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.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Funk (1st to get 2nd)

The Funk has been following me. The Funk, isn't a robot controlled Twitter follower that means nothing if it's following you. The Funk, is something real and the damn thing has been following me since turning that F-word. The Funk feels like a disease, an incurable one at that. The symptoms? Horrible runs. Since catching the Funk, two absolutely awful races, countless bad training runs, feel heavy, lazy, nothing seems to go right. You know, generally feeling like the S-word, oh yeah, shit!

This weekend brings us to my hometown. It's not the annual 5K, this time, but for a new half marathon. While not a doctor, I'm not sure if the Funk is contagious, but the morning of, CT is suffering from the symptoms now. Jeez, she may be even have it worse! It was hard even getting her into the car to get to the race, it was like dealing with a two year old!

Attempting to find the cure, went back to my bread and butter pre-race routine. Just need a few minutes to find my zone with some tunes by myself. Can't spill any real secrets what really goes on, but for the moment, felt the Funk drain away. Looking up, locked eyes with CT, the Funk, dies today! Certainly not about to brag and confidently predict it's gone, especially after only self diagnosing healing thirty seconds ago, but in is moment I felt healed.

This race is small, but of course it's the first one. The hope was to have the whole Superstar clan come rolling into town to participate. As it worked out, only one star could make it with us. On the drive up, the joke was what if we could win, yeah right! While we didn't have the clan running, we did have our own cheering section, with signs of course.

Fuuuuuuuunk, goes the starting gun. The young kid I had eyed up prior to the start, think he was gone before the first turn. Per my family's request, kept it under control going into the first turn, so they could get "action" pictures. This will be my excuse for not winning, slowing down for pictures? Who does that? Still to be determined if the Funk is cured. Somewhat surprised that nobody else bolted by, coming out of the first turn was in fourth place. The game plan for this race is not repeating what caught the Funk, going out too fast, not catching the F-word! Oh please, I'm so far removed from the F-word at twenty-three anyway. This time, easy six miles to start, then attempt to get faster for the last half is the plan.

Mile one felt very relaxed. Didn't want to look, but glanced at my watch, 7:13. Ugh, that's faster than I wanted. Am I already screwing up the plan? Then again, currently sitting in fourth place, in a half marathon, and can't feel anybody breathing down my neck. Fourth place in a half would be kind of cool. Maybe just stalk these two, since the pace feels easy, hell maybe they'll die out with some Funk of their own. Mile two, they slowed some, guessing the adrenaline wore off, closer to the pace I was hoping for at 7:30.

Miles three and four stayed at about that same pace. The mind has plenty of time to wander, thinking about all kinds of things, finishing fourth, worry about crashing like when I first caught the Funk, age group awards, strategy, how CT is doing, and of course, if it's possible to finish second in a half marathon. It's never applied, but I've read and know some basic race strategy and I felt like trying some, this may be the only time it will every apply.

The whole time I'd been eyeing the two guys ahead of me, sizing them up, deciding which one looked stronger. When I heard the stronger of the two cough a couple of times, decided it was time to see what would happen if I passed and pushed the pace. Would they keep up or fall back? Secretly, I hoped they'd attempt to keep up, burn themselves out, and all but give me second. One problem with this race, it's a straight line and feels like you can see forever, really no escape. But the next two miles, dropped the pace down to 7:00 minute miles and have no idea if they attempted to keep up, if my plan worked, or they simply let me go. Told myself not to look back, because that would be sign of weakness. Instead listened crossing roads if spectators or volunteers cheered for anybody after me, didn't hear any, so assumed they had to be behind me at a safe distance.

At about the halfway point, I eased back, hoping to conserve just in case something was needed at the end. It was crazy to think it's actually possible to get second place in a half marathon. Mile eight, I could feel it getting warmer, tried not to let that freak me out knowing that my foot was off the gas some. At ten, fatigue was setting in, but told myself at eleven my treat would be taking my shirt off. Even though it felt harder, my miles were very consistent still. It worked out perfect, right about at mile eleven the trail split and the curve it took made it easy to look back down the trail, without needing to turn around to look. Nobody! Honestly, not sure if it came down to it, if there would have been anything left to fight it out at the end had somebody been there. Maybe it was there, just held in very safe reserve. Either way, my attempt to break wills worked.

Crossing the line, Mom's first comment "you're done already?". Does that mean she wants me to do more? General surprise? Maybe it doesn't look like I ran a half marathon? Or did she think I was still infected with the Funk? Mental note, when having spectators, probably a good idea to give them a rough estimate of finish time. Really, not accustom to having a cheering section. As it turns out, she had just got there, good thing I took my foot off the gas and didn't PR!

Took a few minutes recovery, then my plan was to head back and find CT. No sooner did I start to head back to find her, this orange streak with the tell tail blonde pony tail bob comes into view crossing the bridge. Now it's my turn to say "you're done already?". Even though all signs pointed to it being her, I couldn't see for sure until she got off the bridge and the smile came into view, that's her, for sure! Mile wide smile. First girl! This is the girl who was complaining, didn't want to do it, practically had to drag and beg her do do it, coming down the home stretch going to win the whole damn race! Few minutes later, here comes our Superstar friend to be the second overall female and also winning her age group.

The Funk is dead. For good, who knows? Glad to put it to rest though. Can't think a more successful race weekend to kill it off with family and friends. It will be the first and last time I ever pull second place in a half marathon, scraping the Funk off the bottom of my shoe, feels the best!


Friday, May 8, 2015

The Five Year Plan

Five years is a long time to do anything. How long did it take me to get out of school? It's crazy to think it's been that long since deciding to run a 5K. The goal started out small. Figured, it wouldn't last more than a few months and like very treadmill ever bought, the idea would soon be collecting dust.

Today, marks the five year anniversary of attempting that first 5K (distance). I don't remember much from that day other than being absolutely horrified of the time it took me. Had no idea how it would change me, nor how much. Never in a million years did I think that it would lead not just to a marathon, but marathons.

Wish I could say I planned it, it's really just coincidence, but five years to the day hit 6,500 miles total. That's not miles on the car, that's not miles on a bike, those are all miles by my own two feet. That number is unreal to me. To put another way, if I ran a 5K every day for these past five years, my total would only be 5,518 miles.

Coming off a couple of really bad races, but taking everything that's been accomplished over these past five years, have to be happy with reaching this point. Here's to seeing what's next...