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!