Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Salesman

Never will be a salesman, just not built with the level of BS needed to be successful at it. With that said though, it is possible, on occasion, for my charm to con somebody into doing something they don't want to do. With great charm, comes great responsibility!

A few months ago, that charm was responsible for getting my cousin, Dimmy, to commit and finish her first half marathon. Would it work again? A couple of the Superstars wanted to give the Mackinaw Island Half Marathon another try as an end to the running season. Dimmy lives a cat's swing (inside joke with the Superstars, I'd never swing a cat) away from the island, so it only only seemed natural to talk (and don't mean that at all, I mean con) Dimmy into running with us. She treated me with such care growing up. In fact she almost seemed pleased to tell me how she and her brother crashed the tandem bike they were riding on Mackinaw Island with me in the bike seat as a baby! With  family like this, it's surprising I'm still here. But I am, and this cousin (me) believes in revenge! When I think back to how my legs burned after running this race the first time, the hills, I couldn't resist convincing Dimmy to do it with us. Sure, to some, this probably could be viewed as heartless, but deep down I know she can do it, but loved the idea of her cursing my name around mile eight or nine! Muhahaha!

The problem with revenge, sometimes it doesn't exactly go as planned.  No sooner did I get her to sign up for the race then she offered for all of us to stay at her house. Beautiful house, an even better view, then she pulls out some serious Martha Stewart with a gourmet meal. Who is this? Wait a minute, is this poison? Is the conman getting conned? Starting to *almost* feel bad now.

Since I'm a little too big to get dumped from a tandem bike, my punishment in the form of karma seems it's almost a guarantee it's going to rain. The boat ride over, the sky teased that it was going to clear and end up turning into a pretty good race day, but deep down, I knew the storm was coming.

Lining up, the group huddled together to stay warm. I was really unsure how I'd feel today, racing hard last week battling a cold this week. Part said just stick with CT and have fun. Another part said give it a shot and can always meet up with CT if not feeling it. The indecision, started me much further back that I would if being serious, crowd fighting.

Crack, goes the gun! A mob of people on a small road to begin with, then add the giant puddles. I started eased and relaxed, but before log there goes CT darting around people, here we go. Soon it's a game of Frogger, before too long, it becomes an early trail race resorting to passing people on the shoulder. Yup, definitely started too far back to race this.

By mile two, most people were passed and things opened up. Still constantly amazed at the number of people who run horrible lines. As I was smiling about this, that's just about the time the drizzle started. It actually felt good. Maybe, this isn't a bad thing.

Soon after mile three, the trail starts and so did the rain. I watched the woman in front of me gingerly step around a couple patches of mud. The first of the hills started, so I was in conservation mode and wasn't willing to sacrifice energy to offer free advice, but I really wanted to tell her don't waste energy dodging, it's a sure thing we are ALL getting dirty today. The more we climbed the worse the rain came down. First official race in the rain. It officially became a sloppy mess, which was fun, especially since I decided against breaking in my new shoes today.

Mile six, I was glad to be done with the climb for a bit. My shirt was a second skin and really debated dumping it, but couldn't because I liked it, that's what I get for wearing my hometown race shirt, the nipples will hate me later.

Miles seven to ten are some of prettiest, but most difficult. The rain stopped, but the rolling hills didn't. Somewhere in this section, I knew that I wasn't going to PR this course. It felt good to get by the local wearing the viking helmet. While staying at a consistent pace, it wasn't possible to give any more and it was only about maintaining at this point. It helped by continuing to catch and pass people. Even though fatigue was setting in and part of me wanted to ease up, gaining ground on the next person ahead helped stay motivated.  Soon thoughts drifted to just have to get out of these trails and back to the road where it's nice and flat and things will get easier. Used car salesmen?

Almost to the road, caught and passed a younger kid. I think I caught him by surprise because he startled a bit and almost slipped in the mud. Told him, "you're too close to the finish now to be THAT GUY covered in mud, so be careful". Next up, a woman. As I passed her, I gave her the complementary, "good job, doing great". She came back with she's the fifth woman overall. About this time we reached the road. My earlier runner's thought of the easy part is here, is quickly smashed back to reality as the gust of wind almost feels like it's making me stand still, so much for that idea! Easy come and easy go, the hills were gone, but the wind is here.

It's going to be a fight this whole last few miles into this wind, then something clicked. The salesman died and the nice guy came back. Looking over my shoulder, 5th girl wasn't too far back. I told her get up on me, I'll block the wind as much as I can, draft off of me, lets go get 4th girl! Honestly, I wasn't sure how long I had left in me running hard into the wind, but figured what the hell, lets see what happens. We did catch and pass a few more runners, unfortunately none of them female. My favorite pass was a horse and carriage, for some reason I taunted and trash talked the horse going by. Okay, he/she was pulling a carriage, but hey, it will probably be the first and last time this ever happens! In the end, never even caught sight of the 4th girl, but crossing the line, 5th thanked me for helping her and she PR'd. Not sure if I really helped with any part of that, but I do know the last few miles were faster than when I caught her, so I'm taking a little credit for that!

Ran back for CT, found her at a wedding ceremony, fitting. She was tired, immediately worried about her time because she ran "naked" (without her watch). Of course in her mind she was doing awful, but in the real world she was right at the time she expected. Didn't even get to see Dimmy finish. She did so well, that I missed it being a baby staying inside out of the rain, didn't expect her in so soon after tricking her into those hills. As if like a boss, she was smiling when I did see her. There's no way she could have known, but her not wanting to kill me after, almost sadden me. So much for my dirty joke! The Salesman died and so did the Conman.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

For You, Pink Means Fight!

Four months ago, I had high hopes and big dreams for today. Today is here, but those thoughts are nothing but a distant memory. So many things have changed.  This week alone in addition to all kinds of work stress, add a funeral to that, and then even more saddening news of a friend being diagnosed with breast cancer, it's starting to feel like the down dog getting kicked.

The GR Marathon is a close race. It didn't feel that way driving to it this morning. All prior times, the car is filled with chatter of close friends. Today, time stands still on this dark, quiet, morning as my car is empty. I am alone and it feels that way. On a day that I wanted some magic to happen for myself, all I can think about is how cancer changed the course of today's plan. F*ck you cancer!

Today is about dedicating a run to my friend. Her fight is just starting, it's going to be way more difficult than any marathon, half marathon, any race I've ever bitched about here. I don't feel trained to go out and crush a race, but prior to lining up, I told myself at any point during the race when I felt like quitting, I couldn't. She is going to have to fight hard and can't quit, either can I today.

I've rolled up to races with Superman under my top layer, for moral support. I've gone without any layers to intimidate. As the top layer comes off today, it's pink, support for my friend. This one's for you today.

Ready, Fiiiiight! Goes the gun. The first two miles were fast and relaxed. Miles three and four were quicker with the crowd support downtown. At around six, I could begin to feel this summer's training kick in, not in a good way either. By nine, the fight was here. The voices started, "ease up". Way too early for this shit! Fight! Ten, eleven, twelve, were the same way. It's unfair my fight only had to last thirteen on this day, but those last miles were a struggle to argue and fight my body wanting to take the easy way out. Doesn't even begin to compare to my friend's looming struggle, but every time that voice started, I thought of her and that awful "c" word. F*ck you cancer!

In the end, didn't pull off some miracle time like I would have wanted to. But all things considered, everything that happened this past week, not sure how I pulled off the time that I did. One of the very few times when I can say I put everything I had out there on this day.

This is a special message from me to you cancer, you picked the wrong girl to mess with. In fact, you'd be best to stay away from ALL the girls in my group! Each one of them is tougher than anything you have and you WILL to lose EVERY time! Fuuuuuuuck you!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Race to a Wedding

The run I love to hate is here. This run is brutal to begin with, but it's been one hell of a long week, in fact I'll submit it for the worst week EVER. At this point, I actually almost look forward to the beating this thirteen miles will inflict, because it will feel like a massage compared to what this week has brought. To top off this challenge today, have to run this and jump in the car to race again attempting to catch a wedding avoiding the wrath of CT if missed.

Standing at the starting line, have no idea what today will bring. Missed so many miles this past week, emotions just seem drained, legs technically should be fresh. When the horn sounded, wasn't even sure if it wasn't just the pounding of my head. This race started odd, the first mile I was in the lead. Could feel footsteps close, but wasn't sure what they were waiting for, why they were pacing off of me. Three did eventually pass, but that's it.

Finishing a half marathon in fourth place, given the past week, I'll take it. When the hills started, it wasn't long before soon it was third. For the next few miles, occasionally caught glimpses of second through the trees.

As the trail climbed more hills around mile six, soon found myself in second. This is when it started. Instead of having a goal and something to chase, I was left alone with my thoughts. Maybe it was a combination of everything this week brought, but thinking about "things" instead of concentrating on the task at hand, was my undoing. Already drained mentally, suddenly it caught up to me physically and all ability seemed to disappear. About this same time the race merged with the full marathoners. This made it already confusing if not for already crashing, while I still thought there was a good chance I was still in second, it was impossible for me to tell anymore. Not that it really mattered because I had given up at this point.

With about a mile left, I attempted to pull it together. Running up the final hill, I watched a runner go up and over, when really they should have turned around and headed back down the hill. Reaching the top, I yelled down to the runner that they went the wrong way. As he climbed back up, couldn't help but notice he was wearing a half marathon bib. Shit! Couldn't bring myself to race down the hill to the finish to be ahead of him. Waited as he climbed back up and sent him on his way. Probably would regret this later, but here is my good deed for the day.

Not sure if it was a sign from above, especially since I thought I did the right thing, or the week and all the events catching up to me, but heading down the hill a sharp pain in my chest started. Seemed fitting to finish a crummy week, with a bad run, in pain.

Feeling miserable and defeated, still got third overall and first in my age group by some miracle. Couldn't even stay for the award, had to bolt for the car and drive home. Officially made it to the wedding with an hour to spare, then CT hit me with an emergency suspender run back to the house for my efforts. Personally, think she wanted me to cut it closer than I had, so after this last adventure, with ten minutes to spare, wedding time.  

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Ringer

Ringer - noun - an athlete or horse fraudulently substituted for another in competition or event.

Today, is the day CT and I both win our trophies in front of our parents. I've visualized this moment for the past year. In the snow, the blazing heat, climbing that awful hill, when the mind wanders to why the hell am I doing this to myself, this is the moment my mind drifts to. The excitement, the adrenaline, the glory.

It isn't suppose to be like this. Instead, I find myself alone, CT is not here. Pre-race jitters are replaced with uneasy feelings of maybe I shouldn't even be here either. Part of me knows I can't change a thing, maybe CT needs me more. Another part says The Ringer would want me to give it my all. The Ringer is CT's Dad and he's facing a challenge greater than any run. CT is right where she should be, at his side.

When I think of a ringer, it's a winner, somebody who shows up and is expected to win. It's odd, but it feels like that spirit is with me. On a day when I wanted to zone everything out prior to the race start and escape in my bubble, it's one of those races where people want to talk to me. It's probably my serious game face on the outside, when in reality is three million thoughts racing around in my head. One in particular is the guy who bested me by six seconds last year to claim my trophy. Seriously? Maybe today, I am the ringer, I mean by the actual definition.

Clang, clang, (a Double Ringer) goes the gun. The first mile is a blur. Faster than last year by five seconds. Told you, I thought about this race for a long time. The guy who got me last year, felt it necessary to point out that he was going to go out slower this year, yet he's ahead of me. Trying to psych out the ringer maybe? Early past the first mile, he opened the gap, but by mile two right on his heels. It's not easy running with a heavy heart. I set two goals for myself this past year, win my trophy and beat the guy who got me last year (even though in a new age group). For the last mile, he watched my back as the ringer pulled away.

Crossing the line, rushed to check my phone, only to find that The Ringer passed. Whatever heart I had left went out to CT. It just wasn't suppose to end this way. The Ringer will be missed and I hope I did the right thing.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Do or do not. There is no Tri

It's time to tri something new, at least that's what CT tells me. Maybe a tattoo? Must say, think I look good in ink! Just like everything else, it starts with a blonde. Her first Tri was a few weeks ago. She did really well for it being her first one, but it also left her wanting more, then this opportunity presented itself. Next thing I know, I find myself part of a relay team. She successfully talked me into doing a Tri, without really doing a Tri (I'm learning).

The race is a small, as far as participation is concerned. It consists of a 750 meter swim, twelve mile bike, and a 5K run, apply named a Sprint Tri-Athlon. The team, obviously CT and I, but we added a third leg as our swimmer, introducing the Mad Dog! The Mad Dog is second generation Superstar and also participated in CT's first Tri. One of the moments I'll never forget is the the scowl on the Mad Dog's face as she went by on the bike, reminded me of a dog going to the vet. Clearly, the Mad Dog's place is in the water, so a team relay makes sense.

Fully admit, I found myself looking at last year's times and projecting our finishing time. CT must have infected me, now I'm doing it too. By my estimation, the Mad Dogs would have a great chance to not only place, but could quite possibly win overall. How fun would it be to roll up and beat a guys team with two crazy girls, I mean rabid dogs?

Morning of prior to check in, take a sneak peak of the race board to see a grand total of six teams in the relay division. Like I said, not a big event, but can't control who signs up. With only six teams, our chances when from good, to in the bag in my book. With three divisions, male, female, and mixed teams it's practically a sure thing that we'll place. Even if all the teams are in our division, with our team, we are walking away with an award.

Prior to start, begin to eye up the competition. Ugh, the first team in view is one of three seventeen year old boys, all lean and in great shape. There it is, that's the team I wanted to beat and by the looks of it we have no chance, dammit! Couple of the other teams don't look like a threat, one of all guys and the other of all women. Heck, we might be the only mixed team, winning by default. Not exactly the way I'd like it, but it certainly takes some pressure off, but still really want to win. Much the same as the youngster men's team, there's also a youngster female team.

The race goes swim, bike, run, so the Mad Dog is first up. At this point, I'd like to point out they start the relay teams with the men's tri-athletes, so here's our 90 pound fourteen year old swimmer battling it out with full sized guys. Once out of the water, the Mad Dog then had to run up a pretty good size hill before handing the timing chip to CT. In a way she had to do two events. I bring this up because prior to the race, the director brought up that the youngster female team had an injury and their swimmer couldn't run, so they would be allowed to have another team member get her chip and make the hand-off. I'm not competitive enough to care before the gun goes off, but in the heat of the moment watching, it matters! Watching fresh legs run up a hill versus the Mad Dog's tired legs, makes a difference. This is no cake walk, this is a race now.

Heading in the bike, we were in third place. The boys had a good two minutes on us, the girls probably a minute. This is where the calm before the storm happens, in this relay world. CT is doing her thing and now it's time for me to find my zone and get ready. Took some practice laps in the parking lot. It wasn't long before youngster girl is following me doing the same loop. Hmmm, is she trying intimidate me? Youngster boy clearly doesn't care, he's just standing talking with friends. With my warm-up completed, now comes the hard part, waiting. Unlike the set start time of a race, now it's a guessing game for when CT is going to come in. Figure I'll really start getting ready when the youngster boy comes in.

Put me down for shocked! First in, youngster girl, I watch their transition and like a shot there goes their runner. Waiting. Next in youngster boy, off he goes. At this point youngster girl has a good two minute lead, which in running seems HUGE! There's CT! She's tired, the way she's coughing, I almost wondered if she was going to puke on me as I attacked her timing chip. Here's where I'll break the story with today's lesson, practice! Getting our numbers and gear, the Mad Dog had our timing chip the whole time, makes sense since she was starting. In the heat of the moment, getting the chip off with the velco strap was a disaster, wasted valuable seconds working on getting it transferred. Down a good two minutes to first and another to second, mentally didn't know if I had enough in me, third place is going to stink.

The goal was to put down a nineteen minute and something 5K. Haven't done anything close to speed work lately and had no real idea if that was even possible, but also knew I couldn't let the adrenaline of being behind causing me to go out too fast and burn out. Knowing there was such a gap between the first two teams and myself, probably helped, mentally didn't give myself any real chance to catch them. Then it happened.

First turn, I saw the bright shirt youngster boy was sporting. I feel sorry for the solo tri-athlete I happened to be passing at the time because I muttered "it's on motha-fer" under my breath! He had a good minute head start, but the fact I could see him, meant there was a chance. He wasn't throwing down five minute miles, like I expected. At the mile mark, I estimated he was thirty seconds ahead of me. Just before the turn around at a mile and a half, I spotted youngster girl and he was close to catching her. At two miles, he was still about thirty seconds ahead. Getting tired, there'd be no way I'd be able to close the gap on him. Any chance we could make this a half marathon? The girl on the other hand, I was right on her heels, got her in the last turn.

Knowing we were so close to giving the boys a run for the money, felt good. Wish I had a little more down the stretch. Probably didn't help that I ran thirteen miles the day before, but still pulled off a PR 5K for myself (though think the course was a little short), a 19:11! While I'm proud of that, I'm more proud of beating my counterpart youngster guy in the run by thirteen seconds. Keep getting older, but also keep getting faster.

Team Mad Dog rocked! Doubt anybody will notice, but it was one hell of a good race between the three of teams. The final results had us all within forty seconds of each other. While I'm super proud of it, think the moral here is girls are no joke, you better watch out guys! CT made up some serious ground with her biking. Had to bite my tongue a little after watching the cocky youngster boys high five and showboat some after looking at their posted times. Really wanted to hit them with the reality check of the situation that two of them got beat by an old guy runner, a girl on a bike, and only really accomplished beating a fourteen year old girl in the water, but remembering how invincible I felt at that age and decided, ahhhh we'll just let life bust them down in a few years. There's the real Yoda life lesson.

Won't lie, really wanted to win the whole thing. It would have made for a really great memory for the Mad Dog. As it turns out I'm rather bitter about it, not for coming in second, but for what happened next. Turns out even though the race advertised two deep awards for each division, they only gave out one award for the relay, so the boys got that. Not sure if that was because lack of teams or poor race organization, but won't move that event anywhere close to the must do again list. Maybe that's what turns a dog into a Mad Dog, but here to say the Mad Dogs will race again, meaner and better! Beware of the Dogs!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The T-Rex

It's summer and time to begin training again. Hmm, doesn't seem like there any time off, may have to check into that. Trying to keep the plate clean of races and maintain focus on only a couple at the end. So, with that said, got talked into doing a trail race this weekend.

Ten miles, hope I didn't bite off more than I can chew. The timing seems perfect for doing a race called the T-Rex when the Jurassic Park movie is in the theaters. Choosing between running or sitting in a theater watching a T-Rex in a remake of a movie, that I thought was poor to begin with, sign me up! Naming a race after a dinosaur, has to be fun, right? The key feature, hence the name, is something called the T-Rex hill. Sounds scary, but I've run some damn scary hills, think I can handle it, no worries.

Rooooooooar goes the start! Fitting, because what starts in a wide open grassy field (mouth?), soon becomes a single track path in the woods (throat?).  The bottleneck resulted in some walking, though I wasn't worried because in my head figured ground could easily be up once hitting the dirt roads (which I thought too up most of the course). This is the point of the story where actually running and knowing the course prior to racing it is probably is a good idea. Put this in my memory book for next time.

Soon after the first mile, finally, here's the dirt road! Did get around a few people, but the first surprise is this dirt road is a constant incline. Before mile two, back in the woods in a single track again. Again more up. Where did the fun go? Oh, here's some down, no wait, it involves jumping across a rocky streams. This almost feels like a remake of trail race I love to hate!

Somewhere around mile five, dumped out of the woods into an open field for power-lines. Another good sized hill, with fake dinosaur eggs as a prop. Somewhere in this stretch I realized that this wasn't going to be an easy run and the joke was on me. This was now about survival. When I finally came face to face with the T-Rex, I gave in and walked up it. Had I attempted to run up it, it would have drained every ounce of energy from me as it devoured me.

Back in the woods, finally found some downhill, but as a cruel joke it included hurdles of down trees across the trail. I was gassed and really worried about injury, so eased up some here. Got passed by a couple of people, but was more worried about leaving this trail in one piece instead of coming home with bite marks.

The final hill, had to goof off a little for CT, hence my T-Rex impression. In the end, ended up coming in second for my age group. Happy with that, but felt like I'd go extinct a couple times during some of the climbs, so know I need to train harder in the coming months to prepare for my favorite trail race to hate. This turned into a bigger test than expected.

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Climax, To a Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

This weekend started very different than normal weekends. We traveled, to a race, but this time to watch and cheer. I won't even pretend that cheering is harder than the actual running, but let me tell you, it's not as easy as one would think! CT, our Superstar friend, and I were all whipped after spending the day biking and running.

Watching is fun. At least for me, it feels so good seeing a familiar face during a race. Hope it worked the same way for the people we were looking for. But, for as good as it feels not having to go full effort, there's this voice that says "don't you wish you signed up for this and you were doing this?". I ignored that little voice.

No sooner did we get back, when CT reminded me that the Run to Climax is this weekend. The little voice returned. It's been four years since my first time running that race. Tempting...

Broke out the new shoes for this race, going to call them the Orange Crush, with the sole (pun ha) purpose of breaking PR's. First time out in these shoes, they cut me. Been leery of them since, but today is going to be their first race.

Walking to the starting line, maybe the bad luck started with a few sprinkles of rain. At the time I didn't take this as a sign, it actually felt good because of how warm it was. The real sign of trouble started with my watch. Currently, it's been a battle of wills. My watch has been misbehaving for the past few months. It's a miracle I haven't smashed it, yet. Up until this point, it's never failed me in a race...until now. It won't even stay on for more than a few seconds and is constantly rebooting. My mood instantly changes to one of pure anger.

The gun is silent, or maybe I didn't hear it from the steam sizzling off my head. Already in a foul mood, I didn't start close to the starting line. CT continued with the biking and cheering theme from the weekend. At about the mile mark, I toss my watch to (maybe it was at) her, really not caring if it hit the cement and smashed to it's death. Not sure if running on pure anger would be a good thing or bad thing, but by about mile two I estimated I was in about tenth place.

While it would have been nice to see my exact splits from my watch, it just so happened that at each mile a volunteer was calling out times, so I did have an idea of how I was doing. But instead of some relief, it only made me more angry that I've been using that watch as a crutch on some level to monitor how I was doing. Honestly, I'm not this angry guy, no idea where all this is coming from.

Next came irritation that I shouldn't be getting tired. It's warm, but it's not like this is a long race. Mile three, passed a few people and figured at this point I could finish here and at least this day would be over.

Not today, the same people I passed caught me back and passed me! What is happening? Nothing is going my way today! It's been some time since I've been repassed and that by itself is demoralizing. While I could see them, there was nothing left to make a push at the end. At least, now it's over.

Or so I thought, the final trick this day had up it's sleeve came on the final results. Crossing the line, the clock read high 28:2xish. Told myself I finished at 28:30. Get home, look at the official results and they have me down for a 28:48! Obviously, not a big deal, but on a day when nothing seems to be going right and the root of almost all those problems being my watch screwing up, seems only fitting that I question the time they put down for me and have no way to question it.

This is my story of my terrible, no good, very bad day. Even with it being a fairly horrendous day, the Orange Crush did easily crush my previous PR on this course, there is still hope for them. My watch on the other hand, might suffer from a crush of its own.