Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Have Legs, Will Travel

Well, it’s been nearly three weeks since I took some time off from work and you can imagine how tired I am. How do people work an entire month without taking time off?? It’s not healthy. I don’t have gout but, if I did, it seems like it would start flaring up after a few weeks straight of work. All of that sitting in an office chair just has to do something to the uric acid, doesn’t it? Lesson learned: Don’t go this long without a day off again or risk gout. Time for a vay-kay-shun (or, as I call it, “minimalist working”).

Fortunately, I’ll be bringing my legs with me so there’ll be no excuse to not get a few miles in. Does everyone else try to keep the running going while on minimalist work? Or do you shut it down completely? Just how obsessive do we need to be about this hobby?

We are heading to Florida. In August. Yeah, smart planning, I know. It won’t be warm there, will it? Should I pack a hoodie? My kids kick-off – literally – their fall soccer seasons upon our return so there wasn’t much of a choice. Our weekends will be busy from now until…eternity. Upon return, we’ll drop them off from the pool to the pitch. To make matters worse, we are renting a house in land-locked Orlando, of all places, with some friends of ours and their kids. That means four kids, four iPods they can’t find but is somehow our fault that they are lost, and four sets of lungs we have to worry about filling up with pool water. Just how much beer is there in Florida anyhow? I know Florida isn’t the Caribbean. It’s kind of a minimalist Caribbean, in fact. But, if you knew me, you’d know I’m minimalist lavish.

I know what you are thinking: How do you have any friends and why would they spend a week in the same house as you? Well aren’t you the asshole for asking? Obviously it’s because I’m incredibly charming and my posture is amazing. I think both come across clearly on this blog. At least, my blog coach tells me so. I’ve spent all week shaving the hairs off my back moles. THAT’S how considerate I am. I wanted to do a word cloud from all of the wonderful comments I’ve received over the years to illustrate my personality traits but SOCIOPATH took up most of the results. (You couldn’t even see dickhead running along the side.) It seems you guys are the real problem. Haters.

Whenever we go out of town for any extended time, I tend to cram my long runs and hard workouts in the days before I leave – schedule be damned. During minimalist work, I want to just run some easy miles to keep the continuity but not hammer intervals and tempo runs, etc. So I’ll be heading out for yet another hard run this afternoon (9 miles - four at race pace).

Yesterday I followed up the previous day’s 13 mile long run with some 800’s at the track. If you recall, I just bragged about the 1200’s I was lovin’ on this year but here I am returning to Mistress 800, last year’s track slut. All of that nostalgic talk of 800’s got me randy anxious to try a few again. I figured I’d do 5 x800 meters (400m cool down lap between). Turns out, I pulled a Grover Cleveland. I did the first two 800’s but then forgot what I was doing, slipped into current habit, did a 1200, said “D’oh!”, and then went back to a couple of 800’s to finish up. A wayward 1200m right smack in the middle. In the end however, they were the best non-consecutive 800 intervals I’d ever done. Though Grover Cleveland was too heavy to have been much of a track man, he’d have been proud of my non-sequential abilities.

My legs are packed. My mind is already on minimalist work. Hell, once you get me thinking about antique American presidents you KNOW this boy is ready to party. By this weekend, I’ll be dropping some Taft on everyone’s ass. How much time will I take sitting around the pool discussing this mustache? Much.

President "Stache" Taft

I figure three runs in the 4-5 mile range each should hold me over until I return. Does that sound about right? Who knows, if any crocodiles jump out at me, I might get some fartleks in too.

Anyone else make sure to run during minimalist work? Anyone else pissed that Grover Cleveland threw off the orderly presidential list? I hate asterisks*.

Happy minimalist work!

*unless deployed by this blog.

Friday, August 12, 2011

When Will Races Recognize Street Lights?

I was standing at a street corner yesterday with sweat droplets pouring down my neck, to my arms, hands, and fingertips before leaping to their death on the pavement below when I had a sort of epiphany (ed: that's not the giant drums, right?) . Well, I actually had two epiphanies (ed: that's not TWO giant drums, right?). The first was Damn, I sweat A LOT from my neck. That can’t be normal. But, the second, and more relevant to this post, was the concept of a mid-race break. A sorta “time-out” – a street light, if you will – strategically placed in a few spots during a race that allows the runners a chance to take a deep breather, a sip of water, and maybe a bite of melba toast, just to cool off, without any time penalty.

Crazy? Or crazy genius?!

I’m about a month out from another half marathon so it seemed like a good time for another one of my race time trials. I like to do these as a race approaches just to see where I’m at with training. It serves its purpose as it either (a) confirms that I am right on track or (b) scares me shitless because I’m so under prepared and provides enough lead time to invent an injury or excuse to withdraw without anyone being the wiser. One of my most common responses to someone that asks “are you running in the race this weekend?” is “I’d like to but (enter completely plausible excuse here)….”

I usually go about 2/3 of the distance of the race at the time trial. I feel like that gives me a pretty good idea of where I’m at while bypassing the ego destroying late race collapse amidst a flood of tears and uncontrollable sobbing and abject feelings of failure. I like to save that for the race itself. For a half marathon, I’ll go anywhere from 8-10 miles at my planned race pace.

The nice thing about a time trial is that there are no registration fees or timing mats or cowbells or rapidly browning bananas on the food table. It’s just you, local traffic, jeering shouts from passing carloads of teens (who all need haircuts, btw), and street lights. Yes, street lights! It would seem counter intuitive to want a street light in the middle of your time trial. But that would make you a Time Nazi. I, on the other hand, press ‘Stop’ on my Garmin whenever I hit a street light. Time literally stands still. I’m in a chronistic void in which I may suck wind, drip fluids from my neck, and, generally, rest without any time penalty whatsoever.

And I pray for the long 60 second light. Or the intersections that have a separate light for every left turn lane and you just missed (by slowing your approaching pace) your light and now have to wait a FULL ROTATION of the lights. Ohhh shooooot, I miiiisssssed it.

And then eventually the little pedestrian light turns to the image of the walking person, I push ‘Start’ and off I go again feeling absolutely refreshed and rejuvenated. My pace is quicker. There is more room at the base of my neck for sweat to pool until the next intersection.

I normally get stopped at two major intersections during my time trials. Each time, I take a moment to gulp some air, sweat band off my forehead and neck, pinch my nipples (I’m shirtless or “minimalist shirted”, of course) and self-consciously make my pecs dance for the passing cars. I’m an entertainer at heart. When my light comes, I’m off again and, damn, do I feel refreshed. Why don’t they have street lights – or little time free beaks – at races? In fact, they go OUT OF THEIR WAY to bypass the lights with those annoying police officers and volunteers stopping traffic and waving you through the intersections.

BUT I DON’T WANT TO TAKE CUTS. How ‘bout we stop the race and let regular traffic flow, eh? We are living in a society here and a society has rules and I, for one, am willing to follow them. It’s the pesky race directors that are playing God with time and the natural order of things.

I finished my time trial pretty much on schedule – thanks to a few well-placed street lights - and headed in to find my neck squeegee. I don’t think I’ll need an excuse for this race. So far, right on schedule with one more time trial to go.

But it sure would be nice to count on those street lights during the half marathon. Race directors, take note!

8.5 miles
non-street light time
6:31 pace (planned: anything below 6:35 pace)

Happy trails.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Cry Me a 1200 Meter River

One of my favorite aspects about this whole business of running is that I own it completely. When I don’t hit a planned run, there is no one to blame but myself (and my kids because I’m sure they got in the way somehow). Successes and failures at the races are a direct result of my own efforts. When I look in the mirror after a few grueling rotations at the track, I see my chisel-jawed coach staring back at me and he’s either smugly satisfied, lips pursed with eyebrow-cocked unhappiness, or dreamily leering at his star pupil. I think my coach is hot for me but that’s another matter.

He also doesn’t seem to care when I wake up Tuesday feeling a bit sluggish and needing an extra half scoop of coffee in my Mr. Coffee. According to the calendar, it is track day today and 1200 meter repeats want to take me for a whirl. According to my fuzzy head and engorged lower g.i., it’s coffee time and some quality bathroom reading await. What’s better than the sly wit of some light Nick Hornby reading? How ‘bout Hornby, a full role of toilet paper, and thirty-five uninterrupted minutes on the porcelain?

I don’t feel like 1200 meter repeats today. Sometimes I get to the track and disguise my 1200 meter repeats as 800 meter repeats with a 400 meter half-ass effort and call it 1200 meters. There are usually a few other folks at the track and I’m sure they’ve noticed that my 1200 meters aren’t quite 1200 true, quality meters but, thankfully, they don’t say a word. They just continue running their circles and pretend not to notice but I know they know. How could they not?

My coach notices. And he immediately starts an internal dialogue with me complete with name-calling. I’m a “wimp” and a “scaredy-cat” and “heart hugger”. I’d respond but my heart is pounding in my chest as I continue my cool down lap and I can barely control my breathing. Coach sure knows how to hit the right hot buttons. I’ve been coddling my heart for years and he goes right after it when he wants to hurt me.

I don’t know why I’ve chosen 1200’s as my intervals of choice this summer. Last year I hammered the 800’s and that was fun. I guess one more lap seemed like a nice challenge. That’s the great thing about the mirror coach: you get to figure yourself out as you go. I realized a few years back that I wouldn’t be in the Olympics. They’re all hung up on “qualifying times” and “ability” and “stop sending us emails – you can’t ‘join’ the Olympics”. I’m pretty persistent but my limit comes when the talk of restraining orders and arrest warrants seem more than a threat. So I’ve been content to figure this whole running thing out by myself free from delusions of grandeur. Might as well reap the free Introspective Reward points that come with it right? After awhile, you can redeem them for free Internal Peace and Understanding.

But building up the points comes with a lot of tears at the track. Sweat…tears…snot rockets…blood...spit…phlegmy cough. There’s a river of bodily fluids building at my local track. I don’t know if the 1200 meter intervals have done much for my overall running ability this year but it’s been a nice challenge for me. Once again, I’ve learned by doing. Crazy concept, I know, in this short cut culture. Pretty much everything I’ve learned about my abilities as a runner was through my own investigation so, at the very least, this throws another log on my bonfire of knowledge. It’s through trial and error that you can find your own path and bank some serious knowledge and Introspective Points.

It’s time to hit the track. Well, frankly, it’s time to hit the Hornby then it’s time to hit the track. I’ll shoot for those 1200 repeats. But I may just stack a 400 meter midget on top of an 800 meter person and wrap them with a huge overcoat and pass them off as 1200 meters too. Who can tell? That’ll be between mirror coach and myself. Heck, I may even veer off and do a ladder run today…

Either way, I need to be home by one o’clock. My hiking coach will be here by then.

Happy trails.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Where I Was

Where was I? Well, derp, I was at the film festival!?! I told you that pretty much straight out with my last post. Sheesh.

Sorry to disappoint but Breckin Meyer didn’t valet my car. It was Dustin Diamond and he’s still pretty ticked off about the Saved By The Bell thing. Don’t joke with him. I asked him not to screeeech my tires into the parking spot and he punched me in the neck. Ever have someone punch you in the neck and then hold their hand out for a tip? I don’t know if I felt more embarrassed for him or for me but dammit if I didn’t swish around in my pocket for a few quarters. I considered it payment for all of the hilarious hijinks I enjoyed from Zach, Slater, Screech, and Kelly Kapowski. A sore neck and 4 bits? Any time.

I’m still trying to get my bearings straight this week. I think I answered one of life’s mysterious riddles: What would happen if you drank several Oberon’s and Two Hearteds and then watched artsy independent films every single night of the week? Well, let’s put it this way, if I carried on like that for another day or two, I’d finally get busy on penning a sequel to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. My version would be decidedly less cocainey.

I didn’t run a lick…except to the urinal to make more room. So, I’m making up for it this week and, man, my legs are tired. I’m about as weary as this trip summary. Shall we go to picture form and slightly amusing anecdotes? YES!

We do things differently here in Michigan. Witness the ski lift being utilized in the middle of a summer’s day. Those are my kid’s legs dangling off of there. For Michiganders, a beautiful July day means….time to hit the slopes!

Actually, the chair lift took the kids to the top where they could go down the water slide:
Well, okay, it’s not a “water” slide. Here in Michigan, that would be “a little cart with wheels” slide. No water. We got enough of that shit surrounding us in every nook and cranny of this state. We don’t want it on our slides too.

Instead, we sit in hot tubs on 92 degree July afternoons. What better way to cool off in 90% humidity than a soak in 105 degree water?!? Remember, it’s Michigan. It’s damn cold here 6-7 months of the year. We need to soak in all of the warm we can get to carry us through those few dozen runs in January and February in 15 degrees.

Awww, look at the fam casually standing in a filthy lake next to floating milk cartons. In Michigan, that’s called recycling. Whenever we are done with our milk cartons, we toss them in the nearest body of water and let the tide “recycle”. Look, there goes two recycled cartons now:

My dog was quite content sniffing everything that could be sniffed. When I told her it was time to go, I got this Mrs. Serious Face. Can you see “WTF?” in those eyes?

Mrs. Nitmos says “kiss off” it’s time to dump the kids at the grandparents and head back downtown for more beer and films and hipsters walking around with douchey chin hair and oversized, thick framed rectangular glasses.

That’s right, I didn’t shave last week.

Running related topics resume next.

Happy trails.