Wednesday, August 11, 2010

So long, Folsom. I never even got to meet you.

I fully anticipated at some point or another eventually writing an entry that started something to the effect of “Well, I gave it a good try, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

I thought about all the things I could say about quitters, like “Quitters are better off because they don’t have to go through all the months of training AND they don’t have to actually run 26.2 miles at the end of it all” or “At least I can use my shoes again next spring.”

Never in 1,000 years, would I have imagined that the marathon would be the one to quit on me.

Cancelled would be the more accurate term. Supposing I completed my nine-mile run to cap off last week’s training slate, I was going to hop on the computer and send off my entry fee this week.

However, my sister took a look at the marathon’s Web site the night before my nine-miler and informed me that the marathon had been cancelled because the Sacramento County parks department wouldn’t allow an event of that size to occupy its trails for an entire day.

My feelings ran the gamut from bitterness and disappointment to flat out relief.

I mean, hey, now I had the perfect excuse to back out of this silly endeavor, right?

I went through the Jack In the Box drive-thru and ordered a steak and egg breakfast burrito and a chocolate Oreo cookie milkshake to celebrate my marathon’s demise. 

“I just gained five pounds in two minutes,” I said to my marathon, ice cream and egg still dribbling down my chin. “What did you today? 

“Oh, that’s right, nothing. Quitter.”

Then I laughed maniacally, which scared my children, so I had to stop.

The marathon had no comment.

After a while, as my stomach began to ache, my feelings toward the marathon turned to pity.

The poor organizers were going to have to deal with hundreds of irate would-be runners who, like me, hadn’t previously decided yet if they were actually going to run the race, but now that it had been cancelled were quite sure they not only would have finished the entire thing, but probably would have won … easily.

Everyone would be demanding refunds, or at least T-shirts so they could brag to their friends later that they had indeed run the Folsom-to-Sacramento Marathon in 2010 in a time of just an hour and 13 minutes and no one would have been the wiser. Others would sue for emotional damages and gym fees resulting from the inevitable fast-food binging the cancellation caused.

It was about then the depression started to set in. What in the world was I going to blog about? How would I explain the lack of material to all four of my faithful readers?  Was I supposed to keep doing this for another year? 

I started looking for a replacement marathon within the same basic time frame.

This was doing more to discourage than to help. I remembered why I’d chosen the marathon I had.

See, I had a very specific set of requirements in whatever race I was going to run. We’re on a tight budget, so I needed it to be within about a three-hour drive, or less, from home and require no more than a two-night stay. 

I can’t in good conscience forgo church for a sporting event, not so much because church is so important in itself , but more because I believe there needs to be a designated time during every week committed solely to Jesus Christ and no other. I've found that if my week doesn't begin with a foundation on my Lord, it's probably not going end anywhere near Him. So, it was important to me that the marathon be on a Saturday.

Immediately, those two requirements had narrowed the list down to near zero. Which had made the Folsom race so ideal.

Another reason it had been so desirable was that it was on trails, meaning no cut-off times, and it was mostly on a downgrade through. In other words, a perfect marathon. For me.

So the gist of it is, I’m going to have to realign my goals. I can’t back out, because for as much as I joke about quitting, I’m just not ready to quit. My feet don’t hurt enough yet, and we all know there’s nothing funny or interesting about painless feet.

There are no marathons that fit my criteria in the next six months, but there is a dirt-trail half marathon in Pacifica (one of our favorite spots just outside of San Francisco) in late January. I’m tentatively making that my new target with the intention that I run a full marathon as soon as I can find a suitable one on a Saturday.  

Because of the new time table, there may not be much to write about in the coming weeks, but as soon as I have something to say, I’ll be back. 

For the record, this is a 20-mile week.

I am in week 4 of training for a marathon in, well, sometime in the next year. 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.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Injured reserve

I am in week 3 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.

When I first started these crazy shenanigans, I set about trying to read up as much as I could about successfully running a marathon.

Most of my reading was done online, which means I’d start to read an article on “The 25 things you must do without question in order to complete 26.2 miles,” get distracted after Tip No. 4 and spend the next two hours watching funny pet clips on YouTube. 

Spotty as most of my information was, the one thing on which everyone seemed to agree was simply this: During the course of training for a marathon, one has to come to terms with the idea that at one point or another, they are going to get hurt.

Get hurt, I say? I can deal with that. 

I once nearly hacked off the tip of my finger with a … well, a hacksaw. I’ve chipped teeth, did my best to walk straight through a Plexiglas window thinking it was a door, shredded some cartilage in my knee, stepped on a nail, fit my whole fist in my mouth on multiple occasions and even fell off a pile of crates and used the corner of one such crate to cushion the fall with my forehead.

I can deal with getting hurt. That’s what I said at least.

I mean, what are we really talking about  -- Shin splints? Hip flexors? Plantar Fasciitis? Pulled hamstrings? ITB Syndrome? Stress fractures? Sprained ankles? Contusions of the male ego? Carpal tunnel?

Child’s play. All of it, it turns out.

What no one was willing to talk about, at least not before Tip No. 8 in the “100 Easiest Ways to Avoid Getting Injured While Taking On An Ill-Advised Running Program” article, was that when you get hurt, it’s not something you’re going to be willing to talk about either. At least in mixed company.

I’ve fallen victim to chronic bloody nipples. 

Seriously. Stop laughing.

It’s actually a surprisingly common affliction, particularly among those of us men with upper bodies shaped much more with Jell-O molds than granite chisels and who wear cotton or other “textured” clothing during long, decently warm runs.

What happens is, the moisture from the heat of the run (a.k.a. sweat, but I don’t want to gross anyone out, especially while writing anything about bloody nipples) gives some extra weight to the fabric. As the miles add up, the fabric repeatedly brushes across the skin and, particularly in sensitive areas, begins to wear a raw, bloody wound on your chest.

Gross, right?

The thing is, it really hurts.

There’s really no way to compensate during the actual run, like one might be able to do after rolling an ankle or tweaking a hamstring.

Once your nipples start bleeding, you either stick your chest out and run proudly with red circles growing on the front of your shirt or you more or less tuck your wrists in toward your body, flare your elbows out and run like you’ve got chicken wings for the remainder of the run. 

The pain doesn't really set in until after you're done. 

But it’s not like a sprain or a pull, where you can just stretch it out real well before the next run, wrap it up and hope for the best. It’s just kind of there, and it only gets worse.

I mentioned what "excruciating" pain I was feeling to my wife, who’d just recently finished breast-feeding our second child through his first eight months.

She laughed.

And she laughed. 

A couple days later, when she’d finished laughing, she offered me the use of her leftover nipple shields -- which basically look like the top of a baby bottle. I gave it some honest consideration …

In the end, I turned back to the internet for help and read about wonderful inventions like athletic body glide, which is basically some sort of Teflon-infused substance you apply with something resembling a stick of deodorant and your clothes just slide freely over the sensitive areas. 

Apparently, some people go the cheaper route and just use generic petroleum jelly. Others just go without wearing a shirt (an option I declined because of the above-mentioned Jell-O mold defect) while others still buy shirts made of special anti-chaffing materials. 

One guy out there said he bought a ladies’ training bra and began wearing it during long races. He said it easily hides under a T-shirt and stops the chaffing.

 My first thought was, “But, dude, you’re wearing a bra!” Plus, can it really hide that well under a T-shirt? He closed his statement by saying “Go ahead, laugh it up. I‘ll see you at the finish line bloody nipple free” So I did. I laughed it up. For a long time.

A couple days later, when I’d finished laughing, I decided to buy a big roll of waterproof super-adhesive tape. I read that there are some who put a square of tape over the sensitive areas and that takes care of the problem. Because it’s waterproof, you don’t have to worry about it coming off once you get all sweaty.

What no one said is that this is not the option to use if A) your bloody nipples are still healing or B) you, like most men susceptible to bloody nipples, are exceptionally hairy. I know, I know, common sense, right?

First time out, the tape worked like a charm. No blood, no chaffing. 

But the problem with waterproof super-adhesive tape is that it lives up to its billing, particularly when it comes to chest hair. I found a little disclaimer in the fine print later that read “WARNING: This compound may form a symbiotic relationship with whatever it comes into contact with. It’s highly likely this will never come off. Just so you know.”
So, logically, I hopped in the shower because surely the best way to remove waterproof tape is to get it wet. 

The water didn’t help with the actual removal, but it did help mask my shrieks of pain..

In the time since, I have seriously reconsidered keeping the windows open in the evening, because I secretly dread a conversation like this drifting out into the neighborhood air:


Me: (unintelligible whimpering)

Wife: Honey, are you watching YouTube again?

Me: No … I’m in the shower.

Wife: Are you OK?

Me: I’m fine. I’m just …  (incoherent mumbling)

Wife: Can you speak up? I can’t hear you over the water.

Me: I’m pulling the tape off my nipples. 

Wife: A bullying ape coughed on your nickles?


Wife: Why in the world did you tape your nipples?


Wife: WHAT?


You get the picture, although I’m not sure the neighbors would.

So I stuck with the tape. I’m slowly developing a tolerance to the pain of taking it off, which in the grand scheme of things is about the same as the actual bloody nipples. 

Either way, I feel like I’ve now logged my proper battle scars for this journey. I won’t complain again until the shin splints set in -- or the roll of tape runs out. Whichever comes first.

I’m in the middle of a 15-mile week and it’s going well. Things start to pick up quickly in the next three or four weeks, so I’ll be able to tell by the end of August if this is actually going to happen or not.   

Friday, July 23, 2010

My Mortal Enemy

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

9 down, 453 to go

For those of you keeping track (because I know you’ve all really been waiting on pins and needles), this is officially week 1 of the marathon training program.

Over the next 18 weeks, I’m supposed to run more miles (453) than I have run over the last three years combined (431.2). 

Thankfully -- because this is a novice training program after all -- I don’t have to run them all in one day.

Right now, that’s about the only positive thing going for me in this whole ill-advised plan (and when I say ill-advised, I’m taking a jab at that fool who was looking back at me in the mirror eight months ago when this idea first took root in my head. If I recall correctly, he said ‘Yeah, you should totally do that. It’s better than swimming with sharks.)

Since the end of stage one (the 10K in early June), I’ve done some running, but not nearly as much as I would’ve hoped. On one hand, I know I am woefully under-prepared for the next four months. On the other, it’s probably best that my legs got one last stretch of rest before I wear them into oblivion. 

What I have developed in the last couple of weeks, though, is a better feel and appreciation for the neighborhood we recently moved into. It’s grown on me quickly, to the point where I much prefer running here to our old neighborhood. 

It’s not nearly as polished, quiet or clean, but it has boatloads more character, which can make an hour-long run seem much, much faster.

This is a place where more people hang out at the 7-11 than the bowling alley. It’s a place where some people still say “Yo”, while others erupt into violent bouts of tourettes. 

Most of the men in the area are acutely allergic to wearing shirts while every dog allowed out of its house boasts an allergy to wearing leashes.

It seems there are enough feral cats to have one for every house in the area, although most of them hang out at that one house with the refrigerator on the porch and the boat parked in the garage. 

Toddlers clad solely in diapers ride industrial hand trucks around like box cars and fledgling biker gangs ride around on, well, bicycles.

The air hums with the sound of dirt bikes in the afternoon and pops with the sound of firecrackers at night. 

Everyone barbecues. All the time. I think I saw someone grilling a breakfast burrito the other day. 

There are people who call their kids “Spike” and their dogs “Matty.” There’s an unspoken code that anything piled up in front of the house is free for the taking, unless of course, it’s affixed with a sign reading “Not Free.”

One man offered me all the bedroom furniture on his front lawn. For free. I politely declined, explaining I wouldn’t  be able to carry it home with me. Fearing I was about to trigger one of those sudden bouts mentioned above, I sped away at a brisk walk-jog.

“Yeah, well if you know anyone else who needs some furniture, you just have them come on by to see me,” he shouted after me.

The thing of it is, I enjoy this neighborhood. The people are well-intentioned, if not outright friendly and for all of its quirks and idiosyncrasies, I feel strangely safer running out here than when I lived in town. 

And that’s a good thing, because running is just about the only thing I’m going to be doing out here for a while. 

So with that, I seal week one in the books. I’ve got a six-miler on Saturday, which leads into a 16-mile week next week. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

10K Complete


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

Race Day

I am training for a 10K in June and a marathon in November. The 10K is in two days. From there I’ll launch into marathon training.

Stats for the week : Baseline 5K: 32:13. Baseline 10K: 1:11:00 (roughly). Best time since I last wrote: 30:24 (5K); 1:00:34 (10K). Best overall time: 26:57 (5K, June 7, 2009); 1:00:34 (10K, May 26, 2010). Miles within the last week: 6.2. Total miles for 2010: 104.4. Total miles since 2008: 401.4

RUNNING MP3 OF THE WEEK (That song that for whatever reason has a cadence that exactly matches the speed I was running this week.)
"Tryouts" From the original motion picture soundtrack for "Rudy". Best musical theme for a sports movie ever.

The last time I ran in an organized race, I was in the eighth grade.

My whole running career (At that point all of two seasons spent running the 1,600 and the 3,200 because in the head of a middle-schooler, aside from the first and last lap of the race, no one can really tell what place you're in, or how far behind the guy in last place really is. After 10 years of covering high school sports, I realize now that one can definitely tell. Definitely.) came to a close in the conference championships in, of all things, a relay race.

With middle school track being what it was, any number of things (i.e., Little League baseball, spring music concerts, softball practice and family emergencies like the two-for-one deal at Round Table Pizza or the season finale of Seinfeld) took precedence over any meet, regardless of what kind of championship it was.

As a result, both the crowd of spectators and field of participants tended to rapidly evaporate as the meet went on. What I mean is, generally after the 100 meter dash everyone was gone.

Now this caused problems for coaches, as all track meets end with the running of the 4x400 meter relay. That means you need four live bodies able to make one lap around the track each in order to field a team.

On this particular day, back in May of 1994, as the 4x400 started to approach, our coach discovered a member of his relay squad had left to, I don't really know, go patch things up with his girlfriend? Try those tacos Shaq and Hakeem Olajuwon kept fighting about?

So our coach looked at what he had left. There was me, and there was Nicole Holt, who was one of the better female distance runners in the conference.

I have to believe, as he watched me still wheezing from my last-place finish in the 3,200 (I passed some kid on the home stretch, but I think he may have just been warming up for the long jump on the infield and accidentally drifted out into the lane), that he gave some honest thought toward tacking a girl on to the boys' team and hoping no one filed a protest.

Nonetheless, he gave me a shot.

They set me up as the third leg, with the thinking being that the first two guys could hopefully build a big enough lead that the anchor leg would have enough room to make up for any damage I caused.

As we staged for the event, we learned that only three other schools had managed to assemble squads, so worst-case scenario, we were going to get fourth.

The race went as well as could be expected.

Our opening leg built a lead of about 50 meters and the second added another 10 or so.

One school dropped the baton and was disqualified on the first exchange, narrowing the field to three.

I grabbed the baton with a 60-meter lead and thought, 'just don't fall down.'

And, in that, I succeeded.

In every other facet of the race, though, not so much.

Before I could round the first turn, both other schools passed me. It was at that point I realized someone had replaced my running shoes with lead boots.

For a period of time, everything went into slow-er motion.

Two kids sitting in the bleachers on the back stretch shouted "Hey kid, you could just give up now!"

I gave it some serious thought.

Our anchor leg made it close at the end, but we took third.

Our school, I was later told, had not lost that particular relay in two or three years.

My teammates were encouraging though saying things like:
"If you didn't run, we wouldn't have even been able to run in the race"

And,"Dude, my mom said it looked like you were dead."

So that brings us to this weekend.

I'll attempt to run the Carson Valley Days 10K and I don't expect spectacular results.

I compared my times to the results from last year and if every person from last year's event shows up in the exact same shape they were in last year, I'll finish last out of all the males of any age.

That's OK, though.

The goal is to finish and to hopefully do so in under an hour.

At this time last year, I never would have even considered running six miles in one shot, so in that sense, I'm ahead of the game.

After this, it's on to marathon training. At this point, it still seems like a joke (and really, still kind of is). But, assuming my left leg doesn't fall off, it's not an impossibility just yet.

We'll just have to see.

So for anyone who's going to be at the parade on Saturday, the 10K is supposed to finish before 9 a.m. just in front of Lampe Park.

I expect to finish anywhere between 8:45 and 8:55, so if you see me, try not to point and laugh!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Moved out, moved in and back in action

I am training for a 10K in June and a marathon in November. I’m currently running twice a week. Eventually, I will ramp up the training routine until I’m running about 15-18 miles a week in June. From there I’ll launch into marathon training.

Stats for the week : Baseline 5K: 32:13. Baseline 10K: 1:11:00 (roughly). Best time since I last wrote: 30:44 (5K); 1:01:59 (10K). Best overall time: 26:57 (5K, June 7, 2009); 1:01:59 (10K, April 21, 2010). Miles within the last week: 9.3. Total miles for 2010: 86.2. Total miles since 2008: 382.8

It's been a while. Again.

But, unlike the last time I went a long period of time without posting, I actually have been running. Sort of.

The problem this time around is that we moved. Bought a house to be more specific. So, between closing escrow, painting, packing boxes, moving furniture, cleaning old apartments, setting up our new home, working my normal job and spending time with my family, there hasn't been a lot of extra time for writing.

In all honesty, there was about a two-week period where I didn't run, but given all the extra labor around the house, I didn't feel too bad about it.

But this last Sunday, I got back to it.

We moved back to the neighborhood I grew up in, and having not done any sort of running here since I was in high school, I came away from my first couple of runs amazed by three distinct things:

1) A persistent headwind that actually, without exaggeration, angles against whatever direction I happen to be running.

2) The number of attack dogs left unleashed in front yards on two separate routes I've tried so far. Seriously, how long are you supposed to wait when a dog is charging before either putting your foot out and hoping it knocks out some of the teeth on impact or running away with your arms flailing over your head? Do you wait until it decides your slow and therefore not worth the chase, or until the owner calls it off?

This is the stuff I think about out there. Because this is generally how it goes:

Homeowner: "Killer, get back here ... Hey, sorry about that man."

Me (huffing and wheezing): "My fault, I was just thrown off by the rabid, frothy teeth-bearing. Next time I won't rub my legs with steaks before going on a jog."

And to think I used to freak out about hoodlums. But I digress.

3) The fact that despite the two-week layoff (and probably due to items 1 and 2 directly counteracting each other) my overall times didn't fall off too bad.

That's good news, because goal No. 1 of this whole endeavor (the 10K) is looming less than a month away.

This week, I officially entered the Carson Valley Days 10K, which is scheduled for June 12 at 7:45 a.m.

My initial goal was to run it in 45 minutes, which I can honestly say is not going to happen at this point.

But, I am confident, at least, that I can finish the race. The new goal is to do it in under an hour. If I'm really being ambitious and the next month goes somewhat smoothly, I'll raise the bar to 55 minutes. We'll see.

That's really about all there is to say this week. There'll be plenty more to say in the coming weeks, I'm sure.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Strolling on the river

I am training for a 10K in June and a marathon in November. I’m currently running twice a week. Eventually, I will  ramp up the training routine until I’m running about 15-18 miles a week in June. From there I’ll launch into marathon training.

Stats for the week : Baseline 5K: 32:13. Baseline 10K: 1:11:00 (roughly). Best time of the week: 32:03 (5K); 1:06:31 (10K). Best overall time: 26:57 (5K, June 7, 2009); 1:04:05 (10K, April 10, 2010). Miles within the last week: 9.3. Total miles for 2010: 64.7.  Total miles since 2008: 361.4

RUNNING MP3 OF THE WEEK (That song that for whatever reason has a cadence that exactly matches the speed I was running this week.)
"As I lift You Up" by Jeff Deyo. One of my favorite worship songs from Jeff Deyo. It's upbeat and uplifting, hence the title. 

It’s hard to rock the jogging stroller look.

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.

You have to be on the alert for shoes, hats and shirts tossed overboard.

And, you have to be aware of their extremities as feet tend to end up dragging on the top of the front wheel or swaying off to the sides and fingers tend to end up planted in little noses.

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 ...”

Or ...

“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. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

The wheel, sliced bread ... and other modern marvels

I am training for a 10K in June and a marathon in November. I’m currently running twice a week ... in that semi-regular sort of way. Eventually, I will  ramp up the training routine until I’m running about 15-18 miles a week in June. From there I’ll launch into marathon training.

Stats for the week : Baseline 5K: 32:13. Baseline 10K: 1:11:00 (roughly). Best time of the week: 33:31 (5K); 1:04:05 (10K). Best overall time: 26:57 (5K, June 7, 2009); 1:04:05 (10K, April 10, 2010). Miles within the last week: 9.3. Total miles for 2010: 55.4.  Total miles since 2008: 352.1

RUNNING MP3 OF THE WEEK (That song that for whatever reason has a cadence that exactly matches the speed I was running this week.)
"Stole My Heart" by Little and Ashley. I was going to go with a different song this week, but after hearing this on the Amazon Kindle commercial and then seeing it was free on, I chose this one instead. Free music, enjoy!

News flash: Stretching actually works.

It turns out every P.E. teacher I ever had really wasn't just trying to burn 15 minutes of class every day before sending us to our early deaths on the dodgeball courts.

No really, I know. It's common sense. You need to stretch before performing any extended physical activity, just the same as you need to not put non-microwavable bowls in the microwave and leave the flammability tags on mattresses. I also floss every day and throw out most foods after they've reached their expiration dates.

But seriously, it can be hard enough carving out the time to exercise, much less making sure I'm loose and limber before starting.

Normally, I settle for pulling each foot up toward my back for 20 seconds, which must do something, because it hurts -- So that's what I do.

But after an atrocious run last Wednesday (33-plus minutes for a 5K), I deciced to change things up.

Granted, the run was with the stroller, but I felt awful the whole time. The boy, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed his first time out on a run — meaning he didn't scream.

Anyway, before heading out for a 10K on Saturday, I thought I'd try out some stretches, most of which I learned in college while in the ... um, marching band. We stretched. You know, so we wouldn't get any cramps while scattering into the block "N" formation.

I gave it a good 20 minutes, in part because I was in no hurry to run six miles again.

But the crazy thing is, it worked. Kind of.

I cut nearly seven minutes off my time from the week before, despite keeping the same generally poor diet during the week and not really adding anything resembling a fitness routine.

Even not considering the drop in time, I felt better during the run, instead of feeling like I was running on a pair of rusty, overwound springs.

So in addition to the training runs, I'm going to take up this novel new stretching routine on a regular basis and pretend like it'll keep shaving seven minutes off my times every week.

Also, the Run for the River Marathon in Folsom has been set for November 13. This is my target marathon. If I really wanted to dedicate myself to this, I'd stick my chin up and register for it now. But I'm not going to. Not yet.

Plan this week is for a 10K on Wednesday (we'll see) and a 10K on Saturday.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Slowly getting there ... and I mean slowly

I am training for a 10K in June and a marathon in November. I’m currently running twice a week ... in that semi-regular sort of way. Eventually, I will  ramp up the training routine until I’m running about 15-18 miles a week in June. From there I’ll launch into marathon training.

Stats for the week : Baseline 5K: 32:13. Baseline 10K: 1:11:00 (roughly). Best time of the week: 31:12 (5K); 1:11:00 (10K). Best overall time: 26:57 (5K, June 7, 2009); 1:11:00 (10K, April 3, 2010). Miles within the last week: 9.3. Total miles for 2010: 46.2.  Total miles since 2008: 342.9

RUNNING MP3 OF THE WEEK (That song that for whatever reason has a cadence that exactly matches the speed I was running this week.): "Tessie" by Dropkick Murphys, in honor of Major League Baseball's opening day this week.

As you can see by my stats for the week, I ran 10 kilometers. In one try. In one day, no less.

I set it in my mind after writing my last post that I was going to run all of 10 kilometers on Saturday. If I couldn't do it, I was going to drop the whole thing right there. Luckily, no such steps were necessary. 

The biggest surprise to me was that it didn't really go that badly. I had visions of crawling back home with the help of a friendly duck from the fishing hole down the street, but it didn't come to that

I was slower than molasses, which was to be expected, but I didn't bring a stopwatch with me, so I wasn't reminded of the fact every 10 seconds or so. I checked the clock when I left and when I came back, and an hour and 11 minutes elapsed in between. 

Also, I had a minor victory in that the next day a friend of mine mentioned having seen me "jogging" — the victory being that they could tell I was attempting to run, and they didn't pull over to the side of the road, set up hazard flares and call 911.

I really had no idea what to expect, so I took the first 5K (my normal 3.1-mile loop) very easy and very slow, like a warm-up jog. I was tired and ready to go home after the first three miles, but kept at it (not really wanting to give up the blog just yet).

Somewhere in the middle of mile 4, tiny little elves with hydraulic wrenches climbed up my legs and started driving twin lug nuts into my outer thighs. 

By the start of mile 5, another elf,  with disproportionately big arms, started repeatedly whacking me in the shins with a 2x4. The physical beating my legs were taking left that fake limp I wrote about in the previous post no longer so fake. Or even really a limp. 

I'd call it more of a hobble. Think: Cross between Gollum and Quasimodo only without the makeup, computer animation and  raw fish.

About the middle a the fifth mile was when my entire lower half went numb. It was a welcome feeling because I'd just caught sight of a fifth elf carrying a buzz saw and a grammar school slate gaining ground quickly and I had no intention of finding out what he was planning to use those for.

Being unable to feel my legs, I quickly discovered that the rest of me actually felt pretty good. So I started running faster and harder (to the casual observer at this point, it probably appeared that I was no longer walking while in the midst of an asthma attack.).

I finished the fifth and sixth miles in relatively good order, running as well as I have this year, which was an encouraging sign for me.

There was soreness later that afternoon, and the next day, but by Monday I felt good to go again. So after two months of basically sitting on the couch thinking about running, I'm right back to it. 

The plan this week is 5K on Wednesday and another 10K on Saturday. Next week I think I'll try for two 10Ks. We'll see what the elves say about that.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Game Reset

I'd love to say that the reason I haven't posted anything in nearly three full months is that my computer went haywire, I lost the password to my blog account and gave up on writing -- all the while diligently keeping up with my marathon training plan.

At least part of that is true ...

I wrote what I felt to be an particularly amusing entry a week after my last post (when I laugh that much while writing something, it's usually to make up for all the people who won't laugh while reading it), only to have it disappear into oblivion. 

Now, in my work life I've become quite accustomed to having to respond to such situations by recreating the entire piece, usually within a five-minute span before deadline. 

But since this wasn't anything directly related to work, I relished the chance to walk away and not think about it. Ever again.

And by ever, I mean three months.

So here I am back to it, new password in hand, because I have indeed kept running -- but not nearly as much as I'd intended when I started this blog.

At this point on the calendar, I was supposed to be running 12 miles a week, with at least one 10K run a week. 

In reality, I've run 12 miles for the month of March. 

Cue the crickets.

It's not for lack of wanting to go out and run, but a number of factors arose that I simply didn't count on when mapping out the training.

One, in previous years, I could just load the girl up in the jogging stroller and take off whenever I wanted. Having two kids has proven to be much more tricky as either my wife has to be home to watch one while I take the other out, or I have to wait until after the kids are in bed to get my miles in.

The first problem with waiting for bedtime is that, prior to Daylight Savings Time (a.k.a. the official start of the season for runners everywhere),  I have to resort to being that guy -- you know, the creepy, wheezing jogger who roams dark alleys and roadways after dark that everyone gives a wide berth as he passes by.

With this fully in mind, I try to be as unassuming and non-threatening as possible during these night-time jaunts. For starters, it helps immensely that I am so slow. I think it's hard to feel threatened by a guy who couldn't chase you down if both of your legs were broken.

For a time, I also (this it the stuff that goes through my mind as I run, I swear) tried to enhance that slowness, by taking on a bit of a limp. At the end of the day (no pun intended), I decided the limp made the whole much more creepy, so I dropped it altogether.

It's of great concern to me not to take anyone by surprise, especially anyone taking their trash cans out to the sidewalk or walking out to their cars as I run past. So whenever I see such individuals, I start kind of shuffling my feet against the concrete to give an extra warning of oncoming traffic. Between the shuffling, the wheezing and the limping, it's become quite the spectacle, which is why it's probably good it's dark outside.

I also wear an old yellow Oakland A's ballcap during my night runs, because A) no one finds the color yellow, or the Oakland A's for that matter, threatening in the least bit, and B) (Because for as much as I'm trying not to be creepy, I'm way more creeped out by everyone else who happens to be out and about after dark), no one is going to beat up a guy with glasses and a yellow hat on. Right?

The second problem is that sometime in the last three months, a troll has taken up residence in our couch. His name is Carl.

He doesn't bother us too much, but he has this nasty habit of latching on to my feet as soon as the kids are in bed. Carl is a pretty heavy troll (must be the dreadlocks) and he only lets go for ice cream trips or the ordering of a pizza. He is seriously against any physical activity, especially running ... and jumping jacks, but that's neither here nor there, because I hate jumping jacks.

Since Carl has taken up residence, I've dropped off on my running and subsequently gained about 10 pounds. 

All is not lost, however. With Daylight Savings Time, I've been able to get out more for runs and the time I've put in so far this year has me running a slight bit faster than I was last year at this time. 

So I'll just keep plugging away at it. I see the 10K as ultimately doable in June, one way or another.

The marathon, well, we'll see. I'll keep at it, I'll keep writing the blog, and if the marathon waits until next year, it waits until next year. But the plan for now is November. 
I am training for a 10K in June and a marathon in November. I’m running twice a week ... in that semi-regular sort of way. Eventually, I will  ramp up the training routine until I’m running about 22 miles a week in June. From there I’ll launch into marathon training.

Stats for the week : Baseline 5K: 32:13. Baseline 10K: --. Best time of the week (or since I last wrote): 30:37 (5K). Best overall time: 26:57 (5K, June 7, 2009); -:-- (10K). Miles within the last week: 6.2. Total miles for 2010: 37.0.  Total miles since 2008: 333.7