Monday, April 16, 2018

FB the stuff you already know, but continue to do anyway

This is going to be a different post, it's not about running! Shocked? Normally, I try some kind of long, slow, build up, but this time since this is a different entry, I'm just going to come out and say it:

Facebook is a giant pile!

We all know it, at least we should. Granted, this post is a little late (hey, I've been busy) with this whole story being in the news the past few weeks. Really, should it be any surprise that Facebook is doing anything shady with our info? Not going to hash out their past, anything that got them in the news this time around, but did to some exploring on my own out of curiosity.

First, I get it. As a nerd, I get it. Everybody is in the business of collecting info. Facebook isn't any different than Google. Both use everything we do to make money, we are the product, but I see a glaring difference between the two. Facebook offers absolutely nothing to me in the way of making life better, besides offering a single location where the majority of the people I know visit. Their whole model is offering nothing more than that. Google on the other hand, they actually make things that do things for me. It all started with Gmail and the free storage, Maps, Google Voice, products. Things that do something for me. While they are used to track, monitor, sell better ads towards me, they are still products that are useful. Facebook, nothing.

I mentioned I was curious, so I decided to download my entire Facebook existence on 3/28/2018. The first almost laughable experience is the message Facebook gives just before downloading:

Facebook has the audacity to warn me to protect my own data? Holy shit, the company storing all my data, that just got caught giving more info than they should, is telling me to protect my data? That's funny!

Maybe I'll edit this later with more content. It certainly was interesting checking out what they store, log, and track. As a nerd, it doesn't surprise me because I know this info is there, but it's still creepy as F*CK to see photos taken inside your house with the exact GPS coordinates. Most times, I edit a picture, or take a screenshot of it, so this info isn't included when I "give" it Facebook, but there were obviously times that I forgot to do this. Just think about this one act for a second. From that one picture, they know the exact location it was taken, with the facial recognition certainly know who's in the picture, date taken, date you "gave" them the photo, make and model of your camera (they'll notice the exact moment when you upgrade your phone), IP address you "gave" them the photo from (basically the source of your internet connection, from your house, directly from your phone etc) and probably other things I'm not even thinking of at this moment. That's a ton of free info extra info, I certainly did't intend to give them, all for me taking a goofy selfie with a donut.

But before you think this is a rant about this, it's not. If it were, I'd be telling you how insane you are for using their own app on your phone where there's who knows what info they are pulling from it. This post is more about the following that I find even more interesting.

Here's my Ad info on on my profile download 3/28/2018:

No surprise, I enjoy running, they know that. It's odd, my guess is I clicked a close button to exit out of a Verizon ad. I don't remember, but okay. But look at the list of Advertisers that have my info. One I've never heard of at least the other four I've had contact with. Target, peaks my interest because I've maybe been in the store three times in my life and I suppose it's possible maybe I used a credit card to buy something. Overall, not too bad, right?

Fast forward a couple of Congressional hearings and the fact I deleted my prior Facebook downloaded info, I downloaded my info again 4/10/2018:

What jumps out at me, a Congressional hearing and a few weeks, look at the difference with the Advertisers! Now, this is just a screenshot, but that page scrolls. You see 20 or so, but what you don't see that list goes on and on and on! WTF? What changed? This is kind of disturbing to me. As a nerd, I don't understand how the same request generates this vast difference over a couple of weeks.
If you think for a second Facebook is going to implement better controls, police themselves, or change their shady behavior, I think you are insane. This is about the my last straw and really think it's time to pull the plug on Facebook, for myself.

One last note, for those who might not think that difference is a big deal. Also between these two data dumps, I "cleaned" out a bunch of old messages and old posts. The posts did seem to work, but EVERY message I deleted on 3/28/2018 was still in my data on 4/10/2018!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The 317

To ibuprofen or not.
To switch from the full, to the half.
To turn around and go back to the hotel (bed), or do this.

These were all valid thoughts being debated twenty minutes prior to the race start, sitting in the car, with it running (for the heat), windshield wipers on. Almost like the decisions, going back and forth. One moment clear, the next blurry, watching a very empty starting line with minimal activity, only the occasional runner warming up with their pre-race routine or gear check, not the usual bee's nest of motion like a normal race day. Doubt anything will be normal today.

When CT hit me with "Why don't you switch to the half?" moments ago, it was unexpected to say the least. The months leading up to now, sure I had thought about that idea many times, there isn't a good reason to run a full. Something about traveling, getting a hotel, hell the training miles, those thoughts disappeared and felt committed at this point, until now. For CT to suggest this, when she's the one making me do these damn marathons, really made me stop and think, even she knows this is going to suck. The forecast, 100% rain, dropping temps, and oh increasing wind. Then there is the knee pain I've been dealing with the past few weeks. Why do this?

Look a blog post down, there's a reason. Leading up to this moment, I've been hush on my goals. A couple people have asked me during this training season and my generic answer has been "better than my last marathon". It's one hundred percent true, but it's also not even close to one hundred percent truth. My last marathon was a disaster. It's funny the motivational sayings people put on posters along the course, things like pain is temporary, your time is forever, things like that to will you along. There is truth in that saying too, but works opposite for me in this case, my last marathon time feels like a black eye. Problem is, it doesn't go away, will live forever on the internet, only thing to do is replace it with something better. So, that's my on the surface goal.

The off the record and I'm only saying this because nobody reads this, I really want to PR and since I'm admitting things, there's a small piece of me that really wants to qualify for Boston. Why don't I want to admit it? Admitting it, makes it seem more real and then feel more pressure and obligation of needing to do it. Neither goal is an easy task. The PR was from almost four years ago, when I was way more committed, dedicated, not to mention putting more miles in (not to mention younger, even though I don't age anymore). A BQ time, is even more of a pipe dream. It has always been something that seems so far out of reach from what feels possible, it doesn't do any good to even pretend a chance exists to pull a time that is required for that, from this body.

Training season, changed it up and went with the "me" plan. Though I still do group runs, decided to retired from being a pace leader. I did get enjoyment from doing that, but it also set me on a path where my longer runs were at a slower pace. There's this philosophy in not only every running program, but feels like every training guide that long runs should be easy and done thirty seconds to a minute slower than race pace. Not going to doubt the experts, but that doesn't work for me. It's my feeling that it's unrealistic to roll into race day and expect to drop that kind of time per mile, it's a formula for burning out, so I'm done training like this. Mental Expectations (ie the me plan, maybe I need to write a book), run training runs as close to race day pace as possible. First, for the "me" of knowing your body can do it, without wondering or guessing. Second, the logic of if you are always doing close to your desired pace, chances are race day won't be a surprise for the body. This is my invented training plan, me myself to a 7:30 pace for most training runs to with a goal pace of 7:20 come race day.

Well, time to get out of the warm car, get wet, and run this marathon. Not even sure if there was a gun sound to signal the start. It may have been soaked, frozen, both or maybe the race director didn't even show up, anyway, we are off!

First observation, always notice when races thin out. At Kalamazoo, it's about mile four where the split happens, sending halfers one way and the fulls the other. At Grand Rapids, mile nine is the same, split happens, things get much more lonely. While we started as a herd, probably to keep warm, the one mile mark it was already a desolate wasteland. Glad I did the "me" training because it's already alone time from here on out.

Mile two, either the flood waters loosened my laces or I did a poor job tying my shoes in the car, but my right shoe came completely untied. Visions came rushing back to my half marathon running with untied shoes, I didn't want a repeat of that day, only double. The thing with attempting a PR, there isn't much wiggle room, wanting a BQ time, there is next to no room for a error. Decided to suck it up and just go with it.

Mile eight, the whipping of the laces on my other leg finally broke me and I could feel my untied shoe opening up enough my foot was sliding a bit. Now, is the time, I have to fix this. Stopping, the next crisis starts, trying to tie laces when my fingers don't work because of the cold. That was very frustrating, trying to do something so simply and what should be quick, only to have to attempt it multiple times the whole time feeling precious seconds tick away not moving closer to the finish line. Looking back at my splits, clearly can see it took twenty seconds to tie my damn shoe.

Somewhere in the ten to halfway point miles, had a very interesting conversation with myself. One moment, I felt like a genius. Then about a mile later, realized how unbelievable stupid my thought was. It was a difficult decision what to wear this morning, not even sure there would be a perfect answer. I went with a black long sleeved shirt. My moment of pure genius was thinking to myself that this shirt is fairly tight with it being soaked and I doubted I'd have any issue with bloody nipples, but the fact I picked a black shirt was next level genius because if my nipples were to bleed, nobody would see them!  Where was the photographer on the course to capture the exact moment when I realized how dumb this thought was? Bit of a trick question because, nobody was on the course, but I'm sure the look on my face was pure disgust and would have made for one of those all time great awful race photos. If I took the time to pretend I picked this black shirt to hide bloody nipples, then why the hell didn't I just tape my nipples? Of course I could just toss this shirt too, but I did worry a bit about the hypothermia factor.

Crossing the halfway point mat, was a few seconds behind my goal pace. Didn't think about that much though knowing there was plenty of race to go, lost some time with my shoe tying fiasco, and this weather wasn't the greatest. Had my watch set with the virtual partner going. The virtual partner runs at the pace you are aiming for, never tires, and I'm sure doesn't have to run in the rain, but I told myself I wasn't going to look at my watch and check exactly where I was at until mile twenty. It's too early to begin stressing over anything.

Mile fifteen clicked, I did look at my mile split, 7:12. At first thought, as the reader, I'm sure you are thinking that's great! Eight seconds ahead of your goal pace of needing 7:20 miles. The problem, I knew I wasn't putting down 7:12 pace effort. This whole time, even with the monsoon, shoe gate, nipple gate, I was running comfortable. When I saw the 7:12, this is when my panic started and queue the head games. This part of the course is an out and back stretch and the turn around point is a hair past mile sixteen. The eight second gain is from the wind assisting me and in a few seconds, it's going to be miles into that wind.

Mile seventeen clicked, 7:45. That's it, any dream of pulling off a BQ time died right here in my mind. I was already at the point my body was getting tried naturally. The extra effort into the wind, to lose twenty seconds, there wasn't enough in the tank to overcome the wind. This is the exact reason I didn't want to admit to anybody that set this goal for myself. Even in my own head, flood of disappointment, more than the rain pouring down.

Mile twenty clicked, I didn't even bother to check my virtual partner who was happily running, dry, still on pace, and would get a BQ time. Problem is, I've thought about this enough to know even without seeing that screen, just knowing what time I should be at mile twenty to have any chance and I was four minutes off. I also don't have the best history of finishing marathons strong, things may be going from bad to worse.

Somewhere around either mile twenty one or twenty two the course merges with the turn around spot for the people doing the half marathon. This is one race that is a bit unique that they start the full and the half an hour and a half apart. The downside, it makes for some congestion in the final miles potentially because the course changes from the road to a trail. The positive, it generates people again after being alone for essentially twenty miles. The bonus today, it was timed just about perfect, no sooner did I get here, then I could see CT coming towards me. It was good to see her just because she's been dealing with a heel injury for a while, even up to last night, wasn't sure if she could even do the half. At this point she was at least nine miles in, she smiled when she saw me, in this weather, with a bad ankle, I'll take it!

This is where the final mind game started getting played. My body and my mind were telling me to slow up, let her catch me, finish with her and take the defeat. Then that small voice said, may have lost the BQ, but it's still possible to get a PR.

The final miles, it was zombie running. Body felt dead, there wasn't anything left to give, but for some reason legs kept moving forward. To quote Jaws, if anybody were to look at me I'm sure the line, "he's got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eyes" would apply. I couldn't even see the finisher's clock, not sure if that was the rain in my eyes, the rain coming down, or maybe my eyes stopped working. Fingers and hands didn't work, grabbed my chocolate milk between my writst. Run in snow, blizzards, rarely feel cold. Well, crossing that line and just stopping for a few seconds, feeling that cold wind on everything that's soaked, okay, this is cold.

What's with the picture? At 1 am, CT wakes me up furious that the room next to ours is having a very loud party. The hotel was nice enough to give us a different room. The room we get, 317. What did I run today? A 3:17! Took five minutes off my PR, may have missed my BQ by five, but now I know the secret...just might ask for room 312 next time!


Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Day the Music Died

"I don't want to do this." This statement was made in the weeks leading up to this moment, multiple times in fact. Not going to link back to it, but last year made a blog post how it would never happen again, going into a marathon under trained. That post was made to motivate, instead if anything, it feels as if that post only caused more slacking. It certainly didn't encourage the behavior I wanted it to.

CT did give me an out, she said that I could drop to the half the days leading up to this moment. The problem, she found herself a cause, hence committing herself to doing the full. There's no way that I can do less than her, when she beats me at everything. Know what you are thinking, of course she spent the time and actually trained for this. If I spent zero time training, she's spent negative time! In her defense, she's been hurt. In my defense, yeah I've got nothing.

If this is a perfect storm for failure, it's here. Lining up at the starting line, the sky opened up and let loose a downfall of rain. Most marathons, there's always a level of nervousness in myself. Today is different, I had a feeling today was going to suck, the rain only multiplied that to drive the point home. Guuuuuush, goes the gun.

Running in a downpour makes some things easier, like no needing or caring where to step. It also helped having zero expectations for this thing. Didn't feel pressure to hang with people, pace groups, or anything. There is etiquette to running, I don't know if you the reader knows this or not. Maybe someday I'll go into more detail on this etiquette, but one thing NOT to do is run with your music blaring. Now, I'm not a cold hearted d-bag, but there are limits too. Knowing full well today was going to suck from the get go, I started my music playing (at a reasonable level). A couple miles in, a running friend decided to give me some grief for being shirtless. At first I didn't hear because of my music, or maybe being lost in my own world of suffering, but he had to repeat his comment again blaming my music. my response, "I didn't hear you because I'm deep into Taylor Swift right now", which got more than a few laughs from other runners around me.

Up until this point, I only remember doing one race in a downpour. The part I'll remember about this one, somewhere around mile 6 coming up to a crew of workers attempting feverishly to push water from a section of trail. They are out there with huge push brooms, there's actually a pump running trying to pull as much water as possible from one side to the other, meanwhile it's full on ankle deep and much to wide to even attempt or bother trying to hurdle. It's raining, we are all soaked, what's the point? Splash, splash, does this count as a tri-athalon?

Getting to the 10K timing mat, I almost felt good, dare I say cocky? Rounding the corner, there was one of the teams pushing a wheel chair, except there wasn't a team, it was one woman. Maybe the others were pulled off in the flash flood that I just crossed, either way helped her push her companion across the mat. Now, I did say cocky, not stupid, soon after the hill starts and this is where my helpfulness ended. That helpfulness was to build Karma for what I'm sure I'd need later, energy is at a premium and that needs to be conserved!

By this part of the course the numbers have thinned out. Soon the half marathon people get to turn and it becomes even more sparse. Somewhere in this section, again I was rocking out my guilty pleasure music, "Call Me Maybe" is on. I swear, I always get busted listening to this when running. Sure enough, a guy running by me breaks into singing along with it, not to be upstaged by him, but soon I joined along putting massive emphasis on "this is crazy" line.

There went the halfway point. Every step after this still running is a bonus, because honestly didn't think I'd make it much more than this. It isn't long before I believe I'm gaining on a friend and have this calming feeling knowing that chatting with him will make the suffering seem less. No sooner do I think those thoughts, then he tags his partner who is part of a relay team and if that wasn't bad enough, turns out it wasn't who I thought it was anyway! Was Karma not watching, when I helped push that wheelchair? The new runner for the relay team, happens to be the weather girl for one of the local stations and the relay team is comprised of people who work for that channel. She started out much faster than I currently was going, so initially she pulled away, but at some point I caught her and couldn't resist commenting to her as I passed "You better pick up the pace, the insert name of the competing channel's name, is gaining on you". She got a chuckle out of that. Couldn't resist, not sure which side Karma falls with that one.

Somewhere in mile sixteen, steps weren't coming as ease as they once were. Mile eighteen, knew something wasn't right anymore. My vision started to become tunnel vision. This is part of the course that is an out and back, so I was hearing people say hi to me, yet not seeing them at all. I do get runner stupid at times and it dawned on me that this probably wasn't good to keep dealing with, there certainly wasn't any point since I was only doing this race to survive, no time goals or anything, so finally shut it down and started walking a bit. Not too soon after, CT showed up and in passing told her my vision was funny and I'll see her again when she catches me, call me, maybe.

Somewhere in miles twenty to twenty-two, legs, specifically calves started cramping. At this point, walking had at least returned my vision back to normal. The cramping was a clear message from Karma, "This is why you train, stupid."  Hearing the message and listening to the message are two completely different things. Lactic acid, threshold, all those concepts that I heard, but never really listened to, all made much more sense now.

The four hour pace group just pasted, now pride kicked in and there's no way am I putting up with an over four hour marathon, even under-trained! "Here's my number, Call Me Maybe", Karma.   At this point my calves started hurting so bad, I basically could walk about ten feet, I'd stop message them for a bit, try another ten feet and repeat. With the people passing, I knew it was moments before CT showed up, surely that would boost my spirits and get me out of this bind!

CT showed up, when I collapsed to massage my calf, being the loving wife she is, she grabbed my other calf to help, only massaged so hard that calf instantly went into a full blown charlie horse. It wouldn't stop, it looked like a baby's fist was attempting to punch itself out and what's a visual without sound? I'll tell you, I was crying like a little girl. I admit it. Yeah, I'm embarrassed about it but I also admitted to listening to Call Me Maybe, how much worse could it get? The pain was excruciating, but the part that hurt worse was that I was twenty four miles into this thing, two miles from the finish and there was a good chance I'd have to give up. Well, you know with CT around, there is NO giving up. Once I stopped crying and the baby's fist left my calf, I hobbled a bit, every step forward is closer to being done.

The music stopped, not because in pain I found etiquette, but because my phone battery was almost dead. CT called a friend out on the course to come get me, he showed up and walked me to the finish line as she left to beat me no less.

The line got crossed. Officially, the worst marathon I've ever done. There's some lessons here, hope I'm hearing them and more importantly, hope I'm listening to them.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Groundhog Day

"If something is worth doing, it's worth doing well" some famous person once said, or maybe it was my mom. Either way, this isn't a story about doing that! This is the weekend for my favorite race to hate. How better to make a mockery out of that saying and guarantee an already hard race is even harder? Little to no practice, that's how! My longest run in the past month has been a four miler. Time to see if my body can survive a trail half marathon. Oh and while at it, why not raise the bar this year? Ambitiously signed up for back to back days last year, oh boy.

A year is long time, lots can change, but honestly had much better intentions for this weekend. Primarily, the goal was getting my cousin to run this brutal course and enjoy her accomplishment, yet relish her complaining how much her body hurt afterward. Nobody reads this thing, I'm not that much of a jerk, I'm not wishing pain on my cousin for no reason. She tortured me relentlessly growing up, she's due! Turns out she side-stepped this race last minute, karma found me, because now I'm the one complaining that everything hurts as I duck walk.

Maybe everything will be fine, if I can get one more long run in......errrrrrrrrrrrr, goes the start gun. Damn it! Today is all about twos. Got two fairly easy miles to start. Two through four has the hellacious hill. Four through six, another awful climb. Six through eight, a stretch of down, finally! Eight to ten, the huge rollers. So many damn hills!! Ten to twelve, pretty much don't remember, but getting close to the end. Then, finally downhill to the finish line. As I ran, I concentrated on the current two miles and just told myself to push as long as I could before the wheels came off. Wasn't sure if I'd make it to mile four and want to be done, or if I could coax my body to do more. Turned out, made it to a little past mile eight before my body wanted to know what exactly I was doing. The rollers finished me off and it was survival for the rest of the race.

Crossing the line, honestly, I was a bit surprised. It was only two minutes worse than last years time. Granted last year I had to fight around people the whole way, but it was a moral victory knowing how little training I did coming into this weekend. CT also part of the same training program, she PR'd her time! Maybe there's something to fresh legs. We both got age group awards, which was also shocking, bonus!

Day two of Groundhog Day, the alarm goes off, it was like slow motion getting to the bathroom. This is what I wished on my cousin, but now it's both CT and I. Buy stock in ibuprofen. With a little activity, it did get better, but there were also some serious doubts as to how today is going to play out.

"It's Groundhog Day..." goes the gun. First two miles were okay. Hoped that I could last as long as yesterday, but already after the first major hill, it became apparent to me survival mode was going to start much sooner. Made it to the six mile hill before cheating with a walk. From about that point on, anything more than an ant hill, I walked up it. Day two, ended being five minutes slower. CT ended up being three minutes slower, so in her mind, she's tougher. Not even going to fight it, because I'm whipped! But, we both AG placed again.

One of the reasons I love this race is the value. Honestly, not sure if we are tired from the back to back races, or from carrying all the gear they give us!    

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Smells, like winning

It's been two years since the passing of the Ringer. It sure doesn't seem like it's been that long already. Neither CT or I have been putting many miles in. Certainly, wouldn't call it training. If anything, my excuse is living life. Even though this is the traditional hometown race, didn't even decide to do it until the last minute. Under-trained, short notice, still felt right to do what we originally planned for the Ringer.

Mark this down as a first, when I say it was last minute, first race I've ever done where we walked up the morning of, put our money down and registered. This will be interesting. CT debated even doing a warm up, we both joked that our first mile will be a warm up. Meanwhile in the back of my head, I was actually worried adding more miles to the now daunting three point one of a 5K. We did do a little warm up, legs felt like rubber. CT confidently announced this pace felt good and demanded that I start my watch to tell her the current pace. It was a good pace, way too fast for a warm up, better than I expected. Still, zero expectations on this. This may be a race, but it's not going to feel like it.

On a day when I want to start this as the new tradition of this race also being a celebration for the Ringer, I kid you not, Jessie's Girl starts playing as the race starts. What are the chances? You almost can't make stuff up like this. CT runs in a Jesse's Girl shirt for her Dad and now that song has started to send us off.

"Jesse is a friend"....goes the gun. Just like every race, the youngsters go flying out the gate. Getting to the first straight away, it did seem like only the under twenty's up ahead. Granted, I knew I was running on adrenaline and was going faster than my lack of training could maintain. but honestly my mind was still trying to comprehend that song playing.  The chances of that playing, in this moment, at this race, two years after, seem astronomical to me. Mile one clicks and it's not horrible, in fact, it's a bit impressive for the complete lack of running I've been doing lately. Of course being neck and neck with a kid who is probably twelve doesn't help either. In one moment, feel content to stay with him and call that a moral victory. But soon, he starts to die. Two other youngins up ahead, maybe catching them is possible.

Mile two, both yougins have been caught, but feel breathing down my neck and it sounds heavier than any of the kids I've passed, here it is, here's where my lack of training fails and I get angry at myself for doing this race for the Ringer and I get beat. Sure enough, a guy of 90% legs passes me. Looks younger, but it's so hard to tell sometimes but a good chance he's in my age group and he easily pulls away. Damn it.

The last mile has a couple of very small hills in it. Going up the first, gained ground on legs. That damn song, the Ringer is watching this, it's too much of a coincidence. Getting beat by somebody I can't see is one thing, but not taking a chance with legs isn't an option and time to dig deep. Going into the final turn, I could tell he was dead. Don't get me wrong, my body hated me, was questioning what the hell I was doing after taking so much time off, but I knew going into the final hill that I could kick harder if I had to and legs didn't have a chance. Maybe the Ringer was pushing, who knows.

Went back to cheer CT up the final hill. Different face on her. When the Ringer was here to watch her, after surprising her, she was nothing but a smile up this hill. Today, was all business. Okay, mostly it was lack of training or possibly the three times she vomited during her run, but hey she always has said "if you didn't puke, you didn't run hard enough".

In the end, we both got first, just like it should have been two years ago.  It's two years late, but these were the results I pictured. This picture was not, simply going to label this one "Smells like a winner". Pretty sure the Ringer would laugh at the picture and something tells me he was watch.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Taking the Call

Back to the Home Town. Much lower key this time around. Seems like most of the Superstars are injured, that leaves only the hard corers left, you know CT. She counts for two.  Last year we entered with some swagger for sure, I even rocked the Orange Crush (this PR) shoes. Granted, they failed me a little bit causing me to run with untied shoes for eleven miles, but put down a great time. This year, CT didn't decide she would even run it to the day before.

Waiting at the start, find myself struggling with wanting to put on my "retired" favorites. They treated me so well two weeks ago, making it twenty miles before causing tender feet. Thirteen miles would be easy, I'll send them out on a high note! Decision made! No sooner did I decide, when I made eye contact with Mom's scornful eyes "you're not wearing those" without needing to say the words. When in the Home Town, have to follow Mom's rules.  The new pair get laced up.

Year's past, worked on getting in the zone. Not really sure what today or even the running future holds lately. Granted it's a small race, but lined up right in the middle, no expectations today. What does unboxing sound like? Well that's the start gun. This course has like three turns in it, the first one is within eyesight at the start, after the first turn I was in third, so much for hanging back and feeling out.

The first two runners are running side by side and one of them happens to be Fuel. They weren't running too far out of my comfort zone, so stuck on their heels and eavesdropped for probably the first four miles. At this point their conversation  must have ran it's course because the other guy bolted ahead. Still within eyesight, it's another eight miles before we find another turn. By about mile six, Fuel pulled right along side of him again. Spectating from behind, I really smiled at this, the one guy made his move and now that Fuel caught back up to him, had a feeling it probably broke his spirit. This will be interesting to watch what happens and how this plays out.

There are races when I get in foul moods. There are other races when I'm having a good time, and this happened to be one of them. Crossing a cross-street, couldn't resist yelling at the officer watching traffic if he'd radio ahead for the next officer to taz the two guys ahead of me. Think it really caught him off guard, because he was soon laughing and giving me a thumbs up.

Mile eight, finally started the "maybe this isn't fun" feelings. Honestly, can't believe I made it this far at this pace. The mental games switched to attempting to figure out my finish time, if I eased back into my normal pace. I did slow a little, but nowhere near normal pace and just kept logging miles. Even took a few seconds to shake a familiar face working the last water stop.

The final stretch, couldn't resist pretending I was on a phone call. The fact that I was still goofing off, obviously could have ran a little harder. Seeing the final time, maybe thirty seconds slower than last year, granted that was with shoe laces flopping the whole way and doing a number on my toe, but I was also much more trained than I was coming into today. Put this in the books for my best race this year by far.

CT's winning streak came to an end. She ended up with second today (that's overall). Normally, I'd be a bit worried to get back in the car with her, but she went from last year deciding she wouldn't do this race to let somebody else win, to not wanting to do it at all, to, finally wanting to try it. She wasn't disappointed at all. I'll even let you in on a little secret, I wouldn't be surprised if this was all for motivation for next year.....just a guess.

Oh, and even though I didn't see it play out, Fuel won overall!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Marathon Learning

Standing at the starting line, honestly have no idea what to expect today. The major dilemma so far has been deciding which shoes to wear, crisis at six in the morning. Thoughts that maybe I should have trained a little harder during this season, hasn't even entered my brain, yet. Surely, they are coming, probably around mile sixteen, provided my feet aren't on fire. Today, is going to be painful regardless. First order of business, deciding how painful. Do I start with the old shoes, and run (pun) the risk of destroying my feet early? Or do I start with my newer shoes in an attempt to save my feet and switch to my old pair for the awful miles, when it doesn't matter anymore? Yes, this is seriously the internal conversation I'm having with myself, shoes at six in the morning. Last I checked, I'm a guy, but there are times I spend entirely too much time thinking about shoes, hey, don't judge.

Turns out, I got rushed into a decision, since Sis-in-Law, Downhill, needed to pickup my spare pair at house and not at the start of the race. Instead of struggling with my decision leading all the way up to  race time, out the door and decision made. Old it is! Love these shoes, so many good runs in them, memories, PR's, maybe there's a chance they'll get me through the whole race and I can retire them the way they should be. They only have the one hole in the bottom (okay, there are four on the sides), nothing can go wrong.

Reeeeeetirement goes the gun. I find it slightly humorous the less I train, the better the weather seems to be on race days. Lucky number seven and the first time the temps are actually in my favor. Even with that going for me, started off very conservative, figuring this nice weather is only a trick to burn out early! Not falling for that one again Kzoo!

First few miles, great to see the crowds, feel the energy, then The Turn. I call it "The Turn" because it's where the fun stops and the seriousness starts. The half marathon people get to go straight feeding off all the energy down town, the marathon people make "The Turn" and suddenly what started as a group run now becomes running by yourself isolation. This is where experience comes in, being the seventh time doing this, not only did I have my phone with me, I already had it playing my tunes silently, so within a couple clicks, boom, entertainment for the rest of this thing.

Fast forward to the tech section. This stretch always seems to prelude the downward spiral every year. Nothing like running by all the solar panels WMU has out generating energy, meanwhile the direct sunlight is doing nothing but draining the runners. At least this year, the temps kept this much less noticeable. In fact, may have even gained some energy leaving the tech campus, seeing some familiar faces, with some cheering.

Here's where this marathon story starts. Early conservation has helped, it's the point in the race where it's time to do something dumb (runner logic). I can feel the itch to push the pace, figuring the end is inevitable, time to see how many good miles I can get in before the end comes. No sooner did I start down this path, when I caught up to Water Bottle Girl (WBG).

I've seen WBG around, not exactly sure what pace group she's been in during training this winter (it would be embarrassing if she were in my group..please don't let her be in mine...proving how much slacking I've done as a pace leader this year). On the last twenty mile run, only one person, in my group, was going out long, figured man up and keep him company. Low and behold, WBG trots past us and next thing I know the two of them tricked me into doing twenty miles that day. I ended up having a horrible run, my socks are planted in a corn field as proof (so many blisters, left them to die or maybe next year there will be a giant sockstock growing) and tapped out at eighteen. I hobbled away from that run confident both of my runners that day would do fine in their up coming races, but felt horrible about my own chances.

Unsure of how much she wanted to "talk", asked the basic question of when she wanted to finish. 3:35, which even with runner's head, I knew exactly what that meant, she's aiming to qualify for Boston. Ambitious task on this awful course! The fact we could see the 3:30 pace group, she's even pushing the pace down hills. Here's my project. While there's no guarantee I've got 3:35 in my tank, I've got enough miles in me to help her out. First step, turn down my music with the comment "I won't torture you with this", her response "it kind of helps". Music back on. Soon after she ask's if my music is set to 180 beats per second. I've never really run with her. Oh WBG, the day I take the time to make a playlist designed to run perfect is the day, wait, I wouldn't take the time to even make a playlist! This could be a very bad mix of seriousness and playfulness. Maybe, I should just let her do her thing, this might be a bad combo. Further proof, the next song that comes on, one of my favorites because of HOW inappropriate it is. Worried, hoping she can't hear it, at least not well enough to hear any of the words. No way WBG knows this song, she can't really hear it over our breathing, our feet pounding, it's safe...right? No sooner did I talk myself into it would be okay, out of her mouth "Oh, I love Elle King". much for that idea! She has good taste, maybe this could work.

At or around the halfway point, we'd reach stretches where the wind would be blowing pretty good. Now, I really never verbalized what I was doing, but at times, when I could feel the wind, I'd move in front to block it and save her some energy. Each time I did this, not sure if she thought I was being an ass, attempting to leave her, or maybe she didn't want front row seats to looking at my back, but she'd drop further and further back, eliminating the drafting effect. I couldn't figure this out, but also didn't say anything, until I asked my next question, "how many marathons is this for you"? WBG, "Two". She tricked me again! Crushing that twenty miler, the fact she runs around with her own water bottle, knows/wants 180 beats per minute music, had me thinking this whole time she was much more experienced. Even though I was deep in runner stupid, this was my moment of clarity. I wouldn't say life flashed before my eyes, but in that moment it struck me as pretty funny that I may be running with a much (much) younger version of myself!

Marathon two, went out way too fast, high expectations, sounds familiar...and she likes inappropriate lyrics! This is where I realized should have asked WAY more questions earlier. Not sure it would have mattered with where I caught up with her, but should have been slowing her down in those middle miles. A few seconds after the clarity hit, then the reality hit, we have no chance to hit 3:35. Hey, I said this was a story, didn't say it had a happy Hollywood ending! Ugh, I know the feeling all too well of setting goals for a run and not getting them. My stomach flipped, feeling like I let WBG down. In teasing fashion, had to give her some crap about picking this marathon to Boston qualify with. She took it in good spirits, so part of me thinks she already realized this, because she countered with she'll take it as a success if she PR's. Well, THAT, I know we can do! My response to that, you find a sensible marathon, I'll pace you and we'll get your Boston Qualifier.

The final miles were brutal (at one point got an "F" bomb from her, yeah I like her), but definitely didn't seem as bad as past years. At one stretch we talked about it's all a learning experience, every marathon is. This whole training season something has been different. Could be a combination of things, stupid flu, some bad socks, maybe it's a simple as being burnt out from last year, but somewhere lost the love of running. The same point WBG was learning going out a bit too fast in the early stages isn't good for the later stages, I learned that almost all my of my enjoyment of running is helping others. The second the race stopped being about my shoes, worrying about pain, lack of training, generally thinking about my own performance and and the focus switched to somebody else, it completely changed and found the love of running again. Never really thought about that relationship before, it's seems so simple, so obvious, yet it took me a training season and half a marathon before it clicked. Learning, might be older, but can do it, still.

Crossing the line, it was great to see WBG's smile with a twenty-five minute PR! In true Superstar fashion, it was fun to plant the seed about trying a fall marathon while not even out of the finishing chute, only to have CT come over (knowing next to nothing about the story of this run) and attempt and even bigger sales-pitch into her doing a fall marathon. Watch out WBG, where I offer advice and stories, CT gets you committed to things!

Speaking of CT, she's the one who should really write a blog about today. She had more fun today than any other race, by far. On the drive home, as she's explaining to me their antics, she was laughing so hard she was crying. Can't say I've ever seen that or expected it, part of me wishes I could have watched her whole adventure play out, but CT did take 128 photos before her phone died. She may have found her love of running again too or maybe she lost some of her competitiveness and realized running can be fun....hmmm.

*Oh and the shoes made it to mile 20 before thought it best to swap them out. 2,813 miles. Hmm, do have a half in a few weeks...