Monday, September 29, 2008
Life has a way to interrupt the laughter on occasion. The best laids plans and important long runs suddenly take a back seat.
After a day of sun, soccer tournaments, playing on the playground, running around with the neighborhood girls, my nearly 7 year old filly (birthday #7 Wednesday) went to bed like any other day Saturday night. By 10:30 PM she was still playing in the dark with her Care Bear teddy bears (we allow some weekend slippage of the "lights out" rule.) By 11:30 PM, Mrs. Nitmos and I headed to bed ourselves to prepare for the resumption of the soccer tournament bright and early the next day. The filly appeared to be resting quietly.
By 11:50 PM, as I was drifting into sleep, I was awakened by the scared yell from Mrs. Nitmos coming from my daughter's room. She had heard a noise and went to check it out.
My daughter was throwing up in her sleep. Though her eyes were open, she was not responding to any communication. Jaw clenched. After a few minutes frantically deciding what we should do, 9-1-1 was called. The ambulance arrived.
She was having a seizure. She has no history of seizure. No family history either.
It was a long night filled with tense moments, needles, tests, scans, and an overwhelming feeling of What The Heck Is Going On Here.
By morning, now in the pediatric ICU and still sleeping from the anti-seizure medication, an MRI and EEG were ordered. My daughter opened her eyes. She was still medicated but was making eye contact and responding to familiar voices.
Sunday afternoon was spent with the doctors analyzing all the information we knew about her, family history, and test results. In the end, the MRI and CT scans were, thankfully, normal. The only anomaly was the EEG (measuring brain wave activity). She appears to be susceptible to seizures with no known cause.
Life changes quickly and without warning. This was one bumpy ride.
My daughter is back home now. She has a ton of attitude...something I've expressed in this space below. It's back and in regular form. I'm not sure if the hospital voluntarily released her or if they were simply following her orders.
She will be on anti-seizure medication for the foreseeable future and, possibly, permanently.
I missed an important long run yesterday and couldn't care less. My filly is home and everything will start to return to normal.
The jokes and silliness will return to F.M.S soon. Long runs, short runs, fartlek runs, limbo runs will one again take center stage. Perhaps, even my weird preoccupation with llamas.
Run and live well everyone. I'll be back in a few days!
Thursday, September 25, 2008
The pressure is building…
Sometime this weekend, I’ll knock out my 21 miler and then call it a taper. Not sure if it’ll be before or after my son’s soccer tournament, daughters game, or my customary weekend fit of rage. It’ll get done though. Dreams of crackheadedness will no doubt haunt my long run once again.
One by one I’m plucking the mountain of tasks off my checklist. Each completed in half ass fashion. There’s simply no time to do any of them thoroughly. Need the TPS report completed at work? Here it is. Of course, I know it’ll come back to me after it’s reviewed as it’s rife with inaccuracies and falsehoods but that’ll buy me a week anyhow. Need to rake the yard? Why do it now? The little buggers are just going to keep falling. Might as well wait until they are all off the tree. Between now and then, a huge wind storm might blow through making it my neighbors problem anyhow.
The training runs? Oh, those get completed on schedule and with due diligence. I massage this task like I’m working a whitehead into a fine conical point in the bathroom mirror. Calmly. Confidently. Precisely.
See, the disadvantage work has is that it does not help me train for a marathon. If anything, it hurts it (other than equipping me with the ability to afford race fees, Gu, and shoes at regular intervals.) Until my office decides to make me Senior Marathon Runner with exceptional pay and benefits instead of Easily Replaceable Atonamaton, they’ll have to continue to deal with half ass work and a snarky attitude.
Since I treated my 20 miler a few weekends ago as a race pace practice run, this weekend's 21 will be done, hopefully, a bit slower. It’s time to cover some distance at a bit easier pace. There’s nothing to be gained by cranking out 21 miles at race pace three weeks before the marathon. This is all about confidence. More than the physical, I need the mental reassurance that 20+ miles on a given weekend is within my range. No matter how many marathons I run, there is still something a bit intimidating to me about the 20 mile mark. But I’m fearful of most numbers without a square root and also divisible by 5. I’ve been that way for years.
Squeeze it. Poke it. Pinch it.
By the time this week is over and I’m rounding the bend on final mile number 21 with taper in sight, I figure I’ll have the same euphoric sense of accomplishment as when I defeated those engorged pores all over the bathroom mirror as a teenager. (Pop! Ahhhh. Uh-oh, get some Kleenex it dug too deep! Mom, someone made a mess all over the mirror! Can you come clean it up?) But approaching taper is just like prepping for Picture Day at school. You would like to deflate those skin volcanoes but, if not, you can always turn a little to the right for one of those artsy profile shots to hide the eruptions.
The marathon is the Prom. Taper will create another big, fat whitehead right on the tip of my nose. One of those really enflamed ones with a mound of white bubble surrounded by a ring of red irritated flesh. I need to work it carefully. Prod it. Not push too hard. Bring it to a fine, elongated point with maximum pressure build.
And then, on October 19th, give it that final squeeze and watch it explode all over the streets of Detroit (and Windsor, Ontario).
Ahhhh, the sweet relief.
There’s nothing like finishing a well run marathon with medal draped around your neck, water in hand, and a giant oozing nose crater.
This is heaven to me.
Two Tales from the Nitmos Home for Parentless Youth
On a completely different note, my nearly 7 year old filly decided to turn teenager on me this morning. I hear a disgusted “awwww” and then her sweet little muffled angry voice calling out to me from the bathroom, “Dad, why is it so hard to put the seat down on the toilet?”
Of course, I replied the way any good parent responds when confronted by their children: with belittling sarcasm.
“Well, when you grow up, you can rent your own mobile home and leave the seat down if you like.”
Which brings me to the second tale of morning school preparation. Again, my filly, when asked to go downstairs for breakfast (she’s up earlier than her brother today), she responds, “I don’t like to go downstairs first. There are zombies down there.”
To which I reply, “There are NO zombies down there. Zombies don’t exist. But werewolves? Maybe.”
She didn’t go downstairs. Hello, Academy? Still waiting for my award for Exceptional Work in the Field of Parenting.
Good Luck to Viper and Laura at the Akron Marathon! Tear it up!
Monday, September 22, 2008
You can always tell when you pushed a bit too hard on a long run. The lactic acid builds up in the legs leaving you shuffling over the next few days as it works back out through the ever-whitening shades of your urine. Even the 5 and 10 mile mid week runs turn into a challenge.
This past week has been the Great Lactic Acid battle for this marathon training season. Every season has them. I pushed a bit too hard on last weekend’s 20 miler. Since I’m not running a half marathon or other distance race prior to the marathon, I decided the 20 miler could afford to go a little faster than I would normally treat one of those.
My normal Mr. Serious Runner Guy face has been replaced with a Mr. Contorted Grimace* for the last few runs. The look that says, ‘Yeah running is really, really fun. Honest’, to all the passing cars. The adults in the front seat give each other the knowing see-I-told-you-it isn’t-good-for-you look while the children in the backseat now have a fresh face to the beast prowling their closets after Lights Out.
Unlike the Tom Wolfe novel, this story isn’t loaded with Merry Pranksters but Merry Crampsters. After each run, my leg muscles were twitching faster than a tasered college students pectoral muscles after a post game, alcohol fueled, couch burning riot. I consoled them with lots of Gatorade and happy thoughts about being only a few days short of taper.
And as the final big long run approaches (21 miles this coming Sunday), the schedule is getting increasingly cluttered. Had I known the children would take so much time out of my day, I may have opted for pet ostriches. Here’s a recap of yesterday as an example:
8-11:30am Drive home from visiting grandparents.
11:30-12:00 Detox from grandparents visit (i.e. slowly resume amount of profanity in your conversational language)
12:30-2:15 Attend son’s soccer game in the next town over (away game)
2:15-2:35 Rush to car to drive dangerously fast with flying middle fingers to make it to daughter’s soccer game. Profanity spikes here.
2:45-4:00 Daughter’s soccer game.
4:00-4:10 Drive home.
4:15-5:55 Run 14 miles (somewhere in here look enviously at hobo and wonder how bad it would be to be a crack head)
5:56-6:10 Shower and pretty myself up. (Had to cut 1 mile off LR for this activity)
6:11-7:30 Drive puppy over and attend her training classes.
7:50 Arrive back home and begin getting kids ready and into bed.
7:51 Put "nighty night water" (i.e. bourbon) back in cupboard.
7:52-8:29 Look busy while Mrs.Nitmos graciously irons clothes for me and trudges heavy laundry up and down stairs.
8:30 - ?? Sob uncontrollably and consider becoming a crack head.
Life would be so much easier if I just bought myself an old school bus, painted it in rainbow strips, loaded up Mrs. Nitmos, the kids, dog and newly adopted ostriches and toured the country on an psychedelic rush of endorphins, Gu, Gatorade and (lactic) acid.
But, then again, I’d have to give up my HDTV. Pappa can’t have that.
* I’m not sexist. I just don’t think my facial expressions are feminine or married. Otherwise, there’s no reason they couldn’t be Mrs. Contorted Grimace. You may certainly assign gender to your facial expressions at your pleasure.
Colt’s team is a regular league menace. Yesterday’s tally? 11-1. Son didn’t score but made Mrs. Nitmos and I proud with many terrific centering passes for goals as the left winger and much post goal preening. I believe I saw him bust out The Worm at one point before drawing a yellow card. He was also pretty pleased that this was the first game in awhile in which Daddy didn't verbally assault the ref and have to spend the rest of the game in the car.
Filly? Yes, she earned a name. In fact, she earned a first, middle, and a few nicknames. Five goals in all. Really, she embarrassed the other team. As coach and ref, I was able to keep my mutterings of ‘oh, man, you just got served…again’ barely audible. The other team heard. But not their parents. That’s really the Lasting Lesson I’m trying to teach: When taunting, make sure you do it in a way that injures the psyche of your opponent but does not get you in trouble. I think they are starting to get it.
Friday, September 19, 2008
The point is when Event occurs, it inspires a Reaction in me. And sometimes those reactions are positive. After all, I’ve spent way more of my adult life outside of a prison cell than within. So far. Fight the power.
Duty called for me again recently. This time, Duty took the form of a community soccer coach for my filly’s team. My community is woefully short of parents versed in popular non-American sports involving a bespeckled two-toned ball. I, however, gallantly roamed the tundra from ages 10-12 chasing previously described ball making me an expert in the sport. At least, compared to the other parents.
When word of the need got out, I strode into the office and plopped my hastily filled application on the desk as the clouds parted and a celestial band of light stretched down and engulfed me amidst a symphony of harps.
With squared jaw and booming voice, I proclaimed, “Do not despair. I am heeerre to coach soccer. Your troubles are over.”
I could sense the relief and joy bursting underneath the receptionist’s disinterested and distracted demeanor. She was a wonder in restraint! She scanned the document no doubt searching for the hidden source of my majestic aura (as if Superman’s strength could be found on his resume!?)
“Okay. You have a pulse. You’ll do.”
And that is why soccer flourishes this fall for my filly and dozens of other kids her age. Because of me and my heroic act. I say this humbly as I’m not given to immodesty, as you know. I’m spectacularly, enviably modest, in fact.* Sure there were ten other coaches at this level already signed up and in place but they needed eleven to make it work. And what good is ten when you need eleven? Not much. Thanks but no thanks to the other ten. To paraphrase Spinal Tap, why is 11 better than 10? Because it’s one more than ten.
With whistle askew like General MacArthur’s pipe and clipboard firmly clenched to my side beneath folded arm, I patrol the practice field determined to stamp out errors, frivolity and unrehearsed spontaneity so common in youth soccer. This will be a well oiled machine. There are six of them but only four will see the field of play at any one time. That is the league rules. My rules are that we will play with less than four if I don’t have four that have inspired my full confidence and approval for live game action. I will not go into battle with a weak link.
The first game is this weekend. I have spent the last two weeks breaking them down and rebuilding them in my image.** They are no longer interested in Wii games or Santa Clause or Webkinz. In fact, they no longer feel emotion and can’t even imagine life past the last game. The look in their eyes makes the hair stand up on the back of my…back. It could scare the The Wiggles into dressing in monochrome.
Just how I like it.
The kids do not have names yet. At least, not to me. They will not receive any individual honors – such as a name – or recognition of their existence until they score a goal for me. They are merely independent powered, juice boxed fueled potential goal scorers at this point.
History is rife with tales of people called to duty in times of peril. Some ignore the call. Some step forward.
My call came in the form of a community email burst informing us that “if another coach doesn’t volunteer we’ll sprinkle the remaining kids into the other existing teams which is not a problem at all.”
I answered the call.
By the end of this soccer season, I will not be the coach of a disorderly, recreational soccer team.
I will be a Leader of Men.
**And if any of you want to make a crack about the kids getting calve cramps during the game, you can bite your tongue.
15 long run miles on the docket this weekend.
I'm a TV watcher and not afraid to admit it. If you didn't catch the season premiere of F/X's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" last night, shame on you. Don't call yourself a fan of comedy. The second episode, The Gang Solves The Gas Crisis, might have been the funniest show I've seen in a long, long time. I nearly wet my diaper...if I still wore a diaper, that is. Ahem.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Months ago, I profiled my own scientifically proven speed building technique called Limbo Running. You all learned a 100% proven effective speed technique, giggled along as I twisted fartlek to say “fart lick”, and were introduced for the first time to the Church of Garmin. Looking back, that post contained it all…including my first mention of orphanage robbery! Pride!
During Monday night’s 20 miler, I stumbled across another training technique I had been inadvertently practicing. And it happens to involve one of my favorite English language words: akimbo.
To refresh, I had wimped out on Sunday’s planned 20 mile long run due to water. It was raining. It makes my make up run. So, under a cool, breezy 62 degree Monday evening, I decided to knock it out post work. Or, at least, go as far as I wanted before making up some excuse why I couldn’t finish. If I interpreted the comments from Monday morning’s post correctly, there were many along the lines of You are crazy to do this after work and You must be a super nunchuk ninja and Why are you so devilishly handsome? (Some of these were implied but came through clearly to me. And thank you.)
Understand that my work day doesn’t really prevent me from knocking out a long run afterwards. I sit on my increasingly flat, nearly concave ass all day. In fact, rather than fatigue, my legs are nearing atrophy by the time my day ends. I’ll go a couple of hours at a time in the same seated position until my head thunks down on the desk sending me into a startled, co-worker seeking frenzy. The biggest danger I face is rising from the chair to my weakening legs for another cup of coffee (mornings) or water (afternoons) or restrooming (sprinkled throughout the day but more in the morning due to the coffee). I could pull a hammy if I elevate too quickly. Construction workers, firemen, police officers face their own job related dangers but I doubt any of them could pull a hammy standing up. So who has it worse?
The plan was 20 miles broken into a 7 mile loop and two 6.5 mile loops. At the end of each loop, Roctane Gu and Gatorade. I wanted to go easy on the first loop, pick it up on the second, and then ease back on the third again.
Yeah, right. I did whatever I wanted once the tunes started playing. You try “easing back” during some spirited Linkin Park. It doesn’t happen.
First loop came in a bit faster than I wanted.
Second loop was about right.
Third loop was too fast until about mile 17 when a few nuts and bolts started loosening and dipped my pace by 30 seconds or so before pulling it together for the final mile.
A bit too fast for what I was looking to accomplish on this run. My 21 miler in two weeks will need to be slower. I’ll need to ditch the Linkin Park, Metallica, and Killers for some Peabo Bryson I think.
Of interest, at mile 18, what did my wondering eyes see but the unmistakable image of a green folded bill sitting in the middle of the sidewalk. Please be a $20. Please be a $20. Being a ninja (implied and thank you), I did a front back flip landing a perfect crouching tiger right in front of the monetary target.* Sensing no hidden dragons in the brush, I cackled with glee and swooped up the folded bill. And ran on.
Fudge pops. A dollar? Who walks around with just a dollar anymore?? Oh, right, some snot nosed kid on his way to the candy store I passed a mile ago. Tough shit, kid, it’s my dollar now. Here’s a free lesson: Don’t wear baggy pants or I’ll steal things from you.
Afterwards, basking in the glow of knocking out the first twenty miler for this training season, knowing some kid got screwed out of SweetTarts, and dining on a reheated ham steak**, I noticed that both of my elbow joints and the chiseled muscles above them were sore. Calves sore? Yep. Hamstrings? A bit tender. Ass muscles? Not as concave as they were a few hours ago. But, elbows???
Then I remembered that, as the miles increased, I caught myself tensing up. My shoulders and arms became more rigid. In fact, I distinctly remember my elbows bowing out away from my hips causing my hands to turn inward. I was running akimbo. If I was setting a wicked screen in basketball, this would have been fine. Or blocking for a tailback. Or even trying out for a part in the background ensemble of Pirates of Penzance. But not when running.
Several times, I reminded myself to relax and loosen up.
Limbo running? A wonderful training technique. Akimbo running? Not recommended. Unless you want to look like the biggest elbow pointed akimbo dipshit on the path.
So, here I sit today with long run completed. One dollar richer. But elbows sore and interfering with my ability to prop my head up and feign work concentration while getting some zzzz’s.
I would trade all of the found dollars in the world to stop my akimbo running.
* Meaning: I eased gently to a stop, bent over slowly with an audible ‘oh, shit’ and then trotted back into a run praying my Achilles wouldn’t snap.
** We are the folks that buy “ham steak”. Don’t judge.
Incidentally, is Srod the only one of you that is going to point out that a pumpkin is a fruit and NOT a vegetable? I served one up for you people and you failed. Now do you see why you didn't get that special edition 200th post?
Monday, September 15, 2008
Give me back my calves!
The Detroit Marathon is just around the corner and my mind has once again drifted from fartleks and limbo runs to long runs and bowel cleansers. The time of year where even an ordinary bathroom trip seems like pre-race practice worthy of an entry in the training log (including a star rating system for “nut” and “corn” density.).
As summer closes, I need to review my Summer of Speed goals and assign myself a letter grade. You can click this link to read the original entry though I’ve included the goals below as I doubt many of you have the dexterity of independent index finger mouse action.
5k Goal: Sub 19:00
10k Goal: Actually run one. Oh, and break 41:00.
15k Goal: Probably won’t get to one of these this year so who’s foolin’ who?
10 Mile: Sub 1:10:00
So, how did I do? Unfortunately, I only actually ran two 5k’s this summer. The other times were measured against my Garmin during training runs. Funny thing about me, I love running but rarely enter races. Instead, I focus on only a few each year. Mostly this is because I’m cheap. But also because my weekends are filled with forced community volunteerism by local government officials due to what they call “misdemeanors”. Like I’m the first person to ever try to grab an officer’s gun!?
5k Time: 18:30 measured at the Cherry Festival 5k. Status: Passed!
10k Time: Never did run an official one though did Nancy’s 10k on the 10th virtual race. Unfortunately, I posted a 42:08. I should have been able to beat this, based on my 5k time, but didn’t bother to enter one so…. Status: Failed.
15k Goal: Didn’t run one as expected. Did record in a training run a 1:03:00 on the nose which would best my official PR by over 4 minutes. Status: Incomplete.
10 Mile: No race but 10 training miles recorded in 1:07:20. Status: Passed!
As promised, the love for my children has been replaced with the love of two age group awards. The awards have been named the same as my kids to help me keep things straight. In turn, my kids have been renamed Silver Medal and Coffee Cup.
In addition, for extra credit, I did wrestle three llamas, kicking two of their asses, hurl insults at dolphins and oak trees, and shoot fruit from my ass. I will now retire all three grudges and projectiles (unless a llama starts shit again in the future.)
Adding this all up (and grading on a curve due to the distraction my job continues to be), I’m going to give myself a Euclidean geometric grade of
I’ll take it. I was hoping for a Kronecker delta but sometimes our dreams are just out of our reach.
It’s been awhile. Let’s do a Summer of Speed closing ceremony haiku:
I pray thee Beardsley
For speed summer approval
All hail Runzilla
The 20 miler has still not been completed. With the non stop torrential rain, I decided to use my time more wisely. That is, start construction on my Ark. I haven’t been successful in gathering the animals. I have one dog and one goldfish. I think I saw a mosquito as well. Still 38 days away though….
I will be out after work tonight for a mean 20!
This is my 200th post. I had planned an elaborate entry naming each and every one of you readers who have stopped by. But then I thought, why? Why would I go through all of that when most of you just stop by to ridicule me? So, screw you. 200 times.
Plus, I’m still getting over the unfortunate intersection of my 100th post and chosen title. Hindsight!
Thursday, September 11, 2008
A few days ago, I caught a reflective glimpse of something while walking towards a nondescript office picture. The picture is one of those generic serene-sail-boats-moored-in-the-pastel-harbor scenes that you never notice except when your own motion shifts the light and shadows of the image causing you to look deeper into the picture for the source of the ghostly movement. A quick inspection revealed the masculine, well proportioned, brimming with smartocity* phantom to be…me.
As with any reflective surface, I paused, thought about combing my hair but then suddenly pulled a Fonzie and put the comb away. Did Da Vinci “touch up” the Mona Lisa after slapping some paint on canvas and kicking it out the door? Don’t think so. And there’s another Basic Tenet of Nitmoism: "If it’s good enough for Da Vinci, it’s good enough for me.”
Normally, I’m carrying a coffee cup, important papers, or an undeserved sense of entitlement when I glide through the office. Bearing these burdens, I’m fairly well weighted down forcing my movement to be confined to typical Mr. Khaki Pant Wearing Office Guy. Without this restriction, my arms were going crazy. I was flopping them back and forth like I had ski poles attached and pumping for the home stretch in a cross country ski competition. How did I get so…jaunty? I’ve refined a legendary office hallway scowl that keeps my co-workers at bay and unnecessary stories of offspring accomplishments away from my desk. (The snot rocket isn’t just for running, I always say.) This whole happy go lucky strut I had going on would ruin all of the carefully constructed badwill I had built up over the years.
So, it’s time for a new walk. I was getting tired of the old one anyway. Besides, I want one that has a little dipsy doo in it to give me some white suburbia gangsta street cred.** The kind of street cred that says ‘Yeah, I’m probably just your average thirty something family man but maybe – just maybe – I’m stewing crystal meth in the garage.’ So, I’ve slowed down and put in a little delayed drag of my left shoulder and hip giving me an irregular, offbeat cadence. It looks cool. It looks suspiciously crystal methy. And decidedly anti-pumpkin.*** Mission accomplished.
So what does all of this have to do with running? About as much as dancing cartoon elephants have to do with a true portrayal of drunken visions. That is, not much. Has anyone actually deliriously envisioned dancing elephants when plastered? If Warner Bros. can pull that off, then I can make this connection between my new awesome walk and running injuries.
You see, my right hip hurts now. It didn’t before my new walk. I remember hearing that the #1 problem with running while injured is that, unconsciously, you tend to favor the injury, subtly modifying your normal gait. In the end, this often leads to a second, sometimes more severe injury than what you had to begin with. This is why the normal recommendation, when presented with a minor injury, is to take a break and treat it. Your left calve injury may lead to a left hip injury as you tried to adjust the pressure to a different part of your leg. Compounding, compounding, compounding….Great for your savings, bad for your body.
I think I’ll follow my own terrific advice and go back to my normal office strut though with a little less jaunt. I’ll also make sure to have something in my hands from now on.
As for the anti-pumpkin vibe I’d still like to emit? I’m working on my “F*ck Pumpkins” signs right now. Join the club.
* In case you are wondering, smartocity does reflect.
** I probably should stop saying “dipsy doo” then, right?
*** Excuse me for saying but a true “vegetable” doesn’t double as a light fixture.
Steer Mike completed Dance With Dirt over the weekend. As did Lisa. Check out their reports.
Mrs. Nitmos and I passed the lucky 13th anniversary threshold Tuesday. You may give her your condolences if you wish though I think she's spectacularly lucky. I'd love to be married to me. Happy Anniversary, hon!
Monday, September 08, 2008
I think some may have been confused about whether or not I thought it was worth while to even run the marathons. Let me answer that as clearly as possible:
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
And nothing emphasizes the affirmative like increasing font size and rainbow colors.
PR or no Pr. BQ or no BQ. The marathon is the most rewarding of all the race distances I have run. You can’t skip out on the training and just hope to gut it through. You can “gut” through an extra mile or two in a shorter race but try doing that with an extra 10 miles. Uh, yeah, we’ll see you sometime later in the afternoon.
When you cross the finish line, there is a rush like no other. You are part of the club. And not the lame Dungeons and Dragons “club” you were vice president of in seventh grade. No, this is a cool club that doesn’t have you dressing up as a “wizard” or casting spells on “mutant dwarves”.*
If you are an aspiring first time marathoner, I highly recommend running a large marathon first. Big crowds. Big expo. Big excitement. It really adds to the drama as you head down that last .2 miles to the finish amidst a throng of screaming, Nitmos-adoring people.
Friday’s post found me ruminating on that point I reach in all of my races where I need to decide to go for that BIG ALL IMPORTANT GOAL or simply run out the race. Make no mistake, either way I usually have a smile on my face – sometimes concealed by a calve cramp grimace – and dreaming of lollipops, cotton candy clouds, and unicorns. I’m not going to lie, when it gets tough, sometimes I feel like clubbing the unicorn with the lollipop before strangling it to death with the rainbow and concealing the body under the cotton candy cloud. But those are only temporary dark moments.
Last weekend’s long run ended in dehydrated disaster. I blamed this on the fact that I left for the run at 11 AM in 85 degree heat. So I learned, right? What time did I take off this Sunday? 11 AM!! My mom didn’t raise too many idiot kids. Fortunately, it was 70 degrees with a cool breeze. I extended this run from 16 to 17 miles on the fly as it was going so well.
I probably could have kept that pace for about another two miles before balling up on the sidewalk in the fetal position sucking my thumb.
Next week, my first twenty miler. My last five long runs have been 15, 17, 16, 18, and 17. It’s time to kick it up a notch.
I’ve been reading all about this new fangled idea to raise your legs over your head up against a wall or something post-run to get the bad toxins out of the muscles. I tried this. My left foot immediately cramped up forming a “c”. Or, at least, a lower case printed “r”. My kids found it hilarious. Thanks New Fangled Science! I enjoyed that post run shooting pain in the foot. Are these the same folks that came out with the idea to bleed the illness out of people three hundred years ago?
I’m going to keep my feet on the ground next time. And my head in the cotton candy clouds.
* For the record, I was not part of a D & D club. Though, considering I was dateless and sporting my share of acne, it might have been a step up on the social ladder for me.
Friday, September 05, 2008
What’s on my mind these days is…my mind.
As we all know, there are really two aspects to this whole running thing: the physical and mental. To run your best, both must be working in harmony. By far, the physical side is easier to whip into shape. Sure, you have to worry about various muscular injuries, dog bites, and hit-and-run accidents. That’s all part of the game. There is a training schedule for the miles. There are nutrition plans for the diet. There are lawsuits for the hit-and-runs. By sweat of brow and bang of gavel, the physical can be accomplished. And it’s easy to measure. For many, you reference a wall chart indicating successful tempo runs, long runs, etc. For me, I take note of the increase in folks referring to me as a “Greek Adonis”. It makes me blush but, you know what, why argue?
What’s harder for me is the mental side. If you are running hard and really pushing yourself, there is a point in any race – no matter the distance – where you are suddenly confronted with the question that lurks in the back of the brain and you tried hard to suppress: is it really worth it? At least, I always have this question pop up at some point. Of course, I also have the questions: Do you really want to punch that spectator in the ear? –and- Would you like to have a massive coronary now? run through my head but that’s another topic.
To me, this is different than the notorious “Runner’s Wall”. It’s not physical. I can go on. What the question is really posing to me though is, to obtain the goal I want, am I willing to take on the fight? To accept the uncomfortable physical sacrifices to come. To shred my hamstrings to keep pace and not fade. To battle for the goal when it would be easier to pull back on pace and be content with a satisfactory time. As Dean Karnazes says to “embrace the pain”.
In other words, should I take the escape hatch or fight on?
Inevitably, this occurs somewhere about 2/3 through a race. For a 5k, after the 2 mile mark I start questioning how bad I want it. For a marathon, it’s about the 18 mile mark. If I’ve set my goals properly, I can’t coast in to the finish over the last 1/3 of the race and still get to where I want to go. It’ll be a battle. At the point where your body’s internal teeter totter tips to physical and mental exhaustion, that’s when the race – and the fight – begins.
I must confess that I haven’t been so good about answering that question in my last few marathons though. I believe I’ve been physically prepared for every race I’ve run. I haven’t skipped out on the training. Really, that’s a recipe for defeat anyhow. As much as this post is concerned with the mental side, the physical training provides the foundation which generates the mental strength. Using the Power of Positive Pessimism, I try to beat myself up as I progress through my training schedule so, by race day, I’ve already conquered the self doubts and fears. If I’m allowed some Mr. Serious Face introspection here, I think I’ve opted for the escape hatch in my last few marathons. My goals just didn’t seem too important and not worth the sacrifice.
And just because I’ve now gone two whole paragraphs without a typically hilarious joke – an F.M.S. rarity – I’m going to throw in a Three Stooges whoop-whoop-whoop, nyuck, nyuck, nyuck. And consider yourself virtually eye poked (unless you got the blocker up by your nose in time.)
So, here I find myself 6 weeks from the Detroit Marathon. Where am I at? Physically, I’m in as good of shape as ever. My training notes indicate my miles and times are faster than ever before at this point prior to the marathon. But how about mentally? I have to admit, this is still a work in progress. I’m not sure how I’ll answer that question come mile 18. Do I really need that PR? Do I really need to get a BQ? I would like both but I’m saying that without throbbing hamstrings, ever tightening calves, a strong desire to become an alcoholic, and 8 more miles to run.
Is it really worth it?
This became clearer to me this summer during my Summer of Speed. During some 5k’s, I was confronted with this question – and the opportunity to coast to the finish – and decided that, yes, I wanted my goal. I fought on and skipped the escape hatch. And even found time to become an alcoholic.
Is it really worth it?
How I answer that question will determine how the marathon turns out.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
If there is one thing I have taken for granted, it is the infallibility of Garmin (praise be thy name). In fact, when saying or typing “Garmin” (praise be thy name) you’ll notice that I often include ‘praise be thy name’ afterwards. Re-read the first two sentences if you suffer from poor attention span. You’ll see this in action twice. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Moving on. I bring this up as, you might expect, I’ve had reason recently to question Garmin (p.b.t.n). It pains me to say it but here are two examples within the past few runs.
Here I am merrily running along on a scheduled 9 miler last Thursday. Periodically, I glance down at Garmin (p.b.t.n) to see if somehow I’ve transcended time or, at least, to take note of pace. At some point, I was at 3.13 miles. A few minutes later, I glance down again but now my distance is at 2.84 miles?? That’s odd. I’ve actually run backwards in time. At first, I’m thinking this is pretty cool. Like Marty McFly, maybe I’ll end up seeing myself take off on this run and can warn myself to avoid the swarm of gnats that I sucked down my throat. Next, I thought, maybe Garmin(p.b.t.n.) is punishing me for my relaxed pace and I should pick it up a bit.
As I kept running, I noticed the distance going down steadily until 2.00 miles and then it started over at 2.99 miles and counted backwards again. I’m pretty sure the distance is supposed to go UP as you run even if you run backwards, which I rarely do anyhow.*
I put the little fella on the charger when I got home and chalked it up as a fluke. He might have been a little tired. Sometimes we runners forget that training can be difficult on personal global positioning systems as well.
The next occurrence of potential Garmin(p.b.t.n) fallibility occurred this past Tuesday evening as I decided to incorporate Reid’s Virtual One Mile Race challenge into my scheduled 5 miler. After a 1 ¾ mile warm-up to the local high school track, I marked my starting time and distance with the Lap button and took off for 4 laps. Everything I see and read tells me that 4 laps roughly equal 1 mile. In fact, if anything, one true mile might actually be a few steps past the 4 lap mark.
I’m cruising along feeling real good. I had no expectations going into this one mile virtual race so I was feeling loose and relaxed. I thought I’d come in around 5:30 minutes for the mile. Garmin(p.b.t.n.) surprises me by beeping as I’m entering the last turn about 100 meters from my lap line which is just outside of this turn. That’s odd. Again, I’m wondering what is up here. I ran in Lane 1 along the inside painted line so, really, I couldn’t have added much extra distance to each lap.
The time? 5:16.
Now, I’m thrilled if that is the actual time. Garmin (p.b.t.n.) says it is so. My basic knowledge of a standard track tells me I needed to complete 4 full laps though.
I tried to take a picture of my Garmin(p.b.t.n.) display – along with my favorite ice cube** – but haven’t mastered the finer points of Garmin (p.b.t.n.) photography. It wouldn’t develop clearly.
So, I’m tentatively reporting a mile of 5:16 according to my expensive, normally infallible g.p.s. device. However, my unofficial 4 lap track time was closer to 5:35.
I think I’ll need to try this challenge again to see what Garmin(p.b.t.n.) decrees the next time.
If I can’t trust Garmin(p.b.t.n.), who can I trust?
* Incidentally, is anyone else annoyed by the scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where the wacky kids decided to “roll back” the odometer on the rich kid’s dad’s car by putting the car in reverse with a block on the gas pedal. Eventually, the car bursts through the back of the garage to its destruction. Before that, however, the crazy kids are surprised to see that after supposedly an hour of trying not one mile rolled back. In fact, the miles were rolling ahead. Did anyone think to verify what was happening with the odometer before, like, an HOUR went by? Stupid kids.
** I’ve had this ice cube for years and it’s really adorable. I wanted to get a photo of it for all of you to see but, now that I think of it, did I get it back in the freezer?
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Of course, let’s put things in perspective. The plan was for twenty miles but, all week long, I had a little niggling voice in the back of my head saying ‘if it’s too hot, just shorten that to 18 on the fly’. Any time you let a worm like that into your brain, you may as well be realistic and tell yourself twenty probably ain’t happening. And it didn’t.
It didn’t help matters that I took off close to 11 A.M. with the temperature already in the low 80’s. There’s a 6.5 mile loop that brings me back around to my front door. Since I’m good at math, I know that to get to 20 that would be 3 of those loops plus a ½ mile spin inside the neighborhood (something I call my Sweaty Pecs Parade).
Here’s how it went down:
Loop #1 (6.5 miles):
It’s kinda warm out. That third loop is gonna be rough. Fortunately, I’m Superman so I can walk on the sun. No problem. Look at that, I’m back home now for some Gatorade and Roctane Blueberry Pomegranate Gu. Hmm, unusual texture but edible.
Loop #2 (.5 miles):
The Sweaty Pec Parade. Is anyone looking at me from their windows? I can barely keep flexing like this for ½ mile straight. There’s my house again. I should get a new job. Someone like me should really live in a nicer house. With a gardener. Maybe if I didn’t spend so much time running, I could trim those hedges.
Loop #3 (6.5 miles):
It’s pretty damn hot out. 87 degrees now? I always thought this loop had more shade. My moisture wicking pants have stopped moisture wicking. I now have a diaper on. Mrs. Nitmos, I need changing. Oh, well, after this loop just one more to go right? Back home now. Thirteen and a half miles in the book at around a 7:08 pace. I really should have gone slower but, being Superman and all, things like “fatigue” and “dehydration” that affect other humans won’t bother me. More Gatorade. More Orange Roctane Gu. Ah, what the hell, let’s guzzle a cup of water also.
Loop #4 (4.5 miles running; 2 miles walking, staggering, crawling):
Shit its motherfudging HOT out here. Just keep on moving ahead. Screw twenty miles. Why should I do 20 miles in this heat? I’m not Superman. More like Robin though, I like to think, a bit more masculine. Nearing 17 miles, I see a Laundromat with a bathroom. And a sink. And a faucet. And free RUNNING WATER. I run in flinging sweat all over everyone’s freshly cleaned clothes sitting besides the dryers. God damn does Laundromat bathroom water taste friggin’ delicious! They should bottle and sell this shit. I race out telling myself just one more mile though I’m pretty sure the laundromatters heard ‘bowawawahu….jus…milahonanon’ with arms flailing and sweat flying in a six foot radius. I hit 18 miles on the nose. Garmin lingered at 17.99 miles for, I don’t know, roughly 8 minutes before it moved to 18.00. Garmin, all praise be to thee, but you are a sick sonofabitch.
The best part of stopping your twenty mile run at eighteen miles is that it is simply over. You’re done running for the day. The down side, in this case, is that you are now 2 miles from home – and your hydration supplies – and it’s going to take you that much longer to get to them. Oh well, I’ll just enjoy a nice longer recovery walk across the Sahara. Cuz I’m quite sure folks normally like to stroll about the Sahara for miles on end with no water.
To sum up, the two mile walk was the WORST part of the day. Dehydration kicked in like Hydra attacking me in all parts of the legs. Why, oh why, was I not born a camel? I squeezed my brow and attempted to transfigure myself into a two hump camel (Gatorade in one hump, water in the other) to no avail. What a fool! First, I was Superman…then Robin. What I really should have been was one of the Wonder Twins…”Wonder Twin powers, activate! Shape of…a camel!” Just another planning screw up for the day.
By the time I entered my neighborhood, my legs were on fire with each step. I had already found two unattended faucets attached to closed businesses and siphoned some water into my cupped hands. Here is where I settled into the grass and wondered just how long I could lay before Mrs. Nitmos would wonder what happened and come looking for me. Or the wolves would start circling. Either way, it would be over soon.
Instead, I completed the walk home only to find the family had gone out in search of me as I was at least ½ hour overdue with the thermometer tipping 90 degrees. Unfortunately, they had gone the SAME direction as me which found them arriving back at home almost immediately after I got there as well.
My daughter, ever the optimist, had asked Mom “if Dad went to live somewhere else.” Geesh, just a half hour late and I’m already labeled an Abandoning Father by my youngest. No, honey, I’m coming home. But that’s why I drink so much.
As I said, the final numbers look all right, but, frankly, it was all a mirage.
Some folks have asked for a review of Roctane Gu. Here it is in brief. Normally, I only use Gu as my preferred energy food during a run. I have not used ClifShots or any other brand. So, my only basis of comparison is against regular Gu. In that respect, I prefer Roctane to regular Gu. The normal Gu makes me a little tingly in the tummy after popping it and seems to fade quickly for me. Roctane digests easier and I don’t notice a sudden drop in performance after about 20 minutes. It costs twice as much but I think it’s worth it.