Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ho Ho Ho, I'm Freezing My Dickens Off

First off, belated Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Saturnalia (anyone?), Festivus, Snoggletog (wait...this is from an animated movie), and anything or nothing everyone else celebrated.  I know I could say "Happy Holidays," but that's kind of a cop-out.  I don't believe it is a phrase of true inclusion.  I'd like to think if someone told me Happy Hanukkah, I'd be like "Heck yeah, buddy, light 'em if you got 'em."  By "'em," I mean Menorahs.

Myself, I'm a Christmaser, but if anyone's throwing a party celebrating any holiday (any time of the year), send me an e-vite.

Anyway, back two weekends ago, I did my annual Santa Run.  Unfortunately no Mike this year, but Jason and I did it up well.  They changed the route a bit to include more of downtown and I loved that.  Being that my Spartans were playing Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, I refused to not cover up a bit of that red with some Michigan State green (which, for the record, changes shades all the time).

Here are some photos of that:

Though it didn't double again, the run grew by about another 300 people

Pre-Race Shot

Lining up at the start

Off we go

One of the final looks at Genesee Towers (Flint's tallest building at this time) from Saginaw

Genesee Towers again in the distance

Almost done, and joining back up with the 1 milers

Action Shot


Sleigh Shot

Run, run, as fast as you can, you can catch me, I'm immobile and made of wood!

I also made a gameday decision to do Run Like the Dickens.  I decided at 4am the morning of, got a few winks, woke back up at 7am, and drove through a mini-snowstorm to get to the race only about 15 minutes before the start.  Plenty of time.

I was a total moron and forgot my snow cleats and wore the Nikes I already hate, but now have completely flat bottom soles.  So I was doing my best impression of Super Mario Bros. 2, World 4, running but not moving all that much.

That dude is excited

5K taking off

Dickens Run is very very dog friendly

10K lining up

Bee People!

I found a Corgi.  His name is Scooter.  I stopped to pet him.

Just enough snow to slip on, not enough to grip on

Downtown Holly

Decked out Christmas House

Welcome to Freezy Beards

All Done
As I came down the finish corral, I heard a voice behind me say, "I'm coming to get you, Tardis!!!"  I did not let him get me.  I was happy about that, and about someone knowing I had a Doctor Who hat on (though I wasn't very pleased with Matt Smith's final episode as the Doctor on Christmas Day).

I spent an hour in a cafe in Holly drinking Chai Latte and warming up with a bowl of Chili.  I was frozen in place you don't even want to know about after that race.  After that I hopped over to see the Detroit Model Railroad Club in Holly.

I got the insider's tour, as I have a former co-worker friend who's a member
After that, the holidays got a little weird.  The ice storm knocked out a lot of people's power.  Ours went out Saturday at 4am.  With no power, I went downtown to watch the Genesee Towers implosion Saturday morning.  It was actually quite a party down there, and I ran into my friend (and neighbor) Ken.

Ken and I with GT in behind.

Here's a link to my implosion video, if you're not offended by some loud girl that says "sh*t" too much and says it once in conjunction with "balls"

Now you see it.... you don't.

 We spent the night at my MIL's place, after stopping at my BIL's (power also out) Sunday night, and her power went out.  It added a little frustration when the Lions did their thing and eliminated themselves from playoff contention, but not much, because I expected as much.

Lions Santa, wearing the classic bag-over-head throwback uniform

We tried to run my FIL's generator at our house Monday morning, and we could get everything to fire up, except the furnace.  So, being out of ideas, I just went outside and started taking photos of the beautiful scenery covered in ice.  I wasn't going to let a 45 degree house temperature keep me from realizing there's still beauty in the world to be seen.

After that I took our corgi for a walk

...and when I got back from that.  I heard the sound of a running refrigerator.  Then, I felt warm air coming up through the vents.  We were back!  I couldn't contain my excitement and ran all over the house flipping switches and turning on anything that might throw out heat.  I was going to get all the degrees I could, in case this was a temporary restoration.  However, we stayed on, and with my whole family also being out, and us supposed to host Christmas, this was a much-welcomed break.

Merry Christmas
With everything going on, this was probably the least prepared and most financially modest Christmas we've ever had, but it was also the most thankful I've ever been.  I was just happy to see my family and happy to be warm.  I was also happy that, with heat, we were able to fulfill our duties of dog-sitting our friends' Corgi, who we just had to give back today.  I didn't want to.  She was a sweetie, and she really took to me.  Nobody else give me your dog to watch.  I'm warning you, next time I just may keep it.

So, yeah, a fairly hectic, nomadic Christmas, but we had it a lot better than many people.  We had places to go to keep warm, and were not out as long as many others.  Some people are still out, and many just got back on yesterday.  Our initial estimate was to be out until today, so I'm thankful that we were back 5 days earlier.

I've seen estimates of total outages, state-wide at over 600,000.  That's a lot of people and businesses.  There were crews brought in from all states to help us, and I appreciate everything they've done and continue to do to bring people back.  Hopefully, today, as the ice on the trees melts, another branch won't fall loose from its icy hold and knock us out again.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

So, I'm going to start this by saying I sprained the hell out of my ankle.  Was it running?  Well, that depends if running away from your dog in the house, slipping on a rug, and going down in a heap counts as "hurt while running."

Anyway, I still hurt, but screw it, I'm running on it.  You know how I work by now.  Tuesday was my first day back.  It was dicey, but at least it was dry.  However, that was just a test run to see if I wanted to run the Mott Park Turkey Trot in Flint.

News is here :)
There was no way after last year I'd do Detroit.  I just didn't want the hassle.  I also didn't want the hassle of going to the bank, so I partially paid my $10 entry fee in change.

When I got there (only about 10 minutes before the 9am start), I was in shock.  There were a lot of people there.  Last time I did this race, there were maybe 100 or so.  This year there was over 450, and they completely ran out of shirts, except for 2X, which I gladly accepted, because I'm too lazy to pick up an XL from Bauman's next week.  Oh wait, I have to pick up my Santa suit for Santa Run anyway...dammit!

I saw one of my old classmate's parents.  They're always running together still, and they're in their 60s.  I think that's awesome.  They're still pretty fast too, and tend to win their age groups, which is more than I can say.  

Running Path

My wife and my first apartment together was in that brick one back there.

We were a little delayed by the kids' races (1 and 2 mile) and, of course, all the extra people that showed up, but we still got rolling only a half hour late.  Being worried about the ankle on frozen ground (off-roading on an old golf course) I ran my first mile very cautiously and came in over 10 minutes.  However, I made up a little ground on 2 to come in at 19:30 and finished at 28:30.  

After Photo
Since I was actually thinking I'd be lucky to even do the Santa Run when I hurt myself, I'm putting this one in the win column.  Also in the win column, getting a t-shirt and a medal for $10, not having to drive to Detroit, and being able to cross a finish line unimpeded.

Shirt and Medal
Honestly, if this race is this solid every year, I'm going to just keep doing it, because, in the words of Stefon....

"...this race has everything:" dogs in sweaters, a crazy wolverine fan man with a block M painted on his sweatshirt, people in turkey hats, people in bad Christmas sweaters, cheering 4-year-olds, registration in an abandoned golf clubhouse, free pie for winners, & an old man that's barking instruction loud enough for everyone without a megaphone

Afterwards, I had to rush home and start letting people into the house, because Thanksgiving (also my 34th birthday) was at our house this year.  Thanksgiving was as good as it could be, and we made our first turkey ever.  I hope yours was wonderful.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Tailgate Challenge

After the Detroit Marathon, I took some a little vacation.  The vacation was mostly from my diet.  I cut myself loose for about two weeks, and today's my first day starting to wrangle things back into control.  Surprisingly, I didn't take any time off from running.  That I was back at Tuesday, just two days after the 26.2.

Now when I say I cut myself loose, I don't mean any cute "oopsie, I had a carb" business.  I've pretty much been subsisting on corn dogs, buttermilk waffles, pizza rolls, every high calorie coffee-adjacent concoction from Tim Hortons, and any form of cherry cola I can get my hands on.  Anyway, I needed the break, and I deserve it.  However, I don't expect to continue this the entire winter like last year.

Saturday, I ran my first race since Detroit.  The Tailgate Challenge is not the biggest, best, or most organized race ever, but it's fun running around with the other racers decked out in their Michigan or Michigan State gear.  As a Spartan (Michigan State), with this race literally running through one of the University of Michigan's satellite campuses (which, in addition to MSU, is also my Alma Mater), you can expect to be completely outnumbered by Michigan Wolverines.

Like last year, they've abandoned the fanbases running against each other, clock-wise and counter clock-wise.  I wish they'd bring it back, but when you do see the rival colors ahead of you, it does make you want to catch and pass them more.  However, there wasn't a lot of that going on for me.

Not to sound like a total wuss, but 5Ks are harder than I remember.  Sure, I've ran that distance, lately, but not actually going for speed, and certainly not in the race environment, where you push just a bit more.  As far as that goes, my last 5K was in July.  I think I was about a 1/2 mile in when I started to get tired.

In the two loops of the 5K, by the end of loop one I was starting to feel pretty tired, and could feel the lactic acid starting to build up.  It felt like I was running in slow motion, and if I had to guess my time during the race, I would have guessed somewhere in the 30-32 minute range.  I couldn't close the gap and catch J, and I was shocked when the time was still well within the 20s when I finished.

I put up a conveniently rounded 27:30.  That felt good.

After, we tried to find an open bar, not realizing it was only like 10am.  Then we tried to find an open coffee shop, trying Brown Sugar and then Good Beans.  That didn't go well either.  J gave up and we decided to meet back at my house for a few beers and to watch some Premier League.  I worked my way over to Flint Crepe Company for a Butter Pecan Latte (again with the coffee calorie count), and met him back home for some Founder's Harvest Ale and some Bavarian Inn Dark (for the record, both are fantastic).

Oh, and, most importantly, Michigan State crushed Michigan so hard their team looked ready to break down and cry.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Oops I Did It Again (Detroit Marathon #2: Party Hard Edition)

The whole plan this year for this thing was to run less, work on some other training, and not be pushing 280lbs when I ran my next marathon.  I had success in all of those, but even still, I did not set myself up for success in Detroit at all.  Some of it was my own doing, and some was just incidental.  Between being sick, hurting, and not making time for running, I put in an extremely low 36 miles in the entire month of September.  The only real attempt to make that up in October was going out to run a 20 miler, which turned into 18.5 because I ran out of daylight (4 miles of that was in the dark).

I'll admit it, my running world and my identity still hinges on The Crim.  Success there, means I kind of blow off anything else, and it shows.  Friday night, two days before the big race, I'm at my friend Ken's pounding beers and eating cheesebread and waffle fries, and playing some form of UNO with a weird talking robot that we taught to call each of us by derogitory names.

Swearing Robot

Sure, I have been pretty much carb free during the week, so weekends are my time to cut loose, but it probably wasn't the best idea this weekend.  Saturday morning, because I'm getting old and don't recover from these things as well, I was pretty much wrecked.  Eventually, after watching Michigan State squeak by Purdue and an incident of reverse peristalsis, I was at the point where I was about to just throw up (no pun intended) the white flag.  I had about 3 more hours to get all my stuff together and get down to Detroit to the Marathon Expo and I wasn't feeling like it.  I knew my training sucked.  I probably wasn't going to make it through anyway, so why bother?  Right?

I got a text from my friend, who I was supposed to be staying with down in Midtown, about what the plan was, and I didn't reply.  I didn't know.  Eventually, I started throwing things in a bag.  At this point I'm thinking, "Just get to the expo, and decide there."  I had until 7pm to pick up my packet.  I got there at 6:15.

Large Route Map at the Expo

Even then, I'm wondering if I stay down there, or just go home and sleep in my own bed that night.  Either way, I still didn't know if I was up for the marathon.  Honestly, I didn't know if I could finish it had I come into the thing feeling top notch.  For all I know all this Friday self-sabotage was just a subconscious way of me trying to make excuses to avoid a pure failure.  If I don't start, I don't have to deal with not finishing.

After navigating the expo and picking up my stuff I sat down in the lobby of Cobo just thinking for about 30 minutes.  I was a negative mess surrounded by a sea of positive, confident, smiling and laughing runners so happy to have their packets, while my packet seemed like a burden.  In a lot of ways, that just made me feel like an asshole worse.  There are people that struggle so hard, through so much to get here and consider every minute they're healthy enough to run a blessing.  Here I am pissing away my potential, and, yeah, it pisses me off that I do this.  I'm sure some of you that actually still read this get pissed off at me too.  Those of you that haven't got to the marathon yet, and are working so much harder than me to get there probably hate me because it seems to come so easy, and those of you that are amazing runners and have put in so much to get at the next level probably are tired of me not pushing to get that much better, because you know it's in me.  I'd actually like to hear from some of you about this.  Go ahead and call me out.  I know I can do better.  I know I can be better.  For some reason, I keep choosing not to.

I got up from my seat at Cobo, and walked back to my car so my meter wouldn't expire, and I headed toward my friend's apartment.  Either way, I figured I'd hang out with him.  He wasn't home, so I waited for him to get back, only to find out he'd picked me up extra blankets and pillows from his parents' place so I would have a comfortable sleep before the marathon.  It was official, the man upstairs was telling me I was being an a-hole.

My friend's car's dome lights weren't going off after he unloaded his car, and I managed to figure out what was wrong with that.  Then I took him out and paid for food and drinks (I only had a water and a Sprite) to thank him for letting me stay over.  I felt I had to try to redeem myself as much as possible.  I ran into a co-worker who was running the Half-Marathon (I didn't know he ran) in the morning at the bar and we wished each other good luck.  While watching the Tigers/Red Sox game, there was some loud-mouth woman in the bar, sitting with him, complaining about every bad call and cheering every small good thing for the Tigers.  Then, if I hadn't had enough of her already, she started complaining about people who wanted Boston to win, and how they only wanted them to win because their marathon got bombed.  She then proceeded to say, "Maybe someone will bomb ours tomorrow and everyone will love us instead."  I almost boiled over, and I would have taken her to task for that incredibly stupid comment had my co-worker not been right there, and obviously known her.  He called her out on it a bit, but in a much calmer, and diplomatic way than I would have.  I just decided it was time we left, got my check, and we finished watching the game at the apartment (which didn't go our way).  It was after midnight, and I had to be up in 5 hours.  Obviously I was staying down there and trying to run in the morning.

My wife called me and said she wasn't going to make it down.  She was going to ride with her dad, but he cancelled on her late Saturday, and she didn't want to try to navigate Detroit on her own with a Marathon and the Lions both going on during a Sunday.  Also, Jason was riding with her and her dad, so I just lost 3 spectators, because I told her she didn't have to drive down if she didn't want to.  My support system and some of my drive to finish was wiped out.  On that note, I just went to bed.

I woke up and went through the motions getting ready for the run.  There was no fear anymore and there was no excitement.  Good or bad, I was going to do whatever I did for me.  I made the last minute decision to make my old sweatshirt the throwaway instead of the jacket I bought at Goodwill.  I just couldn't part with the Red, White, and Blue Kurt Angle-esque beauty of the jacket.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to use my American Outlaws patch to make it a US Soccer jacket.  The soccer peeps will love that.

It's wonderful!

I drove into town, parked, and walked toward the corral over an hour early to try to psych myself up.  I ran into Dominique and her husband at the portas.  She was running the relay.  It was nice to see a familiar face the way I was feeling about things.  It made me feel less alone, since I was running by myself this year.

Marathon Billboard
I stepped into the corral and froze for about an hour, even with my hoodie and tear-away pants.  I don't know how I stood out there with only shorts and a t-shirt last year (oh yeah, it was warmer).

Tons of People

The waves started and I ripped off the tear-aways, threw them on the ground, Andy Samberg-style, and they let my wave go.  There were a lot of hilarious signs right off the bat.  Signs saying we'd trained for this longer than Kim K's marriage and one saying "If a marathon was easy it would be called your mother."  There were a few more complicated ones that I really tried to remember, but your brain kind of melts in a marathon.

About 2 miles in I felt warm enough to toss the sweatshirt, and it was almost bridge time.  The bridge magically put me in a positive mood.  Then the people of Windsor out there cheering us on kept me there.  Spectators are an amazing thing.  A lot of us would never make it without them.

Ambassador Bridge
Where's Waldo?

My positivity continued until I hit the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel.  That hot, stagnant air in there from mile 7 to mile 8 is a killer.  You're barely over a 1/4 of the way through and it just makes even getting to the halfway point  of 13.1 seem daunting.  You just want to turn off with the lucky half-marathoners and call it a day a few miles later, all because of the tunnel.  Just getting out of it quickly to get fresh air again seems to be a lot of people's goal.  It really is one of the big things that make Detroit a tough race.

I took the marathon turn anyway.  It was kind of what I was there for, and they weren't giving me a half-marathon time if I cut it off.

It was time for the lonely miles to Indian Village.  This year there seemed to be a few more police and spectators, so it kind of helped get you through it.  Once I hit Indian Village, I think I was handed like 5-6 beers between miles 15-19, and I had to take them because I was wearing my Andrew WK "Party Hard" shirt.  One station even talked me into double-fisting, and I'm pretty sure those two beers were Bell's Two-Hearted Ale (a 7% ABV American IPA).

I was also starting to debate hitting a porta john at this point, but I held off and headed toward Belle Isle.

MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle

I'm on Belle Isle

After I hit the island, I knew I had to stop and hit the bathrooms.  There was no avoiding it.  I was not making it to the end without the pit stop.  That took about 2 minutes, and, even though I was already starting to slow a bit, the stop did the same to me as what it did at The Brooksie Way.  My legs tightened, my pace died a bit, and I never really recovered.

Then I had to stop again to retie a loose lace that somehow came unwound, despite having them double-tied.  Even though I was slowing up, I still didn't feel as bad as last year by this point.  I didn't have my arms and abs killing me, because I did actually work on them this year in response to how bad they both felt during last year's marathon.  Also, I'm guessing carrying 20 less pounds didn't hurt.

Was I beat up?  Sure, but by this point there was really no doubt I would make it.  I was actually wishing I pushed a bit more earlier, but I didn't trust doing so.  Even so, I figured I could do about 12 minute miles and still stay under the 5 hour mark from that point, and maybe get close to or beat last year's time.  So I just kept running as much as I felt I could.

I got to mile 25.  Part of me was hoping to magically see my wife and friends there, and I thought I had passed the spot they stood the year before.  It made me sad to think I was running to the finish and there may be nobody there for me.  There was a part of me that still thought that she and Jason would make it down somehow, but at this point I was just hoping, at the very least, Nick got out of bed to come see me finish up.

Then about halfway through mile 25, I saw her, Jason, Ken, and Nick.  My friend Ken drove Jessi and Jason down, and Nick did make it from his apartment to downtown.  I ran over to them as fast as my legs would still carry me, kissed my wife and said hello to the rest of them.

My glorious shirt


After seeing them I was charged back up.  My friend Nick handed me a Labatt's that he brought from his fridge for me (we'd discussed how awesome it would be to do this, given my shirt, the night before), and I took it with me the rest of the way.
The Hand-Off
Beer To Go

There's something special about the reaction you get from a crowd running the last leg of a marathon with a "Party Hard" shirt and a beer in your hand.  The laughter, the cheers, the looks, and the comments were amazing.  Me, I was just happy none of the police on the course, including the two I ran split between decided to do something about my obvious open container in public.  One of the race officials yelled at me, "It's not even noon yet!" and I responded, "It's noon somewhere."  

Passing down the finish shute, I held it up in the air by the crowd on the left hand side and yelled out the iconic "Winning!!!" phrase.  The crowd was loving it.  This big fat dude in a party shirt, finishing his marathon with a beer.  Tell me how I can top that. 

I crossed with my beer, attempting, and missing a high-five with one of the volunteers at the finish line, and was handed my Detroit Marathon Finisher 2013 Medal.  I took a hard right, took a finish selfie, and chugged the remainder of my beer.  I grabbed a water, and skipped the rest of the food spread.  I didn't want food, I just wanted to find my wife and friends, and I did almost immediately after leaving the finisher area.

Happy to be done.  I made it.

I felt much better at the end this year.  There was no ill feeling.  I didn't feel like I was going to throw up.  I didn't have to sit down on the curb.  I just walked it off, met my friends, and we went to Niki's for pizza (my favorite pizza can have NY and Chicago).  It was so nice having them all there for me.  I just couldn't thank them enough.  I was done, though, and I didn't feel like doing anything else down there, so my wife and I went home after eating while the rest of them hung out and watched the Lions lose down there.

No name or photos in the paper this time, but that's fine by me.  I'm just happy I made it, and on top of that, I got a 3+ minute PR out of the deal, finishing at a 4:50:18.  Honestly, had I trusted myself a little more, not had to make so many stops, not grabbed vanilla bean for GU (which always makes me feel sick), and not had beer, I think I could have pulled a 4:35-4:45 out of this one.  Still though, I will take it.  I'm just happy to know I can still finish a marathon, and do so with style points.
2013 Camaro Medal

Shirt Front

Shirt Back (with logo & route)

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