Monday, March 31, 2008

Beardsley's Ghost and 2008 Boston Goals

With my last 20 miler neatly tucked away in my back pocket, it’s time to turn my attention to the ALL IMPORTANT BOSTON MARATHON GOALS. (Back up and reread this with a booming, echoing voice. You may add a cymbal crash at the end if you desire).

I’ve been vacillating (word score = 10 points!) between setting ambitious, realistic, or amphibious goals for quite awhile. What to do? Really, I’m just happy to be here (there). Do I kill myself running the race of my life in the most prestigious marathon venue? Do I ‘enjoy the moment’ and run a respectable race – for me – and take in the scene? Do I somehow set a goal involving water that, really, has no place here?

I’ve decided to set my goals to match my approach to training.

Therefore, I vow to complain about winter the entire 26.2.

Seemingly, that’s all I’ve done the last few months anyhow.

Of course, that’s not my real goal. I’m being a Jokey McLaughsalot. And one thing I know about you, my reader, is that you appreciate my seriousness. You stop by for wisdom, guidance, and edification (word score = 12 pts). Running must be serious to me. I do it a lot. I also express my dissatisfaction a lot with other drivers but so far have not set any goals in that arena.

Without further adieu, here are my 2008 Boston Marathon goals in all their mundane goodness:

Time Goal: 3:25

I think I can do better than that but I’m scared of the courses hilly terrain. The Newton Hills and the final drive up Heartbreak Hill has me terrified. Of course, I’m probably blowing it way out of proportion. I’m imagining a scene where runners are dropping by the dozens to the chorus of snapping calf muscles. Bandages are being wrapped around ankles, hamstrings, heads. Families are weeping and holding (word score = -5 pts could have used ‘cradling’ here) their loved ones unconscious heads in their laps. A few are crawling up the hill on bloody stumps of knees as the ghost of Dick Beardsley stands on top taunting them and shooting lasers from his GU fueled laser gun. (I know Dick Beardsley isn’t dead. Play along alright?).

I don’t think I’m in Bayshore 2007 3:12 shape. More like 3:20 shape on a flat course. I’m adding +5 minutes for the Beardsley Ghost.

Performance Goal: No freakin’ cramping issues!!!!

The last two marathons have been derailed by the stubborn calves. (Big props to me for not making a lame reference to cattle in the street here. I could have. It would have been easy.) I’m about to have a cow if it continues (ch-ching!). I miss the good old days when I would start a marathon, get increasingly tired, bitter, hallucinogenic, suicidal, and, finally, triumphant. The body would work together to get me to the finish. I don’t know why or when the calves developed a separate agenda. They need to get on board though and quick or I’m threatening to pull a Rocky (“Go ahead, cut me. Take the calves out so I can continue.") Rocky didn’t have his calves taken out. You know what I mean.

So, there you go. You’ve learned a little something today and are probably pretty happy to have stopped by to see ol’ Nitmos. You’ve learned:

  1. My Boston Marathon goals.
  2. You can make any name funny by making the first name silly and the last name a restatement of the first name with a "Mc" preceding it.
  3. That Dick Beardsley is a ghostly runner slaying monster that stalks Heartbreak Hill with a laser gun. And he's dead (not really).

Every runner needs a motivation. Mine is a certain 2nd place finisher from the legendary 1982 Boston Marathon. The picture below is tucked into my bathroom mirror where I’m working to develop my Eye of the Tiger.

I can see you taunting me, threatening me with your evil gaze.

"Psycho" Dick Beardsley

Beardsley, as he appears on Heartbreak Hill
It'll surprise you to know that I am not a PhotoShop expert. I do have a full time job and it's hard enough to edit some pictures when people are constantly walking back and forth behind me. I think I captured the essence though.

Happy trails.


The Running Lamintor had an excellent post recently on running schizoprenia. Check it out.

Vanilla reminds us that running shops offering free "Gait Analysis" may just be pimping a gateway drug.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Boston T(e)aper Party

Taper....Tea...get it? It's a stretch but it's there if you want to see it. I'm in full blown Boston taper mode at this very moment.

The last 20 mile long run is complete. I'm wiped but my calves, hamstring, knees and everything else seem to be in agreement that it went okay though.

I don't have the desire to post anything with my normal, well received timeless humor.

Too tired for tales of whimsy and romance.

That'll come on Monday. Dick Beardsley, you better be ready.

Garmin says:

20.0 miles
2:29:22 time
7:28 pace

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Roadkill, Platoon, and Alzheimers Exist in a Single Post

I had to chuckle reading Aham23’s comment in my last post. My blogging has taken on a different tone in recent weeks and some explanation is warranted. Frankly, I started this blog as a pure time killer during slow work days inspired by my friend Mike’s blog. It existed largely as random posts here and there overloaded with dull training updates. I was considering pulling the plug on the whole thing. It was getting kinda boring in fact. Then, I decided I may as well shit or get off the pot (one of my favorite Adults Only sayings).

So, I’m shitting. And you’re reading. That makes you the shittee.

Sorry, not a huge fan of profanity normally but sometimes its just so accurate it can’t be avoided. Plus, I've yet to get an indignant remark in my comments section over my language. I haven’t “arrived” til then.

Basically, I've discovered that I was using a lot of self editing when creating my posts. Things would occur to me while typing – I would find them funny – but figured I better not put that in the post. And you have to understand that I am borderline bat shit crazy (that’s 4 “s” words now if you are counting at home. I’m sure to get some scorn this time!)

I respect Britney Spears’ sanity.

I walk around the house chuckling to myself quite often. My wife thinks I’m nuts.

This has gone on so long that, at this point, there’s no reason to have it diagnosed. I figure in a few years it’ll just descend into Alzheimer's and everyone I know can collectively throw up their hands and say “oh, so that’s what it was.”

I often think of the scene in The Naked Gun where Leslie Nielson and Priscilla Presley (I think) come out of the move theater laughing hysterically and then the camera pans up to show one of the least funniest movies of all time playing: Platoon.

That’s me in a nutshell. I often find humor where none should exist. Example: The sound the gun makes when Bambi’s mom gets killed. Fuuunny. Not realistic at all. Or when Ben Stiller gets hooked with a fishing hook in There’s Something About Mary. Again, not supposed to be funny but it gets me laughing.

So, until the onset of Alzheimer’s, you’ll get more of this half hearted humor and random brain boogers flicked at the screen. Hopefully, you won’t be offended. If nothing else, I want you to stop by here for some abuse. It’ll allow me to exercise the dormant Dominant within and you to exercise the Submissive, bloggily speaking, of course.

Switching gears.

I can always tell when it’s Spring in Michigan. Other states may see the blossoming of new flower buds; the warm glow of the afternoon sun; the fresh scent of lawn clippings. Here, we get roadkill. Lots of it. All the dead animals run down by cars, snow plows, etc. that had been covered by the snow for the last few months. It looks like a field after a great Civil War battle with bodies strewn about. Except, of course, the bodies are rotting deer, festering, pus filled raccoons, and the occasional skunk.

It’s always pleasant to run by one of those corpses and get that putrid whiff of animal death. Ugh. Where are our spring blooms to cover it up? Oh, yeah, they are crushed by the deer carcass in the ditch. Mmmm, spring is in the air (cough, cough).

Next time: An update on my last 20 miler before the Boston Marathon.

A promise: No more profanity for at least 3 posts.

Happy trails.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Psycho Bunny

Quick note: In the last post, I went overboard with the use of the footnote. Regrettably, this distracted from the rather fine blogging that took place. Therefore, I vow to use the footnote sparingly and only when absolutely necessary. Instead, I’ll focus my attention on references to Blatz beer and obscure diseases whenever possible (the two often go hand in hand).

The following conversation took place on Sunday, March 24th around 2 P.M. between myself, a grown man wearing plastic bunny ears, and his wife.

Psycho Bunny: Shit, all the wiffle balls are dented.

Mrs. Psycho Bunny: I don’t think those bats and balls are made for people your age. Usually you see kids playing with a wiffle bat.

Me: You don’t see Easter bunnies playing wiffle ball much either.

Psycho Bunny: Or crazy f%#&ers drinking beer and swinging with a cigarette in one hand. Batter up.

Note: Despite the obvious implications here, there were no trailer parks within a one mile square radius of this scene. There were several severed deer heads and a 25 year old rusted bus fixed up like a “camper”. But no trailer park. Promise.

This was Easter Sunday for me in a nutshell. Please leave your sympathies in the comment section.

There is something poetic in watching a group of men, cigarettes in mouth, swinging a plastic bat one handed like a machete loping off someone’s head in the next Kill Bill installment. Now add beer, icy driveway, and plastic bunny ears and, well, there you go. A good time. We should be party planners.

I should also mention there was plenty of Blatz beer on hand. They still make this. Or, at least, someone has a warehouse somewhere with cases of it from the last production run in 1973 dutifully shipping it out every time one family from Michigan orders it. I’m working on my landmark Blatz beer retrospective for a latter post. Do I go essay form? Poem? Or dirty limerick? I just can’t decide.

All in all, the fam had a nice Easter. The kids were happy. The regular, non-psycho Easter Bunny was good to them. My wife and I were thrilled. Any Easter that doesn't involve rabies, tetanus, or deer ticks meets our success requirements. My daughter was in the doctor’s office for an entirely different reason this morning – diagnosis pending.

I haven’t seen my kids without a chocolate ring around their mouths in 2 days. A sure sign of a wonderfully gluttonous Easter. God, I hope that’s chocolate and not ringworm (fingers crossed, wish us luck).

For some reason, the Easter Bunny brought the children Whoopee Cushions. Perhaps it was spontaneity combined with a recent post that decided on this as a suitable basket stuffer. Whatever it was, I took pride with each cushion belch and startled look on an in-laws face. Yes, those are my kids. Happy Easter.

As for me, I did not get in my scheduled 16 mile LR. I feel like an addict without his fix when I miss my LR. I’m ornery, anxious, and stressed. In 8 days, I’ll officially be in Boston taper time. Not the time to be missing a long run. I’m shaking…I need my long run…need it…maybe I’ll break into my neighbors house, steal his TV, and sell it for a long run fix.

Rest assured, I’ll get it in tonight. We have parent-teacher conferences to find out how much I need to beat the kids and then, after this hopefully brief warm-up, it’s off. Me…the road…the moonlight…a frightening raccoon….and a few terrified dog walkers hearing me run up behind them. I may need to dodge some sprits of mace.

Maybe I should borrow those rabbit ears from Psycho Bunny. That would make a nice silhouette coming at you in the moonlight, wouldn't it?

Happy trails.**

** I’m thrilled to point out that no footnotes were used in the creation of this entry!!**

** Crap.


UPDATE: This was originally slated for publication on Monday. It is now Tuesday and the late night LR was accomplished.

16.11 miles
2:00:13 time
7:28 pace
0 macings

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Marathon Breakdown: 5 Easy Steps

I've been spending some time on my long runs lately wondering what’s going to happen at the Boston Marathon. My past 2 marathons haven’t gone exactly as planned. In each, my calves were left shredded like Dolphins in a tuna can. (Save the Whales! Yes, I've chosen a side.)

With each race, I've cautiously approached the start like a kitten tiptoeing to a saucer of fresh milk.

Hold it.

What’s going on here?

My main metaphorical artery is clogged. Cripes. I need 40 cc’s of Shel Silverstein STAT!

I've determined that my marathon experience usually travels a range of emotions starting and ending with happiness. Those middle areas? Well, they’re like…like…bad…or something. (I’m going to need a booster shot of Kafka also.)

So, I’d like to relive these stages for you now. Here in my forum. Perhaps you stopped by for more discussion on Huey Lewis and have no interest in running? Perhaps you are now considering leaving. Perhaps, you know, you should just shut up about it and read on. There is a lesson to be learned here whether or not you are a runner or baker or needle pointer or reality TV star or, anything, really. The lesson? Nitmos don’t like miles 18-22. Take that and apply it to your own career or hobby. And you’re welcome.

With the metaphorical medicine working its metaphorical magic, I wish to liken each stage to that of a metaphorical relationship. **

My typical marathon in 5 easy to read stages.

Stage 1: Dating

Keyword: Exhilarating

The first few miles are exciting. Lots of new people. Lots to see and do (again, metaphorically, as really, you are just running). Everything is new and fresh. Hope abounds. What could go wrong? Depending on the size of the race, this is also the closest anyone will come to being part of an actual stampede.

Stage 2. The Honeymoon

Keyword: Happiness

Somewhere around miles 5-11, you've chosen your mate, er, pace. You are feeling pretty strong. The world is your Hello Kitty purse (let’s not get into this issue here). This marathon thing isn't so bad. The aid station water even tastes like a Bahama Mama served at a poolside Jamaican all-inclusive resort. You can imagine the stunned looks on your friends’ faces when you sprint out that 26th mile in 5:30, grab your banana (maybe a Fig Newton) and circle back to the start shouting over your shoulder that your are “going for a second lap”.

Stage 3: Career

Keyword: Contentment

In these middle miles, time has flown by. Where did the time go? Here you were savoring every mile just a short while ago and now you have become so distracted by career (the first signs of exhaustion) and family (my legs hurt) that you barely notice your sagging gut (knees hurt) and serious demeanor (serious demeanor). You've settled in now. It’s a haul but you are still up for it.

Stage 4: Trial Separation

Keyword: Pain

At some point after mile 18, all of the aches and pains suddenly hit. I hate this marathon. Where did the marathon I was dating go? You're thinking you don’t want anymore to do with it. The water now tastes like the collective spit of the aid station workers rubbing their hands together with a chorus of mwahahahas. Also, somewhere in this range, you typically fight the urge to punch a smiling spectator in the throat (at least, I do. I don't want to speak for everyone else.)

Stage 5: Renewed Vows

Keyword: Reconciliation

By mile 22, the worst has passed. All of those problems you had in the last stage were merely symptoms of a mid race crisis. You worked through it. You're looking forward to the finish now. Of course, since this is a race and not an actual relationship, you didn't get to own a Corvette, get a Gold’s gym membership, and wear gold chains and a muscle shirt during the last stage. You did, however, lose all feeling below the waist. So, in some respects, it’s the same.

By the time you cross the finish line, you're once again exhilarated and content. It was worth it! Now comes the post-race stage (Kids), where you’ll find non-stop aches and pains for the foreseeable future.

I expect to be in mid-race crisis somewhere in the Newton Hills of the Boston Marathon. If you are there and see a half crazed, Dolphin-hating runner, with an angry look in his eyes, cover your throats. Fair warning.

Happy trails.

** I realize some of these “metaphors” may actually be “similes”. If you noticed, this is another thing you can shut up about. **

** I also realize I have been using footnotes way too frequently. Guess what? I’m going to continue to use them starting with here. **

** Here **

** And here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hip To Be Square

So how do you follow up a landmark flatulence post? Judging by the response, I’m not the only one finding great hilarity in bodily secretions. Next up: barfing? No?? Nah.

The only way to move forward is to relax and let my chi flow naturally. This, after all, is what I am learning in Chi Running. So, relaxing, deep breathes…fart post leads me to…chi flowingchi flowing…Huey Lewis and the News.

Okay, not where I expected to be (and certainly not flattering to the band itself) but, hey, chi lands where it lands. Don’t fight it.**

My cable company has been offering free footage from a 1987 Huey concert as part of their package services. Much to my wife’s dismay, I've been watching it. And enjoying every bit of it. Feathered hair, Jordache jeans, harmonicas, hi-top sneakers, whats not to love?

I know, I know, you’re asking yourself, 'Nitmos, how can I get my cable company to offer this concert?' Hey, you’ll need to ask for yourself. I’m not a miracle worker.

I’m in full throw back mode watching this spectacle unfold before me. All the hits from the Sports album. I’m transported back to the mid-80’s, cutting my lawn, wearing headphones and a Sony Walkman. Yes, heaven on earth. (ed. note: a Sony Walkman was a devise that played tapes and considered “mobile” at the time. It, in fact, was considerably more mobile than the turn table and gramophone my parents must have used when cutting their lawn.)

The Heart of Rock ‘n Roll
I Want a New Drug
Stuck on You
Power of Love (yes, from the Back to the Future soundtrack)
Workin’ for a Livin’
Hip to Be Square

The hits come rolling out. These guys aren't cool anymore? What happened? I was saving a concert t-shirt to pass along to my kids. You know, kind of like a 1960's Dad passing along his Rolling Stones shirt to the next generation…except the shirt is Huey Lewis and the kids couldn't give a shit. And, frankly, I wore it so much that there are gigantic holes in it. It’s now held together only by the interlocking arms of the clothing bacteria that have settled in and called it home. My wife hates this shirt. Its since been retired to a storage trunk in my basement resting comfortably with my parachute pants waiting for the day when both are cool again.

When you are an awkward teenager, Huey Lewis was the perfect pop star. Non-threatening. Not particularly handsome. And he looked like your dad. Or, at least, your friend’s dad. He was Hip to Be Square. And despite the pimples, bowl haircut, and forearms that were freakishly larger than my weak biceps, I was Hip to Be Square too. Or so I thought. Blissful ignorance is not a bad way to go about your life, after all.

And now comes word that Huey Lewis is penning and performing the title song to the new Seth Rogan (Knocked Up, Superbad) film Pineapple Express.

Brace yourself, folks. It’s going to be Hip to Be Square, again.

Where’s my key to that storage truck?

** I recognize the complete misuse of "chi" here. In no way does Chi Running suggest that by meditating on unsavory topics you will become focused on 80’s era bubble gum pop bands. If you want to reconnect with the inner Go-Go’s inside of you, I suggest meditating on 5 pink leotarded water skiing women.

Some maintenance updates here:

First, many thanks to Vanilla @ Half-Fast for allowing me to unleash sarcastic comments on his blog. I’m glad he’s realized it was in good fun and I’m not a Class A a-hole. Maybe Class B, but definitely not Class A. Check out his frequently funny blog on your way out of here. You can also leave your garbage there. Think of it as a virtual web rest stop.

This is a running blog – not a farting or Huey Lewis blog – so I should provide an update from the weekend. I knocked out my weekend log run. It’s the farthest I've gone in two months and the last few miles were a struggle. But, they’re done now. My calves can yell at me all they want. I’m the boss and they go where I say. After the run, they rebelled for a day or so but have since come around.

19.0 miles
2:21:12 time
7:26 pace

This weekend, I’ll cut my LR back to 16 miles.

Five weeks to Boston.

Happy trails.

Friday, March 14, 2008

You're Talkin' But Your Lips Ain't Movin'

Disclaimer: The following post contains absolutely nothing to do with running and is entirely without merit. It does contain a rather detailed explanation of a serious – potentially deadly – exposure to basic human bodily functions. In it, the descriptions are sophomoric. There is at least one poorly executed metaphor. If none of this appeals to you, please leave this blog and go about your day. Ultimately, you will be better for it.

My cubicle partner is a farter. I've come to grips with it.

In my quiet little office in Nowheresville, Michigan we are divided and caged into 6x6 cells arranged in a very symmetrical grid pattern throughout the building. Nothing but right angles as far as the eye can see. We are festooned in every neutral color possible. I was never before aware there were so many shades of tan in the world. There is absolutely nothing in here to offend anyone.

Except, perhaps, what we choose to bring in to the building. For this, there is a myriad of rules – itemized in bullet points to accommodate the necessary sub bullets for further clarification – to avoid the smallest ripple of nonconformity. The number of pictures on your desk; the type of pictures; the make and style of knick knacks; all of this detailed in a handy dandy rule book. ‘There will be no individuality here’ they subtly proclaim. Nothing is left to chance.

Except, there is a loophole. They didn't see it. They couldn't imagine it. But, it exists.

And my cubicle partner has found it.

We are allowed to see one other person while seated in our cubes. By craning my neck back and to the left, I can make out the rear 2/3’s of another human hunched over his desk clicking away at the keyboard. If not for the humming of the computer and the occasional pass for coffee, I wouldn't even know he was there.

Until recently, that is.

Sure, the company has done a wonderful job shaving off our individual rough edges and fitting us neatly together in a giant square puzzle consisting of smaller, perfectly square interchangeable pieces. However, we are still free to eat what we want for lunch.

And process that food in the manner our body sees fit.

And expel that waste in a truly independent form.

There are no rules here. Our digestive track is our own, uncharted process. Individuality exists! We are free people!

I think the first time I heard the rapid fire vrip, vrap, vrud I was stunned silent. Okay, that was clearly a fart. Out loud. With no effort to conceal it. Hmmm, alright. He’s a guy; I’m a guy. Fart jokes are funny. I craned my neck back to make eye contact for the shared you-just-farted-in-the-office snicker. He did not return my gaze but clicked away at the keyboard.

No big deal. No smell. No foul.

Then, it happened again. And again. Throughout the afternoon.


Different intonations. Different lengths to the notes. Different volumes. The dude is a gas maestro.

C’mon now, at this point, a sheepish grin is warranted at the very least. I can hear people two aisles over laughing out loud. There is guilt by association. For my honor, you must recognize this act. Own it.

He clicks away apparently oblivious.

This has gone on for weeks now. Every afternoon, like clockwork, it begins.

FFFRAPP FRRRRIP PFFFFTTPIP (there was a bubble at the end)

We are getting shameless cheek lifting action now.

I’m becoming so familiar with this routine that I think I’m able to accurately guess the amount, consistency, and texture of the man’s lunch.

One of the benefits of my solitary, analytical job is that I can plug in my headphones and rock out to some tunes whilst this Concerto in Chili Fries Minor is going on behind me. So far, there has been no accompanying odor. I must be safely outside of the evaporation zone.

Normally, I would let this type of behavior carry on without a single comment. It’s kinda funny. I can tune it out. Everyone knows he’s the office farter and not me. So, big deal, right?

However, it has unexpectedly sent me into an internal dilemma that I am spending way too much of my day thinking about. This can’t go on like this. I’m looking at months, potentially years, sharing this same area of the office with this gaseous man. There is only so much music in the world to conceal it. My ears are sore by the end of the day.

What to do?

I have considered saying something. He has, in fact, mentioned that he is a bit hard of hearing. Maybe he doesn't realize it is so loud? After all, he never becomes self conscious or appears to recognize in anyway that, well, that one was particularly moist. Should I do him a solid and point it out?

“Hey P____, can I get you some more coffee? And, by the way, everyone can hear you shitting your pants.”


“Um, excuse me, do you have to use the potty?”

I guess I could fight fire with fire and return volley. It might make me feel better. But he can’t hear so well. This might be futile.

I hate to embarrass the guy. I mean, he’s doing a pretty good job of it himself. I don’t want to be seen as the office Fart Policeman either. And Lord knows my wife can attest to the fact that I’m not anti-fart in anyway. But still….

Something must be done. For now, I’ll hunker down and wait it out. It might be a stage. I mean, for awhile in the 90’s, I thought I just might be the next lead singer of Van Halen but I got over it. This may pass. Lower G.I. order may be restored. Office conformancy may again reign supreme.

Unless the evaporative zone expands and I’m caught in the fumes. Then I’m coming out swingin’ baby. Chair overturning, paper flying, full windmill arms exacting justice on the head of the noxious perpetrator.

This I vow.

Happy trails.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Run, Fatboy, Run

First and foremost, yesterday was one of those runs that kicked ass. It was over 40 degrees and might as well have been 70 degrees for all I knew. Any break - even just 10 degrees above the norm - feels like a heat wave. I busted out content to simply shake the legs out after Sunday's LR. But I started loosening real quick and turned it into a Limbo Run (i.e. how low can you go?) to beat the previous mile. I love these kinds of runs. I stopped after 5 miles - that was the plan - but actually felt I could have gone even lower for mile 6.

5.0 miles
35:47 time
7:10 pace

Descending mile times of 7:34, 7:20, 7:17, 7:04, 6:33.

When reviewing this data on Garmin, I became warm and tingly. In fact, I didn't even bother to stuff Garmin back into the drawer afterwards. Seemed cruel somehow. Instead, I propped it up on a pillow next to me, tucking it in ever so gently past the first wrist strap, and let it watch some TV. I placed a Cheeto next to him but he wasn't hungry. Little fella wasn't hungry.

It felt great to leave the North Face bionic jacket at home also and opt for the lighter wind jacket. The bionic jacket is great in cold, windy weather. You never feel either. After a long winter though, it starts to feel like this:

I caught a commercial for a movie coming out that may appeal to the running crowd: Run, Fatboy, Run. Probably one of those 2 week in the theatre, quick release to DVD types as it doesn't have much broad appeal. However, it looks kinda amusing. Comedy, marathon running. It stars the same guy from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz so, you know, you should be aware of what you are getting into.

Plus, I always find it amusing when the word "fatboy" is used. Same with "akimbo" and "persnickety". Amongst many others, these are money words for me.

Happy trails.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Staring Down the Barrel

So I awoke this morning and rolled out of bed and almost hit the floor. Normally, I don't have to consciously order "legs activate!" They do it on their own. I'm feeling the after effects of yesterday's 15 miler (and the rest of the day house painting).

My knees are sore. Not long term, debilitating sore. But 'oh-you-gave-me-a-pounding' sore. The pavement is unforgiving this time of year.

Did I really write a post about the benefits and general injury-freeness (it's a word, trust me) of Chi Running??

Actually, I have been quietly dealing with a right IT band achiness for the past few weeks but this area is really not very sore this morning. So, things are not a total loss. It had been killing me after recent 5 and 7 mile runs but not so much after this 15 miler. It could be that my different running technique is alleviating some pressure. Or it could be that I switched to shoes with quite a few less miles on them. Inevitably, when I start feeling leg soreness, the shoes are the culprit. One of these times, I'll switch the shoes out before this happens. But, shoes cost money and I want to soak every last mile I can out of them. I'm currently rotating three old pair in this training season. There's a couple miles left in all of them somewhere. And, really, once a pair sits for a week it magically adds a couple more miles doesn't it?

Yesterdays' run was my first in a long time in the redesigned Asics 2120's. I had been using the 2110's which were great shoes. The 20's have a stiffer mid sole. I'm not a fan. I may look at some Nimbus's next.

All in all, I was pretty happy with how the run went. I tried to hold a consistent 7:30/pace and just relax and practice some Chi running techniques. I was surprised to find myself wearing down around the 12 mile mark but, considering the wind and 5 lbs of clothing I was wearing, I managed alright.

15.01 miles
1:52:03 time
7:28 pace

I'm staring down the barrel of my training plan gun. This is the start of my maximum mileage weeks. As I've mentioned, I'm going to take it a wee bit easier in the build up to Boston to be a little fresher on race day. However, these next 3 weeks is where the big long runs will be run. This weekend, a nice 19 miler is planned. I'll try to remember to issue the Engage Legs command before rolling out of bed next Monday.

If there is a running God, I pray to thee:

Please make winter go away
Please send some 40+ temperature days
Please make the frozen ground thaw
Please redirect the wind elsewhere
Your humble servant.

Six weeks to Boston!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Chi Running: Some Thoughts

As I mentioned, I'm reading Chi Running by Danny Dreyer right now to see if there are some little gold nuggets of info I may benefit from with my own technique.

Conclusion: Eureka!

Well, that's a little strong. I wouldn't say I've struck gold in the form of becoming a relaxed, injury-free, sub 6 minute pace, Kenyan style running machine. However, I definitely think I'm taking a few bits of chi wisdom away with me.

I don't like the idea of taking someone's marketed thoughts and plopping them down in a free format such as this. They took the time to research, write, and create the book so I shouldn't heist the material and make it available for the world to see. (ed. note: when I say "world", I of course mean the handful of folks who stop by here on occasion). But I think I can give some thoughts on things I've learned and embraced while directing anyone interested to purchase the book and read more about it. After all, I'm sure I'm butchering the basic ideas anyhow.

With the disclaimer out of the way, on with the shewww...

The general idea here is that most runners tend to "power run" (i.e. run with their leg muscles propelling them forward). Chi running places the emphasis on form and technique thereby minimizing the actual effort from your leg muscles and, thus, minimizing leg injuries. It's an interesting concept. Who doesn't want to run just as fast (or faster) with less effort and fewer injuries?

So, I've been giving the concepts a try with my own training runs. I have only a handful of samples so far but I believe there are some quality ideas here.

First, the book extensively covers the "correct" running posture. That was a bit tedious but not without merit particularly if you aren't exactly sure where you should be holding your arms, shoulders, head, etc. I believe I was using proper posture before so I'm not sure this offered much to me.

Next, the book explores your running form in motion. Here's where it got gooood.

Power Running, the antagonist in this tale, uses your legs to reach forward and pull you down the road. This operates on maximum leg muscle usage. Maximum strain and pressure on your feet, calves, hamstring, etc. And maximum chance for exhaustion of these muscles and injury.

Chi Running argues that most runners need to lean slightly forward from your ankles - keeping their running posture intact - to position the center of gravity in front of your body rather than the center of your body. (Note: Do Not Bend At Your Waist!) You are then using gravity itself as a propellant to move you forward rather than your legs. You should keep your legs and hips (and, really, your entire body) relaxed and loose. You then move your legs under your body - instead of "reaching" forward with them - and work with the natural gravitational forces to move your body forward. Your legs will kick out the back more whereas in Power Running your knees rise up higher in front of you. The "lean" is your gas pedal. If you want to go faster you lean slightly further. This sounds a bit unusual while reading, I know. I had images of folks getting so intent with going faster that they literally fall forward on their faces. Keep in mind we are talking a very small, almost imperceptible lean by the casual observer. You can feel it even if others can't see it.

I've tried this on a few training runs...focusing on my core (from which the chi flows), keeping my legs loose and relaxed, and leaning a bit forward from my "normal" running stride. It's a work in progress still but I definitely have noticed less strain on my leg muscles already. I think I have been getting into a bad habit of bouncing when I ran which was causing undue strain on my calves and hamstrings. By practicing some Chi Running, my legs have felt fresher during my runs and better after my runs. I have become very aware of my legs and noticed that they are often very tense when I run. Now, while running, I constantly evaluate the strain on my legs and remind myself to keep them loose and relaxed.

One of the techniques the book uses to demonstrate the difference between Power Running and Chi Running is to have you stand and run in place. You can feel the muscles under stress in your legs. Now, stand straight up and let yourself fall forward a bit and catch yourself by taking a step forward. You have now shifted the propellant from you leg muscles to gravity. When you took a step forward to catch yourself, your leg muscles were probably loose and relaxed but you still moved forward.

Interesting. I'm not a big T'ai Chi or Eastern philosophy type of guy. But I am open to new ideas or concepts. Especially anything that proposes that I can do something better with less effort.

Many of you are probably already incorporating a lot of the ideas in this book in your regular routine without knowing it. For me, this has been a good reminder to remove the emphasis from my leg muscles and back into a better form. I think I lost a bit of my form over the last several months.

So, take it for what it's worth.

Happy trails.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Big Melt

Welcome March! It's in the mid 50's today and Ole Man Winter is taking a beating. I've seen several slumped, defeated Frosty's in my neighbor's yards. As Nelson from the Simpson's would say, "Ha Ha".

Of course, we could get another wintry blast any day now. For now, though, I'm delighting in another sign of spring. For the past several years, I've noticed that my mood is directly related to the thermometer. The hotter the better. Why do I live in Michigan? A question I've asked myself often...

Unfortunately, this big melt has come a day late. My run yesterday morning was completed on less than desirable running surfaces. The sidewalk was either:

(a) a big slushy pool of water soaking my foot to the ankle -or-
(b) a solid sheet of ice that froze over night from the previous days thaw -or-
(c) three inches of loose snow in an area that doesn't get direct sunlight.

Take your pick. I ran from one of these conditions into the next often going through all three in a short 1/4 mile span.

My knees are paying for it today. I think running on loose snow is the worst. It's like trying to run across beach sand. Your feet give a little out to the side with each step increasing the torque on your knees. I sat with an ice bag on my right knee last evening. I have a nice limp today. Ole Man Winter is not going down without a fight. It's taking my knees hostage.

Last year, Boston received a nice blizzard the day of the marathon. Don't think I haven't forgotten that either.

10.6 miles
7:27 pace

Congratulations to my friend Phil who completed the Little Rock Half Marathon over the weekend. One of these years, my wife and I will make it down to visit/run this race.

On a completely unrelated note, has anyone seen the flick Michael Clayton? It was up for Best Picture and, frankly, I found it boring. My wife fell asleep and I had to fight the urge myself. I'm not one that needs explosions or car chases to entertain me either. I found the whole thing pretty predictable and bland. I guess I didn't "get" what all the hype was about.

I guess I shouldn't go through the trouble of reviewing movies though after featuring Meatballs prominently in my last post. Me = credibility all shot to hell!

Happy trails.