Saturday, May 10, 2014

Win the Battle, Lose the War



The River Bank Run has always been my salvation the week after Kalamazoo punches me in the face. What started as simply needing a confidence booster, has now changed to wanting to continue my status in the "special" club.  Once you have the perks, experience the perks, they are hard to give up.

The perks, as great as they are, didn't live up to exceptions. I strolled up to the police officer guarded door with my shiny yellow bib expecting access for my entourage, only to be told it doesn't work that way anymore. No friends, no family, yellow bib only. What fun is this club if it's a club of one? It's not, which makes the rest of the story that much more confusing.

The start, seemed crowded, yet not like years before. It always seemed like we were running on top of each other until about mile eight, this year there was actually some gaps of space. It is surprising and depressing at the same time how many people are able to run with me. I'd really like to write most of them off as results of the rampant drug problem, thanks Lance, but for now I'll pretend they are all WAY younger than me. This is the point where I did finally see some people start to struggle with the rising temps or maybe they started too fast.

At mile ten, I started feeling something a little different.  My right foot, it's always the right side, began giving me twinges of pain. Running logic told me it was the damn roads.  I've complained, make that bitched, about the unevenness of this course almost every time it's been under my feet.  Doesn't matter if it's the marathon, the half, this 25K, all of them share this route and the first few times I even thought I was being a baby about it, but seriously there is something to this thing. I attempted to adjust as best I could find the flattest ground I could, while now actively trying to run in the few shady spots left.

Mile twelve, my foot pain became obvious there was more to it than simply running some miles on uneven roads, there was something wrong going on. Up until this point, I was hanging right with the 7:30 per mile group. To stay in the "special" club, the average needed  is 7:47 per mile, so I had some breathing room, but really couldn't take a break either.  The question became, how bad do I want to stay in the club or do I shut it down to hopefully prevent damaging my foot or at least making it worse? Ego, thick headedness, stupidity, desire to stay in the cool club that wouldn't even let me bring my friends, won out.

The last few miles were hard, painful, and hot, but I managed to fight through it to continue the streak of eligibility for the club. After, it felt like walking on a marble under my heel, sure hope it was worth it.

*Update* - Two days after, still could barely walk on it. Been icing it like crazy.

*Update 2* - Ten days after, haven't been able to run yet    




Sunday, May 4, 2014

10



Three years, three humbling experiences. The Kalamazoo Marathon has my number. Inexperience, overconfidence, fear, so far have been the results, what will this year bring? Some friends refuse to do it. Others ask me why I continue to do it. Not even sure how to answer. It's not a rivalry, because it's completely one sided at the moment. The course is awful, the only miles I like are the first five. The weather, is always warming up at the worst possible time. It might be simply be because this is my city.

Two days after I committed to doing this race again, I mean officially by signing up and paying money to force myself, I found out the course had changed. They actually managed to make it more difficult, as if that's been the reason for my struggles, yeah, it's been too easy. So much of running is mental and I have to be honest, this is where I checked out. I can't say it's the whole reason I cut back my training, but it definitely played a factor. There is just something about this course that feels like kryponite to me. Even training runs on it, when the mileage is less, mentally it messes with my psyche now and easy runs end up stirring up memories resulting in bad times.

Lack of training, how does Murphy's Law get me? Why of course by giving me the lowest temperatures for this race since I've been doing it! Figures! Whoooosh! Went the start of the gun this year. While I got some reprieve with the temps, the wind was out in force.

The early miles were uneventful. My head was stuck thinking about the course changes and knowing that whole section would be where this race would be either be successful or turn into the nightmare.  At one point I got snapped out my runner's haze coming out of campus where a dad gave his daughter a "shadow hug" as we ran under the bridge. That was kind of cool and made me smile.

Instead of the long, boring, stretch in the scorching sun like years past, the solution to the road maintenance is sending us uphill through a neighborhood only to be dumped on the road that I'm convinced finishes me off every year with more hills, making us run it twice out and back. Then add to the mix, wtf is up with this wind which is blowing directly at us running out. I'd like to say this was my superior strategy, for this long stretch of road, I tucked in behind a clump of runners and I pretended they were my windbreaker.  While already in my head, I was convinced the wind would be in my face both directions, there were a few spots (while I'm still not convinced they equaled out) where I could actually feel the wind pushing me. That was a nice surprise. An even nicer surprise was the energy boost seeing the other runners in the out and back section. Giving and receiving words of encouragement, completely a different feeling than crowd support.  So, the section that I dreaded the most, turned out to be more positive than negative.

The ending is always a struggle, regardless. This time, by mile 20 I was still flirting with a PR on what I consider the hardest marathon course I've done. I knew a PR wasn't going to happen based on the remaining hills, but that was still moral victory enough.  At this point, my feet were sore and while a PR wasn't going to happen, a PR for the marathon that always beats me to a pulp was. This is where I decided I could take it easy the rest of the way and didn't see the point to doing anything dumb and pushing too hard.  CT was all smiles when I first saw her down the stretch, I think even she was surprised to see me this early on my nemesis. With her smile, I even felt like I was safe from having to ride home in the trunk (for once).          

Three years, marathon number 10 goes in the books as a success. Doubt there will ever be a day when it gets easy, but today I won because I'm still standing (actually, I'm not my calves were cramping something awful once I finished...but that was temporary). Will I train more next year? Probably not. Will I do it again? Probably. Will it feel as one sided as it has before? Lets just say it's a rivalry. Kalamazoo had my number, but it's now a number for me as well, #10.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dinner for Two



My Dad loves to eat. When he's not eating, he's thinking about eating. Some people might see a problem with that, gluttony, I see the benefit of it making shopping for for him extremely easy! Hmmm, what to get him for his birthday, done.  How about a visit to the Chef's Table at Zazios and give the eating machine, I mean my Dad the chance of experiencing a five course meal without making my Mom slave? The only issue, it just so happens that it falls on Western's graduation weekend, oh and prime season for all the local proms too. So, we had to take the later dinner.

Zazios has always been a favorite when he comes to town. One of my fondest memories was on one particular occasion my Dad being particularity agreeable with the waitress, wanting to try every thing she suggested and being talked into adding truffles to most of our plates.  The truffle bill alone was $56! Don't get me wrong, they were delicious, but I had no idea they were priced like gold.

The reservation was for 8:30, which it typically our bedtime. It was closer to 9, before we even sat down at the table, this could be a long night.  No menu, the only choice you get is if you'd like your meal paired with wine. CT and I did this, I was kind of surprised my Dad decided to do this, but hey it's his birthday, game on.

The first course, the salad was my least favorite of the whole meal.  Luckily, I could pawn most of that off to CT because she was starving by the time this thing actually got going. The wine was delicious. The salad would have been fine, except the huge cheese glob the chef added didn't do anything for me. It reminded me of, I'm not even going to say it, because it will just gross you out and I'm not about that in this blog.

The second course was what I'd describe as calamari soup. Not something I'd go out of my way to order at a restaurant, but it was very tasty for eating squid, which is still far less gross than lump of cheese in that salad that reminded me of cold, spoiled, soft, cheese, extracted from a dead mouse's stomach, but I'm not going to gross you out with the details.  Did the second glass of wine get even better? I admit, I'm a lightweight drinker, but I know I can handle two glasses of wine. These weren't even two full glasses, but let me tell you, I was floating! We were only finishing the second course, it as probably 10:30, not what I'd consider pounding these drinks and while not what I'd consider lots of food, it was still food. If this were a marathon, this is when reality was setting in and I realized my plan had to change, if I wanted to walk out of this dinner on my own.

This is the point, I changed the Chef's vision for this meal. We are going from five courses to five point five. More bread, lots of it! CT and I had the waitress bring another box of bread to soak up some of this alcohol this wine seems to be laced with. I didn't feel so bad, about being a lightweight when CT suggested we start a food fight with our running friends who also joined us for this special night. The thought of starting a food fight, in this classy place, knowing that it's never been done before and that our friends would without a doubt participate had me smiling at the thought of how this would go down in history. The fact that I was having a difficult time coming up with reasons not to do this, only told me I HAD to eat more bread.

Three point five, was my favorite.  The cod was ridiculous good.  The one side was seared to perfection, not like I know what that even is, but in my head that's what it should be. The fish itself once it melted in your mouth finished with this slightly salted flavor.  The only issue is it was about the size of a chicken nugget. The whole meal could have been a slab of this and it would have been perfect.  Was there even wine with this course? Oh yeah, it's already gone.

Four point five was a pork dish.  Please forgive me, but this course is hazy. It was good, but found myself wanting more of that cod for most of it.  At this point it's probably 11:30. I do know the wine in this course the wine wasn't as good. Finally, a reason not to drink all of it!

The dessert didn't get rave reviews from CT, my Dad, or a few of our running friends. While I've had better, I didn't think it was bad. Oh crap, the wine is good again too. How are we getting home again? Holy cow, it's tomorrow!

All in all, it was a very fun experience. Not a bad way to celebrate my Dad's birthday and our anniversary. It would have been so much better had we been able to do the earlier table. Just because the Chef is explaining and talking, it's not really like as a group we could interact with each other. Speaking of interacting, my Dad may have thought I bought the Chef for him, the way he used him for his own encyclopedia at the end. Where's that bread to throw at him to make him stop?


    


Monday, April 21, 2014

Where Everybody Knows Your Name



We are not in town for a race, we are in town for THE RACE! Boston. Marathon. Enough said.  This is what dreams are made of, right here, right now. Any and every runner dreams of running this race, it's the only race even non-runners know of.  CT put so much hard work and dedication last year to qualify for this, there's no way we'd miss it and definitely were not going to let thoughts of terror deter us.

Boston left one lasting impression on me, that I never saw coming, the people LOVE their runners! It's probably odd to start with that that statement, but it is the story. I've never seen anything like it. Normally, I'd make you read the whole post, make you earn it, before I came out an say it, but this experience was so different, so unique, this theme is ingrained in almost every experience we had. Maybe it was different pre 4/15/2013, but if that's the case, then I'm here to say terror definitely lost and love won.

The story starts with my stomach.  Since I'm not running, I get to eat whatever I want and my stomach aches for official Boston Clam Chowder. It was my guess that any place I picked would be good, but I thought I'd hedge my bet following the footsteps of one of the TV programs we like to watch, Man vs Food. Almost as if it were a sign, walking up to the place, it looked very shady (think back to the restaurant I picked in Traverse City). CT wanted to bolt. I started to second guess.  Turns out we were only looking at the open deck area that they had covered in plastic and it wasn't the actual restaurant we were going to sit down at on this chilly day.  What felt like thirty minutes in Boston, we are greeted to our waitress who is also running the marathon, her first.  Two minutes later her and CT seem like old friends and are already talking about common runner fears, pooping.  Yes, I said it. She gave us her cell number with specific instructions that if we got lost or needed anything to call her.  Who hands complete strangers their number? Somebody who LOVES their runners.

Our second day was our first real experience of the city. The first stop was getting CT's bib number and heading down to the expo. Boston feels old. Most of the sidewalks we took were brick, all uneven with ankle biters everywhere. The skyline is modern, yet the ground is old. Fear of CT tweaking her knee walking around hours before her race were constantly on my mind as I found myself paying more attention to where she was stepping than my own steps.

The expo is where I got the feeling I didn't belong. It was hard seeing her excitement getting her bib, then rushing to look at the official Boston jackets. It felt like since I wasn't running and didn't qualify, maybe I shouldn't even be touching these sacred items. I'm sure silly, but a weird feeling none the less. While I would expect those feelings would give me this instant dedication to train super hard, qualify, to come back and experience these things for myself, they didn't. I found myself wondering how I would react, would I be teh same?  The jackets seem like they are what legends are made of. People wearing them give off this aura of pride. I'm not even a fan of jackets, would this change me if I were to ever run Boston? Which brings up the point of superstitions. CT is of the mindset that she couldn't wear her jacket until she finished, otherwise it be bad luck. Trust me, there were plenty of runners who put theirs on the second they purchased them. In my mind a Google overhead view would have witnessed the city turn from blue and yellow (last years jackets) to a sea of bright orange from Saturday to Monday.

After the expo, we began wondering back towards our hotel and since it was roughly lunch time, figured take a peak where Cheers is located.  Low and behold, right on the way. While they didn't know our name, maybe they did after because they seemed to like our order.  A white russian at eleven in the morning tends to raise eyebrows, I guess. Even though it's a tourist trap, it turned out to be one of our favorite spots because we had to come back the following day.

Sunday, we debated if CT should get a little run in. Because we had been doing so much walking around the city, I did worry if we were putting too much work on her legs. Since we always side on the way of being cautious (did you believe me?), we went out for a run.  Runners everywhere! Any thoughts that this wasn't the best idea, instantly gone.  In the park, on the sidewalks, in the streets. I know I would have regretted it the rest of my life if I went to Boston and didn't get a run in, so glad we did it and it felt amazing.  While I can't say that I ran the Boston Marathon, it did feel pretty special to run across the finish line. I can only imagine what it would feel like doing it for real, because even doing it like this felt incredible.

We took time to visit the library where they had an memorial exhibit. While I'm glad we did it, it really changed the mood from the runner's high I just experienced. Suddenly, the mood changed to one of deep sadness looking at the various items and messages left for the victims. Then mine changed to anger of what kind of losers do something like this? Up until this point, the thought if it happening again never once entered my mind, but seeing these items up close, made it that much more real to me. Doing this the day before the race, wasn't one of my better decisions.

That night, we phoned our Boston friend for her recommendation for a place to get our pasta dinner. Little Italy is what I'm calling that part of town. Hands down, the coolest part of Boston that we saw, it really had a unique feel to it.  We weren't the only runners who figured out this part of town, plenty were lined up. It turned out to be a great meal. CT shoveled so much homemade tortellini in, I thought she'd burst. She wanted to take it back to the hotel, when I said no, she then wanted to at least bring it with her just in case we saw a homeless person on the way.

Race day. The runners are bused from essentially the finish line to the starting line, so we got down to the buses early. The plan was to meet up with the other Kzoo runners also running. There she goes, next time I see her, she'll be a Boston Marathoner. It's now 8:00 am, she doesn't start running until 11:00 am, and then she has to run it, I've got some time to kill.  I wasn't comfortable enough trying to move around on the course trying to see her. Even though I had hours, I thought I'd go down to the finish line and see actually how close I could get. Though one security check point, as close as I could get was still a half block away from the actual finish line. To get closer, I needed a special badge. How do you rate to get one of those? It wasn't a bad spot, while it would be next to impossible to see her actually crossing the line, I'd be able to see her moments after, which I thought wouldn't be bad. I could camp here for hours. Or so I thought, as security came back through to sweep with dogs and later to find out this whole area that I had found was being closed off to only badge people.  Next. At this point, I waved to the visible snipers on the rooftops.  The next closest spot brought me about a block and a half away from the finish line.  It was directly across from where they were handing out the warming blankets, which they had setup in the middle of the street and the runners were funneled on either side of this setup.  I had a fifty fifty shot that CT would pick the side of the street I was on, but figured it was my best chance to see her after she crossed.  Soon the elite women crossed the finish line and this is when I got my first taste of how impossible it would be to see anything. A speck is about all I saw of the crowd favorite as she immediately was escorted off the course before even getting to the point where I was when I first got kicked out.  At about the time the elite men were getting close to finishing, I went for lunch because I knew I wouldn't see a damn thing.

At lunch is where I "watched" CT most, tracking her on my phone. While not as good as I wanted, it did give me insight on how she was doing.  5K, she could easily be caught up in the excitement. 10K she's stilling going strong. At the halfway point, she's almost running at her normal race pace! I have to be honest, with her injury and hardly any training miles, I thought she'd really struggle and have to fight through this thing. Yeah, I know she's tough as nails, but still running that kind of distance beats the body up when healthy.  If she's doing that great at the halfway point, all I could think of was she was feeling good or somebody in front of her really pissed her off and she's trying to chase her down! Either way, I'd take it. At the 20 mile mark, she had slowed down some, but was still WAY better than I was even hoping for.  Time to get my spot and hopefully see her.

Obviously, this is the largest race I've witnessed. The crazy thing to me is after the elites showed up and what I'd call the normal runners started coming in, it was nonstop. No breaks, no gaps, constant.  Just a flood of runners and knowing the times, it's just incredible the number of fast runners. The longer I waited, the more I started second guessing my spot. The volume of runners, would make it impossible to see her if she picked the other side of the blanket line, so I decided to move further, so like a two and a half blocks away from the actual finish line where the blankets were done and they merged the runners back together to point them to the food line or point them to the family meeting area.  My phone exploded with texts when she crossed the line. Of course she picked the side of the street furthest from me, I yelled as loud as I could for her, even the couple next to me used their cowbell to try to get her attention, nothing!  I think I had to run about a 5K to run around all the closed streets to loop around where I could finally meet her at our planned meeting spot.



After our hug, kiss, and congratulations, what does she want, that damn jacket! Okay, she finally earned it. She looks pretty good for running 26.2 miles, injured, without much training, doesn't she?

Now, back to the story of how Boston loves their runners. Almost back to our hotel, a random police officer rolls his window down and congratulates her. Walking next to her, in her jacket, feels like I'm next to a celebrity. That night, leaving the hotel, the maintenance man proceeds to tell us where we have to get pizza from. Once at this said pizza place, it's full of orange jackets and it's like big family. Walking home, a random stranger in a cab proceeds to roll her window down at a stop light and congratulates her.  This is crazy. I had no idea a city would react like this. I half expect that if we were to get robbed, the robber would get an absolute beat down by the other citizens. Yet, at the same time, it almost feels like the worst criminal in the city, would leave runners alone. I can't get over this feeling. In a few weeks when I do Kzoo, I know I could walk downtown with my medal showing and 90% of the people would have no clue and certainly wouldn't say anything.

Boston my not know my name, but they have an unbelievable respect and love in their heart for their Marathoners. That's what I walk away with from this experience.

Coming home, people did know her name...just couldn't pronounce it. Her News Story

 


  


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Not of this World



Woooowwweeewwoooo! C'mon, just imagine that's typical alien sound. Aliens and oddities seem to go together and I'm becoming a believer. For the second year in a row, something strange happened when I booked my hotel room for this race. Last year, standing at the desk to check in only to find out they no record of my reservation, was a shock. But, hey sometimes strange things happen. This year trying to be ahead of the game, the day before I decided to double check my reservation, only to find out somehow I booked a room for the month before! Normally, I'd blame gremlins, but twice, it's probably more fitting to blame the martians.

Oh those martians. If there are such things as martians, and I'm not claiming or denying, I firmly believe they'd be of superior intelligence and they'd stay away from marathons! I on the other hand, continue to prove that I lack intelligence, because I continue to find myself at the starting line of these things.  Under-trained, warming temps, engage hyperdrive.

The first few miles were pleasant.  The temps actually started out cool, and for me to say that is saying something.  By mile four, I found my pace and settled in to put me right on if not a little below PR pace. While I had no illusion that I'd be able to PR, at this point I felt confident it wouldn't be as horrible as I had feared.  With the looping early in the course, it was nice to see familiar faces. One guy was wearing the same shirt as me and the first time seemed to be an acknowledgement, second time seemed like old friends, and the third and last time felt like good-bye.

I had told myself simply to run with how I felt and I mentally told myself since I really didn't have any expectations for this race, not to check my watch at all.  Well, I made it to mile sixteen before I got curious. I felt good and fast, so I thought it was odd that when I checked it said the last mile was 8:07. Next mile came in at 8:17. Those damn aliens, are they messing with me? I still feel good, why am I getting slower? This is where runner's logic is slow to kick in (or is this the sign of why I keep ending up at the start of these marathons?), but it hit me I'm not getting slower but it's getting warmer, much warmer.

Miles sixteen to twenty seemed to take forever, maybe I was caught in a black-hole.  Somewhere around twenty, I checked my watch one more time and saw that I was still two minutes ahead of my PR pace, but with the final six miles to go, I knew I had no chance of maintaining those two minutes.  Without a chance of getting a PR, the first intelligent decision I made was throwing in the towel and telling myself there wasn't much point beating myself up in the final six miles. It was already hot, my legs were tired, just survive and call it a day.

It was a nice surprise rounding one of the last corners to find CT sitting there waiting for me.  I think I half expected to see daggers shooting from her eyes as I was walking, but she was smiling.  My feeling is she already knew I'd be struggling with as warm as it got.  We had a nice walk towards the finish as I told her about how it went.  We parted ways before the last road, so she could watch our doctor friend finish.

The last stretch to the finish, I made it a point to run it, just because of the people watching and cheering. Luckily, I had some spurs or something because I was able to fight off the charlie horses, it wasn't pretty. Finishing, I couldn't even make it back to CT. I made it about halfway down the finish line and setup shop there, my legs were done.  For as bad of shape as my legs were, this race gave me something I had never seen before.  I saw four people either getting put directly into an ambulance or put on a golf cart to get taken to one.  Then I saw another on the ground with a police officer helping. As if that wasn't enough, I turn to look up and see our doctor friend walking in the crowd towards me, not coming down the finish line as I'd expect.  Turns out she had ended up passing out too and the police gave her a ride back.  Not exactly how you want or expect to end a race.  Very glad our doctor didn't have anything worse than pride getting a little bruised (which by the way never happened, we swore to never speak of this again). I'm only saying this, because after the martians use their probe on us, we'll never remember anyway.  

      






Sunday, March 2, 2014

< S >uperstar



This is more like it! Freezing temperatures, snow, this is racing weather! Last year Superman showed up and pushed me to my fastest half marathon time. Would he show again this year? I felt it would only help my case if I wore something to honor him. Yeah, I'm sure that will work.

The winter has been brutal and I haven't been putting anywhere near the miles I should.  It's been a combination of things, the weather makes a nice excuse, but we all know I actually enjoy running in the worst, so that's not it.  CT being injured, work, or maybe it's as easy as me being lazy. Whatever the case, the total number of miles per week I've been putting in are far fewer and I'm sure it's not going to help my case when it comes to race time.

Walking to the starting line of the race, it actually started. Boy, I am getting lazy. Long gone are the days of nervously waiting at the starting line with butterflies. Is this the new way, just come strolling up whenever, without a care in the world? This may be the new way, but I still have expectations and today I want some redemption for the slower time I posted in Florida.  My goal is hidden just like my Superman shirt, nobody knows, but I don't want a 1:4x:00 on the clock, it should be a 1:3x:00.  I may have been slacking, but I still should be able to pull off this time.

By now, I'm used to the ribbing and teasing both before and after races. Two miles in, I get greeted to "Oh, great, now we are going to have to listen to did you see the guy wearing shorts for the next few miles". It's now common place to give me grief during the races. As if running isn't hard enough, then attempting to be fast, now the added difficulty to getting razzed while do it, this keeps getting worse and worse. Why do I keep doing this?

The conditions weren't great, the roads and trails were full of soft mush and hard packed icy spots.  I'm glad I used my trail shoes for the extra traction, I thought it would be overkill, but even with them I found myself being very cautious as I lost footing numerous times.  At around mile five or six I caught up to my teammate. While not feeling like any doors were getting blown off, things felt fast, until the 1:40:00 pace group went charging by. Up until this point, I let my body pick the pace and told myself that I wasn't going to be concerned with my watch. The shock of the pace group practically trampling me, had me checking my watch, they HAD to be running faster than they were suppose to be.  Uggh, nope.

This is about the same spot in the course where last year I had to decide how badly I wanted my PR. While I already knew today didn't have that as a possibility, as I watched the 1:40:00 pace group disappear in the distance, it was decision time. Could Superman save me? Three miles to go, lots of slacking in the training, but not ready to give up.

Each mile, the distance shrunk, ever closer.  It wasn't easy and Superman sure as hell didn't make it obvious that he was helping me, but with about a half mile to go I had them reeled back in. In the home stretch, I was finally able to surge past them.  Whether Superman helped me or not (I'm siding on he didn't), I still felt obligated to unveil my surprise, unzipped my jacket and let the "S" show crossing the line. The clock still read 1:40:08, technically missing my goal, but because I showboated down the stretch I'm giving myself a little extra grace.  Not a great time, we'll say Super-average, but then again the "S" on my chest doesn't stand for Superman, but Superstar and we run with a different set of standards.


  


Sunday, February 23, 2014

For the Booty



Up until this point, travel for a race has always been a long car ride.  The streak, has ended.  Two plane rides and twelve hundred miles I find myself in Florida for not one race, but four.  If a plane is involved, it's best to make sure it's worthwhile, and the Gasparilla Challenge intrigued me enough to part with the $'s in hopes I'd return with some booty. Two days, four races, thirty miles, four medals, and if still standing at the end, one more medal for good measure.

Since starting running, I've noticed I check the weather forecast a ridiculous amount the close it gets to race day.  The winter has been brutal this year!  One would think I'd be pumped to enjoy the Florida sun, instead it's quite the opposite.  Insert wavy dream lines, I have this fantasy where I'm treated to sub forty degree days where all the Floridians are shivering, fearful of frostbite, at the starting line and here I step up confidently in my shorts and shirt. Remove wavy dream lines, wait those aren't dream lines, those are the heat lines seen off in the distance of a desert road getting scorched! My fantasy wasn't too far off looking at the forecasts, leading up to race weekend though the temps steadily increased, Murphy's Law.

The day prior to the first race day, 7 am for a practice run. We'll call this an experiment to first get a feel for what conditions will be like the next day and a test how much my body complains changing from zero temps to 70 degrees with no transition.  Log this run as one of the most miserable runs in recent memory.  Two miles weren't bad, four I had enough, and by the time we got to six, I was so ready to be done.  My shirt weighed eight pounds after that run, which brings me to my next life lesson, putting two guys in the Florida heat, running, and letting them stay together in the same hotel room...probably not smart.  The whole rest of the vacation, (is it a vacation when you are running ?) the room reeked worse than a gym in a swamp.  

I've been pampered at little in the past, not elite level pampered, but the small taste I got was pretty damn delicious.  This series of races draws a huge number of people and the reward of cash money only adds to it. Not many people do the challenge portion of the races, but by doing so gets not only a special bib, but special access to the starting corral.  This was something new to me.  Instead of being being smash shoulder to shoulder with gross, disgusting, stinky runners like sardines, just stroll right up, flash your bib, and get allowed entrance to this gated community.  I could get used to this too.

The first race is a 15K, a hair over nine miles.  7 am, 70 degrees, 100% humidity and I had to smirk when the announcer repeats "we are racing under yellow flag conditions". I didn't need to be told this.  The first six miles felt comfortable, but once mile seven hit, the fun was over and the heat started to get to me. Somewhere around here is when this stopped being a vacation. Crossing the finish line felt like a blessing to cool down, but in the back of my head was the reminder that there was still another three miles to go in a about forty-five minutes. More time for the temps to climb even more.

The runner's chute was amazing. Strange thing to get excited for, huh?  The design of the thing is perfect. First, it gave space to chill out, slow down, walk, recover, without being on top of each other.  From there, people handed out the medals, little further water and cold wash clothes (the greatest thing ever invented after a race). The whole time still walking, now crossing over a bridge where they had pirate beauties posing for post race photos.  Next, came the post race food. At this point, you are now looping back under the bridge heading back to the main conference center.  Plenty of benches to sit, relax, recover, and for me to cool down.  Once it was time to start heading for the next race, enter the conference center, walk through that, but making a quick pit stop at the bag drop to leave my medal and my shirt! At this point vanity is gone, survival is all that counts, besides nobody here knows me or will ever see me again, tough they are going to have deal with my bare chest and back hair.

By the time the 5K was getting ready to start, I was feeling much better than when I crossed the 15K line. Was I going to PR this 5K? Not a chance, I figured it was going to be slowest 5K almost since I started running.  While not great, it wasn't as horrible as the final few miles of the 15K were.  Repeat the recovery loop and call it a day.  Day one is in the books, time to get some breakfast and relax the rest of the day.

The half marathon had me a little nervous, mainly because I made it to about mile seven for the heat started to get to me and knowing that this would only put me about at the half way point, that would be potentially lots of miserable miles.  Turns out mile ten turned out to be the questioning point.  Once ten hit, I had to have the mental discussion of should I visit a pit stop or suck it up and finish this damn thing.  While having this discussion with myself, I ended up running past the bathrooms before I had made the decision, so that made it easy to keep going.  While not what I'd call a great time, I think I finished with a respectable time considering jumping climates and it blew the doors off the time of what I'd call my worst half marathon. This was my statement race. It was hot, totally out of my element, and I held my pace for the whole thing.

The last race was the 8K.  Two miles in, felt good, tired, but good.  Then something clicked and my body told me you've done enough and it's time to take it easy.  Combination of the temps and running multiple races in back to back days caught up with me.  It was time to finish with a walk run.  Not exactly how I wanted to finish up, but survive and race another day.  Not here to prove anything, just the booty.

Turned out to be a very fun trip. On one hand, it was nice to get away in the middle of winter for some warmer weather.  On the other hand, I missed having CT with me and that made it seem empty.  Had we pulled this trip off with the whole Superstar crew, it could have been EPIC.  For now, this pirate adventure is over without any missing limbs and a suitcase full of booty.