Saturday, July 4, 2015

The T-Rex



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

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

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

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

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

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

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









Monday, May 25, 2015

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Funk (1st to get 2nd)



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Five Year Plan



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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Rascal, Forever In Time



Time. When it's bad, it's described as stopping. When it's good, it always seems to fly by too fast. This picture was taken so long ago, but feels like yesterday to me. To give you an indication, one of my first pictures, a selfie at that, with my shiny new digital camera, back in 2000! Fifteen years later, my cell phone has two better cameras than that one, but his post isn't about what changes over time, it's about what that picture is trying to save, time.

The year is 1998, fresh out of college and on my own for the first time. Working all day, not all that unlike school, but now come home to an empty apartment. Gone are roommates and suddenly it feels very lonely. I'm alone. I don't like it. Being on my own did give freedoms, and one freedom that I never had growing up was getting a four legged friend. Always wanted a dog, but a cat felt like a better choice given their independence for my situation. In my dreams, I pictured a pure white cat with blue eyes.

I had been giving the decision to get a cat lots of thought, over analyzing as usual, but impulse caught me. I believe it was a Sunday when the loneliness got to me and drove to the pet store to "look". What are the chances, but they had a white kitten with blue eyes, it's a sign! I'm doing it! The staff happened to be busy, so I had to wait. While waiting, I wondered around looking at the other kittens and happened standing in front of the display window. In the display case was this kitten that was WILD! It was like watching the Tasmanian Devil from cartoons, it was just this blur of motion, when it did briefly pause, these two HUGE green eyes appeared. This little kitten's eyes were so big they didn't look like even should fit on the little body. It took only seconds watching the energy, the craziness, and the silliness, instantly fell in love. This is my cat. Hey, sometimes dreams are wrong.

Naming her took even less time than falling in love with her. Rascal was obvious, she was into everything! Here's where I could fill this blog with story after story of what made Rascal special and how she became such a big piece of my heart. But, I'm not going to do that. This blog is about sharing things I want to remember and don't want to forget. In this situation though, I'm being selfish and am keeping every memory for myself to fill my recent void, because I know I won't forget.

Sixteen years, almost seventeen, is a long time. Both Rascal and Shy have been a part of my life for almost half of it! With the passing of her brother, thought I've been mentally preparing for this moment. When I got the news that her health was failing, I wanted time to stop, but it didn't. Thought I was prepared, but I wasn't. Seeing how frail she is, this is the exact moment my heart broke:



So many emotions, so many tears. Words can't even begin to describe and this blog post will never do her justice. How this ball of fur, with two huge green eyes, touched me so deeply, is beyond me.

Luckily, still time for one last selfie, a whipped cream treat, little nap and most important daddy girl time.



So thankful that I got to spend a little more time with my girl, it wasn't enough, just sorry I couldn't stop time.
  


Rascal  Girl (August 26, 1998 - May 5, 2015)

Rascal, you were exactly what I needed, when I needed it most. The perfect combination of beauty, independence, class, yet a hunter, loving on your terms, so vocal, with the damn biggest sweet tooth, and above all a rascal! Loved every second, every cat nap, and telling every story blaming your brother for breaking something! You will be with me, ALWAYS! I dream of you often and hope to see you soon. I Love You Baby Girl!  

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Unlucky 13



Never really questioned the luckiest of a number before. Sure, I have favorite numbers, some that I prefer more than others, but definitely didn't stress over them, especially the traditional scary ones. Heck, I'd stay on the 13th floor of a hotel. Simply naming the 13th floor the 14th floor, doesn't change a thing, does it? That's further proof how silly people take it, right? While I still don't put much thought into it, Marathon 13 is looming.

The Marathon that beats me every year, stands directly before me. Marathons take heart to run. This year, my heart is heavy with personal turmoil. This course is an awful challenge when everything is working, let alone trying with heartache. Gave it a try, but couldn't do it, what little heart I had working today, couldn't carry me the distance I needed. Much different blog this time around, not going to detail how it went or where it went wrong, just that it did. Goes in the books as my worst Marathon ever.

Do I believe that being the number thirteen had anything to do with it? Nope. Am I glad it's over and I won't see that number again? Yup.






Saturday, April 18, 2015

40+



The jokes have been flying around lately. Avoidance, has been the plan, but just like dodging the pot holes in Michigan, they can't be avoided forever. Ugh. Denial, is the next plan. What better way to deny getting older then PR'ing my favorite race time? That will surely show the jokers, there is no aging going on here!

Creeeeeeek, goes the gun. Oh, come on, now the starting pistols are cracking jokes too? I want this PR, bad. It's going to be difficult, not just because it's fast, I'll even admit it I'm getting older, but weather isn't going to help at all. The whole week the temps have been creeping up. It's a late start, which only helps the temps increase. By the start, it's already as warm as I'd ever want it. Logic tells me I've got no chance with this PR, but I want it so bad, there's no turning back. I want it and I'm going for it.

Just before the first mile, I pass a guy already covered in sweat and remember thinking "sure glad that's not me already". Mile two passes quickly, so do three and four. At this point, I finally check my watch to gauge if I'm even close to my goal. Right on pace! Considering it's warmer than I want, this is a very good sign. Watch out, age defying in progress!

As quick as that feeling came, it was gone by mile five. All thoughts of chasing that PR evaporated. I'm not even sure what really happened, but the wheels came completely off. Is this really what getting older is? In my race wanting to prove anti-aging, it felt like somebody handed me the walking cane. The whole rest of the race was a struggle. It probably didn't have to be as bad as it was, but it was defeating knowing what I wanted to accomplish, which only made the feeling worse.

There is a lesson here and of course I should have known better. Based on the conditions, never should have started out fast, but in my head, thought it was my best and only chance to get that PR knowing it was only going to get warmer. Ultimately, never had a chance based on the conditions. Had I started out slower, I at least could have ran a much more consistent race. Instead, it goes in the books as one of my worst. There will be other days and I promise to be a resilient old guy!

There is one bright spot today, I'm not talking about the glaring sun that was beating down on us the whole day either. Got to witness and partake in a first, got to share the experience of watching my cousin finish her first half marathon! She's had to train completely on her own, she doesn't have anything even close to the runner support in my area. That alone, she deserves tons of credit. To make matters worse, she suffered a stress fracture about four weeks before this race. It would have been easy to throw in the towel at that point, but she was determined to finish. Have to be honest, I questioned her determination vs doing the smart, safe, thing, but I've seen this before. You know, that runner's thick headedness. Hmm, is she related to me, or CT?

She's does have a few things to learn, like showing up to the race on time, wearing black on a sunny day, are a couple. We can work on those. I'm proud of her for knowing one of the most important rules though, asking the doctor if it's a good idea to run with a stress fracture, the day after the race!

After I finished, I turned around and went back to fine her. Found her powering up the second to last hill, smiling at some crazy woman who was red in the face yelling encouragement to the runners (if it were up to me, I'd track that woman down and give her a medal). Not sure if she knew it or not, but it was a done deal at this point she was finishing. The fact I found her where I did, she was still moving, believe it or not she looked way better at this point than I did, zero doubt she was crossing that line.

The final mile, took our selfie, caught up with how the race went for her. Highlights included, a big hug from CT (perfect timing for the marathoners coming back and the half marathoners turning around), CT planting the seed of a cold beer after the race, six miles of her thinking about that beer, at some point her willing to trade her finisher medal for a beer to two guys in a truck watching the runners drinking beers, and her texting her husband wanting food and him not able to find her.

My cousin, half marathon number one in the books! Post race, I couldn't resist and had to ask seconds after crossing the line if she was ready to sign up for another one, a quick and resounding "no" came back. What you don't realize, this cousin relentlessly tortured me growing up! Didn't have the heart to torment her with getting her to commit to another so soon, but I liked the thought of it, plus I KNEW what would happen next, because ALL runners do it. Yup, twenty four hours later, she was already thinking about the next one, just like I expected!

I may be 40+ now, but this time the plus means add another runner to the club.