Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
I am in week 2 of training for a marathon in November, although I have been running all year in preparation for this training and completed a 10K in June. This blog will serve as the lasting record of all of my steps, and mis-steps toward making that goal happen.
I have a mortal enemy.
I know, I know. Who would want to kill a nice, harmless, goofy fool like me?
I met my mortal enemy (MME for short) at a Christmas party about seven years ago. We formed an instant and convenient friendship.
Turned out I wanted get into running and MME was a fantastic motivator. What could possibly go wrong?
When spring rolled around, we arranged to go on our first run together. It was terrific. There I was running and there MME was prodding me along and keeping me going when I wanted to stop.
At the end of the run, I looked right at his face and saw a curious expression.
There was no smile of encouragement. No nod of approval.
He just looked right back and said, “35 minutes. That wasn’t very fast, was it?”
“Come on now, MME,” I said. “It’s my first time out in a long time. It wasn’t going to be fast no matter how well this went.”
“I don’t know,” MME said. “I’ve seen a lot better out of fifth-grade girls. Do you really want to be outrun by a fifth-grade girl?”
“How fast is she? Whoa, now wait a minute here,” my initial shock was melting into awkward arm-flailing rage. “I invited you on this run. I didn’t have to bring you with me. If I wanted someone to make fun of me, I would’ve invited the high school track team. Just who do you think you are?”
“Hey man, it’s just what I do, OK?”
In that moment, our friendship was no longer instant or convenient. MME was an uncomfortable and often unwelcome partner on my runs.
The worst part about it was that he’d wait until the end, when I was too exhausted or too out of breath to fight back, to pour on his insults.
“43:05. I really thought you were going to pass that snail there at the end …”
“38:04. Does it really count as a run if you had to take a five-minute break to hyperventilate over there by the fishing pond?”
“36:15. Have you thought about taking up chess?”
The abuse was manageable -- perhaps even a little motivational. But it wasn’t long before MME, as most super villains do, began to develop a hyper-evil alter ego.
He took on a Spanish name (because everything sounds more sinister in Spanish) -- El Cronómetro -- and his evil game evolved from simple insults to cruel tricks.
When I’d be running exceptionally well, I’d look down at him in search of his approval only to find that he wasn’t paying any attention, or that he’d stopped entirely.
“How am I supposed to know how fast I’ve run?” I’d scream in exasperation.
MME, or El Cronómetro as he now insisted on being called, took to taunting me entirely in Spanish.
“Usted hombre tonto, lento-footed. Es mejor Está aquí. Le salvo la desilusión de realización usted podría mirar todo "Titanic" y volver tres veces para mirar al Rey de la secuencia Mundial en el tiempo esto le toma para dirigir 5 kilómetros. Ah, ah, ah,”
Which is to say, “You silly, slow-footed man. It is better this way. I save you the disappointment of realizing you could watch all of "Titanic" and go back three times to watch the King of the World sequence in the time it takes you to run 5 kilometers. Ha, ha, ha.”
“EL CRONOMETRO!!!” I’d scream his name as I‘d fall to my knees, shaking him violently above my head. Turns out everything is more dramatic in Spanish as well.
But he insisted on continuing to torment me.
Seven years he’s accompanied me on my runs, his eerie face beaming at me with that incandescent indigo-tinged glow as he ticks off every second, every step, all the while reminding me exactly where I stand in real time.
Feel like I‘m doing exceptionally well?
“No está tan bien como usted piensa, pero tengo que decir que usted se mueve un poco más rápido que la pintura secante.” (That means: Not as good as you think, but I have to say you are moving a little faster than drying paint.)
And on those days where I’m just completely off my game?
“Este es por qué usted no come dos libras burrito antes de que usted corra. Su principio para parecer usted tiene una pelota de bolos que arde cubierta del queso nacho que rueda alrededor del interior ello. ¡Oye, tal vez si usted encendió un partido y lo ingirió, usted podría ir más rápido!
I had to look that one up, but it essentially means, This is why you don't eat a two-pound burrito before you run. Your start to feel like you've got a flaming bowling ball covered with nacho cheese rolling around inside it. Hey, maybe if you lit a match and swallowed it, you might go faster!
Thanks, El Cronómetro.
The point here, is that in the last week I’ve had a revelation. The time has simply come for Old Crony, as I’ve started calling him, and I to part ways.
I thought about it as I picked him up before a 3-mile jog and thought, “Why are you still here?”
“Sólo fastidiarle,” meaning, “Just to tick you off.”
Everything about every training program I’ve read has said for your first marathon, all that really matters is the distance you put in, especially if your goal is just to finish.
Why not start taking that seriously?
No one ever asks how fast you run a marathon, (“Whoa, 5 hours. What is that, like two minutes per mile?”) They’re only interested in whether or not you finished.
I’ve even read that if you go in with a time goal your first time out, your chances of actually finishing greatly decrease.
So time, as of last week, is no longer of any essence in this endeavor. Which is good, because Old Crony was really starting to stink after running with me for the last seven years.
As a result, I’ve had some of the most enjoyable, relaxing runs I’ve had, well, ever.
I’ve been taking the kids out in the jogging stroller, because it really doesn’t matter how long it takes. We can stop and look at things, or talk to people. All that matters from hereon is the distance.
So that’s what I’ll do.
As old Crony would say , “Esto está bien, porque este tipo no podía dirigir 100 metros en el tiempo esto le tomó para leer este blog.”
I’m nearing the end of a 13-mile week (it was supposed to be 16, but we took the kids to the park on Tuesday, which was infinitely more fun). Next week is a 15-mile week. We’ll see.
P.S. El Cronómetro = The Stopwatch.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I am training for a marathon in November and have completed a 10K. To date, the 10K distance is as far as I have ever run, so marathon training should be quite an interesting endeavor.
Stats for the week : Miles within the last week: 6.2. Total miles for 2010: 110.6. Total miles since 2008: 407.6. Baseline 5K: 32:13. Baseline 10K: 1:11:00 (roughly). Best times: 26:57 (5K, June 7, 2009); 1:00:00 (10K, June 12, 2010).
RUNNING MP3 OF THE WEEK (That song that for whatever reason has a cadence that exactly matches the speed I was running this week.)
"Brand New Day" by Joshua Radin.
As you all know, Saturday was the big day. So we'll get right down to it.
For the sake of continuity, I decided to keep a log of what actually happened:
8:30 a.m.: It dons on me that I know nothing about pre-race preparation, so I turn to the internet.
There, I read a cautionary tale about a guy who in an effort to “carbo-load” before a race, ate six heavily-syruped pancakes and drank a gallon of orange juice an hour before he was scheduled to run.
My first thought was, “Was this guy trying to run the race, or roll through it like a blueberry-gum-inflated Violet Beuregarde?”
I get a couple of tips on light, pre-race snacks and proper hydration techniques before compiling a shopping list for later in the afternoon (Banana, Gatorade, a bagel and a Power bar basically).
4:15 p.m.: I report to Pizza Barn for the “Optional Pre-Race Packet Pickup”. I think I’m the first person there. It may be the last time I’m first at anything this weekend. They hand me a release to sign, which is odd to me at first, but it makes sense.
It basically says “You realize you’re about to take on a strenuous activity and in no way are the race organizers responsible for what happens to you. You should have spent a lot of time training for this (Have they been reading my blog? Is this directed at me?) and you should have reason to believe to can finish this event in a non-hazardous manner (OK, they really have been reading my blog).”
I sign, because as long as there are no disclaimers to the effect of “In order to improve everyone’s times, we will be letting ravenous tigers loose halfway through the course” it’s probably going to be OK.
In the time it took me to read and sign the release, though, a crowd of people has gathered in line behind me. My honest first thought is “Man, these people look fast.”
It begins to settle in that I really am going to finish at the back of the pack.
4:45 p.m.: I stop by the store to pick up my staples for the race. I buy all kinds of extra garbage too, including a two-foot-long baguette which my daughter and I consume within five minutes of arriving home. I manage to pass on the gallon of orange juice though.
6 p.m.: I forego my planned spaghetti dinner in favor of leftover enchilada casserole (This is what happens when my wife works late. Compromises are made in concession to laziness).
8 p.m.: Time to get the kids in bed so that I can get a full night’s sleep.
8:15 p.m.: The kids aren’t having any of it. They stay up for another two hours.
10:30 p.m.: The kids are finally passed out, but I’ve gotten hooked on a TV show (Friday Night Lights) and I can’t seem to turn it off, even though it’s on DVD.
11:30 p.m.: My wife gets home from work and we decide to watch another episode. It’s not like I have to wake up that early.
12:30 a.m.: OK, that was a mistake. I just did the math on how much sleep I’m actually going to get. I set my alarm and ...
4:30 a.m.: Who set the alarm for 4:30 in the morning? -Snooze-
4:35 -4:55 a.m.: -Snooze- -Snooze- -Snooze- -Snooze- -Snooze-
5 a.m.: OK, OK, I guess I’m going to go through with this nonsense. I get out of bed and start rummaging around for some breakfast. Six pancakes actually doesn’t sound half bad.
5:15 a.m.: I settle for a fried egg sandwich and some greek yogurt with honey.
5:20 a.m.: OK, now what? I have obviously gotten up too early. I could’ve hit the snooze button 50 more times and slept through the race completely, no harm done. But here I am. I guess I could stretch.
5:21 a.m.: I spend the next 40 minutes stretching. I may have dozed off at one point, but it’s hard to say.
7 a.m.: After a quiet drive over to the park, I park near the finish line and eat my pre-race snacks. I take a short walk across the park portion of the course, I meet up with my sister, April, and a longtime friend, James, near the starting line.
7:45ish: Race organizers call everyone to the gather at the start. They state that they will wait for everyone to get out of the bathroom. James, who ran in the race last year, informs us that last year, apparently, they started the race while some participants were still in the bathroom. James tells me they basically just said “1, 2, 3 Go!” while everyone was standing around. At least that’s how he remembered it, which is a lot funnier than any of the other possibilities.
This brings on a discussion about if they’d done the same thing this year, we could all panic and scatter, perhaps running the opposite direction of the starting line. But it would only be funny to us.
The starting area, by the way, is about five feet wide and maybe 10 feet deep, so an instant bottleneck develops as the crowd of about 70 jockeys for starting position. James, April and I dare each other to ditch the race and focus on shoving everyone else out of the way and sprinting full-speed 50 yards ahead of the pack upon the start with our arms flailing above our heads before turning around and shouting “So long suckers!”
The real comedy would come as every participant would then get the opportunity to step over our bodies collapsed on the ground about 15 seconds later.
None of us take on the dare, primarily because not one of us is sure our respective top speeds are enough to get us out to the front of the pack even for 50 yards and we did sign that release that we wouldn’t cause any harm to ourselves or anyone else. Instead we just lag toward the back of the pack and wait for the start.
7:50 a.m.: The race gets underway. I’m about where I expected to be -- well toward the back of the pack -- and I settle into a comfortable pace quickly.
Mile 1 (There were no mile markers on the race course, but I used what I remembered from Google mapping it the night before to get an idea of where I was): The park portion of the course is quite nice. There is plenty of shade and trails are easy on my feet, ankles and knees. I have no idea what my time is, but I feel like I’m running well (for me).
Mile 2: A second lap through the park and I feel like I’ve lost some speed. I still feel good though, and I’m starting to catch up with some of the 5K walkers, which makes for an interesting obstacle course, in terms of trying to keep my pace and dodge traffic.
Mile 3: The 10K leaders start passing me headed the other direction, which is a bit discouraging, but the good news is the water station is ahead.
Wait a minute, water station? I hadn’t thought of this yet. A kind volunteer holds out a paper cup, which I make my best attempt at grabbing in stride while saying “Thank you”, but I spill most of it as I grab it. How come there are no training tips for water stations?
Smart people, I guess, would stop and walk for a few steps while taking a drink, but I am not a smart person.
I take a drink of what’s left, but -- still running -- spill more water on my face and shirt. I think I get about a table spoon in my mouth. A second volunteer waits about 10 meters away with a trash can, and after she offers some encouragement, I throw my cup in the can, spilling the remainder of my water on the volunteer.
A pair of girls behind me are saying “Good morning” to every person staked out along the parade route and “Good job” to every runner going the opposite direction. Neither one of them is out of breath and they quickly pass me. I would wonder where they came from, or how I was even in front of them to begin with, but I’m busy with my own attempts at pleasantries -- mostly half waves to anyone who says hello and my best attempt at a smile, which in my oxygen-deprived state is scaring away all the little kids on the parade route.
Mile 4: I finally make it to the turn-around which means I’m technically on the beginnings of the home stretch. It’s right about now I realize I actually am going to finish this thing, but I’m really starting to wonder if I can finish in under an hour.
Mile 5-6: The rest is kind of a blur. I remember seeing my mom with her camera at the finish line, and then seeing my final time, 60 minutes flat. The next thing I knew I was eating a bagel and waiting for the final results to be posted.
The disappointing thing was that I felt very, very good after the race, like I could’ve run another mile or so. That tells me I didn’t work hard enough during, probably trying too hard to conserve energy.
I was also disappointed I didn’t step up for the final push about 10 feet sooner, because I could’ve come in under one hour easily. I also could’ve picked up my pace about a quarter-mile sooner and had a much better time, but I just couldn’t gauge where I was in terms of stamina. These are all things, of course, that would’ve been remedied with any type of training program (or, for example, if I hadn’t taken most of February, March and May off) but hopefully I’ll know better next time.
I took 50th in a field of 70, 21st out of 23 guys and third out of four in my age group. It’s pretty much exactly what I expected it would be, which is a good thing.
So ends act one of this blog.
The next four weeks will be spent building up to week one of an 18-week training program leading right up to the marathon.
I’m not going to post as much data on my times any more, because the only important thing from hereon is the distance. I’m aiming for 11 total miles this week, 12 the next, 13 the week after and 15 for the first two weeks of marathon training.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
You know what I’m talking about.
There are just certain things in life that weren’t naturally meant to be. Trying to look at something over your shoulder, for instance. Or hanging curtain rods. While we’re talking about it, you might as well add Keanu Reeves comedies, mullets, pineapple milkshakes, leg cramps, chocolate-covered bacon, fried Coca-Cola, the Montreal Expos and Stefan Ur-kel to the list.
Back to the strollers, though.
I have a great stroller that my parents gave me for my birthday the summer before my daughter was born. The only complaint (and this is true of most jogging strollers I’ve ever seen), is that it was designed for runners in the 5-5 to 5-8 height range (i.e. women ... who are short).
Those of us on the taller side have to kind of stoop down to grasp the handlebars. Your center of gravity pushes about a foot behind you and your legs end up kind of flailing behind.
It’s like those cartoons where the little mouse starts trying to run away from the cat, but the carpet underneath its feet just keeps sliding out in a big flowing ribbon of chaos.
Plus, if you are somehow able to make the whole act look natural, there’s still that matter of your cargo.
For as well as you might be able to adjust to the stroller, your run takes on a completely different character with a kid along for the ride.
Runs without strollers are when you get work done. Runs with strollers are for fun, nothing else.
You have to be prepared to make stops to look at dogs, ducks, trucks and basketball hoops.
Nevada weather adds another layer to the whole endeavor as you can leave in sweatshirts and knit hats and come back in short sleeves and sandals.
Plus, you’re much more prone to draw conversation from fellow pedestrians and yard-workers, which can be awkward for those of us pre-disposed to wheezing while jogging.
“How old is she?”
“(Wheeze) Nine (Wheeze) months ...”
“Hey, what are you doing running around with a pink blanket?”
“(Wheeze) Have (wheeze) a nice (wheeze) day.”
Unfortunately, my severe lack of speed also allows most inquirers time for two, if not three, questions. After the first, I point to my headphones, shake my head and shrug my shoulders.
You’re also at the mercy of your child’s attention span. In that under-one-year range, they basically ride around with a look evenly balanced between awe, bewilderment and panic spread across their face. It's that look that seems to say, “I’ve apparently learned how to fly, and I don’t know how long I have until I have to learn how to land this thing.”
After one year, they start to exercise their free will, which is generally to be anywhere else besides that stroller.
My daughter went through a stage one summer where she’d wait until we were a mile and a half away from home before going into meltdown mode.
This prompted casual onlookers to say, “Hey look! That slow, deaf asthmatic is cruel to children.”
After trying to ride out the screaming while casually waving and pointing to my headphones to anyone who asked “Hey, what’s wrong with your kid?”, I would finally give up and get her out of the stroller.
The problem, though, since she’d already gotten rid of her shoes, was there was no place to put her.
I’d carry her in one arm and drag the stroller behind me with the other the entire mile and a half back home. The girl always seemed to find it enormously entertaining. Daddy, however, did not.
All the same, that ended up being a decent workout in itself. So we kept at it. She eventually got used to the stroller and actually pleads to go out on runs with me now. I’m always glad to oblige.
So I had this brilliant idea last Thursday that since I run two 3.2-mile laps on my 10K runs, I could take the 2-year-old on the first half, switch kids and grab a drink of water halfway through and take the 9-month-old for the second half.
Along the way, it occurred to me that anyone who happened to see me both times through saw the same wheezy oaf pushing the same stroller with a drastically younger kid than they saw 40 minutes prior.
“Hey, just working out my own personal Benjamin Button here,” I’d say.
At least, that’s what I’d say if I weren’t slouched over the handle bars panting and having oxygen-deprived delusions of anyone actually paying enough attention to have noticed that we’d already been by.
All things considered, the run wasn’t that bad. I finished in an hour and 6 minutes (plus some change).
I had every intention of running another 10K on Saturday, but we were under time constraints with a busy schedule. I was only able to run 5K, which was probably for the best, because I felt awful the entire time.
I’ll try for two 10Ks this week (third time is the charm, right?). We’ll see.