Sunday, March 1, 2015

Hairs Too Many

Standing in front of the mirror, I wonder who this person is looking back at me. It's not the baby faced, good-looking, devilishly handsome, young man (most if not all of that is made up) who used to stare back at me. Instead, he looks like an ungroomed monster. Who let this animal in? The beard is so scruffy and unkept, not to mention big patches of grey, he looks mean and old.

Tradition says it's time to shave, it's the day before a race. Last chance to gain that psychological speed advantage of less wind resistance. Tomorrow's race is end of an era though. Almost five years ago it started, tomorrow will be most likely my last race in this age group. Hate aging and refuse to do it, yet the mirror is clearly telling me it's happening. Well, I've got news for Mr. Mirror, looks are deceiving. Placing the razor down, let us see what this grey beard is capable of.

Even though in my world, the story is about the beard, it's the same story it always is in the real world, my shorts. Within minutes of getting to the event, I'm already greeted to a story of making it into conversation from somebody seeing a guy running around town in shorts in the winter and them knowing it was me. Before long, there's excitement telling me about seeing a couple other people also wearing shorts, almost as if testing me if I care or am worried that my title was somehow in jeopardy. I'm fine, I've got other things on my mind, I mean face.

This past week has been a struggle. For no real reason, I want to see how many months I can go over a hundred miles in a row. Most months, it's never a real concern, easily eclipsing the century mark for miles. With the early bad weather of the month, the Vegas trip, and February being a short month anyway, this streak came dangerously close to ending. To prevent it from happening, I had to run more miles than I normally would going into a race that I had specific goals for. My legs felt a lot like rubber and had a feeling I probably really hurt my chances for the 1:36 - 1:37 time I wanted for myself. Probably, something I'd regret, but didn't want the streak to end this way either, at least it safely continues.

What sound does a razor make? Scraaaaaaape, goes the starting gun. The first mile, didn't have a feeling if "it" was there or not. Legs didn't feel as dead as they did towards the end of this week, but they also didn't feel fresh and itching to go, until. On purpose I started behind the 1:40 pace group. That's my make or break number to determine if it's a good half marathon for myself or a bad one. Then I saw it, until, a pair of bare legs were running with that group. This is still a story about a beard, but seeing another pair of shorts awakened, the monster under the beard. This isn't happening, pace quickens and soon surge past the 1:40 group. As if it were a sign soon after passing a voice from the crowd comes out "first guy in shorts!". Humble, baby face would never have responded, but the monster came back with "not only the first in shorts, but he'll be finishing first in shorts as well". The monster, has some confidence. Time to see if the monster can back it up.  

Mile two I'm not only keeping pace with some people who I consider very fast, but I'm gaining. Mile three, I can't be sure, but I think up ahead is one person who I really wanted to beat coming into this race. It's a little shocking that he's up here, especially when I'm clocking seven minute miles, maybe he's faster than I thought, his breathing though tells he's going beyond his means. By mile four, he's now behind me, the beard, and the monster as well.

Mile five, here's the real world again, a volunteer shouts "Does your mom know you are running in shorts?". I can't help by smile on my way by and reply with "Yes, and she yells at me all the time". This is one time though, I can't help but laugh to myself knowing if mom were here, while she'd not approve the the shorts, she'd hate the monster more, I mean the beard.

Miles six to ten are the straightest, easy to see who's ahead. While I knew I was running fast, it felt relaxed, but I wasn't constantly checking my watch to really know how I was doing. Told myself to conserve some here and save something for the last three miles if I needed it. Then it happened, my first problem, an untied shoe. Ugh, anytime in the past once I stop the wheels come off and it is unavoidable, I'd have to stop and tie this shoe. Of course the girl who I just passed, passed me as I stopped. Starting back up, my pace didn't seem as fluid as it was before, but soon caught and passed her again. In the distance, I can see three more runners, one of which is fast, also in my age group, ugh.

By mile ten, the distance gap had closed, but it wasn't happening fast and I could also feel the signs of beginning to get tired. Thinking back to the first time I ran this race, these were the miles I turned the jets on. Today, the afterburner was used in the early miles and it was going to be coasting to the finish. Why did I keep this wind resistance beard again? It seemed like we were going at the same pace, yet watching the line my next target was taking, I was gaining ground every turn as he took bad angles. The beard may suck for drag it causes, but there is wisdom in it. With about a mile to go, all three were passed and just like the first year that I ran this race, nobody was left, only monster, beard, and I.

It wasn't until the final stretch that I glanced at my watch. My PR sits at 1:33 and while my watch read 1:33 with a few hundred feet to go, I knew wasn't going to get my PR, but still much better than the 1:36 - 1:37 I wanted. While it was damn close to that PR, I was far from dead like when I got that PR and I didn't have anywhere near the amount of facial drag that I did for this race. Had I known it was within reach, not sure I would have been able to replace it, but kind of wish I had paid closer attention to how close I was. Oh well, still happy about my time. My time wasn't good enough to place, but this goes down my first race where not a single person passed me. That has always been a minor goal, came close a few times, but somebody has always been able to get by me, not today. Did they fear the beard? The monster? Or did I simply never take my foot off the gas? It was probably fear of the mean guy in the beard.

Will the new age group start a new tradition of running with a beard? It's more fun to wonder what if, had I shaved, would I have been a hair faster (CT's dad's favorite pun)? Or was it the monster behind the beard? Either way, whatever that mirror sees, I'm here to say the person in it is still getting faster, probably one grey hair at a time.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Weekend We Took Vegas

We arrived via a limo and we left in a limo. By any stretch of the imagination, when visiting Sin City, The City that Never Sleeps, and the Gambling Capital of the World, I think that is considered a success.  Vegas oozes money. Of course, oozes assumes money goes both ways, instead it feels like an instant tap to the wallet. Gone are the days of free drinks in an attempt to grease the wallet to keep it open. Now, drinks empty the wallet almost as fast as the slot machines! At one point, two drinks came to twenty-eight dollars! Two! Who can afford to gamble, with prices like that?

Thank goodness we are only in town to celebrate a birthday and not trying our luck at gambling. I've got no luck when it comes to gambling. My theory on that, everything finds level. While I have zero luck when it comes to winning financially, it's only because I win at everything else, parents, friends, and pets. Since everything evens out, I'd rather have it this way, then winning a few bucks.

I really wanted this to be a surprise trip for CT's day, but had to fess up and tell her prior to us leaving town. For one, I didn't want to be responsible for packing her stuff. Luckily, I did because, it never would have occurred to me that the formula for shoes is three times the number of days in Vegas for women! So, I dodged that bullet, maybe my luck is changing. Hmmm. Second, it's just to hard keeping a secret all to myself for so long. Last year's birthday trip was a complete surprise, but because other people were involved, it made the secret easier to keep while in constant communication planning. It was easier just to spill the beans.

The limo was a surprise that CT had no idea of. As we left the plane, she asked "So, we are just going to take a shuttle to the the hotel?" Smiling and nodding back, thinking to myself, this is going to work out perfect. While the scene wasn't right out of the movies of walking to the door and seeing a guy holding a sign up with our name's on it, it's only because the stupid airline forced us to check our bags (I'll save the rant, but won't be flying the nickle and dime airline Spirit again). He did have a sign, took our bags, and opened the door for us. Awww, this is how the one percenters do it. Champagne wishes and off we go. Even though in Vegas, I  still couldn't bring myself to drink champagne at 8 in the morning.

This trip was never about the gambling, but it is the story. After exploring and generally getting a feel for the city, we decided on which show we wanted to watch, purchased our tickets grabbed some lunch, then it was nothing more than a waiting game until later that night exploring the vastness of the strip. What do you do when you have time to kill in Vegas? You know. CT is  the typical woman, something shiny always catches her eye and in every casino we visited, the slot machines were calling her with their sparkle. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep her away from them the whole weekend, but finally gave in and let her play, telling her should could "waste" two dollars, that was my limit on such a silly thing for the value.

Two pulls later (maybe it was actually four), her two dollars were down to .34 cents. Unsatisfied with the machine she picked, she called it quits. In my head, all the time thinking she'll be done with a couple more pulls. Thirty-four cents isn't going to last very long Vegas.

After our show, which was a good time, our glitz matched the sparkle of Vegas. While GQ magazine is never going to call me, it is fun dressing up and pretending to have some style once in a while. CT looked like a damn model. Part of the fun is people watching and I did expect the later crowd to give off this vibe of a high class night club the whole night. Instead of almost everybody dressed to impress, it was as if a dinner party got dropped into a Walmart. Just a really odd mix of people in the city for various reasons.  Bachelor parties, Bachelorette parties, people like us just out to have some fun dressed sexy, then vast majority of the slogan t-shirt wearing public thinking with one spin they are gonna to hit it big. I suppose I should be happy that at least I didn't see any in sweatpants, but then again I probably just didn't look hard enough.

Before we retired for the night, the sparkle called CT for a couple more pulls, down to ten cents! One more pull and it will be over. Good thing that limo is prepaid, otherwise we'll be leaving Vegas broke! Then it happened, she started to win a few times. Soon, she was up to $1.02 and coming that close to despair, to this now substantial cushion, she decided to call it a night.

The City that Never Sleeps, well I'm calling BS. Not much is open before 10 am and the only real activity are workers maintaining the shine in the early hours. Sure the machines are still running, but that doesn't count in my book.

The second day in Vegas is one of those things that I'll always remember, for the rest of my life. Here comes the back story, I don't want to brag, but my wife is gorgeous. She just is. Case in point, the night before, every couple we'd pass, both sets of eyes were on CT. Locked on. If there was enough time before they'd pass, which wasn't often, it was almost humorous if their attention could be pulled from her beauty. If so, immediately they had to check me out to see who she has with.  My guess, in an attempt to analyse the situation, if I were some super rich tycoon, athlete, famous person type. That alone makes me feel good and appreciate how lucky I am. This morning however, I received a compliment like no other. The server at breakfast took a long hard look at CT his first time seeing her. I know CT didn't notice and I doubt he even realized he did it, but by the look on his face I could tell that time almost stopped for him for those brief few seconds. On the surface, I expected it to be one of those things I'd just smile about later, knowing that only I witnessed it. He made some small talk as we placed our order, but just before we turned to leave, he gives me a good long look and I can tell he's debating saying something, then it finally bursts from his mouth "King Kong's got nothing on you". I know, what a strange thing to say. But immediately, I knew what he meant and I couldn't help smiling as he offered me a fist bump. Pure admiration for the hot blonde I had with me, even King Kong would be envious. Made my morning, may even have made my trip. Damn right, King Kong's got nothing on me!

Later that night, CT convinced me to play a dollar in the slots. We were in a different casino and her $1.02 ticket wouldn't work here, so I gave her credit and issued her another dollar as well.  My luck is so bad at slots, as if you didn't know already. Being it was night, the place was packed and it was difficult to find two machines together. She also couldn't play the machine she wanted to play, so we combined our modest funds and called it a night with $1.34 to our name.

First thing in the morning, her machine was open. Turns out, it must have worked very hard the night before giving out all the winnings because quickly dwindled away more of our money.  Still not deterred, CT decided since it was our last day she had one other machine she'd been eyeing up and felt as though it would get our remaining thirty-four cents (if I spell it out, it will last longer, right?).

We get to her special machine, only to find that it's a minimum of twenty five cents to play. Unacceptable, when we only have $.34, so she finds a penny slot machine close by and this will be our make or break us spot. Not sure if she wanted to see it for herself, or it was guilt of her blowing our hard earned four dollars to this point, but she wanted us to take turns playing.  She'd make a bet and play, then I'd make a bet and play. Knowing I wasn't lucky, I'd only bet a penny at a time. She would sometimes bet one, sometimes five, sometimes more. You know how I said things even out in this world? Well, I think we found the secret of Vegas. I'd loose with every bet I'd make, but she started winning with hers. When we'd lose, it was only a penny at time.  When she'd win, it was for bigger and bigger amounts.  It wasn't long and our $.34 cents grew to over five dollars! We were officially ahead of Vegas. I wanted to run as fast as we could with our winnings.  CT on the other had found her addiction, winning.

At one point she hit some kind of jackpot that allowed us to roll dice in the game. Provided we didn't hit a seven, points kept getting added to our score based on what we rolled. By the time we finally hit a seven, which of course it was me who finally rolled it and stopped our streak, we were up to $26! Turning $4 (well, really $.34 at this point) into $26, I half expected the pit bosses to come escort us from the casino. While I wanted to tell CT to stop, I also realized we were now playing with casino money. Her goal was $30, if she hit that she was done.  Turns out our luck didn't continue, but we must have played for a good hour before giving back some of our winnings, but cashing out with $15.

While not as funny as The Hangover or as interesting as 21, that's our story of taking down Vegas. While our winnings barely covered a drink, it felt as though we conquered the town. On a side note, in two and a half days in Vegas, we walked a marathon in distance, so this may have been the hardest earned winnings as well!    


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Shy Goodbye

My second kitten came home for a gift for my first kitten. Guilt pushed me to do it, I felt bad leaving my first kitten alone all day and thought a second was a great idea. Little did I know what and how things would change.

It was a completely different experience, what drew me to Shy was he was just a ball of fur, reminded me of well, me. If looking at very early pictures of myself, hair going every direction almost as if electrocuted, his fur the same way. On the ride home, unlike Rascal who constantly attempted to escape from the box, it was almost as if Shy wasn't even in the box, calm. At their first meeting, Rascal was anything but impressed. Shy on the other hand, I'm not even sure he knew another cat was even around. Rascal relentlessly attacked Shy, knocking him over without him having any idea what even happened. I was actually fearful for him and wondered if I didn't make a huge mistake, I didn't.

Naming Shy was obvious. The little guy always seemed to look down awkwardly. His purr, nothing more than heavy breathing. Looking back, I really believe Shy probably wasn't eight weeks old when I got him. Maybe that's what caused him to be inappropriately named. Fast forward a few months and something happened the last visit to the vet and his personality changed. Gone were the characteristics of shyness, and hello friendly, buggy, annoying, pestering kitten.

Shy was anything but the typical cat, greeting guests at the door more like a dog. Begging for rubs, okay, that may have been my biggest mistake teaching him that. Sleeping on his back. Didn't like treats, just his normal food. He did enjoy beating on, terrorizing his sister, which I assume was payback for all that early mistreatment she did to him. Almost everybody who saw him, commented on how big or fat he was. I enjoyed "defending" his honor by responding with "he's not fat, he's fluffy"!

Shy really did have to endure biased parenting on my part. The poor little guy had to put up with probably a ten to one ratio of pictures to the first child. It wasn't fair and I do feel bad for it. I'm sure the amount of rubs went the opposite way, but that was pure effort on Shy's part. Even though he had every right to be jealous, you'd never know it.

It's been hard these past few years not seeing Shy or his sister(s). Thirteen years is a long time to bond, even if it's an animal, they still feel like my kids. It has been a constant worry of mine that the last time I'd see them was the day I dropped them off at their new house and one day I'd get the message that one passed away. It just so happened that I a chance to watch them for a week just before the start of the new year. Emotions were high, wondering if they would remember me, would they have forgotten me, or worse would there be resentment.

My first visit didn't go as expected. I really expected all kinds of curiosity, which would make me feel like they remembered me, instead it was the exact opposite. They all didn't seem to care, is this the cold shoulder? Of course it felt like that, but I believe enough time had passed where they really didn't remember me, which is probably a good thing. Speaking of memories, with my visits, I could clearly see the signs of old age. These weren't the kittens who would destroy the house getting into constant mischief anymore. Seeing this, also made me appreciate being able to see them one more time.

It's hard to avoid using the cliche, things happen for a reason. But it really feels like that knowing I was worried about not seeing them again, knowing that they are getting older, and then hearing the news that Shy passed away only a few weeks after getting my visit. I feel very lucky that I got my chance.

Shy Kitten (Early September 1998 - January 14, 2015)

Shy, you really are a great cat. Going to miss all the things that made you special. "Snake-head", who could forget that? No such thing as a bad rub, the harder the better. The purrs, not even sure how to describe them in words, but that little motor sound will always be with me. Butt-knots, your fur really was a mess buddy at times! Thank you for keeping me entertained and company all those years. Love you and miss you!  

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gettin' My Kicks on Route 66

Running 26.2 miles is crazy. Traveling eight-hundred miles to run 26.2 miles might be psychotic. At least this time, it's not my fault and believe it or not, CT's not to blame either. This trip is the brain child of one of our Superstar friends and we are just along for the ride. Well, not exactly either. Driving this distance, running, then turning around and driving back all in the span of three days didn't sound very appealing to me. While it would have been fun to road trip with our friends, CT and I chose to fly.

Why are we doing this crazy adventure? For the medal, duh! At least that's our friend's excuse. Supposedly, The Route 66 Marathon medal is consistently rated the top running medal. A few weeks prior to the race, they released pictures of this year's medal and they completely changed it! Our friend made such a sour face when she saw it, I had to agree, the change wasn't good, but we were beyond committed at this point. So, scratch the reason why we are doing this, it's now because of the "extras"!

We have some really great friends, friends who I would travel eight-hundred miles and submit my body to the torture of a marathon for, even though they changed the medal, regardless (lets just not tell them that), but the real reason this adventure intrigued me were the extras. First, they advertise one perk as being the world's shortest ultra. A marathon is plenty far enough, but running a mere three-tenths extra, getting a coin, and being able to say I did an ultra, count me in! Second, if you are members of this special group, then not only do you get access to private bathrooms and a few other perks, but instead of the standard finisher medal, your medal will represent this group with it's own ribbon. The group is called the Marathon Maniacs and the name is very fitting. If composing a list of all the real crazies of the world, this would be a good place to start. Not very many people can gain entry to this club, to give you an idea, I got in under the minimum standards of completely three marathons in a month. Who does that? Not sure what I was thinking when I did that!  The last extra, is a 5K race the day before the marathon.

If training is work, running the marathon is the reward, traveling is the dirty laundry. Sure glad we decided to fly, wait hold that thought. Upon arrival at the airport, trying to check in is the first sign of what's in store for us, "please see ticket agent". Turns out our flight is delayed and it's so delayed that we will most likely miss our connecting flight and they have us rerouted to Atlanta to get to Tulsa, changing our arrival time from early afternoon to almost midnight. At this point, we could drive to our connecting spot and make our original flight and the thought did cross my mind, but suddenly avoiding a fifteen hour car trip and needing to drive three seemed pretty silly. There was a connecting flight from a nearby airport, but we'd have to rush to get to it, time to race! En-route, we got notified that our connecting flight was now delayed. At this point stress levels were high, we were past the point of no return if we'd even make the flight we were trying for or do we turn around and hope our original plane flies. I won't bore you with the details, but we did make it and did arrive in Tulsa a few hours late. Coming back was a whole other set of problems because the agent who flew us out of the other airport, didn't change our return flight, so it took a heated call to the airline, pointing out how asinine it was to fly us out of one airport and return us to another and wanting to charge me "extra" to return to the airport where I left my car. Not the extra I had in mind this trip, but a perfect example of why I'd rather run a marathon than travel, maybe.

This thing is a novel already and the story hasn't even started, be prepared reader, you are doing an ultra. Once in Tulsa, we met our group and promptly went out to eat. The restaurant very quickly recognized the volume we bring and smartly seated us upstairs by ourselves.

(This blog kind of stinks, every pic needs to be portrait, sorry you miss one person in this shot and the full "Oklahoma" in the background)

Afterward, I was asked if I was the lead cowboy for this rodeo leaving the restaurant. Yeee-haw! Saying yes was on the tip of my tongue feeling pretty proud of myself for corralling these girls back to the hotel, when a Jolly Trolley rounds the corner. Stampede! Fifteen seconds later and all control gone. Now, the Superstars are getting a tour of Tulsa, music cranked, dancing, laughing, and I'm sure we made that trolley driver's weekend, not to mention getting the attention of two police officers and getting the signal for turn it down. Turn down for what? My favorite move, the trolley comes to our stop and it just so happens a boring song is playing, the girls wouldn't leave until they could exit on a good beat, yeah this is how we roll.

Just before bed, in a hurry to do so,  I kicked my suitcase with my toe. Seems minor to even mention it, but this is my true getting my kicks on Route 66 moment. I drilled it good, but didn't think too much of it, just like any other toe stub. Waking up in the morning, this wasn't the normal stubbed toe, it still hurt. Looking closer, black and blue on both the inside and outside and clearly swollen. Made a quick appointment with nurse Downhill, where she gave me a quick checkup and diagnosed that I probably broke it. When asked what my pain was on the pain scale, I said three, she actually looked annoyed that I woke her for such a trivial pain. Can you believe that? This is further proof why I hate the medical profession, zero compassion! Reader tip, when asked your pain level on anything, add at least three, lie!

Running a 5K with a potentially broken toe is one thing, figured I could pull that off, I mean especially since my pain level is ONLY a three, but I was very concerned for the marathon. The 5K will be a good test though and would give me insight into how much pain I could be in tomorrow. It was an overcast morning and since it looked like it was going to rain, I didn't want to run in my racing shoes, opted for what I call my fast training shoes. My thought was wanting to keep my race shoes dry for the marathon. Walking caused some pain, yeah a three, but running didn't seem to make it worse.

This blog is getting ridiculous long, but feel it necessary to add this detail. Besides, you the reader, don't have a smashed toe with a pain level of three, a 5K, and a marathon which could be a potential an ultra still left to run! Suck it up! Prior to this trip, CT had a dream that at this 5K, they asked her to be a pacer. Nobody paces a 5K, so we both got a chuckle over her dream. Walking to the start and lining up, you know what's coming, there are damn pace groups!

Is this one of those signs? CT studies the race results, she thought we had a good chance to place. I think I humor her some and just agreed, you never know what the conditions were like in year's past, plus it all depends who shows up. This 5K, probably will have over a thousand people doing it, not to mention in previous years, it was held on the same day as the marathon, so people weren't able to do both. Here I am with a broken toe (pain level of three), the people in crowding the starting line look fast, then it clicked, "what if you could place"? Mood changed, found focus, lets try. Probably a dumb idea, but then again, it was dumb to kick a suitcase too.

Bang, goes the gun, no I didn't kick anything again! There were lots of people, this wouldn't be easy. Dodging the typical kids who start out way too fast or start way too close to the starting line, it seemed like I did make up ground going into the first turn. After the first turn, the road went up and over this fairly steep bridge. By the time we got to the bridge, I was past the mob of people, is this really happening? Up the bridge, a few more people passed. At this point, I could clearly count all the people a head of me, eight! While still very early in the race, it was shocking to me to be this close to the lead with this many people. No doubt I was going my 5K race pace, but I've been slacking the past few weeks, plus knowing I still have to run a marathon tomorrow, I wasn't going all out either. At the two mile mark, I was content where I was, still only eight people ahead of me. My pace, felt fast but still had some in reserve, and it finally dawned on me that my toe was actually at a zero on the pain level. I was ecstatic to finish this race in the top ten. Overall, it looked like Kzoo came and invaded the age group awards, the Superstars ran away with six age group awards! If Tulsa didn't know there is a Kalamazoo, they do now.

My marathon prep has always been consistent. Rest the days leading up to it, clipping toe nails, drinking lots of water, and of course pasta dinner. Since the Grand Rapids Marathon, I've been resting, too much in fact. Running a 5K, hard enough to place, is definitely different. Drinking lots of water, well do white Russians count? Hey, at least I didn't deviate from the pasta dinner, well it was kind of lunch! This will be interesting, not exactly my normal prep.

Oh, that weather! Week before, cold. Even yesterday was better. Sixty degrees! Really had high hopes that it would be so cold and I'd be the only one who could run well in it. CT dreams silly things and they work out, I dream up something entirely possible and nothing! Putting my racing shoe on, immediately, I can feel pressure on my toe. At first, thought it was just the thicker sock I wear on longer runs, switched to a thin one, same problem. The toe box in my racing shoes are just smaller than the shoe I wore yesterday. Dilemma time. Is it best to wear my normal racing shoe, hoping that my toe doesn't swell more? Do I wear my much heavier training shoe? Or do I wear the same shoe that I ran with for the 5K and it felt good, of course the catch is, never ran more than six miles at one time with these shoes? At the time, the smart choice seemed to be run in the shoe that felt good in the 5K.

Bang, goes the gun again! CT has this crazy notion that she's going to attempt to qualify for Boston again. I decided there's no way I'm going to run hard today and the best course of action is running with her and hopefully helping her quality again. The early miles felt good, we shadowed her pace group. For what I thought would be very flat cattle country, turned into many rolling hills though residential neighborhoods. Between miles four and eight we pushed ahead of the pace group she needed.  It seemed crowded and the water stops were more tricky to navigate with the people around, so thought it best to get ahead of them. By mile nine or ten, my body already was telling me this could be a challenge. Think it was a combination of the warmer temps, too much rest leading up and pushing too hard the day before. At the halfway point, I had pulled away enough from CT to stop and rest a bit. The thin sock I had picked was creeping down enough that my heel was  rubbing and already bleeding at this point, not to meaning I could already feel the tell tale signs of blisters on my feet. Once CT caught up, told her my problems, but clearly we had pulled away from her pace so she was more than ahead of her qualifying time, so were in very good shape.

Never stopped at an aid station before, but saw one coming up, so I split off to get a band-aid for my heel. As soon as I attempted to put it on, it was obvious how futile this was, being wet and sweaty the band-aid wouldn't stick for long. Doubt it lasted a half mile before it was gone and it was back to rubbing. Also back are the rolling hills! Wow, never would have guess it would have been like this. By mile sixteen, I was done. My feet were so tender, they were killing me and my heel didn't feel much better. Broken toe, pain index zero. Rest of my problems, seven (and that's not inflated). At this point, I told CT she'd be on her own and gave her specific instructions that if that pace group didn't catch her, she wasn't allowed to do the "extra", qualifying was more important than a coin.

The rest of the marathon for me was a whole bunch of walking. This is where the lesson of never wearing new shoes before a race glows bright and the bells and whistles go off. I even stopped and took my socks off, hoping it would help, it did, but the damage was already done. I did try another aid station too, hoping to try a band-aid, then wrapping my heel with tape, except they didn't have any tape. Talk about miserable. Marathons have beaten me up in the past, but this one really was taking a toll on me physically.

When it came time to do the detour for the ultra, figured it couldn't get any worse. It's always been my biggest fear to finish a marathon over the four hour mark. At this point, I was seriously flirting with it. This marathon was suppose to be fun anyway and although it seemed anything but at this point, figured I'd swallow some pride and just be happy to finish. The dreaded happened, finished over four, which considering had four pit stops trying to fix things and ten miles of walking, oh well.

Crossing the line, there was relief, but I ultimately looked forward to the "extra" walk to the hotel to put on different shoes! CT was smiling waiting for me. She didn't make her qualifying time, she also had trouble down the stretch. Maybe I started her out too fast, or it simply could have been a hard course to pull that off considering all the hills. I know her well enough to know that there will always be another chance.

In the end, very fun weekend, even though it came with an "extra" swollen toe. Sure, Route 66 got some kicks on me, still left town with this hardware. Oh and the medal did grow on all of us, think it's pretty cool.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Training Pay Off

This Summer was hell. It's not me bitching about the heat, again. This time, I'm talking about the training program CT committed us to. My legs have never felt like rubber with my feet in concrete blocks more. Even in bad dreams, my legs have felt better. What kind of training program is this? It's call the Hanson Method and the concept is running and training on "tired" legs to train the body to learn how to deal with the late miles of the marathon. Stamp "Sucker" on my forehead because I was sold on how this training program's longest run is never more than sixteen miles. Previous training plans that I've used, the longest has always been twenty miles. Soon after CT tricked me into attempting this training with the shorter distance long runs, now freshly signed in blood, that's when I found out about this tired leg philosophy, which is possible because of the ridiculous amount of weekly miles. So, even though it's less, it's really more.

Something worked. My previous 5K record from two years ago, got crushed this summer. The trail run from hell, saw me cut eight minutes from my previous time. Yet, it's still never enough to be super confident it's working. Even though the number of miles logged training for this marathon were easily a hundred more than previous efforts, not doing a twenty mile run, messes with confidence. Another thing, heading into this marathon, I was easily five pounds heavier than I have been. One would think with the additional miles, it would be easy to be lean, I found it difficult to drop to my previous marathon weights. So, lack of a twenty mile training run, being heavier than I have been, had me questioning what was going to happen coming into the fall marathon.

CT in true form, can never just let us run a race without some level of expectations. A couple weeks out, even with nerves, I figured I'd aim to PR. I didn't want to set a specific time for myself, just felt for putting the effort of training, I owed it to myself to attempt to beat my time. There's two levels of expectations that exist in our house, the sane and rational (mine) and crazy (CT's). Coming home to an empty house one night, found not only one, but two hand made signs with times. Mine with a time of 3:20 and it should be noted at one point it did read 3:25, but the five was clearly made into a zero later. Keep in mind my PR is 3:28 something. Nothing, like a little added pressure!

Race day is perfect, cool temps. If a PR is going to happen, this is day for it. Nervous about what would happen after mile sixteen is on my mind, I also promised to run a friend in, hoping to help her with her Boston Qualifying dreams. Spent as much time as I could relaxing and mentally preparing before the start, but just like training, never seems like enough because before too long it's time for the long walk to the starting line.

Wiiiiiiiiissssssh, goes the starting gun. It's rare to run a race where there's not at least a handful of people who don't start where they should. Fifty feet in, way before the very first turn, people are walking! This is a first. I'd never want to discourage somebody that made a mistake, but come on people use your head! I'm glad I wasn't running for time, because I wanted to stab them in the head (walker)!

By mile four I was on the heels of the 3:29 pace group, even though I started behind them. Here's where the voices start, "stay here, push at the end, easy PR". This is a big clump of runners, "it would be easy to push a little more and get some separation". Ugh, here comes the devil, "he's beaten you before, look at that old guy running with you, all this training, you should be faster....3:20 flashing in red".

Miles five to sixteen were a blur. Not sure if the devil fell off my shoulder, couldn't keep up, or gave up but it got quiet. This is racing. The only real thought that I remember was crossing the halfway mat and seeing a very respectable time. Even though I still was conserving for the next thirteen miles, knowing had I only did the half today, there's a good chance I could have lowered my favorite PR. Would it hold up for the dreaded late miles?

At mile eighteen, total surprise. Not only were the wheels still spinning, but it became apparent how well even in my runner's haze, when I saw the 3:14 pace group not very far ahead of me. To be anywhere near that group at this point in the race only made me push harder. Hindsight, this was probably my bonehead mistake for this race.

Mile twenty-three is where training ran out. Tired legs are one thing, and there's something to be said for doing lots of miles to get the legs ready for the pounding, but the first noticeable fatigue were my feet. They were getting sore and I probably didn't do them any favors by decided to run in my least cushioned shoes. Thoughts of getting closer to the 3:14 pace group were gone. With only three miles to go, a PR was happening for sure. The decision to push on, while tired and getting sore, I couldn't justify it. Sure, that 3:20 was still flashing in my head. But, I gave myself permission to take the final three miles easy and not risk hurting myself for no reason.

The final stretch, did feel like it was forever, but crossed the line with about a six minute PR and a just over 3:20 PR with a 3:22. Not bad. The marathon wasn't over yet. After a quick walk through the finish line treats to get my muscle milk, walked back out to mile twenty-five to wait and hope. A few days earlier, I did have a nightmare where I had a bad marathon and didn't finish in time to get back out to run our friend in and it was awful. It wasn't too long before CT and our friend appeared. Not knowing exactly when our friend started, but already kind of knew that unless we threw down a really fast mile (which I know full well I didn't even have in me at this point), it was unlikely she was going to get her BQ time. Still a PR for her as well, but disappointing at the same time.

Can't deny the results of training with this method, it worked. Did I follow the program to a tee, no. That's the hardest part of by this program, so many miles and when life is also happening at the same time, it's hard to dedicate the amount of time to following this method completely. Six days of running with only one rest day takes it's toll as well. Some days, my body said you are insane and need a break. Not saying another marathon is in my future, but if one were, I'd probably use this same method to train.        

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pacing with a Friend

This campus has a hold of me. First, it sucked all the money from my parents. Then, it kept me long enough that I probably should be a doctor. Even though I broke free from it on a daily basis, it's pull still kept me in the area. Twenty years later, its gravitation pull still has a hold of me and pulls me back to it by running its campus. It's got me again, now it's forcing me to race on it. Oh, wait that's not force of the campus, but CT making me do this.

Sometimes, I really wonder about the crew I ended up with. We ran this route two times this week preparing for this 5K. The plan is for CT to pace our Superstar friend, Judy, to her PR time of under 23. Not sure there's another group of girls who prepare like this.

The morning of the race, CT and I ran to the start of the race. During this three mile warm up, CT decided she didn't think she could go and now I was volunteered to pace Judy. See how this works? Pain sucker on my forehead.

Trying to PR on this course is kind of silly if you ask me, it's hilly. Personally, I don't like the pressure of pacing. It's nice knowing the person trusts you enough to do it, but I'm too much of a softy because I feel bad if the person doesn't make their goal.  For a 5K, I'm not even sure a pacer matters, so even though I got volunteered into this, I'm treating it as a run with a friend tagging behind.

First mile, pretty good, right on pace and that's with going up the monster hill to start. Mile two, Judy is lagging a little behind, well within her goal, but know the final mile is going to have to be fastest. Which in any race, isn't really the way you want it planned, but in this case Judy really likes the downhill and thought for sure we could make up any time lost in the middle of the course here. I tried, I willed, and even yelled trying my best coaching.

My first attempt at pacing a friend, came up 22 seconds short of her goal. You'd think I'd be disappointed with that, but turns out it was 1 second better than her previous PR (she only wanted under 23) and she got first place in her age group! Now, I can't take all of the credit, but I think it's worth at least 20%.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

It Happened

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"!