Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Solstice Run

Sometimes I wonder why I do this stuff.  Getting up at 5:00am just to drive an hour and go run 10 miles just sounds like a bad idea.  I could have stayed in bed until much later, and remain the lazy meat in a sandwich where the bread is my wife and cat.  Instead I woke up and hurdled my torso over Scully (the cat) and zombie walked to the shower and got ready for another run.

Even after the drive to Northville and all the moving around before the race, I was still yawning up until the start of the race.  I could have taken a nap right there on the Northville Downs track where we started.  Yes, we were all running a horse track for the start of the race.  After we got going, I was half-tempted to let out a whinney or two.  With it being a Hawaiian-themed race, I saw a couple women, and a few men (most notably the one in a coconut bra) in grass skirts.  There were a few Hawaiian shirts as well.  One guy had on both, and I recognized him, but didn't figure out until later that he was at the Flushing Evening race dressed as a bunch of grapes.

After the lap around the track, we headed out to the roads and hit a big hill immediately.  The entire race was up and down, and for 10 miles (at least for me) that can be pretty taxing.  It was definitely the hilliest race I've ever done, but the first hill was probably the toughest and it was nice to get that big one out of the way early.  After that we ducked into a nice suburban neighborhood where there were a few spectators at their houses watching us go by.  I heard another runner say, "No more 3 Musketeers for me mom, I'm a runner now."  I kind of wonder if it would have been any more amusing to me if I heard it in context, but probably not.  Besides, I'm more of a Milky Way guy.

There wasn't much else about the race to note, though.  It was nice and overcast, which made the race a lot easier than it would have been with the sun blasting down on us.  I didn't really battle anyone around me too much for any consistent amount of time, except for one run-walker who ended up pulling away from me at the end.  I hate when that happens.  I had a really tight calf and my hamstring kept acting like it wanted to pull on me, but I begged them back into good graces without having to stop and stretch (which I was heavily considering).  Other than that, I just took it slow and steady, fighting off the hills (both uphill and down) as I went.

I raced without music again for this one.  It just felt like one of those days that I wanted to go without it.  Other than the 3 Musketeers comment, there wasn't much said around me to hear, though.  I got a few courtesy "good jobs" and one "nice shirt" for my Team Zissou shirt (if only I had the Zissou Adidas), but other than that everyone was pretty quiet.  I blame the hills, and perhaps the early 7:30am start for that.  It just was not a very lively group out there.

I finished (at yet another Ford Field!..what the H?) with a 1:38:28, which is the first time I've been able to keep it under 10 minute pace for anything 10+ miles.  I was pretty happy with that, considering I was planning on dedicating the race to my running partner Jason for Running Buddy Appreciation Day, and I was out there pushing with him in mind while he was up north being considerate enough to have an artist at the Comic Con draw me an Ood.

I also got another medal for this one.  Between that and the Re-Tread plaque and the rest of the races, I'm afraid I'm becoming a bit of a "trinky whore."  Yes, I mean trinket, but we call them "Trinkies" thanks to one man's slip of the tongue when talking about engagement rings.  They had some good stuff after, but I only wanted water.  I may have considered some pizza if it wasn't ruined by pineapple and ham (stupid Hawaiian theme, although that abomination isn't even their fault)  They had some hula dancers and a lot of other good theme-related things after.  The organizers (Running Fit) really did a nice job.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Ok, so it's been said many times that the Re-Tread is just a hated race for me.  Jason and I sucked at this race last year, and it was one of those red X's on the calendar ever since.  If Flushing is our Daytona, this race is our Bristol.  It could be great or it could be a disaster.

I'm happy to report that yesterday was a success for both of us.  Jason had a good time, and I had a time good enough to get me a plaque in the 220+ division.  Not only that, but I met one of the guys in my division that's always competing for placing, and for him being one of my supposed running nemeses, he's a really cool guy.  I probably would have faded out at the end if he didn't give me a little push at the end, and apparently he started later and still beat me on total time.  That's fine though, the man earned it.   

I didn't set another PR, but I'm not going to consider this a failure.  It was only 28 seconds slower than Clio, and I had a really good pace going.  I was shooting for a 25:05, but I didn't make it.  I knew I wouldn't after the first mile.  It just wasn't there.  I need to dig deeper and find something else in there to get faster, because I'm giving all I can.

At least I got another award, and I'll post it up here as soon as I get the free engraving.  I could get used to this.


As Promise:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Puppy Power

I had a fantastic run at the Dalmatian 5K today.  It was actually just wonderful all around.  The run itself wasn't all that exciting, but I ran into a few people I know there and had a few good conversations with them and some strangers about running.  Conversations like this are always better with people of varying degrees of running skill and various ages.  We had that.  I even talked to an older lady that has done 13 half-marathons, and done them recently.  I hope I'm able to run at that age.  Honestly, I'd take just being around at her age.  Some of these older runners are just awesome.  I just enjoy actually getting to talk about it with people that actually want to.  Normal people just think we're nuts, but I assure you, it's actually fun. 

Anyway, like I said, the run wasn't very exciting.  It was a just a semi-flat suburban run through the middle of the town of Clio, starting at what was once the Middle School my girl attended.  Unfortunately the usual path for the race, that's supposedly much more exotic with a stream and things,  was flooded so hooray for pavement and McHouses instead.  I did see a woman waiting for the parade deliberately blowing smoke at runners as they went by (how charming), but that's not really scenery.

Other than that, all I can say is that it felt like I started out way too fast this time.  The race started with an immediate downhill and I tried to keep with the up front pack.  Every race I seem to fall into this buffer where a lot of people are ahead and behind me, but not really around me.  This time I tried to stay up front early.  It worked, but there was much less fun without people to catch and pass.  I think I only intercepted maybe 5-10 people over the course of the race.  One of them was Jason.  I pulled him along with me and encouraged him a little bit, but I had a fluorescent man I was trying to catch, and I went after him trying to catch up.  I didn't make it up there with him, but I tried really hard, and I really pushed this race again, much like I've been doing all month.

Too bad I didn't push 3 seconds faster.  I would have placed in the heavyweight division and got a really nice plaque.  I still say it's not fair.  I'm still towing around 270 pounds (I honestly don't know where it all is stored either, because I don't look it), and they get to be 220s or just above.  I stayed for awards just to see what these guys looked like and, really, they're just tall.  The 3rd place guy was kind of big and probably weighed about the same as me, but he was also 6'5"ish, with long legs, and probably has a huge stride.  I'm all torso and take baby steps like Fred Flintstone driving his car.  I don't know, I guess it's all part of my journey.  If I were getting pats on the back all the time, I'd have less initiative to get better, I guess.  So I'm just going to have to break them the old fashioned way by getting faster and thinner.

Still, though, I set another PR, and it wasn't even one of those barely sort of things.  I ran a 25:50 today.  Yeah, you heard me.  I took a full minute and 24 seconds off the Age Group winning LakeVille 5K.  I've also realized I really don't know my body well enough to pace right.  I take my time and make a late run, I do awesome.  I start out too fast and get tired, still do awesome.  I'm still waiting for that eventually plateau to actually figure out what I should be doing (music or no, start quick or break late, etc) to maximize my run potential.  It just seems like I can roll the dice right now and just end up doing better almost every single time.

Outside of the Flushing 5K it's been all rise, and even that I'm considering improvement because it was hot, so this sets up the YMCA Retread as spoiler again.  Hard to believe last year I had a 33:00.  That kind of time probably won't happen this year.  If it does, I will curse it even more than last year.

I was actually wondering if today was a little short (distance-wise), but my coworker that runs was there, and showed me the 3.11 mile that his garmin watch read.  So I just killed it today.  Maybe it was my mystical Subway sandwich that I had today.  If that's the case, once the word from this blog gets out, there are going to be a lot of runners getting a foot-long meatball with avocado, pepper-jack cheese, pickles, onion, olives, banana and jalapeno peppers, Parmesan cheese, and southwest chipotle sauce.  If you try it, I will give warning that you will get a weird look from sandwich artists, but, like running, I assure you it's awesome.  Trust me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Worst Running Friend Ever (that's me)

Yesterday I was supposed to go running with Jason.  We usually get together on Tuesdays and Thursdays now, and if there happens to be a race on those days, we'll go together.  The weekends are kind of a toss up.  Sometimes when he's off and can go, and feels like paying to run he'll go with me.  If he's working, or doesn't want to do the races, I'll go it alone. 

Well yesterday, I got held up at work, so the usual meet and run at 4pm was called off by me, and I didn't get home until about 6:30.  This tends to happen a lot too.  While Jason is a pretty solid running partner and almost never cancels on me, I do it all the time to him.  Sure there are a lot of days and times where he's unavailable with work and school, but when it comes to being available when he says he will be, he's usually spot on.  The only things that ever seem to hold him up are injuries and illness.

I'm just a complete crapshoot, though, and it's not just getting held up at work.  I'll say I want to do a race the next morning, get up, call it off and go back to sleep.  Well, that's what I'll do if I don't completely over-sleep and you call me wondering where I am only to be told I'm still in bed.  Yeah, so maybe it doesn't happen as much as it used to, but it still happened Memorial Day for no real reason at all.

What's probably even worse is that if he blocks off a time to run with me, and I cancel, I don't know whether he just goes out without me or not.  I know he's mentioned just going and doing other things he needed to get done when I cancelled, but I haven't heard a lot of "Oh, well I just went without you, it's fine."  Whenever I miss a running appointment or road race, I usually force myself to make it up later in the day or the next evening.  So, no matter how erratic I am, I'm still getting my runs in. 

Yesterday was no exception.  I went out about 7pm and ran the short home course, because I have a slight calf strain that I think was from , and I even tried to push out that last sprint I usually do to 1/2 mile, which really sucked the wind out of me.  I don't know, maybe doing that makes it looks like I'm blowing him off just to go by myself.  I wouldn't be surprised if the thought's crossed his mind.  Maybe he even thinks I'm doing secret training to catch up to him and beat him consistently.  I don't really know.  All I do know is that, as running partners go, he's been much better for me than I have for him. 

He's pushed me along to Crim distance in one summer, and taught me to test my limit and not believe in mental barriers.  Maybe this wasn't done in a Yoda sort of way, and it was mostly just tricking me into running long distances when I didn't want to, but it worked.  What have I done for him?  After the half-marathon where he's temporarily sworn off running distances, am I getting behind and pushing him along to do another one with me, or do more distance?  Nope.  Am I tricking him and saying "let's run a 10K today" and taking him out for 13 miles or so?  Not at all.

So what's up with that?  Do I enjoy being the only one I know that's all about doing Halfs and wanting to push for more?  Hell no I don't.  As nice as DXA2 was for my confidence and as much as I kind of enjoyed the race and the improved Half time, it wasn't as fulfilling as the Martian.  At the end of the Martian, Jason was there, and we accomplished that sucker together.  With DXA2 I just kind of finished, and not having someone there I knew go through it with me made there feel like something was missing (other than water readily available at the finish line). 

I guess I just wouldn't make a great personal trainer (especially when I'm not very good at showing up).  I'm just afraid to push someone along when they say they don't want to do it.  I'm not even sure he means that though, and it all may change come Crim time, when he'll have to go at least 10 miles anyway.  I know he can't skip that one.  It's the only reason there ever was for us to run in the first place. 

I think I have an opportunity to be helpful here in the coming weeks.  I really want to do the 20K Volkslaufe run in the 'Muth.  I told him I would do whatever race he wanted to do with him, but I would really rather not do the 10K or the 5K.  I'm becoming somewhat of a distance whore, and 10K and below just isn't doing it for me anymore, even with all the PR-ing I'm doing lately.  Maybe I can sway him into doing the 20 with me and I can help push him for once.  Then again, maybe I'd just be a better running buddy letting him set the tempo, and just going out there with him and doing whatever he wants.  I don't know.  You tell me.  Maybe I don't even have the right to try to push someone who's faster than me, especially if I can't be counted on to be there all the time. 

What I do know is I could be a better running friend.  Sure, work will get in the way at times and I can't really avoid that, but I can try to be a little more consistent when that's not the case.  Now that I think of it, I told him I'd let him know what was going on with running this past weekend, and I never really called and told him I was doing those two races.  Wow, I suck.  Maybe I'll do something for the newly established Running Buddy Appreciation Day to make up for it if Jason isn't working.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Double Time!

I haven't been to my old high school in at least 10 years.  Unlike the majority of schools I've been to for runs lately, it's one of the few places that's actually degraded since I've seen it last.  It looks like the track hasn't had new asphalt put down since it was redone when I was still in school.  So it made sense that the proceeds were going toward repairing the track.  Apparently they haven't even hosted a meet in 6 years.  Funny, because that was one of the few things we used to be really good at.  
It's not like I went out of remainder school pride or anything, trying to help them reach their track repair goals, though.  It was just a run.  I don't get a warm fuzzy being back there and reminiscing in any way.  When it comes to my high school years, I'm just kind of indifferent, I guess, because I never felt like the place or the people were all that great to me.  That being said, I still planned on trying to kick the hell out of this race.  I even sported my new Blue Lantern Flash shirt for the race.  Blue lanterns represent hope on the emotional spectrum, but their rings are most powerful when paired with a Green Lantern (will), because hope is not powerful in and of itself without the will to make those hopes a reality.  That goes for anything, not just Geoff Johns written comic heroes.

On this specific day I was hoping to maybe come close to or even win my age bracket.  There were a few people that looked to be about my age, but who knows how fast they are by looking at them.  I could tell there wasn't much chance of me winning the overall, but that was about it.  There weren't any old friends or alumni I knew well there.  I recognized one guy as the older brother of someone in my grade, but I never knew him personally, so I didn't say hello.  So, after registering, I just kind of kept to myself until race time, and stretched out a bit.

On the start, a good chunk of the field bolted out really quick, and that was a bad idea for about half of them.  I started out really casual and was breathing real easy.  A man came up on my side and passed me saying "Don't worry about keeping up with me, I'm going to walk here in a bit."  I didn't bother saying that I wasn't worried.  With the way he was breathing, I pretty much knew I would get him back eventually.

With the first mile in, it was time to run it up a bit.  There was a nice uphill slope, which is always my favorite part, because that's where I catch everyone.  I blew by everyone in the back and middle leading up to the turn-around.  I didn't see anybody that looked to be in my age group, so I kicked it up another gear to make sure nobody would catch me from behind.  I caught up to some more people and passed them until there was one man to catch before it was just the front pack ahead of me.  I got close, but he started hearing footsteps and I pushed him along from there.  He pulled away about 20 seconds ahead and stuck there with me in tow.

I pulled in with a 27:14 (yeah, another best...I know, I know, it's getting old right?), and thanked the guy ahead of me for pushing me along.  He admitted hearing me behind him, and thanked me for the push.  I love that part of running.  Even when you're trying to catch someone or they're trying to catch you, you're just happy they made you go faster, because in the end you're just trying to beat yourself.

After the race I stood around eating my banana and drinking a water wondering if there were any awards or anything at all.  I was starting to think that it really didn't matter if I won my age group or not.  Meanwhile me and another man had been cornered by one of those braggy runner types that just wouldn't stop talking.  You know the kind.  They've done this race and that race with such-and-such a time.  I'm pretty sure it was all B.S., though, because I torched him horribly, and those alleged times were way out of his league as far as I was concerned.  I guess it's possible, but at least lead with an excuse for why you didn't run worth a crap today first, otherwise it all seems like hot air.

Finally I heard there were going to be some awards, so I stuck around to see where I finished.  When they announced our age group, as soon as I heard the 2nd place person, I knew I had it.  Sure I'm still not an elite runner, but it's nice to get one after all the hard work anyway.  I've taken over 8 minutes off my 5K time at this point, and I wouldn't have won my age group without taking a lot of that time off.  Anyway, here it is, my first medal for actually winning one.

Apparently that wasn't enough for me, because at 4:00 I headed down the Lansing for the River Run Riot (R³) in my Captain Hammer shirt (apparently it was superhero day for me).  I thought I needed a little bit of prep for the Warrior Dash, and I heard this one had some moderate obstacles, so I couldn't pass it up.
I guess it was the first year it was held here, and you could tell.  There was an odd staggered start for males 16-39, there were huge bottle-necks at the obstacles where you'd wait in line, and there was a false start where the entire field headed toward the final obstacle first.  It was pretty funny, especially for all of us that were told to wait and watched as the starting pack went through a water obstacle and got wet for nothing.

Finally we got to start 10 minutes later.  We ran a mile, then climbed an angled pegged wall about 8 feet high or so and jumped down on a large mat.  Another mile and we went through the National Guard obstacle course, which is basically climbing through tight spaces of something resembling a bounce house, climbing another pegged wall (only the pegs are just full of air) and sliding down a slide.  I waited maybe ten minutes or more in line with my shoes off waiting for my turn.  Had I known there were breaks, I would have sprinted every running part, because anybody you did catch, even if they were right in front of you in line, had at least 30 seconds on you after the obstacle.  It really gave the early leaders a huge (and arguably unfair) advantage.

After putting my shoes back on after the National Guard obstacle, I tried to catch whoever was even in sight before we got to the next obstacle, which was some string and bungee chord webs.  My trail shoes (which I didn't need because the trail by the river was completely paved) were not the best choice for this obstacle.  All the treads on the bottom got stuck on the strings and I had a pretty rough time getting through.  From the looks of things, though, I was doing pretty well in comparison to the other people around me.

Only two more to go now.  The first was a spinning obstacle with foam arms that went up and down that you had to go over and under, and that was a cinch.  The final one was this thing.
What you were dealing with here was 3 balance beams: one going out, one going right, and one coming back.  These beams were floating on rubber plaforms and only held near the shore by two 20' bungee ropes.  What you're also dealing with is a lot of movement from you and the others on this thing.  On the way out the beam is rocked me back and forth (if you take it going sideways).  On the back side the second I stepped on the cross beam it felt like I was floating back and away the entire time.  The one coming back I took so fast I don't know what it was doing.  I have no idea how I stayed up on this thing.  It was not easy.  I attribute all the success to Wii Fit balance games.

The course was just short of 4 miles long, and including all the waiting, took about 52 minutes.  After finishing, I changed my clothes at the car, and went to the after party where you got 2 free beer tickets.  I used mine wisely on a Saugatuck Singapore IPA and a Bell's Two-Hearted, which are always solid choices.  Then I paid for a Founders Pale Ale, and hung out for another hour or so before heading home to meet some friends.  It was a long day, but a good one, and a very satisfying drive home.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Our Daytona"

A year and a day ago, J and I began running together.  The Flushing Evening 5K, despite not being my first race will always be the race that birthed this entire adventure.  Sure I had the blog and had two road races under my belt, but it was at this point last year that I was falling off big time.  I did the Crim 5K, so I had that done, I got to run into Spartan Stadium, and I had a nice shiny Al Kayner medal.  What else does a man really need, you know? 

After that there were days where I was supposed to run, but ate too much and didn't, days where I went out for my 5K loop and cut it off at the 1/2 point and said "good enough," or would simply skip it just because I didn't feel like it or thought I had something better to do.  Needless to say, I thought I accomplished enough, I was getting sloppy, and I was coasting in a way that would have ended in just flat out quitting this whole running gig for good.

As much as I like to paint myself as a loner out there on the road, I wouldn't have made it this far without a joint venture with Jason.  I may have even quit by now. Without that shove leading up to the Crim that he gave me last year, in a perfect, best case scenario world, I'd be cutting off 5 mile runs at the half point and still trying to push out the 10 mile Crim distance once a month and wondering why I can't get past 6 miles.  Going to these runs with someone and having a friend to talk about the races with after is just part of enjoying the race. 

We got to Flushing about an hour before the race.  Jason was already registered, but I had to find registration, which was not in the same place as last year due to some sort of cheer leading or gymnastic practice in there.  I didn't get a shirt to commemorate the race, because they were pretty dang ugly this year.  Last year's was orange with a cool logo that glows in the dark, so I'll just stick with that one.  My bib upon signing up was a leftover Loons race bib from April 23rd, so now I have two of those.

Instead of corralling us in next to the school this time, they opened up the fence gate so we could just line up behind the start tracker.  I went no phones again, and the racers just in front of us asked "you putting the pedal to the metal?"  I told them "Yeah, I'm gonna try."  Then Jason started talking about running this last year, and said that it is like starting our running season over again.  Then he said that this race is kind of like "our Daytona 500."  I replied with "Yep, the season starts now, spring training is over."  Hopefully we make the most of this season.

The goal for the race was to improve on the PR yet again.  I'd have to say that was a pretty lofty goal considering this was the first day we had a heat advisory and the temperature at race time was sitting at 91°F.  When we started I got boxed in pretty bad until we hit the road, and I was going a lot slower than I wanted.  As soon as I had some space, I busted out a little bit too fast for the first mile.  Unfortunately there was nobody to tell us times at the mile markers like last year, so I had no idea where I was time-wise.

I was pressing pretty hard, and I fell off a bit in mile 2, but there were a lot of people stopping to walk.  I would say half the field stopped running within the first mile and a half because of the heat.  I was giving it about everything I had, and a woman even ran by me and asked if I was doing alright.  I'm sure I was breathing heavy and red in the face, but I had places to go.  Also, I was attempting to actually win the heavyweight division, which is pretty much a joke for me, because heavyweight divisions start at 185 and the biggest one is 225 and over.  Honestly, you can just be tall and get those weights.  When I was running and that weight in college, I would have beat our division's winner by 3 minutes.  If I get down there again, I might be unstoppable.  Too bad there's not a higher weight class for now, though.

Anyway, I fought off mile 2 and got some water, because it was just THAT hot.  I never need water on a 5K, but I needed a sip and a splash down at this one.  Despite the slow-down, I was still sure I was making record time, and just had to push out a good last 1.1 mile.  So I ran down the hill about as fast as I could following this group of teens running with some sign and trying to stay up with them as they sped up.  I ran down the final hill past my mom and sister that came out to cheer me along, and turned the corner to see 26:58, and as hard as I pumped through that last stretch I didn't make it in time.  In all fairness I was impeded by a girl that cut me off a bit as I was passing a guy and almost ran her over.  That would have been a bad day for her.  I did break past her and him after, but she overtook me again at the end.

The final chip time ended up as a 27:34.  As Maxwell Smart would say, "Missed it by that much."  I was still surprised I wasn't faster than that, because it felt like I gave it everything.  Even walking back to the car and back up the hill was a chore afterwards, so I know I wouldn't have had much more to give.  I'm happy with it.  I've been really consistent lately, too.  The last three 5Ks have been within 6 seconds of one another.  We'll see if this is a temporary peak or not as the summer goes on.

This is also the first time I actually beat Jason in an official race (the Al Kayner when he took the wrong turn doesn't count).  He just seems to struggle more with heat that I do, and that's pretty much the only advantage I ever get.  Otherwise, he's still beating the time I put up yesterday by a minute, as he still continues to improve as well.

More this weekend, I hope, and I'd still like to do a rundown compare and contrast of the Martian/DXA2.  We'll see if I get to that before it's completely irrelevant.

Monday, June 6, 2011

DXA2 (This is going to be a long one)


Saturday all of my friends were heading down the Mike's suite to hang out in Ann Arbor, swim in the pool and hot tub, have the best burger in Ann Arbor at Grizzly Peak, and drink lots of beer.  Meanwhile, in Flint, I'm at Bed, Bath, and Beyond helping add items to a wedding registry.  To put it lightly I hate shopping.  To elaborate just a bit, being in a store for over 30 minutes actually makes me anxious and in complete disgust of American consumer culture.  I tried really hard to be helpful for the first 30 minutes, and actually did find things we actually could use.  At the same time, though, we pretty much have almost everything.  We cook like crazy, and there's not much that we don't have that's a standard wedding gift thing.  We already have a house full of what we both think is too much stuff, and just the idea that people will be getting us more is almost terrifying. 

After 30 minutes, I was done, but I stuck it out, didn't complain and put a very large effort into not even letting my body language show I was done.  This went on for another hour and a half.  At about that time, I got into a little bit of a manic zone.  When I don't get sleep for an extended period of time, I get really fatigued, and suddenly snap into a slightly manic phase if I make it through being fatigued and don't fall asleep.  The same apparently happens with shopping.  All of a sudden I'm buzzing around "Threebees" with ideas popping into my head, "oooh, we need one of the flippy omelette pans," "we gotta find a rice cooker too," "I need a pasta crimper for when I do pierogies, and I can make homemade raviolis and pie crusts."  I'm not proud of it, but it was mission accomplished (at least for that store) and I was helpful to a degree that made Jessi happy. 
Three and a half hours later, we were leaving the store with a shopping hangover and in dire need of food.  We ended up finally trying John's Pizza, which has been on the target list for a while.  It tasted a lot like the pizza we eat on vacation in Empire.  For one of the few times in our entire existence as a couple, we even got desert, which was some wonderful mint ice cream pie concoction that we split.

On the way home we stopped at Meijer so she could get her shampoo.  I had no mission there.  I thought about maybe getting some Capri Suns, but ended up thinking I wanted to look at the mens section for some work clothes.  I didn't make it there.  I had been wearing the Brooks all day to break them in for Sunday, but they were still agitating my heel (and starting on the next one).  Upon inspection earlier in the day, I realized it was because they have something in the back of the heel of the Ghost 3 that almost feels like a small looped wire or something (design stupidity), and that's what was killing me.  As I was heading to the dude clothes, I saw some reeboks I really liked the looks of, and said "what the hell."

I tried them on at one of the benches as some teen, trying on clothes, was being disrespectful to her mother as her mother was being disrespectful to the grandma (who the teen was partially defending).  Three generations of disrespect and bickering was kind of fun to listen in on, but pretty sad at the same time.  I walked in the Reeboks, and immediately knew "these are nice, but not for me."  Suddenly, "just find something that will be better than what I have on" became my store mission.  I went through some New Balance and even tried on a pair of LA Gear shoes before I inevitably made my way to the Adidas wall.  That's where things got settled, trying on two pair, and settling on these.
They ended up being just under $50, and they didn't feel absolutely perfect, so I was still skeptical of going with them for DXA2.  The rest of the night I kept trying to decide whether I would roll with these, or go with the devil I know and just tape the heels really well since that's the only problem.  I never came to any conclusion and I set both out on the table for the next day with all my other stuff.

Race Day

My internal alarm kicked me awake at 4:25, about 5 minutes before the actual alarm went off.  I was amazed that this happened again just like the Mackinac race.  I got ready, put on some suntan lotion, put on the Homestar Runner shirt, and grabbed my waters and Gatorade out of the fridge.  Then came the decision of shoes.  I taped the heels, grabbed the Brooks and set them right back down, putting on the Adidas.  I still wasn't sure, so I grabbed the Brooks and put them in their box, and took them with me.  I also brought a change of clothes, as I planned on going to church down there as well.

The drive down was really dead.  I guess there's not a lot of travel at 5am on a Sunday, so I made great time.  I was in Ann Arbor at 6:00, and found the reserved parking ramp with ease.  I picked up my shirt and bib, went back to the car, and put them on, still considering a shoe change, even thinking that the Brooks matched my red shirt better and I'd look a lot more "pro."  Rocky Balboa saying "no tricks, I ain't switchin'" popped into my head so I said to myself, "If you want to be a tiger, stay with the stripes," which could be a great marketing campaign for Adidas, I think. 

I got out of the car, made a quick pit stop, and stretched out the muscles a little bit.  While I was stretching, a guy about my size walked by with a big ol' bag of McDonald's breakfast and we shared a glance for a good 10 seconds as he walked by.  After the glance, he looked at my bib and shoes, back at his bag, and then back at me.  It's times like that where I wish I could read minds.  After I finished stretching out the car ride I hopped on the bus for Dexter.  This was my second trip on a school bus in the past two weekends.  I even sat in the same seat in the back.  This time I had a seat buddy, but this trip was not as lively as the Mackinac bus.  Everyone was really quiet and kept to themselves.  The guy who sat next to me seemed really internally focused, and I didn't even get any eye contact or a nod of recognition, so I just let him stay in his race zone.

As the bus pulled out, I couldn't help but smile and think "here we go again."  The ride to Dexter seemed like an awful long trip on the bus.  I was getting kind of freaked out knowing that the only way back was to run it or get picked up by the shame cart.  Finally the bus pulled up to the Dexter school, and we heard over the bus radio that they were dropping us off from the wrong location and were supposed to be coming from the other road.  There was a scatter of laughter, and a woman said "It's not a race if there's not a glitch."  I can relate to that!  Wrong drop-off point, or not, that's where they dropped us, and we walked to the school.

I was safely in the right place with almost an hour to spare.  From there I hung out in the shade, stretched several times, looked for four-leaf clovers, and did some people-watching.  I chuckled at a few MSU people wearing their green and white for a race ending in Ann Arbor just like me during the Big House, Big Heart.  I did a lot of shirt reading looking for more race ideas.  With race time approaching, the porta-johns were lined up for miles, so I followed the nature kids to the woods to water some plants.  Then I lined up for the national anthem.  After the anthem I got Caviar's "The Thin Mercury Sound" ready and waiting for the start.

The crowd began to move, and we started walking to the start.  Then we had the usual run start which is:  start to run, screech to dead stop, walk again, and run just before crossing the start.  I bopped a green balloon on the starting arch for luck, and off we went. The beginning of the race was a steady incline much like the Volkslaufe and the Martian, just a little something to get in your head right away, but nothing new to me.  Besides, shortly after we went back down a hill, then back up, then down.  Wait a tick...didn't the race website say this thing was "relatively flat?"  Relative to what? 

It was pretty tight for the first couple miles, and I kept getting boxed in.  I didn't want to go rushing past too many people, but I also didn't want to waste energy trying to go slower than I wanted.  So I finally decided to work my way out of these packs when I got stuck in them.  I was right at about 10 minute miles for the first 6 miles.  Most of them I was over, but a few I was under.  No matter, I was happy with that pace, and focused on not having the late collapse I had at the Martian.  I felt really good, and thought if I kept it up, I had a shot at beating the Martian adjusted time (2:20:53).  There was still a long way to go, and it was almost 30 degrees warmer for this race.

The weather report said all week that it would be warm Sunday, so I cut off drinking caffeine at the latter part of the week, skipping my morning coffee from Wednesday on, and hydrated religiously the two days before.  I forgot at John's and had a Mello Yello, though (oops).  During the race, I took every water stop, even when I didn't think I needed it.  I got so dehydrated at the Martian after waiting so long to get a drink, I told myself this time I would take drinks early and often, to see how it goes.  This ended up working a lot better for me.  I lose a lot of water in general, which is why I've often referred to myself as the "human waterfall."  This race was no different and I had a steady stream of sweat raindrops dripping off my hat by mile 5.

As I said, Miles 1-6 were about 10 minutes each, but 7 was a bit slower.  Part of the reason was the big hill about halfway in between 7 and 8.  I did eat up a lot of racers there, but I did lose my 10 minute pace and it was about 10:40ish.  I also lost a little bit of energy, but I kept pushing, and some random guy came from the left over to me and held out a fist for me to bump.  I didn't leave him hanging.  I'm not sure if he was bumping me for fighting the hill or for something else.  He didn't say a word, but I wouldn't have heard anyway.  I was now blasting the "TRON: Legacy" soundtrack attempting to keep a constant, almost mechanical pace.  It worked, until that hill, but at least I knew at this point I wasn't going to be caught by the cart of shame and have to get picked up for being over a 13 minute pace.

Needing a little pick-me-up, I put on some Evil Cowards (Electric Six's frontman, Dick Valentine's side project) and tried to regain my pace.  I did make up a little between 8 and 9.  Part of that was because I thought I saw someone I knew, and I wanted to catch them.  It turned out just to be someone that looked and ran similar, but I did end up passing them.  From there I started picking people to catch, and I continued to catch and pass them, despite tailing off in speed (badly) after mile 9.  I was also getting a knot in my back, because I think my shoulder is still slightly out.

For some reason between the 9 and 10 mark, I was dying.  I tried to work out of it by slowing up a little, trying out a few other music selections (Hockey, Joy Electric,which used to work great when writing long term papers, and Kid Brother Collective), and psyching myself up thinking "one more mile and it's just a 5K."  It didn't work, and whatever I had left was out of the office.  I had hit the wall.  All this taking it slow business, and I was still going to fade out.  Oh well, I didn't care, I knew I would finish, and I could blame the slower time on the heat. 

When I finally saw 10, I was starting to break out of it, but I looked at the time and saw I had just 32 minutes (by my estimated chip time figuring it took about 3 minutes to get to the start) to run the last 3.1 and be under the Martian.  I thought about my Swartz Creek run the day after running about 15 miles, and said "screw it, I'm running this out, let's go."  I crossed the 10 mile mark, and nothing.  I still think I have that Crim mentality, and since the 10 miler was the initial goal I have a hard time going past that.  I just couldn't kick it in.  I took drastic measures and resorted to Andrew W.K.  Finally the reserves came out of hiding, and I was burning the course up.  I caught a lot of people, and saw a few I hadn't seen since the beginning of the race.  I was going HARD.

I planned on keeping this up through the end, and going into a dead sprint to the finish, but we came around a left turn, went under a bridge, and just as I'm ready to bust out the afterburners, there was a hill.  What the hell?  Really?  I started cursing like hell in my mind and asking why someone would do such a thing.  When you're finishing a half marathon, you want to bust it out at the end and have a nice coast where you can let loose, not fight a stupid hill.  Ugh.  I was just so irritated, and barely even noticed that some of the people I just passed started to catch and pass me again.

Oh well, I fought it off, and got to the short flat before the finish, and pulled out everything I had left to beat a guy next to me in a grey shirt.  At the very least, I wasn't going to let him beat me.  He put up a great fight though.  We were neck and neck all the way down until about 100 yards from the end, where I left him behind and finished only about 10 feet ahead.  The clock read 2:19 and some change, and I knew, regardless of chip time, I was definitely under my Martian time, and ran the last 3.1 in about 28 minutes.  Not too shabby.

I didn't see any of my friends at the finish or lined by the street.  They actually missed me, figuring that I'd be slower than the Martian.  I also didn't see any water.  That really bothered me.  I stood in a line for some refreshments, but there were so many people there, and I couldn't wait that long.  I tried to find some water somewhere, and all I ran into was all the group booths that had drinks only for their members.  Where the hell was the water?  This is the first race where this was a problem, and I was freaking out.  Luckily I wasn't anywhere near as bad off as I was at the end of the Martian, because if I was I would have probably passed out.  I finally found a couple people filling a cooler with water and taking it to the race finish where racers and volunteers both were dipping cups into the top of the cooler.  It was utter chaos.  Maybe we missed something, but that was all the water I saw around.

Finally I came to my senses, and wondered what the hell I was doing there begging for more water.  I had a full Gatorade and two waters in my car, and it was in the shade of a parking ramp so it was probably still cool.  I went back to the car, and went through all three right away and called my friend Mike.  Jen, Nick, Ken, and him were downtown at the finish line, and were surprised to find out I had been done for a while.  I told them to meet me by the ramp in the shade.  I needed a bathroom, but settled for a porta-john again.  Whatever, I didn't have time to be picky.  Luckily there was still sanitizer left in the one I found.  I met up with my friends, and Mike talked me into going to Taste Fest.

I went back to the car, changed into my DXA2 shirt, changed out of my shorts into some clean boxers and cargo shorts that had pockets, and met back up with the group.  We walked back to Main St. and I bought $10 of Taste Fest tickets.  That ended up being a total waste.  All I got was 3 very small chicken sliders, a capri sun (yes, I've had Capri Sun on the brain lately, not sure why), and a pepsi (glass bottle)...not worth it.  Oh well, I spent it, and it was time to go.

We went back to Mike's hotel, and sat around for a bit while he watched some Bill Maher, who I used to like, but who now thinks every thought he has is gospel truth that he's entirely impossible for me to tolerate.  I'm not sure if he's always been that way and I just finally noticed it, or if it's happened over time.  Either way, I had to stop paying attention to it, even though I was tired enough to sit and stare at anything.  Jen and Ken had to get back to Flint, so they left after telling me about all the trouble they got into Saturday night.  It was probably a good thing Jessi worked Sunday morning and we couldn't go down Saturday night.  After I took a quick shower, Mike, Nick, and I hit the pool.  I found a small rubber football in the pool skimmer and threw that around for a bit.  We also found a small rubber fish that squirted water, but that wasn't as entertaining.  After horsing around for a bit I started rotating from the pool to the hot tub and back, which was just the perfect post race remedy. 

After the pool, I still had to go to church, and there was allegedly a 5pm mass down the road.  The plan was to go there, and come back to the hotel, at which time Joe would be there and we could go to Arbor Brewing.  Well, there was no 5:00, and US23 was right there in sight.  I called Mike to see if he could go online and find something closer, but he didn't answer, so I took the ramp and headed back to Flint where I knew there was a 7:00 mass waiting.  I wanted to see Joe, but being a church music minister by trade, I knew he'd understand.  Apparently they had a good time at Arbor and Blue Tractor.  I'm sorry I missed it.


The effects of the half marathon did not get to me as much this time.  I was still energetic and alive afterward.  I didn't feel broken or even overly exhausted (which just tells me I didn't leave enough out there on the course).  The Adidas were really good for me and I had no foot problems the entire way.  The hydration plan worked really well too, and I probably could have went a good deal further.  I did have to do a little stretching after, but I didn't feel like my muscles would pull at any time or get any cramps like the Martian.  In all honesty, it just wasn't all that bad.  Given the choice, I would have ran one again rather than going to work yesterday (it's now Tuesday), and work isn't even that bad.

That Swartz Creek race after the long run the night before and this race just have me feeling invincible.  I think I could actually do a marathon in the future, now.  A few more of these and it will really be mentally in reach for me.  I won't this year, as I promised my fiancee I would wait until next year and a few more pounds off before I do.  Before, though I was still uncertain about even another half, and now I am itching for another one.

On the drive home, I looked at the sunshine and blue skies as I drove down Court St.  Having a mental lapse, and forgetting what I had just done for a split second, I actually thought to myself "man, it would be a nice day for a run."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Trogdor the Runninator

Still wiped from my Running Day stroll, I forced myself out to Dragon (Swartz Creek's mascot) territory.  I'm pretty sure the last time I went there was high school soccer in maybe 1996.  So it's been a while.  I'm amazed at what schools look like these days.  The sports facilities are ridiculous compared to when we were kids playing in fields of crab grass and mud.  Blame our nation's education issues on whatever you want, but I think obsession with sports has really displaced a lot of resources from their proper place.  I guess that's a rant for another day and another blog, though (probably a blog of mine that will exist only in my head).

Anyway, back on topic, I went out there so Jason and I could finally do another run together.  Sure, we run together a lot, but the last official one was the The Martian two months ago.  I left early and found the school just fine, but following the signs to race registration in the building was another story.  I hate to admit that I did about 3 laps through the building following signs with arrows until I found the "Registration Here" sign.  There were a couple signs that said "race restrooms" and since I didn't bother reading and just like to follow arrows like a dummy, I kept running into restrooms and a dead hallway ending in a gate.  If anyone would have actually been in those hallways, I may have been embarrassed.

Anyway, I finally figured it out, and signed up.  I decided to not get a shirt, because I'm drowning in shirts around here.  I've made a rule that every time I get one, I have to get rid of two, so I'm kind of careful what I get from races or buy now.  I'm pretty sure I could wear a T-Shirt for every day of the year and not do laundry, but I need that tie-dye Stone Temple Pilots shirt from 1996 with the cigarette burns in the back, you know.  What's even worse is that I sew pretty decent, and have some pretty good stain fighting and laundry skills, so my clothes last much longer than a normal man.  That reminds me, I still have to get rid of two for the Mackinaw Bridge shirt, ugh.

Back to the race again.  We're noticing that there's a lot more people out these days.  I swear the races have grown by at least 50% each since last year.  I actually had a few shots last year of winning my age group, and one race had only 4 people including us in there.  I'm sure that one will be 5 times bigger this year.  I think we're starting to have a nice revival of health in this country, and that's pleasing, despite the fact I'm probably never going to have another shot at winning my age group.

The other thing I've always noticed is how much everyone likes to display their running shirts at the races.  Sometimes I think I should too, just to kind of show I belong and I've been there before.  I probably won't, though.  For the SC 5K Challenge yesterday, I just felt like wearing my "Don't Hassle Me, I'm Local" shirt that Bill Murray's title character wears in "What About Bob?"  I don't know why.  I didn't even feel like I needed a "vacation from my problems," which is usually when I wear it.  That, and when I'm actually on vacation.
I just feel more comfortable wearing something that's more about who I am than what I've ran.  Of course there are a few shirts I have that are an overlap of both running and pop culture.  Sometimes I like to go out running in my Homestar Runner shirt, and giggle to myself thinking that someone will go to the web address on the back and think it's something to do with runner culture, and it will just be Strongbad cartoons.
I'm also waiting for a fitting run to pull out my new find, an official Run Fatboy Run shirt
This way I get to have running shirts and still wear shirts that are for weirdos.  Now I just need a shirt with the Blue Lantern Flash logo from Blackest night.  Who knows, maybe I'll make a friend or two.  With a running shirt, it's more like "oh you like to running in other places besides this specific path too?"  

Coming up to the start of the race yesterday I wasn't thinking about anything as interesting.  My thoughts were mostly with how dead my legs felt.  I kept thinking that when I eventually wrote about this race, it may be called "Draggin' with Dragons."  When the race started, I just knew for sure that would be the case.  I really started to fear that one of my legs was going to buckle and wipe me out, or I was actually going to have to quit and walk a 5K.  I just wasn't feeling it.  

I had a conversation earlier in the week about running and how I've kind of set up things for assured success lately.  I keep putting off another half marathon because I'm afraid I might fail at it with the higher temperatures, or any number of other reasons.  Ok, so maybe I did a lot of races during that stretch in March, but I've taken it easy since then other than the Martian.  The conversation's conclusion eventually was me realizing that maybe I could use a failure or two to relight that fire under me.  During the first mile I told myself "today is the day for failure."  

So in that moment of the race, I decided that success for that day would be running the whole way, and "great success" would be anything under 30 minutes.   After I saw that 1 mile marker I started to believe that I could get through it.  I did, and by some sort of black magic managed to run a 27:32.  In case you haven't been keeping track, that's a new record (if only by 6 seconds).  I couldn't believe my eyes when I turned the corner and knew, from the clock, that I had a chance at being in that range.  There was even some sort of doubt that the Loons race was a fluke or maybe that I had mixed some sort of assortment of cold medicines just right in my body to give me some sort of runner high to give me that fast time.  Well here's proof staring in my face that I can do it again, and even do it when I wore myself down completely the day before.  Unbelievable.

I did finally sign up for another half marathon yesterday as well.  I'm doing DxA2, running from Dexter to Ann Arbor.  I have a friend who's got a suite down there this weekend for whatever reason.  I think we were all supposed to go down and stay all weekend and hang out, but he forgets we're not that cool anymore.  That goes double for me, because I'm all codependent, and with the lady working, I'm not going to party in Ann Arbor all weekend just for the hell of it and leave her here.  Plus I had a bunch of yard work to catch up on and maybe a couple window panes I wanted to replace this weekend.  I'd like to pretend that the running and some of the other things I do now are just a "remorphing of awesomeness," but I'll fully admit that in the eyes of my single dude friends, I'm probably just lamer.  I'll join the party Sunday after running my Half Marathon and hobble along like an old man.  Maybe I'll get all up on some brandy and hip pain know, go nuts.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Happy National Running Day

Apparently everyone missed the memo.  I only saw two people out in the entire city, and I was going through some usually high traffic running areas.  I figured I'd test my mettle a little today.  I probably shouldn't have because ideally, I'll be running a 5K race tomorrow, but I had to try out some new shoes.

The Asics were already completely dead and making weird air leaking noises, and I didn't want to wear out the trail runners before the Legend and some of the fall trail races I may do, so I had no choice.  I decided to spring for something good and went to the running store and they suggested a few brands of shoes that were allegedly perfect for me.  After trying about 5 different ones I decided the Brooks Ghost 3's felt the best.
After running my 5K route and then circling it into the Crim 10 mile route, I'm a little less convinced.  Look, they're great for comfort on bottom, but there was one issue on the back of my right heel.  I knew it was rubbing when I was running, but it didn't feel THAT bad.  I was pretty surprised when my right sock would make a good mate for Curt Schilling's. 
Maybe that was just in how I tied them or how my sock was on me, so I'm not giving up on them yet.  For the price, I don't really think I'm allowed to.  There was also a bloody nipple, but I did go through all that trouble of taking out the swear words, so I'll avoid the photos of that, and keep everything family friendly.

After the run, I was beat.  I'm still sorta beat, and just sitting on the floor, stretching periodically, and watching my inspirational movie of choice ("Run Fatboy Run") again.  I think I'm ready for another half marathon.  The Crim course is super hilly, and, other than more grueling temperatures, I think I may be able to do one this weekend.  I have one on my radar, but I haven't pulled the trigger on signing up.  I'm going to see how I feel tomorrow.
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