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.