Monday, December 27, 2010

And Just Like That, My Running Days Were Over.

Forrest Gump. And not forever. Just for now. I'm in week three of no running. Not that I am counting, but this is day 18. (If you don't count my ten foot run down the hall of my house) I think by this point, I've made peace with it. Yet, when I see someone running down the street, I have to look in the other direction so I don't get too depressed. The other day, I got frustrated with Lauren when we were in New York because she didn't want to run. I thought about how if I had the choice, I'd seize the opportunity to gear up and go feel the cold air on my lungs. Her reasoning, by the way, was completely sound. The roads and sidewalks were pretty icy and running would have been risky to say the least.

I am using this down time as a chance to try some other things. That's proven to be a bit difficult because I have to limit the useage of my ankle, but I am getting creative. I started pedaling on the old man bike at the Y...boot and all. You know what bike I am talking about. It basically has a recliner on it. For the first time in my life, I brought a magazine with me and actually read it as I pedaled away. If you can read while you exercise, your workout probably isn't that strenuous. I've never knocked off a chapter of the latest novel I am reading while doing mile repeats on the track. After a couple of days of that bike, I had pretty much had it. I decided to test my legs on bike on which the seat was backless. I found it feel much more like riding a real bike. Still, I can't crank up the resistance and stand up, but at least I can break a sweat.

My swimming style is infamous. Many who have seen it have laughed, possibly felt concern. Despite all that, I have been pretty consistent with my trips to the pool. The first two attempts, one with Jackie, another solo, I swam for one hour. I just jumped in and swam. The challenge, besides the fact that I have no idea what I am doing, is that I can't kick. Any sort of flexing of the ankle adds stress to a bone that is trying to heal. So, I put a bouy in between my legs and just rely on my arms. Every time I swim, I can't help but fixate on the energy I am wasting. I knew I was doing something wrong, but I needed someone to tell me what it was. Bring in Billy Shue. Billy spent an hour with me in the pool at the MAC on Wednesday, teaching me drills and giving me one simple tip for improving efficiency.

Sunday, a breakthrough. Lauren and I met Mr. Contario and Jesse at the Newark High School weight room to use the equipment. After two days of the stationary bike at the village gym, I was ready to change it up. I got on the cross-trainer (which is like an elliptical/stair climber), telling myself that if I felt even the slightest pain, i'd hop off. An hour later, and the best sweat I had experienced since running, I was pain free.

I have a follow up with Caitlin's doctor on January 6th. I am hoping he will give me the green light to try some light running by the end of the month. He's a member of the running club and a triathlete, so I can only assume he knows the mental toll an injury like this takes on someone as insane as myself. Of course, I know he's no miracle worker. If it's still broken, it's still broken.

In writing, December looks like a bad month. I got a stomach bug that knocked me out for two days. I broke my ankle. Right now, I am battling a cold that has robbed me of sleep, a clear airway and a speaking voice. But in the grand scheme of a life that doesn't always revolve around running, December has been a great month. Lauren and I got engaged on December 21st. She is much better at telling the story than I am, but suffice it to say, we are both really happy to be officially spending the rest of our lives together. We both got to spend Christmas with my family in Newark. Lauren and my family are constant supporters who love me hobbled or not. And I love them. It's those things, those events, those people that remind an injured athlete that not all is lost. It's how you get through breaking your ankle without breaking your spirit.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Das Boot

If you missed it on Facebook, I am hurt. Not like, sore hamstring or tight calves, but rather, fractured ankle. So, really hurt. I went to OrthoCarolina this morning, hoping the doctor would laugh at me, ask me why I was wasting her time with a silly little sprain, and tell me to go "run on home." Instead she pointed out a hairlike line on my fibula three times and fitted me for a cumbersome, uncomfortable and quite frankly ugly, air boot. Oh yeah, and she told me I wouldn't run for another 12 weeks. I think she could tell how dejected I was.

Obviously, when you walk into a room with a boot on your foot that resembles something an astronaut might wear, people ask you what happened. I can tell them that I have a stress fracture in my fibula and that is about it. I have no idea what happened. In the two months leading up to December, I was running 90-100 miles a week. Since running the Richmond Marathon on November 13, I have run a maximum of 65 and it was a gradual build up. So, how I developed the fracture is a mystery.

Oddly enough, the doctor asked me about my supenation. I have always been diagnosed as a pronator, so this came as a surprise to me. One of the first things I will do when I can run again is get my gait reanalyzed and look into changing up shoes. But that is not going to be happening anytime soon.

What can I do? Not a whole lot. I have been told not to do anything that puts weight or stress on the ankle. That eliminates cycling and the elliptical, where are my two top choices for cross-training. It does leave me the option of the pool, or as I like to call it, Aquahell. I'm not a good swimmer. Lifeguards try to save me because I look like I am drowning. Besides swimming, I can aquajog. Is there anything more boring? I will attempt to recruit some friends to spend at least some of the time treading water beside me. I can also do strength and conditioning. Of course, I don't have a lot of room to grow in the muscle department, but I can do my best to add to my already bulky physique.

I think 12 weeks is excessive. I have to use the boot for five more weeks, and then I go back for a check-up. I have never heard 12 weeks to recover for a stress fracture. I hope to be logging miles...albiet just a the first two weeks of February. Until then, if you want to find me, I'll be in aquahell.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Injured Runner finds Time to Write, Rant

It started with a tiny pain on Wednesday night. I was doing my second run of the day; a four mile loop along the light rail line. I got home and my left ankle hurt just a little bit. No biggie. As I ran with the Dowd crew Thursday morning, it got just a little bit worse with every step. Four miles in, and I knew nothing good could come out of continuing to run. So, I turned around and made the long walk/jog back to the YMCA. 36 hours later, I set out for my pre-race run and didn't even make it to the end of the street. I have no idea what is wrong with me. My left ankle throbs with every step. It even hurts as I sit here. But, it's not swollen. I am going to make a doctor's appointment first thing Monday morning.

The bad news is, I had to drop out of the USA Track and Field Club Cross Country Championships which were at McAlpine on Saturday. Also, it appears there is a lot of spin classes in my future. There is nothing more mind-numbing. Although, going to spin class at 1:15 is better than sitting here watching Atlanta roll over the Panthers today.

The good news is, it's December. I was taking this month easy anyways. Aaron got to run as me at the club XC race and got himself a new PR.

Tyler let me borrow his cycle cross bike Saturday morning, so I could ride around the Thunder Road Marathon course. Congrats to everyone who ran. I don't want to list any names because I'm bound to forget one, but I do want to mention Lauren's PR performance in the half-marathon. I am really proud of her.

And that is what I want to rant about. Not Lauren. Thunder Road. Even though, I have only run the half-once, I think this has the potential to be a great event. The expo is well-done, the course is challenging and scenic at times, there are friendly volunteers and a unique theme that mixes foot racing with car racing. But it seems like the city sees it as a big burden. There is no better proof than the city's forced moving of the event from December to November. The December date was one of the things that made this race attractive to runners. It only competed with one other regional marathon and no major marathons, and was a great opportunity for people who wanted to close out their year with another 26.2. Now, it will be up against marathons like New York, Richmond and Outer Banks. The reason: Charlotte's shoppers complained about the traffic. I know people complain about traffic in every city, every time there is a race, but it is absurd to me that this city caved. We are talking about an event that pours money into the economy and brings thousands of people into an uptown area that is constantly begging people to visit. Is that not worth four hours of detours one Saturday morning in December? The race doesn't even go by any major malls.

Other cities embrace their marathons. There are always a handful of grumblers, but for the most part, it's a chance to show some city pride and welcome visitors. Obviously Boston and D.C. make a big deal out of their marathons because they are on the top of a lot of people's lists. But so do similar sized cities with similar sized races like Richmond. On race day morning, the Richmond Newspaper had a story about the marathon on the front page. The night before, the local TV stations did extensive live coverage. The day after, one station did a half-hour recap show. What kind of media coverage did Thunder Road get? It wasn't even mentioned on the front page of our paper (although Theoden's blogs were prominently posted on the website), and besides a brief interview with the race director and defending champion (on the show I produce), it only recieved brief mentions on the local news. That's really the only difference to be me between Richmond and Charlotte. The expos are about the same. The volunteers are just as friendly. There is a little more crowd support, but not much separates these two events. Unfortunately, the one major disparity is a very noticeable one.

It doesn't make sense because Charlotte is a very active community. We have a thriving running and triathalon scene. Yet, we can't support what many consider to be the holy grail of long distance running. The rest of the country is embracing marathon running. It's participation has soared 10% in just one year. Charlotte has a chance to get on board that train before it leaves the station, and we have a well-organized, top caliber event that will gladly lead the way. But until the city sees it as a boost instead of a bother, it can't possibly reach its potential.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Run Around over my Run Around Richmond

My recap of the Richmond Marathon concluded with a mystery. Will he be placed in the official results, or will his time only exist in his head forever? The answer is the former. However, it didn't come easy.

The pre-race dinner should have been a precursor. When the attendant at the front desk of the Day's Inn told us the hotel restaurant was having a pasta dinner, we thought, "What could be easier?" So, instead of venturing out into the town, we simply made our way downstairs. I expected there to be a buffett with spaghetti, meatballs, sauce, bread, salad, etc. But, when we walked in there was no buffett. We sat right down since the place was half-empty and when our waitress came over, we immediately ordered. We both wanted the spaghetti special. Easy enough, right? Wrong. Now, I am no chef, but I have cooked spaghetti. The longest its ever taken me to make spaghetti is eight minutes. That's including the amount of time it takes to get the water to boil. When 20 minutes passed, both Aaron and I started to get a little annoyed. We ordered bread to fight off the hunger. It came...15 minutes later. 40 minutes and still no spaghetti. The waitress kept coming by and saying things like, "it's almost here," and "I've never seen it this busy." There were maybe 15 people in the restaurant. Not to mention it was no secret there was a marathon in town the next day that started four blocks from the hotel. Perhaps some planning might have been beneficial. At the 50 minute mark, the pasta arrived. Instead of being plentiful, it was puny. I think both of us finished the entire plate with the side of mystery meat balls in 1/10th of the time it took us to get our food. Still, hungry and overcharged considering the service and the portion size, we left in search of more food. We found ourselves at a minimart down the street. To say it was shady would be a compliment. Bars were on the doors and windows, and the odor of gasoline inside was so strong I thought the whole place might blow up were my cell phone to ring. (Note: it was not a gas station.) Fortunately, we had already bought peanut butter at a real grocery store. But, we needed jelly and bread to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We found some high fructose corn syrup concoction and some suspect looking bread and walked back to the hotel. Paul could only laugh when he came back from his nice dinner with his family to see us stuffing our faces with PB & J.

That's my anecdote.

My calls and emails to the Richmond Marathon organizers began roughly 17 seconds after I learned I had been dropped from the results. Since it was a Saturday night, I got no answer. Sunday was much of the same. On Monday, I finally got through to a person. They said they understood my concern and the problem would be fixed in one to two days. Later that day, I recieved the same response in an email. One to two days. Tuesday, I got an email from the timing company. They weren't so optimistic. I was told they would begin looking into the matter, but would need photographic evidence and testimonials from other runners. Sigh. They really suspected I cheated. I again told them that if I were going to cheat, I would cheat to a place higher than 11th. Heck, there was cash five deep. I thought they suspected me not only of cheating, but also of being stupid. Coach Hadley wrote them a strongly worded email, Paul affirmed that we ran the first seven miles together. I sent pictures and the electronically generated email Caitlin got when I finished. By Thursday, I was starting to wonder if this race was never going to officially exist for me, and I had poured months of work into something I had nothing to show for. It was a daunting feeling. Friday, I was on my last nerve. I called both the race director's office and the timing company. I left messages at both places. The timing company had an assistant call me back to say it might be several more days. In the midst of my anger, I saw that the Richmond Marathon Facebook page had reposted Theoden's blog about all the Charlotte runners and labeled it, "Charlotte Runners love the Richmond Marathon." Maybe I shouldn't have commented, but I had to. I wrote that not all Charlotte runners loved the Richmond Marathon, this one in particular. I put it right there on their public page that I was disappointed with the way this was all handled. They wrote back within minutes, clearly irritated with my squeaky-wheel attitude. That must have been the right move because it was that afternoon I got confirmation that my time of 2:40:28 was official and would be placed in the results. It's still not online, but it is supposed to be there Monday or Tuesday.

Now, I can head back up to Richmond on April 2nd for the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reflecting on Richmond

It's been so long since I have updated. After work and training, I couldn't justify "writing in my blog" as an acceptable way to use what was left of my time. But now that the most recent major mountain has been cleared and I'm in a valley (at least running-wise), I think I can spare a few minutes.

I started training for Richmond in June with a new coach, a new training philosophy and a new concentration on mileage. So, it was sort of surreal to be standing at the starting line Saturday morning. I lined up next to Paul and Aaron, all of us decked out in CRC gear. Before the gun went off, I decided that although it was only 38 degrees, I'd ditch the arm sleeves and the hat and just go with gloves to keep me warm. This proved to be a good move. My goal for the race was sub 2:40. I knew I was in shape to do it, but I have always had trouble hanging on. My hope was that my increased mileage would make me stronger at the point of the race where I usually start to falter. About a week earlier, Paul had convinced me to aim for 2:35 with him. I thought it was possible, but everything would have to go perfectly for that to happen.

When we were given the command to start, Paul and I immediately headed out together, settling into a pace that ranged from 5:53-6:00. The first couple of miles were flat, so this seemed effortless. Not to mention, it was of course, the first couple of miles. At mile two and a half, we made the turn onto beautiful Monument Avenue where Lauren, Kristy (her mom) and Pepper were cheering loudly for us. It was great to see them! Matt rode by on his bike shortly after, and I commented to Paul that the police would probably kick him off the course since no bikes were allowed. Not far down, was Lisa, Emily and Sophie Mainwaring with signs for Paul and cheering loudly. We hit the 10K at 37:02. This will be an important point later on.

As we neared mile five, my stomach started to get that familiar "rock feeling" that I had been experiencing the past couple of days. In fact, it had kept me out of work on Friday. I can't quite describe it, but it sort of feels like a bad side stitch. It wasn't debilitating, but it did have a mental impact on me and there were a couple of times I found myself clutching my side. As we rolled over a very pretty bridge into the first "Party Zone" near mile seven, I let Paul open up on me and decided to be a little more conservative since the race was still young. I'll never know what would have happened if I hadn't made that choice.

Miles 7 through the half-marathon mark were fairly uneventful. 7-10 are probably the most picturesque sections of the course. It's a country road the runs along the James River. To the left is the water and to the right are beautiful homes. At this point, I was on my own. Once out of the neighborhood, for the first time in the race, runners hit some pretty serious hills. I wondered how much my pace would suffer here, but was surprised to see I didn't slow down much, keeping every mile near 6:00 pace.

At the half-marathon mark (1:18:39), a guy in a yellow Brooks singlet rolled up next to me. We got to talking and realized our goals were similar. We decided to work together. During the course of our chatting, I learned he was a former Navy guy who currently lived in Syracuse, NY. Since I lived in Syracuse for quite some time, it gave us something to chat about. I was glad to have him as we crossed back into downtown Richmond over the mile-and-a-half long Lee Bridge. Many Richmond veterans call that the worst part of the course, and it just might be. It's a steady incline where you can see an endless portion of the course that reminds you just how much longer you have left. Standing at the end of the bridge was running-legend and inventor of the painful Yasso 800s track workout, Bart Yasso. Despite the fact that we don't know each other, it was still nice for me to see a familiar face.

I dropped my Syracuse friend as I grabbed what turned out to be a bone dry wash cloth at mile 17. I anticipated it being cold and wet, but when I wiped it against my sun-cracked face and lips, it was the opposite. I was also getting sick of my CRC sweat band. It had done its job and was now weighing an enormous amount. I thought I was going to see Lauren and Kristy at 18.5 and thought it might be funny to toss my sweaty apparel at them like a rock star. When mile 18.5 came and went, I tossed the sweat band at mile 19, and I doubt anyone saw it.

Following the last and most punishing climb of the race, Matt was standing at mile 20 and reported to the others that I was beginning to look like I was working. He said something like, "this is where the real race begins." Truth be told, for the first time in my four marathons, I felt like I was working the entire race. Despite being consistent, I at no point felt "dialed in". Granted, the other times I felt dialed in, I was pacing poorly, but at least there was a period of comfort. The first ten miles or so had felt like a Saturday morning tempo run that wasn't going smoothly.

I had truly hoped to be ready to roll the last 10k. The course is very forgiving in the final stretch, if you have anything left to be forgiven. I, however, knew that I was going to be fighting to the finish. My pace had begun to slide off starting at 17, recovered at 20 and started sliding again at 21. Just after the 21 mile mark is the last gel stop. I was counting on it heavily because I had already taken the two Carb Booms I was carrying with me. I ran up to the guy handing out Vanilla Acel Gel and the gel packet slipped right out of my hand. In hindsight, I should have just gone back and grabbed it. I could have used the extra energy and calories to make up the time. Instead, I kept going and a long list of possible scenarios played out in my head. Did I just buy myself a first class ticket to the wall? I was so worried about not getting the necessary calories to complete the final five miles, that I considered taking advantage of a junk food stop at mile 22. They had Coca Cola, pretzels, cookies, etc. But, I decided against it since that would have been a totally foreign experience on an already weakened stomach.

With the miles dwindling down, I find myself in a familiar spot. There's some bargaining with God that happens. I question if I could gather up some strength if I walk for just 25 seconds. I tell myself "at the next mile, there's only three more." The marathon is a big head game. You have to convince yourself that all the easy ways out, all the hypothetical concessions you make when you're in a world of hurt will turn into giant regrets as soon as you give in and concede. You can't go back. So, you keep running.

At mile 25, you always gather a little more strength. The finish is within an arm's reach. I was happy to see a loud cheering crowd again coming onto Cary Street in downtown Richmond. Leonard, Kevin, Laura and Allen who had all run great in the half-marathon were a huge support and Lauren and Kristy were cheering loudly at the finish. The final 800 meters is a steep downhill, and I wasn't sure if it would hurt worse if I continued running, or if I tucked myself into a ball and rolled down the asphalt over the line. I went with the former. I crossed the line at 2:40:28. It's a new PR, 11th overall and second in the 25-29 age group.

I'd say I'm happy and satisfied. The competitor in me wonders how much better I could have done. My mileage was the highest it's ever been. My workouts were great. I was super conscious of my hydration and nutrition. Shouldn't I have broken 2:40? Maybe, but the fact is, I didn't. I don't think I'll ever not be excited by a new PR. But, I also don't think it's possible for me to run a race and not question if I could be faster. I know one thing; I was completely and utterly exhausted both mentally and physically. It was great to see Paul who had an incredible race, finishing in 2:35:11 and Aaron not far behind me in 2:41:32. PRs for everyone. We had all trained together day in and day out. We were up at 5:00am, we were in bed at 9:00pm. We sacrificed, our wives (and in my case girlfriend) sacrificed.

At press time, I am going back and forth with the organizers of the Richmond Marathon. While I was in the preliminary results, I was deleted from the final results. I imagine it's because my chip malfunctioned and didn't register me at 10K or 20K. My only guess is that they think I cheated, but I told them on the phone that if I were going to cheat, I'd cheat myself into cash. Just this afternoon, I was assured all would be fixed in the next one to two days. I won't rest until I see it in writing. The only bummer is that I always buy the paper the day after the race, and my name was left out of the Richmond paper. Maybe I'll write it in later.

I am pretty sure I am going to shelve the 26.2 distance for a little while. Maybe a year. It's not that I don't love it anymore, it's that I am young and want to focus on other distances while I still can. I think I have some soft PRs at 5K, 10K and half marathon and would like to take some time to improve those marks. I'd also like to have more time to spend with loved ones. The marathon can be a selfish endeavour, and that takes its toll on the people you care about most. That's the great thing about the Charlotte Running Club and the Charlotte Running Community as a whole. Everyone supports each others' goals, helps each other reach their potential and is there to pat you on the back when you cross the line. I couldn't be luckier.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Recapping Life....

It's been 19 long days since my last post. Not 19 long days for the reader because I doubt not having my blog to read made anyone's day any longer than usual, but 19 long days for me. Let me retract that before I swallow my toes. It's been 19 days since my last post. 15 of them were long. Four of them were in the Bahamas and they were glorious.

I am able to update now thanks to the U.S. Open. That's right. Tennis is affording me the chance to open up a blank blog page and ramble about what's happened since August 24th. Today was supposed to be the big day. It was the date on all of the promos. It was a date that's mere mentioning made butterflies flutter around my stomach. WBTV was to launch it's 4pm newscast this afternoon, a project that has been the cause of many sleepless nights, lunchless days and tear-filled evenings since it was first handed to me several months ago. But, last night it rained in New York City. So, instead at 4pm today, WBTV will be airing the final match between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. I'll be doing laundry.

It's sort of an "I told you so" moment for me. Before leaving last Friday, I mentioned the possibility of this pre-emption to my bosses, but they laughed at me. Then, after sitting out the annual Charlotte Running Club beer mile last night in fear of catching a hangover, I found my prophesy had come true.

As I said, the Bahamas was (were? - It's only one country, but apparently multiple Bahamas. Not sure which conjugation is best used here) glorious. Thanks for asking! When I go on vacation, I like seeing the sites, taking in the culture, talking to the locals. That's not really an option at a place that's sole purpose is to be a get-away for Americans. That forces you to relax. Lauren and I spent the entire four days lounging on the beach, reading, swimming, running and gasp -- WATCHING TV! We watched the entire broadcast of the Emmys! That's not even a show I'd watch if we were home. I won't bore you with the tale of our one bad restaurant experience (think bad fish, cash only and terrible service) because it's only a tiny blemish on what was the perfect vacation. Perfect weather. Perfect timing. Delicious daiquiris and the best possible company.

I'm knees deep in the specific phase of my training for the Richmond Marathon. Thus far, it's gone quite well. The first two workouts, a cut down run on the track and a 10 mile tempo, were spot on. The tempo is especially notable, because I don't think I am exaggerating when I say it was the best workout I've had since I started training hard again. Paul and I ran 10.5 miles with a pretty solid group around Huntersville before starting the tempo portion of the run. Then, we switched out shoes, took some fuel and took off. Initially, I thought it might be a struggle to keep the pace below 6:00. We hit the first mile at 5:40 and I thought that might be the beginning of my death sentence. But as we clicked off mile after mile, I realized I might make it through this thing, and it might be a darn good run. We ended up finishing the tempo in 58 minutes flat which is an average of 5:48 per mile. Certainly can't complain about that. Nathan circled back with bananas and Gatorade which were much needed. He's also responsible for the photo of Paul and I on Old Statesville Road.

I was supposed to be on the Blue Ridge Relay team this weekend, but a scheduling issue, which I won't elaborate on here, is forcing me to sit it out. I'm beyond disappointed, but know my team will do great. I'm trying to see the positives. No stinky vans. No sore legs. No bear attacks. Instead, I'll be running the Davidson half as a training run.

Now, it's off for a little run around Charlotte. I have to make for an unhealthy weekend of Greek Food, fried chicken, pizza and ice cream.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Days Off, Dreadmills, Drumlins, Dad & Mom and Dumb Falls

Since last Monday, I have on five occasions made a mental note to update my blog. Each time, I have been unable to find the time to do it and as a result, we end up with a "super entry". Chronologically, I want to recap my struggle to take a day off from running, my rare run on a treadmill, a hilly race, a visit from my parents & Auntie Ann and a bloody post-workout fall. I will attempt to tell them in short story fashion for the sake of brevity.

Chapter 1: Days Off

I struggle with the concept of rest. I am aware my body needs it. Even my mind tells me I’m tired and to take it easy, but the obsessive compulsive in me fights back. I found myself in this situation last Wednesday. I had come off three straight weeks of 80 miles and had a race coming up. I hadn’t taken a day off from running in 30+ days. It was time. These situations always unfold the same way. Leading up to the planned day off, I bragged about it and built it up in my head. “I’m going to sleep in and eat a big breakfast,” I’d say to myself. “I’m going to go straight home and eat a big dinner, maybe watch some TV.” Then, Wednesday arrives. All day, I think about how great it would be to go for a run. Even though my ankle is feeling a little sore from a tweak on a hill workout the previous day, I consider doing just an easy five or six. Ultimately, scheduling saves me. I’ve already missed the morning run, and I don’t enjoy running in the evening heat. I compromise and do one hour of lifting instead.

Chapter 2: Dreadmill

Thursday morning was not a planned day off. I had 12 miles on my calendar, 6.2 of which would be a preview of Saturday’s race course. I woke up at 5:05am, roughly 36 seconds before the deluge. It was already lightning and the thunder was getting closer. Then, it started pouring. I don’t mind running in the rain. Heck, in this weather I love it. But, I do mind running in the lightning. I am constantly looking around to see if I am the tallest object in the immediate area. If I am, I freak out. Before I even had a chance to think about my options, I got a text from Lauren telling me to be careful and channeling my mom. I decided to drive to the Y, hoping that by the time I got there, the storm would have passed. I sat in the car for about 10 minutes before I realized that was not going to happen and if I wanted to get a treadmill, I'd better get inside quick. To make what was coming a little easier, I told myself I'd do 7 miles on the treadmill, then run again in the afternoon. Let me quickly explain why I only run on treadmills about twice a year. I fell off one in college. Not off one, on to one. It threw me off. Thankfully, into a pile of wrestling mats, but while it softened the blow to my body, it did not prevent the scars on my dignity. I got on the only available death machine and remembered my headphones were in the car. This was going to suck. Thank God for closed captioning. As the miles passed, I read the news on WBTV and took in my surroundings. When I got to four miles, I thought "Ok, I can do eight." When I got to eight, I told myself that if I could do 10.5, I could call it a day when it was over. So, that is what I did, thus completing what is unofficially the second longest treadmill run of my life.

Chapter 3: Drumlins

Technically, a drumlin is a smoothly rounded hill. For the purposes of this blog and for the sake of alliteration, it is just a hill. Saturday's 10K course was all drumlins, and what seemed to be very few valleys. I will be out of the country for Greekfest, so I decided to sign up for a rare 10K and see what kind of shape I was in. I explained my training in Chapter 1, so I knew I wasn't going to be fresh, but I didn't think a sub-34 was outside the realm of possibility. Despite ice baths, sticking and more stretching than usual (which is to say, I stretched), I woke up with still heavy legs. From the get-go, the race felt like an effort. Aaron paced me through the first two miles (5:14, 5:30), and Chris was with me through three miles. We went through mile three at 16:17, and after that I was hanging on. Chris and Aaron had dropped back and I struggled to keep my head in it. A runner from UNC Charlotte was a good bit ahead, and Allejandro was a good bit behind. I saw Billy Shue somewhere around mile 4.5 and thought about asking him to jump in to keep me company and keep me from slowing down so much, but for some reason I decided not to. I know he would of, because Billy would give you the shirt off his back. I didn't get the splits on the final 2.2, but they felt like a disaster. I ended up finishing second. My watch said 34:27, the gun time was 34:29. The chip time never registered. It's a one second PR, but I have run four 10Ks in my life. The first one was when I was getting back into shape and was somewhere in the 37s. The rest are 34:50, 34:30, 34:29. I think I am in a 10K rut.

Chapter 4: Dad & Mom

Mom and Dad and Auntie Ann all arrived the Friday night before the race. I love when they come down because I don't see nearly enough of them. My challenge is always finding new things to show them. I know they don't need to be entertained, but I like to entertain. Dad came to the race and met a lot of very important people. We spent Saturday afternoon at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which is pretty cool. It's one of those places I might not have made it to if I didn't have someone to take. We had to drag Auntie Ann out kicking and screaming. She wanted to go back through. Not really. There is a pretty cool NASCAR simulator in there. I crashed five times. After my 18 mile long run and church on Sunday, we payed homage to father dollar by hitting retail hot spots Concord Mills and Ikea. Note on Concord Mills. Their PR people get really upset when you call it a mall. I always thought that was kind of petty, but had never been there. Now, I have. It's a mall. We did lots of good Charlotte eateries. Cabo, Zada Janes, Yoforia and then Zio last night with Mary Brooks. I won't go in to detail, but if you ever meet Mary Brooks, you'll know why spending an evening with her was the highlight of my family's trip.

Chapter 5: Dumb Falls

I chose running as my sport because I am not coordinated. Throw a ball at me, and I will drop it. Give me a jump rope and I'll trip over it. Running is like walking, but faster. It's instinct. How can anyone screw that up? I'm here to tell you how. I hammered my way through a pretty challenging track workout this morning. Through the entire thing, near 5:00 mile pace, I managed to stay upright. However, with a half-mile left in the leisurely cool down, I was chatting with Jordan as we approached three trash bags on the left hand side of the sidewalk. I saw the trash bags, made note of the trash bags and yet somehow still managed to catch my foot on one and go tumbling into the concrete. You've fallen before, so you know how it feels. Everything happens in slow motion and defying physics, you manage to cut up spots all over your body. I have a cut on my ankle, my knee, my elbow, my side and my back. The latter three require dressing and Lauren has to do it because I can't do it myself. I thought taking that initial shower would be the most painful part. Well, it hurt, but when Lauren put hydrogen peroxide on for the first time, I thought I was going to go through the roof. For those of you keeping track at home, this makes my second bloody fall since Memorial Day. How many of those were on rooty, technical trails? None. Both on sidewalks.

Apologies for the epic, and if you made it this far, I suggest a good book.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Old Runner Helps Young Idiot

Thanks to Richard Hefner, aka the Old Runner (who, in my opinion isn't all that old), my blog roll issues should be fixed. He found the glitch in my settings and I think I have remedied the situation.

Monday, August 16, 2010

For Now, Something New

I have mastered 5pm. Six years as a television news producer, and it's the only show I have ever regularly produced. Sure, I have hopped in and done an 11pm, a 6pm or a morning show here and there (along with the occasional special production), but no newscast has ever felt as familiar or as comfortable as the five. I know what people watching the news as five need to know. I know what they want to know.

Friday was my last 5pm....well, for now. Today, I totally immersed myself in a new project. In just under a month, my station is launching an hour long 4pm newscast. First I will develop it. Then, I will launch it and for an undetermined amount of time, I will produce it. As I often do with new projects, I approach this one with nervous excitement. Nervous because it is monumental. It's been a while since I have produced an hour's worth of content on a daily basis, but I haven't forgotten how draining it is. Excitement because it's a fresh challenge. It will ward off any looming complacency and re-measure my versatility.

As I envision it, news at 4pm looks very different than it is at 5pm, despite it being the difference of only one hour. Since we first announced this project, I've seen the show as "news in process." At 4, the reporters are still gathering, the editors are still cutting video, the graphics designers are still designing graphics. There's no point in trying to hide that. Transparency is much more effective. I plan to build a show that lets viewers know that we're in the climax of our workday, preparing for 5 and 6. The 4 will be a window into that work flow. Reporters in the field will quite literally be dropping what they are doing to fill us in on what they have so far, then going right back to work. Sometimes they won't even have time to set up a camera and a microwave signal. They'll join us via skype or through their iphones. I'm talking about unpolished, sleeves rolled up, unscripted and maybe even breathless broadcasts.

We've also enlisted a panel of local experts ready to weigh in on a moment's notice. I can't list them just yet, but that's been what I have been working on for the past week or so. I can tell you, the show will be anchored by Jamie Boll and Brigida Mack, a decision just announced today. The whole weather team will be involved, and we are looking for someone to navigate people through Charlotte's hellish afternoon commute.

I thought about talking about the impact this project will have on running and training for a marathon, but the truth is, I don't know. I'll go in a little earlier, get out a little earlier, but I plan on not taking frequent lunch breaks just like it's always been. We launch September 13th, exactly two months before the Richmond Marathon, so I guess I'll have a little bit of time to figure it out.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Blue Points 5K (do you have a more creative title?)

This past weekend was intense. Awesome and intense. It was Lauren's 30th birthday, which officially makes us Mrs. Robinson and Ben Braddock -- except of course, she isn't married. I can make this joke until I turn 27 next month, and the gap is no longer four years. Her parents were both here. There was a party to plan. I had to move all my stuff for the third time since moving to Charlotte. We had out of town guests from Boston on Sunday. Somewhere in the midst of it all, I ran a 5k.

Despite a good, confidence-building stretch of running, I was not looking forward to the Blue Points 5K. There was much discussion over which way the course would be run. Would we go up Morehead or up Stonewall? Some believe that one way is easier than the other, but I am convinced they are equally as tough with a downhill on one side and a gradual climb for the last mile and a half. We decided to run it Morehead first when we previewed the course on Thursday's run. We were wrong. Shortly after the run, Meagan assured us the course would be going Stonewall first. I told her I didn't care if we ran it sideways. It took everything I had to go 16:30 last year.

Come Saturday morning, you couldn't have asked for better weather. The humidity was on a hiatus, and it was maybe 75 degrees. And there was nearly a full moon. Just before the gun went off (I say this like there is actually a gun. I don't remember the last time someone fired a gun to signal the start of a race in Charlotte), a nearly-pantless man came running out of the group screaming something and running toward the parking lot. He either screamed, "my chip!" or "my pants!" Either was a possibility. He had that look like he had forgetten to secure his chip. I've seen it before. Plus, how do you suddenly realize there is nothing covering your rear? I may never know the answer since the next time I saw him the race was over and he had pants on.

The race went out fast. It was clear right off the bat that it was a deep field. Richard Falcone, an ageless wonder, sprinted to the front with Jordan while I briefly tested the waters with a pack of Appalachian State and Winthrop runners. They were going out much faster than I felt comfortable with, and I settled right where I belonged with Brian and Paul. Brian was on a mission. As we rolled down Stonewall, he opened up a decent gap on Paul and me. We reeled him in and he'd put down a surge. I'd pull along next to him, and there was a another surge. The first mile was an actual race. 5:01.

Paul and I finally broke lose from Brian at about a mile and a quarter, turning onto Morehead. After we pulled off, neither of us saw another runner. I wanted to stay with Paul as long as I could because I knew as soon as he got a couple steps ahead of me, I'd drop back and mentally check out. I could tell he wanted to break away, but I stayed strong. Ultimately, it was good for both of us. 5:15. The climb had started.

We were still side-by-side as we climbed the little bridge next to the Dowd YMCA where Megan and Erica gave a much needed cheer. Coming down the other side and crossing over 277, I decided to take a risk. I put about five meters on Paul as we turned onto Mint Street. With the finish line in site and a larger than normal crowd cheering, I knew I'd have to hold on hard to keep Paul from benefiting from the momentum and taking back his spot. The advantage goes to the chaser in these situations. And this wasn't just any chaser, it was Paul who is a darn strong runner. So yeah, he got me. Just before we crossed the line, Paul went by crossing in 16:13 with me in 16:15. But I was far from disappointed. It was 15 seconds faster than last year, and only 8 seconds slower than China Grove which is a much faster course. It also broke a mini-streak of subpar performances. Of course, you never run the perfect race. I wish I could have outkicked Paul, but in the grand scheme of things to be disappointed in, it's pretty minor.

Jordan easily held off a hard-charging crowd of kids to win. Meagan won on the women's side, and Billy Shue broke 17:00 allowing him to date women. After the race, the talk was about how fast everyone is going to run at Greekfest. I'm bummed I won't be there, but I think I'd rather be soaking up the sun in the Bahamas. I'm going to give the 10K a shot on August 21st, and maybe look for one last 5K to bust somewhere before mid-September.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


At the beginning of this week, I knew getting in my long run progression was going to take some sacrifices; sacrifices of sleep and of time. Aaron was going to be out of town and Paul had done a tempo earlier in the week. The big CRC group was running at Beatty, which if you want to make it through the run with both ankles in tact, is no place to push the pace. My only option was to drive up to Huntersville at the ass crack of dawn and run with Mike, Nathan and Bill. I looked forward to the running buddies. I did not look forward to the early hour and a running location that was not right around the corner.

But, I needed this run. Ever since Saturday's race, I have been in a mini-funk. Easy runs have felt tough. Workouts have seemed impossible and when that starts to happen, a hobby becomes a chore. A passion becomes a pain. I had told just Lauren and Aaron that if today's progression didn't go well I was going to force myself to take three to four days off. Ok, I know that's melodramatic, but my fear was I was burning myself out. Mark and I went over some of the reasons that may be behind the mini-funk, and over-training topped the list.

Like any runner, I don't like to take time off. I was going to do whatever I had to do to make today's run a mental and physical success. As soon as I got off work last night, I went by the Harris Teeter and filled a grocery cart with ice. I stood behind two guys buying enough alcohol to stock a sports stadium, and thought, "if they only knew I was going to sit in all this ice instead of using it to chill my beer." (Side note: runners find things normal that NO ONE ELSE would think is such. Whenever, I catch myself in one of these moments -- buying ice so I can sit in it, or rubbing vasoline on my nipples -- I think of those old Adidas ads.) Following my ice bath, Lauren and I went to Boriana's where she made us a delicious Bulgarian dinner. Then, it was a couple of chapters of The Art of Racing in the Rain, followed by an early bed time.

Fueled by a piece of bread with Nutella and a banana, I was in the Huntersville business park parking lot by 5:45 am. I got in a good stretch and we set out on an 8 mile easy run. We averaged around 7:20, carrying on a good conversation. Then, talking time was over. I told myself that if I could work my way down to about 5:55 on the progression portion of the run, I'd consider it a sucess. If I struggled to get out of the 6:20 range, it was hiatus time. I had planned to do six, but since the other guys were doing eight, I figured I'd run six then see how I felt. Right away I was 6:15 and it felt very easy. Good sign. From there each mile got quicker. By the fifth mile I was 5:50. The sixth mile I went 5:39 and thought, "I can do one more." I cranked out another 5:40 and shut it down. Success! Sure, alone these aren't lightning fast miles, but it sure is a nice way to seal up the back end of a 16 mile run. Plus, the other guys were going longer and a bit more conservative which made this a solo effort and that's always harder. It's also encouraging that I at no point felt like I was digging and could have done that eighth mile had I needed to.

A decent workout has set the tone for the day. I am in a good mood and have a good appetite. We just got back from Costco where I ate every sample they were offering -- some of them twice. I'm planning to eat a big burger tonight. For now, I plan to take a nap.

Monday, July 26, 2010

100 Degrees in Dilworth

I have only raced the four mile distance four times. I think that’s enough times to decisively say that it’s not my favorite. In the hierarchy of shorter distances, it sits somewhere in between the 15K (Love) and the mile (Hate). Yes, I am aware that in length, it also fits in between those distances, but I am only referring to preference in this case. Saturday’s Run For Your Life Run for a Cause Four Miler was the second slowest of my four four milers, but by far the hottest. In last year’s race, I finished second in a time of 21:30. Given the conditions, I hoped to at least repeat that performance.

I am a sweaty guy. So, I wasn’t all that surprised when I showed up the line and a couple of runners asked me if I had already raced. I was dripping sweat from the easy warm up miles. This continues to be the hottest, most humid summer I have ever lived through. By the time the race started at 7:30 Saturday morning, it was near 100% humidity (but not near raining) and I was starting to think this competition would come down to who the best aqua jogger was. (Sadly for me, that was not the case. If it were, I might have won. I am one heck of an aqua jogger. I was the unofficial NCAA Division III National Champion when I couldn’t run my sophomore year of cross country.)

Knowing that the entire first mile is up hill, I put some effort in as soon as the gun went off. I wouldn’t say I went out fast – I didn’t even sniff Jordan and Bert -- but I did give myself a jump on Paul, Aaron and Mike who I know to be strong hill runners. That’s why it wasn’t long before Paul, Mike and I were in a pack, making our way up McDonald. Mike was baby-jogger-free, so I figured he’d be a contender. I’d been working out frequently with Paul and knew he was in solid shape. I clocked 5:28 for the first mile.

By the time we got to East Boulevard it was Paul and I testing the waters. It’s a long stretch down East, but at this point I was feeling pretty decent. We had talked earlier in the week about running near each other, so it felt like everything was going according to plan. We hit the next mile still side-by-side in a much quicker time of 5:19. At roughly two-and-a-half miles I could see a water stop up ahead. I waited to see what Paul would do, sort of like a race car driver waits to see who is going to go into the pits. When he took a cup of water, I followed suit. The plan was to dump most of it on my head and drink the rest. Unfortunately, I dumped all of it on my head and then attempted to drink from an empty cup. What can I say? It was my first time taking water in a race shorter than a half-marathon.

Approaching mile three, Paul opened a gap on me. If I have one weakness…well, I have many, but one of them is the inability to close gaps. I would later learn that this entire mile was a disaster. I was starting to feel the heat. My legs felt fine, but the rest of my body was moving toward exhaustion. I clocked a 5:42 for this mile. There are some climbs, but I should have run faster than that. However, looking at other’s recaps it appears everyone struggled with this mile. Almost everyone. Greg Isaacs did not. Just before the three-and-a-half mile marker he passed me. I tried to hang, but as we came closer to the line, I worried a little more about preserving my position and not getting passed again. I had no idea what was going on behind me and knew looking back would only slow me down.

I crossed the line in 21:44, thoroughly tuckered out. Due to Bert running off the course, I finished in fourth place, behind some pretty speedy runners and ahead of some pretty speedy runners too. I’ve gone back and forth between disappointed and simply satisfied. Elated is definitely not on in the list of feelings. The disappointment comes when I start thinking about my last couple of races. I ran a subpar 5K in New York, and this four-miler did not show any signs of progression. It’s discouraging after what I thought was a pretty promising start to the summer racing season. I know Paul can relate. I am happy to see he’s broken out of his funk. I move toward satisfaction when I think about the conditions. It seemed everyone’s times were a little slower than their potential thanks to the heat and humidity. Plus, these shorter races are hard to use as a good gauge. You either have it that day or you don’t. There’s no switching gears in the middle. You can run 16:00 one day in a 5K, and come back the next weekend in the same shape and run a 16:45. Some positive workout performances have kept me feeling like I am moving in the right direction. We’ll see what happens at Blue Points on August 7th.

In other weekend news, Lauren competed in the Lake Wylie Sprint Triathlon with Sloan and did a great job! It gave me the opportunity to get down to Lake Wylie, go for a swim and have a great lunch with the two triathletes and Jamie Doyle.

Sunday’s long run was miserable, but misery loves company. There were eight of us on this 15 mile (for me) death march on the hot asphalt at Mallard Creek. We all tried our best to stay positive, but by the end, the little conversation we were able to have revolved around how much longer was left and where water might be available. It go so bad that with two miles to go, Mike and I actually jumped in the creek. I may grow another eyeball, but I was cooled off just for that moment.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Back From Bliss

It's always better to ease back into the real world following a vacation than to dive into it head first like it's a shallow pool. We landed in Charlotte early Monday morning, then I had the entire day and the following day off from work. There is of course, a trade off. I am in the middle of a ten day stretch that includes two 10 hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday and a hellish Monday turn around of less than nine hours.

As we drove the rental car away from the cottage last week, I got the usual pit in my stomach, accompanied by -- I admit -- a few tears welling up behind the eyeballs. I don't like waving goodbye to a place that gives me so much peacefullness; a place that's mere location and ambiance is enough to reset my entire system, especially because I know that when I leave, it will be at least a year until I come back.

I'll briefly go through the high points of the 10 day trip to New York, although, the point was for there to be few highlights and a whole lot of R & R. The fireworks and ring of fire on Port Bay did not disappoint. I saw the family. Laughed with the family. Crammed in close quarters with the family. Lauren met aunts, uncles, grandpa and family friends. I ran one hometown 5K and finished 2nd in a slower time than I had hoped for. We hit wineries on Seneca and Kueka Lakes. We met up with Bfo, Camissa, Val and Jon to see Dave and Tim play an acoustic show in Canandaigua, took in an Irish football game with Hys, had beers at Colemans, ate the lighthouse in Oswego and bought a new boat ladder for dad. We swam off the bluffs. Lauren did handstands. I saw a naked guy. Dick and Katie have a baby. I did not run the Boilermaker. I did not check my work email. Well, once. Nate and I reminisced about the more rebelious days. The pranks will always be in the past. I randomly ran into Gretchen on a run. I sat in an inflatible whale filled with ice. Twice. We made smores, grilled burgers and corn and baked a tomato pie. I finished the third Steig Larsson book. There were nine nights on an air mattress, one night in a twin bed. A man told he was keeping tabs on the Canadian Coast Guard. Sarah gave me two silly bands. Kristy grew up. We stayed up late. And we slept until we felt like it.

Now, the routine is back in place. Up at 5:00am to run, work from 8:30 to 6, bed by 10:30. But as much the break from the routine is refreshing, it's a pretty good routine to have. I have a girlfriend I love that sees me off in the morning and eats dinner with me at night. I've got great training partners -- friends is a better word -- to share stories with on runs, and my job could be a lot worse (well, maybe not a lot).

Running-wise right now, I am feeling a little flat. The 5K in New York wasn't a disaster, but after running a 16:07, I expected to run a heck of a lot faster than 16:42. Yes, circumstances are totally opposite. China Grove was at night. Sodus Point was in the late morning heat. China Grove was flat. Sodus Point was hilly. China Grove had competition. I was in no man's land in Sodus Point. I just felt though, like I was lacking some hutspa (look it up)

This past week, I logged just under 78 miles and felt good for about 50% of them. Tuesday's tempo workout was a flop, but Thursday on the AM run, I felt great. Friday's Miles of Mooresville was so-so, but I probably could have done the three mile portion better. Saturday's long run was an absolute disaster. I think the heat and humidity contributed to me wanting to find the nearest bridge to jump off every step of the way. Today's run at Davidson felt AWESOME. I'm at a point right now where I need to get consistent with my training and my racing. So, let me take that back. I am not feeling flat. I am feeling inconsistent. I'd rather be flat and racing well than have all these unpredictable ups and downs.

Up this week, slightly less mileage, mile repeats Tuesday morning and a four mile race on Saturday....

NOTE: I am really irritated that my blog is not showing up as "updated" on people's blog rolls. If anyone knows how to fix this, please let me know!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thursday, July 8, 2010

In the Buff at the Bluffs

The reason I started blogging again is partly because I don't believe in Facebook. I know, I know. I am an avid Facebook user. However, I don't believe in the power of its little "status updates." They don't tell a story, just a headline. I could have made the topic of tonight's blog a status update, but the story is worth the added detail.

Tired of running on the unshaded, sun beaten roads near our family cottage, I decided to drive to the Chimney Bluffs State Park in Huron this morning to hit the trails for today's run. From the waters of Lake Ontario, the bluffs are a beautiful example of the natural land art created by glacial movement and centuries of erosion from one of the Great Lakes. From the land, the bluffs are a weaving, narrow, treacherous and dangerous patch of land where the admirers picnic and walk the dogs and the adventurers hope to come out with both ankles still functioning. With temperatures still reaching into the mid 90s and humidity still soaring, I decided the risk of falling over a downed tree was worth the cooler conditions offered in the shaded trails.

I arrived at the bluffs just before 10 (I have been sleeping in to put some added hours in my sleep bank while I can) and parked in a nearly empty parking lot. The only other vehicle in the lot was a big red van, one that might be used to shuttle a collegiate athletic team to a match. I parked a couple of spots away from the van and got out, removed my shirt and began applying sunscreen. During these pre-run activities, I struck up a conversation with the gentlemen in the van. He was older -- maybe 60 -- plump, and wearing only green shorts. He was sitting on the ledge of the van's side passenger door reading the paper. We made small talk about the unusual heat and he demonstrated that he visited the park a lot. I asked him some simple questions about the trails since it had been some time since I had run on them. Then, he put on a backpack and headed out for presumably, a hike. I finished stretching and then took off in the opposite direction, but on the same circular trail.

As soon as I started running, I knew this was the right choice. While the pace was slow because of all the footwork and the climbing, my legs were thankful for the soft surface and my entire body was thankful for the shade. I took some side trails that brought me to the edge of the cliff, hundreds of feet above the lake. I didn't hesitate to pause and take in the view.

About 15 minutes into the run, I noticed my friend from the parking lot was coming toward me. Only this time, something was different. He still had the backpack on. He still had his sandals on. He did not have the green shorts on. This man was naked. The time between noticing his nakedness and getting close enough to where I would have to have an exchange with the nude man was finite. In those few seconds, a number of thoughts went through my head. Do I talk to him? Do I just run past without saying a word? Is he on a mission? How do I hide my surprise? Do I make some sort of nude joke? Do I know any good nude jokes? And then there I was, passing by. Nude Ned made the first move. He commented on the amount of time it took me to loop this certain part of the trail. I acknowledged with a laugh and just kept running. And that was it. My first encounter with a naked man on a run was brief and painless...not even all that awkward and I immediately thought about the mileage I'd get out of the story.

I spent the rest of the ten mile run trying not to fall and trying to forget about the bear story. At dinner last night my dad remarked that there have been a lot of black bear sightings in the area this summer. Here I was in the woods. That is where bears live (and also shit, so I hear). In my head, every track I saw in the woods was made by a bear. At one point, I saw a big buck emerge from the woods. "I bet he's being chased by a bear," I thought. You see, some of my friends and oft running partners have a debilitating fear of snakes. I don't mind snakes, but I do mind bears. I am frightened by the thought of bears. Fortunately, I made it through the run without ever encountering a bear...although I did encounter a bare.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Give me a break!

Despite what the automatically generated time on this blog post might tell you, it's 4:16 pm on a hour and 14 minutes until my vacation starts. If I am here for one hour and 15 minutes, or even one hour, 14 minutes and 18 seconds, the chance of me strangling someone (anyone) or setting the building on fire in a fit of rage (which I guess is the only state of mind that would cause someone to commit arson) grows exponentially.

Without actually looking at a calendar, I think I am on my way to the finish line of the longest vacation-free stretch of my working life. Mentally and physically, I am exhausted. At work, my creativity barrel is nearly empty (although I did just write a killer script for another show) (I love parenthetical phrases), I am running (literally) on fumes. On the run this morning, I felt dead. 7:30 pace was pushing it.

So what exotic location are we jetting off to? The Florida Keys, Hawaii, Venice? Nah. I stick to upstate New York these days. When you grow up, go to school and begin your career in the same place, you never imagine it will be the very same place you go to get away from it all. But its absence gives it a certain appeal. Home is one of the few places you can go to have a stress-free vacation.

Not that we don't have a lot on our agenda. In the 10 days we are there, I am running two races. On the fourth, there's the Sodus Point Light House 5K, then a week later, I am hopping in the Boilermaker 15K in Utica for the first time since 2003. I reloaded the ipod too, so I'll have some company for the 75 miles I have on my training schedule next week. We also have tickets to the Dave & Tim show in Canandaigua on the 6th. We're going with Bfo who is moving out to Kansas City at the end of the week. We'll do some "wining" on the Finger Lakes, visit with the Hys, take the 5 minute tour of Newark and the 10 minute tour of Oswego. Other than that --- and yes, I know it seems like a lot -- our week will consist of a whole lot of sitting by the water and reading the Stieg Larson trilogy thanks to the advice of Caitlin Chrisman.

This is the first trip I am preparing for as a dog lover. I find that I have grown rather attached to Lauren's dog Pepper. Because Pepper is a bigger dog, bringing her with us would be what we consider to be inhumane. First, they'd have to drug her. Then, they'd shove her in the cargo hold of the plane for the duration of the flight. It just doesn't seem fair. But, it was tough to say goodbye to Pepper as Lauren took her to the Five-Star Pooch Hotel where she'll live while we're away.

Here's an anecdote that might sum up my mental fatigue. I have this thing I have been putting off mailing all week because I don't have stamps. I finally made it over to the post office today. Mailing the correspondence was my soul purpose. It wasn't until I got in the door that I noticed it had one of those "Postage Not Necessary if Mailed Within United States." Well damned if I'm not within the United States!

Whatever happened to Gallagher? I theorize a giant watermelon smashed HIM.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Running When Hot

Yesterday, I saw a "Caution: Wet Floor" sign had been placed on a carpeted area and thought, "that's certainly not neccessary."

What has been neccessary this week is getting up before the sun to get in a run that is somewhat bearable. In fact, for the first time since I can remember, I did both my tough workouts in the morning instead of the afternoon. I call it the lesser of two evils. Rising early seems to run on the paternal side of my family. But like stints in the armed services and mustaches, it ended with me. When my father wakes up at 5am, he's up and on. When I wake up at 5am, I'm cursing, confused and tripping over small items on the floor. More on that in a moment. On the other hand, it's been a whole new kind of hot and humid in Charlotte for the past fortnight (been dying to use that word in a sentence). Running after the sun has had a chance to bake the earth and trap in all that moisture will almost certainly result in vomitting, and could easily end in death.

This morning, for the fifth straight day, I was up at 5:30, giving my body a chance to limber up before a 6am workout. I ate a handful of peanut butter puffins, drank some water and emptied the tank. The plan was to do a 26 minute tempo at half-marathon pace. As I started the warm up with Aaron and Steve I began to worry. I was having trouble forming complete thoughts and sentences and slurring my speech. I felt like I had suffered a stroke. While I knew that wasn't the case, it was obvious and frustrating that my brain was taking an extraordinarily long time to start fully functioning. With the workout looming, excuses for failure or sub-par performance began to form. I've had a really hard work week. I didn't sleep well last night. I'm drunk?

Then, it began. Out of the gate in 5:46 pace with Aaron and Steve flanking me. It was like the beep of the watch set off a signal to the brain. "Wake the hell up! We're going!" And from there, it was running as usual. All three of us fought through pea soup humidity to follow the 5:46 with a 5:44, 5:39, 5:44 again and then a final .63 at a brisk 5:30 pace.

A successful workout was the promising result of a little schedule tinkering I am doing right now. Aaron and I have decided to try moving the second stress workout from Thursday to Friday to allow a little more recovery time from the Tuesday workout. While my mental soundness at the beginning of this run can certainly be questioned, I can say with conviction that my legs felt considerably better than if I had tried to pull of this tempo yesterday.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sleeping...gone to the dogs

Sometimes our ambitions outweigh our abilities. I, for instance, have never owned a dog. I have had plenty of practice spending lots of time with Lauren's dog Pepper, but for the most part, it's always been Lauren, Pepper and me. Yet, somehow, when I committed to dogsitting Pepper and her Jack Russell terrier "friend", Annabelle, it did not occur to me that I was in over my head.

It has instead, gradually occurred to me as I am in the midst of it, culminating with me just stepping in poop in the living room. Before you ask, of course I wasn't being cautious of poop. One is cautious of poop in parks even on the sidewalk. Why would I anticipate a pile of poop in the living room?

Pepper is a 65 pound Black Lab, German Shepherd mix. Annabelle is a 10 pound Jack Russell terrier. Which dog do you think has pooped in three different places? (And these are significant poops.) Which dog do you think harasses the other...stealing her food and drinking her water? Which dog do you think peer pressures the other into being loud and rambunctious? That's right, the pipsqueak.

About 10 minutes ago, a cartoon unfolded and I was in it. The kindly widow who lives across the way, knocked on the door to deliver bird seed so we could feed her birds while she is away. As you might imagine, the five foot tall, 73-year-old woman (who feeds birds and squirrels) is intimidating to two dogs. First, they went nuts barking in unison. Then, when I opened the door they bolted. Pepper is OK without a leash. Annabelle, on the other hand, was making a jail break. She took off like a funny car toward the street, hung a sharp left and was out of site. Not to be outdone, Pepper chased her. I was halfway down the street screaming both dogs' names when I realized I was in my red monkey boxer shorts. Since, I didn't feel like getting arrested tonight should the flap open, I ran back toward the house and found some gym shorts. it was on this quest that I stepped in the poop. With the poop patty on my flip flop, I ran back outside prepared for an all night search. Fortunately, Pepper came right back. I found Annabelle on the back stoop of a nearby home. I had to go up the driveway to scoop her up. I was glad I was not in my underwear.

Sleeping has been a luxury with these two. Pepper will go to bed when I go to bed. She sleeps through the night in her own bed just feet from me. Sometimes she has dreams and whimpers. It's adorable. Since Annabelle arrived, if anyone so much as sneezes within a four block radius of this house, both dogs have a fit. For the past three nights these fits have happened almost hourly. So, to those of you who have kept me company on the morning runs this week, my apologies for dragging down the pace.

But despite all that. Despite the indoor pooping...Oh by the way, I know it's not Pepper pooping because every time I let her out to do her business, she poops and since Annabelle is eating all her food, I know she can't be doing double poops. Despite the barking, I am enjoying the company of these four-legged ladies. Yep, I have even become one of those people that has conversations with them. I look forward to seeing them when I come home. I look forward to sneaking Pepper treats when Annabelle is not looking, I even enjoy walking them, even though Annabelle resists my lead and makes me drag her down the street. As I say all these kind, loving things, I realized there is still poop on my foot.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why I do

It's been five years since I last blogged. One day in February of 2005, I wrote an entry in my well-read journal, "Jay's Head" and I never came back. Maybe life got in the way. A lot has happened since 2005, but don't worry. This isn't going to be one of those cliche' blog entries where I ramble on about how life has changed and how I have grown so much as a person. I'll spare you the autobiography. I suppose I could have just picked up where I left off, but I'm thinking a lot differently than I was back then. I'm probably just as cynical but maybe not as much of an open book, which is probably a good thing. Also, as I look back on my posts from collegiate days, I think I was a much better writer. I was in the midst of all these great creative writing and journalism classes. The wheels were really turning. Now, I fear there is some rust that has built up.

It's hard to believe that I am approaching six years as a TV news producer. While I have progressed in that field, it may have also hurt my writing ability. When your whole day is limited to spewing out as much information in as little time as possible, your focus on details -- things you might use an adjective for -- starts to diminish. I spent a good part of my day yesterday reading old posts, and at times, I had trouble recognizing the guy who was sitting there at three in the morning, beer in hand, crafting these clever observations. I don't want to toot my own horn here too much, but they were good.

That's what this blog is about. I want to get my clever back. I want to have an outlet. When I was writing on a regular basis, I saw things in a different light. I didn't just look for facts. I looked for interesting elements. I looked for stories. I refuse to believe that I have made all the observations I have to make at the age of 26, and that my view of the world is what it is. I am confident that I that I can still put on those glasses and see the alternate version; the version that might make me smile.

If there is one thing I hate, it's when people try to get all philosophical in blogs, chronicling their quest to find the meaning of life. Stop. You don't want to find it. That's what makes what we do interesting. Ya know, living. Regardless, you're wasting your time. So, I don't want anyone to think that's what I am doing here. Instead I just want to chronicle life. That in itself is a quest. With my last blog, I got carried away with the readership to the point where if I didn't update, I would stress out. That can't happen with this blog. I have to learn to only write when I am inspired. No one is proud of stuff they wrote because they had to. When I started writing this a few minutes ago, I was inspired. Now, I am just tired. So, I am going to stop.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

China Grove - but not the same one the Doobies talked about.

As much as I would have liked to be running a race in a town immortalized by the Doobies, a quick glance at the lyrics of that classic rock song let me know that the Brothers Doobie were actually jamming out about a place somewhere in Texas (In the San Antonio area I believe) and not Rowan County, North Carolina.

Going into this week, the last in my first meso-cycle of the new Mark Hadley training plan, I knew I was either going to start my summer season in China Grove for the Main Street Challenge on Friday night, or in Hendersonville with the Civitan Sun 5K Saturday morning. Ultimately, it was Paul Mainwaring and the rave reviews of China Grove that convinced me to give it a try. With just one month of post-Boston marathon training under my belt, this race was to act as a fitness test. I really wanted to do well, but I also wanted to use it as a gauge of where I was and what kinks needed to be worked out as I settle in to the 5 and 10K distance for the next couple of months.

I think the last time I raced at night was in college....maybe even high school, and that was on an indoor track. Well, not counting the Blue Ridge Relay. It's tough to plan your day around a 9pm race. What do you eat? Can you sneak a nap in the middle of a work day?

At the last minute, Jordan decided to join Paul and me for our 38 mile road trip from Charlotte to China Grove. We took off at 6:45 in hopes of a 7:30 arrival. We arrived right on time and got a money parking spot between the moonbounces and the porta-johns. I hadn't registered yet, so I signed up while Paul claimed a door prize. The race packet was definitely nice. It contained a dri-fit shirt and a coupon for Chick-Fil-A which I would later learn was only usable at a Chick-Fil-A up there. Oh well.

Around 8:10, Paul, Jordan and I set out to run the course. We found it to be pretty flat with some very modest inclines. It's an out and back, up main street. On the way back, just before town, the fire department had parked one of its trucks and it was spraying water from above. This was needed on a night where it was near 90 even after the sun went down and a pea-soup-kind of humid.

At the line, I did some strides, jumped up and down a few times, then a man in a paper Krispy Kreme hat said a prayer. Shortly following the "amen", the horn went off. I knew enough to stay away from Jordan and Ryan Woods. They were in a different race. But, I wanted to keep Paul and Chris in my sights. I figured the three of us were the race for third. Chris left me about 400-600 meters in to run with Jordan and Ryan a bit. I chose not to go, hoping he would come back to me later in the race. Paul was a few seconds back when I went through the mile in 5:04 (that's what the Garmin said, but the guy on the side of the course calling out splits said '5:00'). Paul caught up to me shortly after the mile marker and we ran side-by-side to the turn around. We both believe we lost a couple of seconds by taking the turn around so gingerly. Both of us slowed down to go around the barrel that marked the midway point.

As we went through the turnaround, I noticed Chris had pulled up from the lead two and we were catching him quickly. I figured he wasn't finished and was glad he went with us when we got to him. For a half-mile or so, it was the three of us running as a pack. I decided to make a move and Chris came with me. For the next half-mile we ran together. I'd put in a little surge and he'd come right with me. With about 800 to go, I put in one final surge and opened up a nice gap between the two of us. I was hurting, but thought I could maintain. I hit the firetruck with the water, and remembered it being MUCH CLOSER to the finish. Did that firetruck move? I was still composed though, and could see the line. I guess this is where I got complacent because all of the sudden, Chris was right on me again and I had nothing left. As we approached the line, he outkicked me and I lost my breath. I started to cough like I haven't coughed in a race since some track races back in the day.

I finished in 16:07, but probably lost three seconds trying to breathe as I came through the chute. Chris, Paul and I both had our hands on our knees for a good two minutes following the finish. We may have underestimated the toll the conditions were going to take.

The time is a new PR, and encouraging as I plot out the rest of the running season. I know I have a lot more workouts and development left. I know I need to work on finishing (and that has been the case since I started running), and I could still use a little work on pacing. According to the Garmin, the splits were 5:04, 5:14, 5:14 and :35 for the last 0.1. Looking at times from last year's race, I think the humidity slowed the average pace down a bit. Ryan ran 14:58 to win in 2009, and Jordan won it this year in 15:05. The guy who was fourth last year ran 15:58 and I ran 16:07. Of course, I can't say I could run 15:58. I have never run that time. This performance made me optimistic that a sub-16 is possible though.

Gutsy performances out there by Jordan, who is in awesome shape, Chris who had my number at the end and Paul who left everything out on the course. Also, a nod to Alice Rogers who set a new PR in 18:01, finishing as the second overall female.

This race also gets high marks for its post-race buffet. There was cantaloupe, watermelon, legit bottles of Gatordade, Cheerwine (which I don't particularly enjoy, but is a Salisbury-area staple), cookies and Pizza Hut Pizza. Kudos to Jordan for snagging a whole box on the way out.

Next race could be Summer Breeze at Freedom Park, but the next meso-cycle ends with the Sodus Point Light House 5k at HOME!