Monday, April 30, 2012

Volunteer of the YEAAAR!!!

The plan was to get up early and go to Run Like a Wildebeest Saturday, but I woke up with my legs feeling really beat up from the 8 miles on Friday.  I'm not sure if it was the stairs or the dehydration, but I knew if I went to the race, I wasn't going to keep up the streak of lower times for the year.  I woke up to take the dog out at 6am, and I just wasn't feeling it in the legs.

That's what I'm trying to convince myself happened, anyway.  Sure, I woke up and my legs hurt, but I just wanted my extra sleep, which I have to say, was amazing.  Of course the usual routine when this happens on a Saturday is as follows:  sleep in for at least another hour, try to find a feed of the 2nd half of the West Ham game online, watch them play to a draw when they had double or triple the shots of the other, lesser team, make some variation of huevos rancheros, and think to myself "man I should have done that race."

This weekend, I knew how I usually feel missing a race and I probably would have made myself go, but I had a back-up plan.  There was a Flint River Coalition clean-up of the nearby creek at 9am (and many other sites in the county).  I could get an extra hour of sleep, still do some volunteering, and not feel like I wasted my whole morning being lazy.  It was the perfect excuse.

So I picked up the puppy, went back inside, slept another hour, and went to the clean-up site at 9.  There were enough volunteers this year to where all the garbage pickers were gone. The organizers were a little surprised at the turn out, being the last one only had 3 people.  The difference?  They posted this one on the internet. So it was up to just me and a pair of gloves to hop to it.

I was sent down the road toward an abandoned Sunoco station where I was told was a huge mess.  Knowing there were so many people covering the ground, on my way there I got really bold right away, slid down the bank of the creek, waded into some ankle-deep water, pulled a tire back up the steep bank, and threw it out near the road.  That was pretty much the catch of the day.  In your face, Charlie Murphy.

I continued my way down the bank cleaning up until I ran into John, who was one of the organizers, I think.  He was reaching at trash with a long picking pole, and getting a lot of stuff off the bank on our side.  I told him about the tire and started snagging what I could in the bank just ahead of where he was working, slowly making way to the gas station and realizing this one trash bag wasn't going to last much longer.

Then I saw it, the trash heap in the making behind the gas station.  There were bottles, styrofoam containers, and about everything you could imagine back there.  Some of it had made its way down to the bank, but most of it was just kind of strewn about on the property.  Not only that, but there were large signs and pieces of plastic too sharp and large to bag all over the place.  We had our work cut out for us, and there were only 4 of us at this particular spot: John, Mike, myself, and a I woman that I believe was Dolores? ("Mulva?").  I feel bad forgetting her name, but she never officially introduced herself.  I only thought I overheard it when she said hello to someone that knew her.  She just kept calling me "young buck" though, so I guess it's fine.

I don't really see the resemblance...
We got right down to business, though, and cleared out that entire area.  We worked really well together, using each other's bags, making human chains to grab trash by the water, passing big things to each other like the old fireman bucket carry technique.  It was just unconscious.  There were a lot of spilled bags of what was obviously the old gas station's trash that was just dumped back there (didn't want to pay for one more dumpster pull huh?).  I think some homeless people were squatting there at one point because there was a ton of food, drink, and Crown Royal bottles (25 or so) scattered about near a few blankets and things.  I don't know though, Crown Royal is pretty high-rolling for a hobo.  Maybe it was kids, but then what kind of kids actually go for straight CR?  There were no Coke bottles.  I guess we'll never know for sure.

We had everything up with still an hour to go in the clean-up effort.  So we headed back on the other side of the creek, through the thick of the wooded part near the south bank, trying to find more.  It was actually quite clean over there, but we made a very big effort to find things, and I took another trip into the creek for a blue plastic bag that was calling my name.  I only made it back out by tight-roping a log, jumping, and grabbing a small tree.  My feet were too cold to want to walk in the water more to a less steep area.  I also wanted to see how awesomely agile I am for a fat guy ("you might not know it to look at me, but I can [also] run really, really fast"...sorta).

After we finally admitted we couldn't find anything more, we started heading back to the meeting spot, and we met up with Susan (who was another one running this thing) and told her where we had all the stacked bags of stuff, the tire, etc.  She asked us if we wanted a water bottle and gave us each one of these...

They also tried to feed me after with a BBQ, but I'm not a big pork fan, so I bailed and went and ate left-overs while watching about 4 minutes of the MSU Green & White game.  Something I was unaware of until volunteer Mike was talking about going home to watch.  I was kind bored after that 4 minutes of that.  So I took our puppy out for stroll, and then my lady came home and we dated to Mexican food and the new Cusack movie, "The Raven," which was pretty sweet.  You can't really take my word for it, though.  I love fake, inaccurate history movies that use real people/real events as a backdrop, and my man-love for Cusack is high enough that it was brought up in the Best Man's speech at my wedding.  Also, there is "High Fidelity" poster within 20 feet of me as I type this.

All in all, I had a really good Saturday.  Honestly though, I don't really volunteer THIS much.  It's just kind of coincidental, and it's probably something I wouldn't have done if I hadn't went to that garlic mustard run and pull a week before.  Then again, running has led to a lot of other life changes, so who knows?  Maybe I'll be doing more of this, granted I can find the time and the places to be for it.  For some reason I think volunteers are like this secret society that hide their events from you until the holidays.  Anyway, It's actually a pretty good way to spend the day, and I got to meet a few of my neighbors and sorta get to know them.  I guess that's better than the huevos rancheros...but maybe not by much.

P.S. - I'm still pretty sure it would have been possible to do this and the race, and it looks like I would have won the 220+ heavyweight run division by a good margin.  Serves me right for not showing up.  Oh well, I really should just be losing more weight and running age group anyway.  Of course for that to happen I'd have to not do things like deep frying twinkies...

I know you can see this Running Spike...Nummy, Nummy!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Boy, I've Never Seen a Kid Do So Much Damned Whacking

While most of the world was still snuggled up in bed waiting for the sun to come up, I was up early for some morning activities in Pinckney, MI.  The Weed Whacker Run has been going on for 7 years now.  There are two parts to the event.  The first part is a 5 mile trail run around the trails near Half Moon Lake, and the second is a Michigan DNR organized pull of the invasive Garlic Mustard plants around the park.  This year, it just so happened to fall on Earth Day.
If you ever decide to join up for this one, go here, not the HQ place,
 or any of the other 3 stops I made wondering "Is this it?"

Half Moon Lake
I headed down about an hour early, which was probably pretty smart of me, because when I got to where I thought was the place, it wasn't there.  Apparently someone doesn't check their email enough and I just assumed the address on the race site was where I was supposed to be.  Luckily some other DNR people there gave me directions and a map (which I followed poorly twice before figuring out where I needed to be).

I still made it in plenty of time, and there were Running Fit people there offering us to try out some Brooks shoes, but I already love my current trail shoes, and I declined.  We were given a little rundown of trail/park rules and sent off on a trail with the instructions to "take every right until you get back here."  So off we went.

The easiest stretch of the trail
For five miles, I do have to admit the terrain ate me up pretty good.  Also, I started off pretty quick and three people passed me, but the rest of the crowd never did, and most of them ended up back before me.  So either they cut things off, and hit the 5K turn-around, not wanting to do the full 5 miles, or I got off track at some point and did some extra credit miles.  Without a watch or any way to track it, I guess I'll never know (pretty sure I got lost).

After we were done, I changed out of the running stuff into some weeding clothes, and we met with Laurel from the DNR and she showed us the enemy, gave us some information about it, and we went out to pull some weeds (so no, there was no actual whacking going on).

The enemy
Taking hostages...
I pulled out about two garbage bags full of the stuff, and was off on my own getting these little patches of it quite a bit.  Sometimes it was a nice social event, and other times you felt like that weird kid off playing in the sandbox by yourself.  It all kind of depended on your proximity to others after going toward your next future plant victims.  It's too bad we couldn't just set an example for them with one of the plants and scare them out of the area.  They also keep very tight lipped and will not give away the location of their cohorts no matter how much you twist their leaves, roots, or stalks.

Anyway, it was a very nice way to spend Earth Day, getting some trail running in and ridding the woods of herbaceous evil, even if killing plants for Earth Day seems kind of odd...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

We Come In Peace. We Come in Peace again.

Today was J and my fateful return to the Martian Invasion of Races.  The trip down there was much less eventful than last year's mess.  We found our way straight there without detours and parked quickly, with plenty of time for packet pick-ups and restroom breaks.

This year the shirts were Space Invaders themed.

This year was so much warmer than last year that I started off in shorts, and wore the same purple martian "We Come in Peace" shirt as last time.  I know, not very exciting but I didn't feel like buying a Martian Manhunter shirt, and this one is still too small to run in...

I wish this year would have had as much drama as last year to share on here, but honestly it just wasn't the case.  Out of fear of tanking like last year, I went out fairly conservative and held that pace until the turn around.  I picked it up a bit after the turn, where I saw J, who was mocking me and my traditional Fonzie-styled thumbs-up running form (ayyy!), but I don't think I did enough.  I hit mile 10 knowing I should have done more.  I pushed up that hill in mile 11 that was nearly non-existent, wondering why it gave me such trouble last year and how much of a whiny weakling I was.  Then I kicked out about as much as I could for the rest of the race, but there was just too much energy left to expend.  I should have pushed harder.  It's different when you wish you could have and it just wasn't there, but this was a genuinely mediocre effort all around on my part.  It was nice, however, to beat a lot of familiar people from last year.

Even with that, this was the second best half time I've put up at 2:13 2:11 (apparently they've put up corrected chip times) , and I'll take it.  It is, after all, about 7 9 minutes less than last year's "adjusted time," due to the 13.4 mile overshoot of the course.  I felt fine and ready for more, which bodes well for the Detroit Marathon.  J barely even got training for this one and his longest run was the 8.5 we did earlier in the week, and he did fine as well.  I believe that half marathons have just lost their intimidating effect on us now.

 They stepped up the medals from last year with printed lanyards and the medals themselves being twice as large

 Last year's was barely larger than the button they gave us this year...

J and I went over the Cheli's to get some chili and a beer, since he's never been to one.  We ate and played a couple rounds of bubble hockey to a 3-2, 1-2 draw, and headed back to take a few photos (which I'll try to add later).  Like I said, I wish I had more to report, but it was pretty much a standard issue half marathon.

It was a course PR, though, and my best daytime half so far.  So not being a morning person, maybe that counts for something.  Besides I do consider owls one of my "power animals."  Tell em, Elspeth:  "We are creatures of the night, we are children of la luna!"

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I Said I'd Rest You But I Lied... (quasi-Michael Bolton reference intended)

...unless 8 1/2 miles isn't a "long run" for me anymore.  Tuesday's the usual start of running for the week (I don't buy into this Sunday business, because it's part of the "weekend" and it's the "7th day").   Easter family things and helping Mom out at her place for about 5 hours kind of stole what daylight there was right out from under me on Sunday, so I didn't get my long run in.  So Monday became a make-up session, and yesterday became an "I don't want to let my friend down" session.  Otherwise we're just back to worst running friend ever status again.  So my legs hurt.

I'm dealing well, considering I've never put up that much in mileage over the course of two days.  Of course I know there's more of this to come, though, as training for a marathon will require Taking it to the Streets more than a late 70's Doobie Brothers concert.  I'm not exactly all that peppy today, but I'm still awake and doing alright.  No running today, though, that would have been Amaza-crazy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Player 2 Has Entered the Tournament/Countdown to Mars

J has signed up for the Detroit Marathon as well.  Honestly, that's really the only way this thing can be done.  Side-by-side, we're accountable for each other now.  Besides, we've done everything else together, it wouldn't be right for me to go this one alone.  I'm starting to understand how long it really is and how much punishment I'll be putting on myself, which makes me understand even more how important it will be to prepare and get this Play-Doh body in check.

The Martian Marathon is this Saturday (don't worry, I'm running the Half), and I'm closing the book on long runs today to give myself a little rest after going out and clip-clopping a 14.5 miler.  It seemed to go fairly easy except for the wind blowing me around and the stopping and running in place for all the stupid cars.  This was the first time out with the hydration pack, and I barely knew it was there, except for when it was handy.  It's nice to carry a little water with you.  I had a slight rub on the right shoulder, but that's just an adjustment issue I can take care of pretty easily.

I also gave a trial run to some Hammer Gel.  Outside of "Montana Huckleberry" being an awesome flavor, both in name and taste, it really didn't feel like much more came of it.  There was no short or long burst from it, nor was there any sort of crash (or lack of one) from it.  I'm sure some additional experimentation is in order.  Maybe I'm doing it wrong, and maybe this brand is actually used like suppositories.  If so, let me know.

The running terrain yesterday was pretty brutal.  Having to stay mostly off the roads and on uneven, broken (typical Flint) sidewalk was not a lot of help for my legs, but neither was the incorporated stairs that were put in there by my dumb (Jack's complete lack of) route planning.  Yep, I just wasn't thinking there, and I decided I was too stubborn and lazy to go around them. 

On the home stretch I had a white pitbull with black spots follow me and escort me home for the last mile and a half.  She was following another woman out walking who asked me if I knew where she belonged (which I didn't).  I didn't even know until about a half mile later that she was now following me.  The dog ended up right by me all the way home before switching to another couple out walking with their kid.  It seemed like a pretty nice, smart dog, but one is enough for us right now.  Plus, I will admit, even with a seemingly calm one, I'm still pretty fearful of that breed, and who knows that she doesn't belong to someone anyway.  If only I could get Renfield to follow me that well just walking...

After the run I tried to recoup all the burned calories with some Little Caesars (gotta help pay for the Fielder contract), and I slipped into my long green unofficial Al Kayner race socks, which are actually my old MSU IM soccer team socks.  I know they're not really the fancy compression socks or anything, but they actually did help more than regular ones.  My legs feel great today in comparison to what they usually are like after a run like that.  Maybe there's something to bundling your calves up, after all.*

*-Actually I know all these things you REAL runners do work, I just don't usually do them because I'm an illegitimate hack.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Brent vs The March

1) Pick 12 things of social importance that I've had limited exposure to, but decided I didn't like and immerse myself in each of them for 1 month.

Harry Potter - This Harry Potter thing is out of control.  I know several people that are way into it, including my wife.  Before jumping into it, I just thought it was kind of stupid.  I don't believe in teaching children they have power.  It makes them insolent.
Maybe it was the timing of the initial Harry Potter movie with "Spy Kids" and a few other movies at the time, where children were the heroes and the villians were usually adults that made me dismiss it entirely in the first place.  I just don't like that setup.  There's enough disrespect in the world, and children should be taught that they can't win against us (no matter how evil we are) until they've grown up and moved out.  I say this even before I have children of my own, so just imagine the iron fist I'll be laying down when I do.

Anyway, I didn't really devote as much time to the immersion as I should have this month, so I guess I have some remainder homework to attend to.  I've only read and watched the first book and movie, and read half of the second book.  It's not that I was fighting it or anything, it just didn't happen (partially because of how much of a slow, deliberate reader I am).  So I'm going to withhold any solid verdict until I've progressed further. 

One thing I can say at this point is I wonder how this became such a big thing.  I'm kind of indifferent to this whole business at this point.  Then again, I'm not really a "Fantasy" guy (shocked?), nor am I even really a fiction reader.  The natural thing to compare it to is the Lord of the Rings, and so far, while it hasn't had the distinctly great moments of LOTR, it hasn't had the tediousness of it either.  Even Tolkien fans have to admit you get sick of the breaks in action and reading mulitiple inane Hobbit songs along the way.  It makes the LOTR series almost an endurance trial at times.  However, even that comparison is suspect, given the true differences in the two series.

That being said, I still wonder how Harry Potter's become the institution that it is, but perhaps I'll find out if I just stick to it.  To my knowledge reading hasn't hurt anyone yet, so I'll stick to it until I fall on one side of the fence, or the other.  The only thing this means is that I probably shouldn't take on any more reading challenges for a while that may interfere with the process, or wander into any place where there are history, economic, or political books staring back at me. 

2) Learn 12 new recipes (1/month).

Does learning how to bread and deep fry bell peppers count? 
Seriously good
I also made this salsa chicken thing that was incredibly simple and delicious

Sure, my presentation leaves much to be desired, but it's delicious

3) Do 12 home improvements (1/month).

I didn't get anything done with this last month.  I finished fixing up the dishwasher, and ended up trading out a pump seal on it when all was said and done, but as far as new projects for March, I did not find the time or the money.  It's not like I sat idly by doing nothing rotting in a chair somewhere, but working on the house just did not come to be.  So I will have to push the remainder onto another month.  I'm looking at you, current month...

4) Try 12 new restaurants (1/month).

This one was actually met and exceeded with me trying out Loco and Red Smoke down in Detroit, and two (sort of) mexican places up here (Fajitas, SeƱor Lucky's).  Fitting I only overachieve at food....


Martian Half Marathon is looming.  I've put a lot more miles and work into this one than the last one.  I expect the results to match, even if I haven't exactly been tearing it up out there. know..."we talkin' 'bout practice..."
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