Saturday, September 29, 2012

Maybe I Should Have Rethought My Blog Name

For those of you that have actually seen "Run Fatboy Run," you know Simon Pegg's character Dennis finishes his marathon on an ankle he has no business running on.  I am starting to feel his fictional pain.

Last week, I had to cut off our long run at 15 miles.  I just couldn't take it anymore.  Today, even with remembering to douse my foot in Icy Hot, didn't feel much better, and I was happy to be done at 13 miles, which was all we had on the schedule.  Last Friday, I tucked my doubts away with my wife and my friend  over a few Hofbrau Oktoberfest pitchers at Frankenmuth's Oktoberfest in the big steel beer tent.

After enjoying myself too much and possibly yelling several times of how this festival was "the best bar ever!" (even though it's not a bar), we left and had the compulsory pretzel on the way out.
Pretzel Time
So, I don't know.  I'm trying to survive this last month without finding out what's wrong, for reasons I've mentioned and, also, because I think if I find out I'll mentally give myself an out.  Like Dennis...I refuse to be stopped.  My mom, who is a nurse, insists I get it checked, but we'll just tell her next weekend that it feels fine now (while I pretend to walk normally right after running a 13.1 at The Brooksie Way).

Also, I would really like to point out that, as of September 3rd, I have been married for a full year, and my wife and I have been together for 6.  It has been a fantastic life since we've met, and I am incredibly lucky to find someone that makes every night feel like a slumber party with my best friend.

Epic Flint Photo
For our anniversary, we went to Ludington to relax and do nothing at a B&B.  We ran into my aunt, uncle, and cousins after my cousin Erica yelled my name from a truck when we were walking from the beach.  We got to spend some random time with them.  That was a nice coincidence, because, as I said before, I need to see them more often.  Right now I'm wishing I was down at the MSU/OSU game with my cousin, even though he's an OSU fan (blech!).  For the most part, we just went out to eat, went to bars, hung out at the water, and relaxed in the hot tub drinking champagne at the B&B (like a boss!).

Before we headed up there, we went back to the scene of the crime where we ate the first night we met, and were very happy that the same booth we shared 6 years ago was the only one available.
We did not order the same things, though.  It was breakfast, not 1am.
Brooksie Way Half-Marathon is looming tomorrow, and the Detroit Marathon is getting very very close.  This is going to get real interesting, real quick.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Overdue Recap #3 - The Crim

In Brent vs. The July I had vowed to get off my sorry ass and make myself accountable last month. With The Legend making me look like a complete jackass, I didn't think I was off to a very good start.  Just looking at my Crim time last year and how good and perfect I ran (for me), I just didn't see how I was going to get there.  The two weeks prior I had to shut down the "long runs" because 20+ miles was just more pain than I could bear.  Still though, I was doing 13ish and this was only a 10 mile race.  The main problem was I was pretty much carrying myself with my left leg, and by the end of Wednesday right before the race, it definitely felt like it. 

Despite all the "Accountability August" stuff, I wasn't going to make pre-wedding weight.  I dropped some poundage, though, and 10 lbs down in a month was nothing to sneeze at.  All things considered, I was about as ready as I thought I could be for the race.  So it was time to get into the mindset for it.  I went downtown to the all you can eat charity pasta dinner.  I'm not sure the charity made any money off of me, because I had a lot of food.  After my third plate, and realizing everyone I came into the tent with was long gone except one old woman, who i swore had 4 plates in the time I ate 3.  I am not a slow eater, or a light one.  I have mad respect for that woman.

I decided to stop into the Torch and get a quick Huma Lupalicious pint before heading home.  I saw two brightly dressed girls that I figured were going to the 80s events, but you can't tell with kids and their dressing these days, so I didn't want to ask and risk offending them.  So I quietly finished my beer and walked home to put my wonky leg up.  My wife was "Up North" camping with her work girls, so I had the place to myself for the weekend, but there was no excitement.  I take the Crim too seriously for shenanigans.  So I spent the rest of the night watching Patrick Troughton era Doctor Who episodes and working on finishing up Bill DeSmedt's novel "Singularity."  I turned in very early while our dog Renfield waited at the door all night waiting for my wife to come home.  He's a big time momma's boy.

J arrived right on time in the morning.  I had woken up right on time and stepped out of the bed to the usual heel pain, but went through my morning race prep routine anyway.  I was all ready with my blue Flash shirt on, and we headed on down.  He still had to pick up his packet and check what in it he wasn't wearing, but that didn't take too long.  We were in seperate waves (him in B and I in C), but we couldn't move once we got in the corral, so he had to stay back in C with us slackers.  We were reminded this was the last year they were doing the beer at Cashew point, pretty much daring us to all drink a beer there.  Then they let the groups ahead of us go, and finally it was our turn.  We hit the start gate while Genesee Towers protesters  uselessly waves signs to our left.  Not the time or place, guys.

Two miles in and my heel hadn't numbed up yet.  I was not near the pace I needed to beat last year, and it felt like I was still doing all I could.  Here I was only a 1/5th of the way through, and I felt winded, sweaty, sore, and tired.  No shocker that when I saw the man holding the doughnut box on University Ave., I didn't partake.  One of these years...but not this one. 

The third mile up and downs down University didn't do me any favors, but I felt inspired by the fact I was still catching people in my heat, and I was pushing up the hills, and cutting loose down them.  Still wasn't feeling great, but I was coming out of a it a little. 

In the stretch of the 4th mile, a little discouraged with the fact my heel and my speed weren't allowing me to beat last year, I gave in to the temptation at Cashew point and I had a beer.  I'm not sure which beer it was.  If I had to guess it was a Bud Light or Coors Light.  Whatever it was, I'd like to thank Denny Donlan and his family for doing this for the past 20 years, and giving the race some added charm.  I'm glad I got to partake at least once.

Miles 5 and 6, despite the Bradleys were just awesome for me.  I gave up trying to baby my foot.  I figured it was going to hurt no matter what I did, so I started making my right leg work again.  Just before hitting the second hill of the Bradleys was the 5th mile, and I realized I put up a flat 9:00 between 4 and 5.  Apparently my body reacts positively to beer during exercise.  So, what'd I do?  You guessed it.  At 5 1/2 there was another group of bros handing out beers, and all the bushed post-Bradley chest-heavers refusing them, left and right.  When they heard a "beer me" coming from this big dude there was a fantastic reaction from them, especially after I chugged it in one gulp, let out a warrior's scream of "hell yeah," and gave the tail-end guys in their group high fives.  I was all jacked up now, but I took a bottle of water immediately after and chugged that just to avoid any dehydration issues down the line. 

Through 7 and 8 I was still cutting off time.  I figured I still didn't have much shot at another Crim PR, but I kept up what I could.  The heel pain was really noticeable now, and getting worse.  I had to get done and get off of this thing.  I really wished I wasn't hurting.  Other people were hurting out there as well, just from being tired, hot and exhausted.  It wasn't a cool day by any means, and I spent a lot of this stretch talking to people and trading encouragements.  Then, I saw Bobby Crim near the back half of mile 7, and had to turn out of my way to take the chance to thank him.  The 81-year-old founder of the race said that this may be his last year running it, and there was no passing up the opportunity to be one of the many people that stopped to thank him before going on their way. 

The last two miles just sort of went.  I pushed through with about all I had left, and came down the stretch looking for familiar faces.  I didn't see or hear any, so I had to encourage myself into a sprint to the end.  I crossed a sweaty, sore, and tired mess to find one familiar face in J, who had already grabbed me a water and was waiting for me knowing I'd need it.  I admitted defeat, pretty much knowing I was not faster than last year.  My best guess at the time said it was 2-4 minutes slow, based on my clock time.

We grabbed our free pizza slice, and choked down some free Miller 64.  I think free was still too expensive.  It's awful, awful stuff.  I still maintain that they are cutting Old Milwaukee 50/50 with water ("you mean, like, in the toilet?").  We had to stop in to The Torch for a beer just to wash that out.  I went with my Huma, J with his newfound love for Sam's Boston Lager.

 On the way back I saw a couple (complete with ginger girl, like my wife) that had just got married that day walking around Flint getting their wedding photos by the Cultural Center.  I mentioned to them that I was doing the same just about a year ago and congratulated them.  We got back to my place to check times.  He wanted to know if he beat another guy we know.  He didn't, and missed him by only 20 seconds.  I checked my time only to see I averaged a 9:30/mi with a 1:34:55, and missed my PR by only 52 seconds.  You know, about the amount of time I probably took between taking two beers, goofing off, and thanking a certain race dignitary. 

Even knowing that, I have no regrets.  I ran a great race, considering, and had I known that a PR was still on the line, I might not have participated so much in the race stops (especially the beer), talked to so many of the other racers exchanging words of encouragement, and stopped for Mr. Crim.  Maybe I could have done a little better had I drew out a race plan like last year, but I didn't because I didn't know what to expect with the heel.  There's not a lot of assurance that it would have helped me, either.  Sure there's a little nagging voice in my head that's still screaming, "A measley 6 seconds per mile.  You could have taken that off," but I said before I'd be lucky to get under 1:40.  So coming that close was really surprising, and I'll take it.

My apologies for no pictures.  The official photographers didn't get anything of me worth posting and, as I stated, my shutterbaby was out of town.  So here is a picture of the dog wearing my Crim medal instead.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Overdue Recap #2 - Blueberry 8K

Montrose's Blueberry Festival Race has been on my radar the last three years.  There's just something I like about its small, hometown feel that makes me keep showing up.  The first year doing this was was essentially to set up a desired Crim pace for my first ever shot at the 10-miler and see if I felt like I could go another 5 miles after the 8K.  Last year I just showed up, despite running a half the night before, and I still couldn't tell you why.  I think I just piled on every race I could, and running tired for this one just gave me a nice last place finish to show for it, and nearly a 10 minute pace.

This year was the first time I brought J with me.  He was supposed to work that morning, but, considering we were starting at 7:30 for an 8K and he didn't need to be to work until 10:30, he figured he had plenty of time to go with me, run, and get back home for a shower before work (this is foreshadowing that it was a mistake to believe that).  I was doing a really poor job of paying attention to him talking to me on the ride there, and once we were all signed up and ready.  I put it in my mind that I was running this one as hard as I could, start to finish, in a semi-dedication to my cousin.  When that wasn't in my head, the other side of my thoughts were wondering how I could even do that when my foot (mostly my heel) had been in pretty consistent pain since our run the previous Monday.

 I can't tell you how I hurt it or when it started for sure.  All I know is for the last four weeks I've had what is mostly a constant, dull pain in my heel, with small sharp ones that are present from time to time.  I was a little out of it on the run that Monday, but I vaguely remembered a few sharp pains during, which I'll get just normally if I land wrong on a foot with my weight, so they're often easy to ignore.  Later in the night it turned into a duller pain and my right foot was noticeably swollen.

The next morning, when I got out of bed, it felt like someone had been beating my heel with a hammer all night.  Pretty much every morning since has been some variation of that.  The mornings after runs are much worse, but I've been taking running much easier and skipping a few runs a week just to keep it bearable.  Before the Blueberry, I had rested it almost a full week.  It still hurt.  Screw it, though, I was there, and I was going to run hard and get this thing over with. J had even loftier plans.  He was going to try to keep the ambulance, which is essentially the "make way" vehicle for the leaders, in sight. 

When they let us go, I set up fast early, but definitely not as fast as my friend who, had run off with the leaders, making me wonder if I was going to eventually catch a very winded friend later and actually nip him at one of the races (which hasn't happened a lot this year).  Hell, about a mile in I was starting to rethink whether I could hold onto my pace.  I wasn't even gaining on anyone, and nobody was passing me.  I was in a nice little "me bubble."  I kept telling myself, "Keep running, those people ahead are going to fall off," mostly ignoring the fact that they were actually slowly starting to pull off from me.

Two miles in, I felt I was digging into reserves already.  My foot was screaming at me.  I couldn't even see J anymore (bad sign), and those same two people were still in front of me, about the same distance they were before.  At least they weren't further ahead.  I just kept holding on.

Three miles in, same people, same place, and probably the longest stalemate I've ever seen between runners behind and runners ahead of me.  Was it actually possible to run an entire 8K without passing anyone or anyone blowing by me?

Four miles in...nope, those late-comer fast people that always miss the start and catch you during the race finally pass me, letting me know how boss they are and that they can show up late for a race and still be finished before me.  We're on the way back, and the 5K walkers are starting to merge back with us for the last mile.  Alright!  People to pass!!  Speaking of, those two ahead of me are getting closer.  I'm exhausted, but I get them, and then latch on to a dude in front of me that I know, in my head, I have no chance to catch.  I go for it anyway.

Last charge (less than a half mile left).  I've actually pulled up on "Mr. Far" (yes, this is an intentional Crispin Glover "Clownly Clown Clown" reference).  We duck behind the school, off-road for a last stretch across the lawn and then across the parking lot area, before hitting the last part, which is a loop around the Montrose school track.  I'm dodging walkers and any remaining 8K people and making sure I fully empty out everything I have.  Today would not be like The Legend.  Even if my time isn't great, I was giving it all up.

Turning the corner before going into the track

I get to the track and look at the clock, and if there were anyone to talk to I'd be speechless (mostly because I can't breathe).  Just a small loop around a track, and the time clock is only reading 42 minutes and some change.  I could crawl on my hands and knees to the finish, and still have an 8K PR.  I didn't.  Instead I told myself to try to get in by the 43:00 mark, and pushed it even harder.  I crossed the finish line right at 43:00 (no chip start, so end time is official time), and immediately dropped down to the ground for a sit.  J was giving me some congratulatory words, but I was too out of breath to even give a "thank you" at that point.  It was a PR by just over 2 full minutes.

He told me he was able to keep the ambulance in range and finished at 40:08 (8:04/mi).  My 8:39/mile was the first time I ever broke under a 9 minute average for anything beyond a 5K.  Eventually I got up and leaned against a fence for a while, before proceeding to the gym for results.  The first round was just being posted and we saw we were first and second in our age group.  That was encouraging until, as they kept posting updated results, we realized we were the only two 30-34 year-old men there.

Who cares, though, we still get medals.  Unfortunately, despite the fact we were done running by about 8:15, the wait for the medals took forever.  J asked if they could mail his or he could get his early because he had work at 10:30.  Apparently the organizer didn't listen or care, and told him he couldn't have it and they don't mail them.  Giving out medals didn't even start until 9:45.  I think that's pretty damn ridiculous, personally.  I love running, and I'm all for seeing everyone get their swag and sticking around for it, but don't waste that much of people's time for no reason.  Even worse is the organizer did our race dead last, after 5K run, 5K walk, random giving away of stupid gift certificates, 8K walk, and then finally the 8K run.  Jason decided to stay for his medal, making him late for work, and it was about 10:15 when we finally got them.  That's two full hours after we, average runners at best, finished the 8K. 

Medal Up!
Front of the Frozen with the Regular
Double 2nd medals.  Both days only one other person in my age group.
One of the most infuriating things in the world for me is when someone wastes my time.  I'm severely mental about making good use of time.  Even my leisure time has objectives and targets, so wasting two hours sitting in the gym, waiting for medal for an 8K isn't my idea of a good time.  Had it been just me, I may have bolted by then, and I didn't even have anywhere to be.  I swear I'm going to start bringing a book, because there's always a little bit of a wait if you age group.  No, it's never usually two hours, but it's usually about 30-45 minutes.  That's reasonable, though.  The Blueberry wait was outrageous, and I'm tempted to boycott next year now.  I haven't been that mad at a race since the Turkey Trot gave my shirt away (that I paid extra for the XXL) two years ago (which is why I boycotted last year).  I was tempted to carve up their staff and bring them home to eat.  They probably deserved it much more than the turkey that day.  You don't give pre-registered people's shirts away before the race to late registrants.  You tell them they can have one after the race if the pre-registered ones don't show. 

I'm going to stop writing before I work myself up...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Legend 2 & a Little on Why I Stopped Posting

Warning:  This post is a month overdue.

Last year's Legend beat the hell out of me, so this year I told myself I would come back and kick its keester.  The race itself had other plans.  The humidity that day was out of hand, and instead of giving us a nice steady mist and rain like last year, we got heavy doses of sun beamed directly at us every time we popped out of the wooded areas.  It was tough, and if you won't take my word for it, here is a second opinion.

Before Shot
This year, I got to expose J to this race, and he kept my excitement level up going into this race, quite a bit.  They separated everyone by pace really well out of the gate to where there was not a lot of passing at the beginning.  I went about two groups behind J, knowing I was going to start conservative and hopefully catch up in the later rounds.  I just like passing people, so I stay back to be a "ringer" in the slower group.  It gives me the illusion that I'm actually good at running.

I kept in step with everyone just in front of me, not bothering to even pass when I thought they were going too slow.  Plenty of time for that.  I could just relax for now.  A very small amount of people charged just ahead of me, and I latched onto their stragglers when things opened up. 

When we got to the first really steep hill, I heard a collective gasp somewhere in the woods, and thought "Yes, you don't know it now, but there will be more of these."  I didn't say it aloud, because, you know...spoilers. 

I triple-fisted (at least) every water station, because there were only maybe 4 on the course.  I, knowing better, made an unwise decision to keep the hydration pack in the car.  "I just want it to feel even to last year when I didn't have it," said the foolish ninny.  Dumb decision, and it won't happen again.  I must have looked rough because a few stations asked if I was okay.  "Yes, I'm fine, I'm just a human waterfall, and I'm running out of water reserves to run the falls."  One of them even dumped a cold water on me without really asking, but that's fine, I wasn't actually dry anywhere.

At mile 7 I thought maybe I should try to bump up a gear, but talked myself out of it, because halfway in this race seems to be mile 10, not 6.55.  So I held off, and I came in almost a minute slower than last year with a 2:30:55, which I thought would be impossible.  Just like last year, it did not feel like I was moving that slow. 

After shot
I was really disappointed with my effort in general, and I didn't leave it all out there like last year.  I was ready for it.  Last year, afterwards, I said, as long as I was up to 17+ miles on the road, I'd be much better prepared.  Well, I was, and I didn't execute.  It's not that I wasn't tired after the run (more dehydrated than anything), but I probably could have left more out there.  J put up a Half-Mary PR on a freakin' trail, and probably could have went to go get food between his finish and mine.  Don't get me wrong, he's been really solid running all summer, but we're doing most of the same miles.  We should not be that far apart.  I'm either being a cupcake, or he's just hit a big improvement stride (maybe a bit of both).  I'm getting my ass handed to me by him on a fairly regular basis.

I still have to recap 2 more races since, and maybe partially cover why I've been absent.  It's a mix of frustration with running with a nagging "injury," and a loss in our extended family of one of my younger cousins to a car crash that kind of shook me out of thinking anything I write is necessary or has any importance.  Probably also a little guilt on my part that we weren't closer, as well, which I'm going to make a point to try to remedy with my other cousins now.  I had a small assist with that from above, but more on that later.

Our families were a lot closer years ago, and the fact that my best memories of him were severely dated made me realize how much time and potential memories we've all missed.  The fact I knew so little of the wonderful man he was growing up to be bothers me, and now it's really too late.  I've never seen so many people come out to pay their respects.  I'm not sure, even if I remained on my best behavior and suddenly drank some super extrovert potion, I would ever reach that many people in a full lifetime, let alone only 23 years.  Needless to say my thoughts have been with him and his family a lot in the past month.

I don't know.  I'm only back because I realized that he reached a good number of those people through golf, and maybe somehow I can reach a few through running.  Maybe I'll open this thing up a little more.  I know I don't often get too mushy or go into how I feel about even the running itself.  My uncle put out a challenge to all of us to try to be better and reach out to more people with our gifts as he did.  I'll try to do just that.
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