Sunday, February 26, 2017

History Finds Me

"Do you want a flu shot?" The doctor asks. Well, really it's a PA asking me that, can't afford real doctors. A PA? What is that, Practically Almost, Probably Assuming, Phony A-hole? Yeah, I'm going to take advice from somebody younger who is basically doing intern work.

Fast forward a couple weeks, one miserable week of feeling like complete garbage with the highlight story is waking up in a pool of sweat on the kitchen floor after passing out and crashing into the corner counter resulting in a nice size gash in my shoulder. As if the body aches weren't bad enough, add back pain to the symptoms. Oh, and lets not forget the bruise to the ego as CT is constantly reminding me that I could pass out at any time now. Like I'm some kind of walking hazard. Okay, the flu got me.

Fast forward a couple more weeks. That flu, it's gone, but yet it's still here and it's not CT reminding me I could pass out at any time. Prior, provided I am running my normal pace, it's not much effort to keep going and going. The only real limits were running out fuel or hitting the boredom wall. After this battle with the flu, things have completely changed. It honestly feels like real effort simply doing six miles at my normal pace. Getting to double digits, I'm completely spent. It's an awful feeling, don't understand, and what's worse it hasn't seemed to get any better.

Training has basically come to a complete stop. The goal was to do that Ultra race again in about a month and a half. There's no way. That race about killed me last year and I put in a ridiculous amount of miles preparing for it. One battle with the flu and it's derailed that goal.

Today, I stand at the starting line of the race that is built for me, the Winter Blast and the race I PR'd last year. No glimmers of hope of pulling off last year's performance today. In fact, I'm honestly worried about the distance. The way I've been feeling at or around miles eight lately, knowing thirteen is what's needed, seems daunting.

Take it easy, run it slow, that's all that's running through my mind. As I try to mentally prepare for what's coming. As I look over, I see a woman taking a picture of a runner and it kind of clicks that "hey, I know her, but from where?". Normally, I'm a bit runner stupid late in run, but today it's already to that point before the race has even started. Damn, flu! Few more seconds, it dawns on me, she's the wife the neighborhood kid. Sure enough, look over and there's my kid neighbor standing right next to me (okay, he's grown up some). I'm going to call him Fuel.

Memmmmmories, goes the gun.Fuel and I exchange pleasantries during the initial surge of runners. He's really improved over the past few years. It started with the hometown 5K, he always told me his goal was to keep me in sight as long as he could. Every year, he's got closer and closer. Fuel has caught a bit of the runner bug (far different than the flu). His goal is to run a Half Marathon every month for the year and he happened to pick Winter Blast as his February race.  Didn't expect to catch up with him (in conversation) much before he dusted is old neighbor, but we ended up doing the whole race side by side.

How did I come up with the name Fuel for him? One of my earliest memories of him was the scare he put into the whole neighborhood when as a baby he drank pretty much all the kerosene from a lamp.  Luckily, I wasn't babysitting at the time, but I remember the stories that his diapers reeked of kerosene for weeks afterward. Personally, can imagine it tasted good, but that didn't stop him. The fact it didn't kill him, already that proves he'll make for a good runner.

On a day CT was out sick herself, my training and confidence seemed wavering, Fuel is exactly what I needed to help me get through this race. Speaking of history, I may have to retire my shoes early.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Un-Trained

All motivation has been lost. Didn't do any of the run camps this summer and found it hard to get out there and do it. Before I knew it, it was time again, Marathon time. Out of curiosity, checked how many miles of training I dedicated to the past few years previously training for this Marathon, the result almost three hundred less miles! Ugh.

Marathons always have a certain level of nervousness associated with them. Today, is a whole new level. I'm sure most would expect the distance to be the biggest concern, but the head game is hoping not to have my worst Marathon time.

Crack goes the gun, will my untrained legs be next? Going out a my normal pace would lead to certain disaster, knew I had to dial back. Four miles in, the temp was in my favor, figures the year I don't train. I was trailing the pace group that I would normally start either with or slightly in front of. That alone was a moral victory, that they were still within eyesight.

By mile ten, sped up enough to be in the pace group. Up until this point, didn't even need any water because of how cool it was, but also knew it wouldn't last for much longer because it was warming up.

Mile sixteen started the dreaded stretch. It's a pretty trail, but feels more like a death march. Entering it, always brings back bad memories and at this point, the feelings of lack of training really started. Is this what it feels like taking out a loan you know you can't repay back? Borrowed time. Mile eighteen as much as I resisted, the end was approaching. Made it to mile twenty before the walk of shame started. That's when I really shut it down. Bye pace group.

The remaining six miles were a mix of walking, trotting, soul searching, cursing the lack of training. Crossing the line resulted in a bit of surprise too. For as bad as I expected it could have been, it honestly wasn't THAT bad. Squeaked in under 3:40:00, which I've trained and done worse than that!

Lesson here, didn't enjoy being un-trained. The fact that I somehow pulled it off doesn't change that I told myself, won't be doing this again!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Full Weekend

The Bug (aka my niece) has a goal of running a 5K every month the rest of the year, maybe her life, anyway some duration. She's also been dying to get a medal. While it's unusual, it's not out of the question for 5K's to hand out finisher medals. As if it were a sign, she found a 5K that not only had a medal, but also happened to have penguins on it, so of course we had to do it.

This race just so happens to be in the one place nobody really wants to go, Detroit. When I think of vacation, the cesspool of Detroit ranks about dead last. Even our car doesn't like D-Town, the last time returning with a broken window and a damaged door after getting broken into. Ugh, the things I do for the women in my life. Well, if you are going to make the commitment, might as well attempt to make the best of it. Let me get my mace ready, and by that I mean stopping taking showers.

Being in the area, might as well check the sport situation in an attempt to make things better. Sure enough, my favorite sports team is playing football. Downhill's favorite baseball team is playing, even though we are in the cesspool, the water is at least only murky. Because we don't go often, CT cleared me to get "good" tickets for the games. With that bonus, thought finding a cheap hotel would be good, until I read the first review complaining about bedbugs. Yeah, what was I thinking? The cesspool, a cheap hotel, bedbugs were probably the least of the worries! Executive decision time, time to upgrade the hotel as a surprise.

The Big House was awesome! It wasn't as if they were playing a good team, but that certainly helped get the seats that we got. 109, 295 people and we were in the second row. Probably, will never get seats like that again. Also helped that an acquaintance threw a tailgate party beforehand to sweeten the deal.

The surprise was staying on top of the cesspool. Forty two floors up, should be much too high for bedbugs, right? After a toast of Kzoo wine, it was off to the Tiger's game. In true Tiger fashion, one pitch, one swing, they were down one nothing. My Dad would be so proud. It didn't get much better the rest of the night with the Tigers stinking up the field. At least, we had a great time in our section. One of the highlights was the kid telling the bullpen pitchers for the other team they stunk. Two minutes later, a home run ball lands in the bullpen (not the Tiger's either) and that same kid asking them for the ball, only to hear the one pitcher actually calling him out "hey, weren't you just the kid who was trash talking us?" There's a lesson there kid.

CT and I should be doing more miles for the race we have coming up next month. It's been a challenge to be motivated, so when I signed us up for the 5K, noticed they also had a 10K and if you did both they also had awards for combined times. Strolling up to the start, just going to assume we look like seasoned runners (as opposed to the guy in a full Captain America costume, with matching car, and entirely way too tight shorts) to get asked by a woman our strategy for doing both races. Part of me wanted to say, "run them as fast as we can", simple as that. She seemed most concerned with the down time between the two races asking if she should keep running between them to stay loose. Seemed like too much over thinking too me, cross the line, rest, line up again, do it again. CT and I did discuss prior that it's probably not best to go all out in the 5K and leave some in the tank to avoid burning out for the 10K.

What sound does a penguin make? Well, do that for the starting sound. First mile, if anything I'm consistent. Every 5K this summer, the first mile has been 6:17. While it should be faster, won't complain much considering there hasn't been much training. By the time mile two clicked, could feel the choice of either fighting to push hard or relax, went with the latter. It pains me to let people pass, but in the final mile a handful went by. Seeing the final results, it was apparent that relaxing did cost a spot to finish third in my age group. Still, that's respectable, but outside getting an award because this race only gave awards two deep.

The thought to keep moving never crossed my mind after finishing. Instead, I went right to the ice bucket the volunteers were handing drinks from and grabbed ice to cool down.  They said there would be a charge for that, which I replied with something like "my wife will be crossing the line soon, she'll play, she always has my money anyway", which they all seemed to enjoy. Sure enough CT crossed with a second place finish for herself.

After relaxing and watching Downhill and Buggy finish, CT and I wandered to the starting line with about ten minutes to spare only to find out they moved the start time back a half hour. Waiting that extra time, my legs did feel heavier. My closing comment to CT was "not sure how this is going to go". Certainly didn't have any higher expectations of doing any better than a training 10K.

Penguin noise start times two. Even though it was later and it did feel like the sun was beating down at the end of the 5K, it actually felt more comfortable to run. Every mile that went by, expected to see the wheels coming off based on the mile times, but they never did. Ran a very consistent and in my opinion, better run than my 5K. Somehow it felt much easier than the 5K.

The results of the weekend, CT got 2nd, 1st, and overall 1st in the combined. Myself, ended up 3rd, 1st, and 2nd overall in the combined, for a total of seven medals between the two of us. Throw in a couple games, a nice hotel and fun the family, it was a very full weekend. Oh, and the Bug got her penguin medal.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Anger Management

It's time, time for the race I love to hate. This year, has extra incentive because the timing conflicts with my hometown race. Even though part of my says go defend your title, the torture that this race inflicts on me wins out. To the woods we go.

This race was going to be all about redemption this year. Last year's finish still leaves a sour taste in my mouth, and I don't like it. Waiting for the start, found myself getting very irritated at myself for having redemption as my primary goal, by not putting anywhere close to the effort needing to ensure that would happen. Something happened this summer and I lost almost all motivation to work. The weather has been awful and that's my primary excuse, but really it just comes down to probably doing too much earlier in the year, which has only burnt me out. The more I thought about it, the more mad I got at myself. How old am I again?

As I'm having my little tempter tantrum, found out that based on my bib, somehow I got placed in the second wave. My simple tantrum went full on nuclear. Knowing that I didn't put forth the training to ensure a better finish is now compounded by the fact of being in the second wave. On a road race, this wouldn't make any difference at all because it's all about the chip time, which is the same here as well, but this being a tail passing is at the mercy of the terrain and the person in front. All I can envision is being stuck behind people and having to spend tons of extra energy getting around them that I now had no chance to earn my redemption.

By the time it was time to start the second wave, picture my head, bright red, opening up to release steam "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!" like a teapot! There was 15 minutes between starts. Didn't count anybody that started in my wave, but at about the two mile mark, I began catching and passing people from the other wave. Two, four, five, seven, nine. Some were curious and heard the Anger Train coming and moved out of the way. Most didn't. Then it became tactical calculating when to spend energy to dodge by blazing a new path, slowing down to wait for a wider section, or fighting the urge to push them down.

I do love running and there is something about this trail run that I especially enjoy. Physically, I know I was under-trained, but the anger provided some much needed fuel. Fifteen, twenty, thirty. Sometime after thirty people passed, I stopped counting. By this point enough people were passed that I was capable of catching. Mile wise, it was probably about mile Ten in the most difficult section of the rolling hills. Honestly, there was a bit of surprise that I made it this far with my lack of training. Either the anger evaporated, or maybe the anger fuel was on empty, but I could feel myself getting tired with a surge of don't care anymore. Proof of that mentality, first time ever peeing during a race. Oh and I don't mean stopping and taking care of business. Yes, you the reader are going to get treated to all the details! Choosing an incline made the most sense, so next big hill, shorts pulled to the side and away she goes. Now, for my first attempt at something like this, I think I pulled it off like a pro. For the most part very accurate, nicely timed, and only slight over spray on one leg. Top of the hill, finished, slide the shorts back and back in the game without hardly even a pace change. You the reader, curious about which leg? What I did after? Did I tell any of my team they were riding with somebody who peed on their leg? Maybe someday.

Did I pass my Anger Management class? Hard to say. Crossing the line, it wasn't much, but I did improve on last year's time. Winning does solve almost all problems. Being in wave two, figured there was zero chance I'd be able place, yet somehow ended up first in my age group. Ultimately, still wanted a much better time, but being forced to stress over something that was completely out of my control and fighting through it, I'll take as a successful lesson. When in doubt, take a run in the woods sometime, that's my high dollar therapy solution. Might not fix all the problems, but it will tire you out to not care as much.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Any Landing You Can Walk Away From

The General Dynamic's F-16 Fighting Falcon, this is the plane I was born to fly. Somewhere around age ten, already made up my mind, no doubt, I was going to be a fighter pilot. That summer, almost lost my mind seeing an advertisement for a new flight simulator game being released in the fall. It was torture waiting, but my training started the second Falcon came out for the Macintosh. My destiny was set, by the time of graduation, the Air Force would be begging me to join with all the hours of flight time I logged in this simulator. Heck, they wouldn't even need to train me, simply fit me for my flight suit and send me on my way.

Not exactly sure when my dreams were crushed. Needing glasses, could have been the deal breaker. Maybe it was finding out what pilots get paid. Or maybe it the threat of Mom never wanting her son in military with the constant reminders of being taken out of the will if I ever did join. Ugh, what about the realization of finding out even Air Force pilots have to take part of basic training....and all that running! Ugh running, who does that?

Thirty years later, give me a mouse and a keyboard, and I'll make those boogies sorry they ever shared the skies with me! Fox-two, a nine-G turn and a victory barrel roll later and the world is safe again! Yeah, it's safe to say I've never lost my love of the Falcon and dreams of flying it.

Sister Downhill and niece Bug decided to run a 5K. When looking up info for them, couldn't believe the price of this damn race, who charges this much? Then I noticed with race entry, also includes entry to the Air Show and parking pass. Hmmm, Air Show and a race, what's this they also have a half marathon and the Thunderbirds are in town? Was that a sonic boom? My finger may have broken the sound barrier registering before I knew it.

Running in July, isn't fun. Racing in July, makes even less sense. The ONLY reason I'm doing this is support for my girls, okay and maybe the reward of watching an air show after. Summer racing is for the birds!

Insert an F-16 with full afterburner here, for the start race gun here. It actually was a fairly mild morning, the temps were cooler for July, but I wasn't taking chances and went shirtless...for Freedom and American dammit! Plus it is essentially the 4th after all! Freedom!

The first few miles, it actually felt good to running easy to look down at the watch and see a respectable time, amazing the difference cooler temps make, but also knew it wasn't going to last. Clear skies and beating sun ahead. About mile three, they routed us on the actual runway, huh this is kind of cool. First time for this.

"Tower, this is Ace four one, clear for take-off?"

"Ace four one, pattern is clear, cleared for take-off."

Mile four, was the attempted take off. Running on a runway was exciting because it was different, the pace quicken. The unexpected part of runway running, can see forever and time feels like it stands still with no points of reference changing the view. Mile four, was the longest fast mile in the history of aviation running. In the distance, I could see the tails of the Thunderbirds and remember thinking how cool would it to be if we got close to them, but knew they are going to funnel us back just before we get to them in my gut.

"Tower, this is Ace four one, request for fly-by?"

"Ace four one, Rodger."

"Yankee, Echo, Alfa, Hotel!!"

Had they advertised getting to run directly in front of the seven Thunderbirds lined up as a perk to doing this half marathon, I would have been signed up months ago. The whole time as I got closer and closer to them, I expected it still to be some kind of cruel joke with the Tower waving us off at the last second. Instead, I could actually feel my heart racing with excitement, not because I was four miles into a half marathon, but it felt awesome to be this close to the plane I fell in love with so long ago. So close, could almost reach out and touch, better yet, how about just climbing into the cockpit and taking one for a test flight?

"Ace four one, this is Tower, stay on target."

Back to reality, the armed MP's standing guard, preventing those childhood dreams.

The whole rest of the race was uneventful. Maybe, because the climax happened and nothing after that could be topped. Maybe, my head was already in the clouds. All I do know is nothing was left in my body for speed, probably from all the extra heartbeats by the hanger, or possibly lack of training this whole summer, going with the racing heart early in the race.

"Tower, this is Ace four one, permission to land?"

"Ace four one, this is Tower, ummm, this is kind of FUBAR, but the runway is a bit short...good luck! Over and!"

For the second time this year, a race course ended short. But, any race you can walk away from is a good one.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Tribute to Shoelace

Didn't see this coming. Every race has a story I guess. This one, just came untied.

Following the bizarre 5K, that wasn't a 5K, did make me remember my Orange Crush that PR shoes. They have only been worn in 5K's, but warming up and running that 3K last week they did feel really good. So, the cardinal rule of never wearing a new pair of shoes on race day, well I'm about to break it. Besides, it's not not a marathon, just a half!

Hometown Half Marathon, here we go! Though my hometown has nothing to do with Michigan football, it's the spot I fell in love with it. So many Saturdays were spent watching games, cheering, bleeding blue growing up. Leaving for school, getting older, don't commit as much time as back then to the Maze and Blue, but I certainly still follow them, even in the down years (which the ship has been righted). One player who really deserves more credit than he gets, both for persevering and being put in awful situations in those rough years is Denard "Shoelace" Robinson. Why did they call him Shoelace? Because, he never tied his shoes! He was so fast, he must have been on to something, but who would ever try that? Guess that should make me, Pantless! Hang with me, I know this is a stretch.

Last year was a fluke, finished this race second. Not second in my age group, second overall! Even though this is a small race, for a small town, really didn't think success like that would repeat itself again this year, but obviously to be on the safe side, something made me wear my PR shoes.

Go Bluuuuuuuue! Goes the gun. First mile slightly faster than I wanted, but at this point felt comfortable that nobody bolted and were specs in the distance. Sixth overall and knew for sure two of the people ahead would die out, that only left three others. Mile two brought some separation between the lead two guys as they pulled away some. Really wanted to stay relaxed until after mile four, but felt it was best to keep them in range. About the same time my pace was lowering, my left shoe came untied. Now, I've had a shoe malfunction one time before in a race and even though it was much later in the race, felt stopping screwed me up, not making that mistake again.

Soon mile four is here, what does it bring? Oh, now my right shoe is also untied! This is where that lesson bell dings, never had this problem with these shoes because you've never gone this far in these shoes! This is when I had my first thought of Denard Robinson. Still in fourth place overall, but it sounds like somebody is also right behind me! Or maybe it's simply the noise of my laces whipping.

Mile nine is where it started, this odd sensation in my left foot, big toe specifically. It wasn't pain, but I could tell that my foot must be sliding forward in my shoe and my toe is smashing the front of my shoe. I wish common sense would have kicked in, I should have stopped and tied both my shoes. But I could still see all three runners ahead of me. It should have been obvious that they weren't going to die out, but maybe they were dealing with their own issues and hopefully worse than mine. Based on my foot trouble, knew I was going to begin to get slower. No, not stopping, body and mind said fight through it.

Mile twelve, I was in some major pain, still didn't stop, kept dealing with it. By now, my right foot was bothering me too, most likely compensating for the other foot. The final downhill about killed me, who decided to put that hill here? My toe was throbbing, each step felt like a hammer and smashing it.

Crossing the finish line, it almost pains me that ended up being about a minute slower than my PR, yet had I worn my normal shoes, probably would have done much better. Never did catch those other guys, so fourth overall, but turns out none of them were in my age group, so still ended up first for that.

In other news, CT has been on a pretty good running streak lately and had been trash talking that she was going to beat me today. Well, I'm happy to say she didn't, though it would have been my shoelaces fault had she, but she ended up coming being first overall female! As impressive as that is, she actually won prize money, that's a first too! Very proud of her though, she donated her winnings back to the race because it also is to help stomp out our least favorite c word. You know, stomp it out like what it feels just happened to my big toe!

Though I didn't PR or win overall, I do think I set some kind of record for 11.1 miles with untied shoes, Shoelace style!  

Saturday, May 14, 2016

World Record...Pink Slip

Wearing a pink shirt for a good cause and showing support for a wonderful friend, no problem. Braving low 40's and probably closer to 30's for a race, heck yeah! That's perfect for me and isn't sacrificing anything! Letting a stranger spray paint my head that's commitment!

Today is the Race for the Cure. Most races, there is uneasiness worried about times, distance, any number of things. None of that today, but it was a different and somber start to the race as moments before speakers spoke of losses from that awful c word. Not exactly a raw raw type start, instead we'll call it a calm start.

As the National Anthem played, gazed at the biker in orange and found myself thankful they had a bike official for this course. I did research the route, for twenty seconds, and had a vague idea, but it had more turns than I wanted to put thought into. Yeah, this is an omen, you can guess where this is going.

F-yooooooou (c word) goes the gun. Out the ball field we go. It wasn't too long before I was probably in fifth. While hardly what I'd called 5K trained, certainly wasn't going to set any records, curious to know where my 5K speed is. Soon the lead biker and runner are headed back, strange. Runner logic kicked in and though I thought it was odd, who am I to judge, so I turned where they did. In my head, I figured the game plan was to loop this section again, then we'd be sent out further on the trail. Sure enough, looped a small section again, before a volunteer enthusiastically told us almost done and pointed us into the ball field. Okay, this isn't right. At this point the guy in front of me and I started chatting about something is really wrong with this. As we entered the stadium, watched the lead runner cross the line. Yup, wrong. Checked my watch and hadn't even hit two miles yet. To cross or not to cross, that is the question! We ended up kind of laughing and crossing, once across, told him was might as well keep going and get our full distance in. So, back out the stadium we went.

Back on the course, it was obvious where the mistake was made. Instead of staying on the trail and crossing a bridge, the lead biker turned at a cone that was just before that bridge. As we cross the bridge and took a small turn, there was a water tent with a few very confused volunteers. My comment passing them, "traffic is going to be very lite today". We reached the official turn around spot, a cone, go figure, On the way past the water tent again, "Think we'll be the last runners you see today too".

I've wanted to break into the 19's for a 5K since I started and it took tons of work to finally pull it off. Like I said, haven't put any kind of 5K training in for a long time, well looking at the final results, 12:15! Going from 20's 19's crazy hard! Going from 19's to 12's, kind of easy! Later that day, I looked up what the world record for a 5K is, 12:37! Not only did I set a PR, but a WR! Crazy!

There *might* be an asterisk with those results. It really is unfortunate that something like this happened. Most people had fun with it, didn't seem to be anybody too upset about it. There will always be other 5K's, so it's not like it would be hard to find another one. Overall, it is for a good cause and fun, and for that, I'll put up with anything, even in pink. Now that lead biker, he might be getting the pink slip!