. Giving and receiving words of encouragement, completely a different feeling than crowd support. So, the section that I dreaded the most, turned out to be more positive than negative.
The ending is always a struggle, regardless. This time, by mile 20 I was still flirting with a PR on what I consider the hardest marathon course I've done. I knew a PR wasn't going to happen based on the remaining hills, but that was still moral victory enough. At this point, my feet were sore and while a PR wasn't going to happen, a PR for the marathon that always beats me to a pulp was. This is where I decided I could take it easy the rest of the way and didn't see the point to doing anything dumb and pushing too hard. CT was all smiles when I first saw her down the stretch, I think even she was surprised to see me this early on my nemesis. With her smile, I even felt like I was safe from having to ride home in the trunk (for once).
Three years, marathon number 10 goes in the books as a success. Doubt there will ever be a day when it gets easy, but today I won because I'm still standing (actually, I'm not my calves were cramping something awful once I finished...but that was temporary). Will I train more next year? Probably not. Will I do it again? Probably. Will it feel as one sided as it has before? Lets just say it's a rivalry. Kalamazoo had my number, but it's now a number for me as well, #10.
Sunday, April 27, 2014
My Dad loves to eat. When he's not eating, he's thinking about eating. Some people might see a problem with that, gluttony, I see the benefit of it making shopping for for him extremely easy! Hmmm, what to get him for his birthday, done. How about a visit to the Chef's Table at Zazios and give the eating machine, I mean my Dad the chance of experiencing a five course meal without making my Mom slave? The only issue, it just so happens that it falls on Western's graduation weekend, oh and prime season for all the local proms too. So, we had to take the later dinner.
Zazios has always been a favorite when he comes to town. One of my fondest memories was on one particular occasion my Dad being particularity agreeable with the waitress, wanting to try every thing she suggested and being talked into adding truffles to most of our plates. The truffle bill alone was $56! Don't get me wrong, they were delicious, but I had no idea they were priced like gold.
The reservation was for 8:30, which it typically our bedtime. It was closer to 9, before we even sat down at the table, this could be a long night. No menu, the only choice you get is if you'd like your meal paired with wine. CT and I did this, I was kind of surprised my Dad decided to do this, but hey it's his birthday, game on.
The first course, the salad was my least favorite of the whole meal. Luckily, I could pawn most of that off to CT because she was starving by the time this thing actually got going. The wine was delicious. The salad would have been fine, except the huge cheese glob the chef added didn't do anything for me. It reminded me of, I'm not even going to say it, because it will just gross you out and I'm not about that in this blog.
The second course was what I'd describe as calamari soup. Not something I'd go out of my way to order at a restaurant, but it was very tasty for eating squid, which is still far less gross than lump of cheese in that salad that reminded me of cold, spoiled, soft, cheese, extracted from a dead mouse's stomach, but I'm not going to gross you out with the details. Did the second glass of wine get even better? I admit, I'm a lightweight drinker, but I know I can handle two glasses of wine. These weren't even two full glasses, but let me tell you, I was floating! We were only finishing the second course, it as probably 10:30, not what I'd consider pounding these drinks and while not what I'd consider lots of food, it was still food. If this were a marathon, this is when reality was setting in and I realized my plan had to change, if I wanted to walk out of this dinner on my own.
This is the point, I changed the Chef's vision for this meal. We are going from five courses to five point five. More bread, lots of it! CT and I had the waitress bring another box of bread to soak up some of this alcohol this wine seems to be laced with. I didn't feel so bad, about being a lightweight when CT suggested we start a food fight with our running friends who also joined us for this special night. The thought of starting a food fight, in this classy place, knowing that it's never been done before and that our friends would without a doubt participate had me smiling at the thought of how this would go down in history. The fact that I was having a difficult time coming up with reasons not to do this, only told me I HAD to eat more bread.
Three point five, was my favorite. The cod was ridiculous good. The one side was seared to perfection, not like I know what that even is, but in my head that's what it should be. The fish itself once it melted in your mouth finished with this slightly salted flavor. The only issue is it was about the size of a chicken nugget. The whole meal could have been a slab of this and it would have been perfect. Was there even wine with this course? Oh yeah, it's already gone.
Four point five was a pork dish. Please forgive me, but this course is hazy. It was good, but found myself wanting more of that cod for most of it. At this point it's probably 11:30. I do know the wine in this course the wine wasn't as good. Finally, a reason not to drink all of it!
The dessert didn't get rave reviews from CT, my Dad, or a few of our running friends. While I've had better, I didn't think it was bad. Oh crap, the wine is good again too. How are we getting home again? Holy cow, it's tomorrow!
All in all, it was a very fun experience. Not a bad way to celebrate my Dad's birthday and our anniversary. It would have been so much better had we been able to do the earlier table. Just because the Chef is explaining and talking, it's not really like as a group we could interact with each other. Speaking of interacting, my Dad may have thought I bought the Chef for him, the way he used him for his own encyclopedia at the end. Where's that bread to throw at him to make him stop?