Friday, February 26, 2010

Neither Snow Nor Rain Nor Heat Nor Gloom...

This is my mailbox. I took this picture 30 minutes ago. It is still snowing.

This is not my actual mailbox. As you can see, it's more of a paper box at the end of my driveway. I don't get the paper. I know everything I need to know. I'm convinced that everything that happens has already happened before. And I have tons of history books in my nice, warm house. Why rebuy old news repackaged in a trendy ink print package and full of ads? Only the names and faces have changed...
So I will not shovel out the front of this paper box. Nature will need to do its thing to free it from it's cold tomb.
I took this picture to illustrate what I'm up against for this weekend's 15 mile long run. It is more than others. But not as much as some. I have completed every run on my February training plan except one. I will not be deterred by the heaping mounds of creeping, cold death.
Fortunately, my 15 mile long run has options. And "options" is sometimes referred to as a "treadmill."
So, neither snow nor rain not heat nor gloom will keep me from accomplishing my appointed course.
Winter, you may now Fuck Off.
Happy trails.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Wrinkle Finger Plan

Mrs. Nitmos and I are escaping for a much needed vacation (re: once you have kids, any time apart is now deemed “vacation” even if you happen to use that time sitting in your kitchen watching the bushes grow through the window). In this case, however, we are traveling to my ancestral birth home of Traverse City, Michigan. I’m an aboriginal Traverse Citite. It is here that we can deposit the loin apples off at their grandparents by slowing to 10 mph, placing foot in middle of back, and jettisoning them out the car door into the nearest snow bank. I reach out and snip the rope that is holding their suitcase to the top of the car and it clunk clunk clunks off the back and down the road we bound. I believe Mel Gibson, as William Wallace in Braveheart, said it best as he was being impaled and gutted: “FRRRRRREEEEEEEDDDOOOOOMMMMMMM!”

I’ve been invited* to TC to judge** the First Annual Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival. Now anyone that reads this blog would think to themselves, “But, Nitmos, shouldn’t you be performing at a comedy arts festival? You are hilarious and your biceps are strong.” Guilty. I can’t defend either charge so I’ll just let the anonymous mid-post blog comment stand (though I’m slightly embarrassed.) No, I won’t be performing. They thought it best that I mix in with the commoners, buy my own ticket, and stand in line like everyone else. These guys sure are sticklers about not drawing attention to me.

TC is remaking itself into the Sundance of the Midwest except for all of those pesky crowds and celebrities and national media attention. The annual TC Film Festival in late July is going strong into its 6th year. We even attracted Madonna one year!*** And what a thrill it was to see The Kite Runner a few months before anyone else. /sarcasm

We are slated to see Jeff Garlin, Whitney Cummins, and – yes, she still apparently does stand up comedy – Roseanne Barr. Jealous much?

However, the Jokey McJokesters are really ancillary to the weekend. The important equation here is:

Me + Mrs. Nitmos + wine and/or rum x my biceps – kids = A little slice of heaven

For much of the weekend, Mrs. Nitmos and I will be nipple deep in a nice warm hot tub when not laughing at comedians. Or drinking. Or both. We’ll scrap the condensation off the hotel windows while wearing our big fluffy robes and scoff at the mounds of snow outside.

Winter will be our bitch.

At least, it will be for a few days. Let my wrinkle finger shine.

Happy trails.

*through mass email marketing
** the festival calls it “a paying customer”
***insert your own penicillin joke here…something like: she couldn’t come back the next year because it costs too much to inoculate the town.


So far, I’ve hit every scheduled run for February. To ease the pounding on some tender knees, I took last Saturday’s 15 mile long run on the treadmill thankyouverymuch. Post-run, whipped and starving, I ran into an impromptu baked goods sale in the lobby of the gym. A cherry cupcake with vanilla frosting? Yes, please. Oh my God, it tasted great. I've never been good at metaphors but, let me give it a shot here, it tasted angel shit in my mouth.

I’ll be doing my scheduled long run for this weekend tonight so as not to interfere with my wrinkle finger plans.

I did a poll last week about what you think about when running. I admitted to being a non-thinker. And it looks like most of you are as well. A whopping 58% (25/43 votes) don't think when you run. This doesn't surprise me. I've seen your vacant looks in passing. For the two of you who voted that you think about WORK! WORK! WORK!, you do know that your boss isn't reading this blog right? Good try.

For the eight of you who said you'll be thinking about a unicorn birthing a midget, get over it already. I was leading you astray. Everyone knows that midgets birth unicorns and not the other way around. Sheesh.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Day Like Any Other

It’s February 12th, 2010. There is nothing particularly special about today in the Nitmos home. The kids are raiding the food closet and ingesting copious amounts of mood altering intoxicants, in their earthly cookie and Sweettart form. The filly has accused the colt of being a bad brother. The colt is refusing to help the filly with a computer problem she’s having. I’m downstairs “working” in blissful ignorance pretending not to hear any of it.

Yep, a normal day at home with the kids.

For some, however, it is a special day. There are birthdays, anniversaries, the first time you saw The Big Lebowski. You know, important things. For some, a day to celebrate!*

Mrs. Nitmos provided me with the gift of running literature this past Christmas. Born to Run, Duel in the Sun, Staying the Course, and Runner’s World’s The Runner’s Body all made their appearance from beneath the wrapping paper. Mrs. Nitmos likes me well read. She thinks my brain is sexy.**

I enjoyed Duel in the Sun. I’ve heard the story, seen the video clips, and read a recap of the 1982 Boston Marathon in the past. The book filled in some holes but didn’t provide me with a ton of new information. I recommend it though for fans of running history.

I just finished Staying the Course: A Runner’s Toughest Race. As you probably know, this book is by my nemesis – my foil – Dick Beardsley. When not plotting out ways to undermine me on Heartbreak Hill, he apparently writes heartfelt autobiographies. Reminds me of the time I wrote a term paper while dunking my roommate's goldfish in and out of the bowl.

Staying the Course is a better overall read than Duel. In it, you not only get the background story of the build to the famous 1982 Boston Marathon but also the events that followed. It frames this most landmark event better than Duel. Staying the Course is the story of one man’s running career….followed by the same man’s battle for sobriety. And accident avoidance. Seriously, you will not believe the pure volume of accidents and mishaps that occur to one person in a short time frame. Cars, tractors, giant pancakes falling from the sky…they all somehow landed on Beardsley. Remember all of those bb gun pellets you shot up into the air against your parents’ warning that ‘they have to come down somewhere’? Yes, they all hit Beardsley. He should have a sign hung around his neck that says: ‘## Days Since Last Accident.’ You’ll note that there are only two digits. A third probably isn’t needed. Encase the man in bubble wrap and place him in a cool, dry warehouse next to Indy’s Ark, please.

Staying the Course is an interesting read in that it encapsulates the demands, the training, the intensity of an elite runner’s rise and descent from the peak of his sport. The second half of the book describes his subsequent injuries, surgeries and accidents and, ultimately, becoming hooked on prescription pain medication. It’s here that we learn more about the man rather than just a list of running accomplishments. The battle with drug addiction begins when the running accolades end. Mirroring his running career, he descends to unwanted depths…before rising again.

Despite all of its honesty, after reading it, there is one thing I’m very angry about. While recovering from yet another injury, Beardsley, unable to run, maintains some level of fitness through snow shoveling. Not just any snow shoveling. Hyper-intense shoveling including fartleks. That’s right, FARTLEK SNOW SHOVELING! Arrgghh, did I kick myself for not coming up with that first! Shit, the hilarious blog post was already written two seconds after reading that. BEARDSLEY! (fist shaking in anger) You beat me again!

February 12th, 2010 might not be of any special importance for you. For others, it’s not just a day like any other. Maybe you’re celebrating Lincoln’s birthday or the 52nd anniversary of General Miguel Ydegoras Fuentes’ election as Guatemalan president. Or that fateful day 26 years ago when Torvill and Dean skated “Bolero” at the Olympics.

Or, just maybe, thirteen years of sobriety.

Head over and drop him a congratulatory line. (And maybe a thinly veiled threat in my name.)

Happy trails.

*I bought a new rug. It really ties the room together.
**Especially in a muscle shirt and chaps.


Seven miles on lightly packed, recently plowed paths. Could have been worse. 7.0 @ 7:17 pace. Looking forward to this weekend's long run of 15 miles though it will be a last minute call as to whether it is done outside or on The Mill. Praying for outside.

The, I unload the entire house into the garage (and a few bedrooms) as a complete house re-carpet takes place on Monday. Maybe I'll be too sore after the long run and Mrs. Nitmos and the kids can do it. After all, I primarily married Mrs. Nitmos due to her strong back.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Things I Think About While Running


See all of those blank lines above? That’s basically what I think about. Nothing. Nothing much, anyways.

I see these blog posts about all of the wonderful, inspirational, touching, deep, introspective or just plain funny thoughts folks have while running and, I got to tell you, it doesn’t happen for me. I’m like the guy who can’t ever decipher the hidden picture in one of those 3D stereograms no matter how relaxed and “unfocused” I get. Everyone else is laughing or remarking about ‘how neat’ it is but I stand there with a confused, wrinkled brow staring at the jumble of geometric patterns like a unicorn is giving birth to a midget. The next time I see the hidden image in one of those photos (like the one shown below) will be the first time.

I’d really like to get some serious thinking done as I while away the miles and minutes (and sometimes hours) but, instead, my brain is too connected to the here and now. I’m running. What am I thinking about when I’m running? Well, I’m thinking about how I’m running…how many miles have passed….how is my pace…why am I so tired…why aren’t I tired I feel great…I shouldn’t have worn that extra layer…if I can go x amount of minutes next mile I can average x amount of time…after this, my next run is only X miles…etc.

Okay, occasionally when I run past my filly’s school, I might think I wonder how she did on that math test and is she eating tater tots right now? I hope she hasn’t told a teacher off today (always a threat). Fleeting thoughts…gone with the next chirp from Garmin. These simple distractions float in and out constantly. Hey, there’s a car…it needs a new paint job. Or, I wonder if they’ll pave this road next summer and I’ll have to reroute. Or, commonly, SQUIRREL!

There are things I’d like to think about. Family finances are a constant source of thought when I’m not running. Books, I like those. I’ve read some good, thought-provoking ones too. Work? I’ve tried. Maybe I can solve an issue with one of my work projects by thinking it through while I run. Yes, maybe, until beep! there goes Garmin and I’m off thinking about my pace, my race goals, my running form, etc. I’ve tried so hard to force myself to think about something – anything -other than actual running that my inner voice has scolded my concentration when my mind inevitably wanders. Ever yell at yourself from the inside? It’s weird. You look around and wonder if anyone else heard.

I guess I can’t multi-task. Coincidentally, this regularly appears on my performance evaluations as well so it should be no surprise. (Nor do I “get along with others” but that’s not what this post is about.)

Nope. It doesn’t happen for me. I’m glad it happens for you, if it does, as it seems like a nice way to pass the time during a run. I’m a one trick pony. I can’t see the hidden picture within a picture. I’m not going to analyze all of the symbolism in Ellison’s Invisible Man. Work problems will have to remain problems until I get back.

What do I think about while running?

Well, running. And maybe that squirrel over there. It sure is a little cold out here. I wonder if we’ll get a mild winter. Only four more miles to go.


What’s my pace? Can I go faster next mile?

Happy trails.

Here’s a poll that you can answer anonymously. Are you a non-thinker like me? Let’s stand together. Be strong. Don’t be afraid….


Yesterday, five miles beating the storm! About two inches had fallen. I managed 2 x 800 around the covered track and with a nasty headwind for part. Both 800's in the 2:55 range which will be unacceptable in a month or so but, with this weather, I'll work with it. 5 miles @ 7:07 pace.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Thomas Kuhn, Harvard Physicist, Designs My Training Plan

I can’t say that it has been a lifelong ambition to quote Thomas Kuhn, father of the concept of “paradigm shift”, in a blog post but it has certainly been near the bottom of my life goals. But, on the list! If I had a bucket list, it’d probably fall somewhere below “start a web campaign to demand that Pauly Shore make Son in Law 2: Baby Makes Three” but above “approach Whoopi with a script to Sister Act 3.” Clearly, I like movies and sequels to horrible films (and 1960’s scientific theory.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about paradigm shifts lately when it comes to running. Kuhn describes (scientific) advancement as not organic or evolving but a “series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions.” During these revolutions, “one conceptual world view is replaced by another.” A paradigm shift is a sudden, rapid change in the way of thinking (or doing). World views change. Old beliefs give way to new beliefs. Think Industrial Revolution. Think Bannister breaking the four minute mile. Think “Pants on the ground.”

What does this have to do with running? (Great, Mr. Rhetorical is back.) Well, as you know – and will continue to know as I hammer this into your heads over the next several months – this is the year of the Y.A.K. If you think I’ve run out of clever Y.A.K. references, I’m just getting started here. I haven’t even broken out my painfully obvious “Y.A.K. Attack” post or “Y.A.K.fest” references. Or “Y.A.K. Sack” when I’m feeling particularly ballsy after a strong run. I could go on…and will. How about “Y.A.K. Snacks” wherein I discuss my favorite race fuel? Or “Back to the Y.A.K.” when I overcome my inevitable injury? I could go on…but won’t.

I decided last year that I was in need of a paradigm shift. I’ve been following a pretty consistent running schedule for the last several years. Every marathon, I create a largely similar training plan as the race before it. It has netted me decent results – a few BQ’s, some age group awards, consistent times, etc. – but any new PR’s have been incremental. I’m barely nudging the PR boulder forward inch by painful inch.* If I want to continue following the same schedule, the same plans, I can look forward to small gains – maybe a few seconds shaved off my PRs – for the foreseeable future. I’ve plateaued. I’m in the midst of a “series of peaceful interludes…”

Time for a nuclear bomb. A “violent revolution.” I’m talking about full scale Che Guevara stuff (except without the douchy ‘look at me, I’m so anti-culturalist by displaying his image on my t-shirt and/or poster which, even though I know was created by a large capitalist corporation, the irony is lost on me’). It’s time to pick that paradigm up, like a mysterious island in Lost, and plop it right back down in a different spot. If I want ass kickin’ results, I better replace my old, comfortable “run view.”

Previously, I outlined my marathon training plans for this coming Memorial weekend’s race so I won’t go into it again. And you all know how I hate repetition around here. (Y.A.K.! SOS! Llamas!) As each scheduled run approaches, I’m asking myself why am I doing this run? How have I done it in the past? What can I change about it to accomplish my goals? Shifting a paradigm is not easy work. I’m surprised how stuck in a rut I’ve become. I head out the door not even knowing what I’m hoping to accomplish. Training plan says: Run 5 files. Okay, I do and pretty much at the same pace I’ve run every five mile training run over the past three years.

No, no, that will not do. I’m making a conscious effort to shake things up. Even with a snow covered high school running track, I’ve taken to turning a normal five miler into a few hard intervals around the ole football field. Really, why the fuck not? Why run past it at steady pace? Like always. I’ve bumped my mileage up. I’ve taken medium distance runs up the intensity scale while being more diligent about pulling back on the pace of my long runs (which have always been near race pace.) I’ve been questioning everything I normally do. And then changing things up.

Yesterday, I took the kids to a sledding hill and, as they were spiraling down the side with gleeful shrieks, I was scouting out the perfect angle to take to do some hill intervals - something I don’t normally do but should.

And then Mrs. Nitmos made turkey tacos last night before the Super Bowl. (Verdict: Delicious!)

Times are changing around here. Paradigm shifting is difficult but necessary from time to time. If I want to replace my current run view of what I can do – and what is possible – I need a seismic revolution in my approach to training.

KABOOM! There’s a mushroom cloud billowing up over F.M.S. A "YAKplosion", if you will.

Happy trails.

*That’s what she said. (What? Poor taste?)

After last week’s race pace 12 miler long run, I decided I needed to get serious about easing back a bit on the long runs. Paradigm shift! Also, after the near frost bitten appendages, I decided to treat myself to a nice, warm indoor treadmill and some Super Bowl pre-game TV at the gym. Long run of 13 miles at moderately easy 7:28 pace with incline fluctuating between 1.0 and 2.0 (and maybe a few pick-ups, or 2.0 incline “hill charges” @ 7:00 min pace thrown in. Shhh.)

First week of marathon training complete. So far, every run hit for 2010! Next weekend, 15 mile long run before a step down week to follow (timed to a nice R & R weekend out of town – more on that later.)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

(Ab)solutely! (And Mr. Rhetorical sucks.)

Get it? See what I did there by putting “Ab” in a parenthetical and drawing attention to it? Yeah, you get it. I can see the light bulb coming on. For many, it appears but a flicker…

It’s the 7th Annual National Ab Month!*

So soon? I haven’t shopped. Does Hallmark make a card? Something like on the outside: “Here’s something for you this month!” above a picture of beer cans. Open the card and it shouts: “A six pack! Happy National Ab Month!”

Damn, why didn’t I go into writing patter for greeting cards? I’ve got enough schmaltz to fill a can of Schlitz (or an equally awful can of schmaltz liquor). Ohhhh, see what I did there? Word play! Nailed it.

If you haven’t clicked the link, you should do so now. Mrs. Nitmos and I are the models. We are flanking our recently departed cousin Earl who, while possessing a aesthetically pleasing cross section of abdominal muscles, was not the brightest bulb (like many of you readers, see first paragraph) in the family chandelier. He took his modeling fee, invested in a long term annuity, and then allowed himself to be flayed like the cocky smart ass in a horror flick. Bad choice, Earlie. But it does provide you the wonderful pictures on the page. These are your (my) abdominal muscles. Now work them out!

There are countless articles extolling the virtues of core strengthening for runners. I won’t go into them here. I’m sure you can find more descriptive and beneficial articles by merely searching the net (though I assure you they’ll hardly be as sophomoric as this one). I’ve been coring for a few years. My core drugs of choice are crunches and stretchy bands.

Stretchy bands are wonderful. You can watch Cougar Town PBS and stretchy yourself to look just like me (after I started looking like me, of course). Easy. Also, for those inclined, very easy to take on road trips.

Crunches? Puh-leeze. I’m Cap’n Crunch. I’ll do over 500 a night (Sunday-Thursday only as the weekends are for undoing all that hard work with beer, candy and chips).

Mr. Rhetorical asks, “Why 500?”

Because I’m way too impatient to do fewer.

Mr. Rhetorical counters, “Couldn’t you get more out of slowing down and doing far fewer crunches but with a better technique?”

Yes, but as I mentioned, I’m extremely impatient and who mad you Mister Know-It-All?

Mr. Rhetorical won’t shut up about it, “Just how impatient are you exactly?”

Well, since you asked, here are examples of my impatience in an ascending order of comedic hilarity:
1) I pour coffee grounds and water into my mouth and swish rather than wait for Mr. Coffee to finish.
2) I never complete a blink. Who has the time?
3) I often wet myself because I zip up and walk away from the urinal before finishing. Better things to do.

I crunch like I’m abdominally rowing a boat away from a homicidal maniac (am I the cocky smart ass?) I crunch with feet under couch, feet on couch in a seated position, feet suspended in air in a reclined chair position, and alternating straight crunches with laterals. I crunch for about 15 minutes and then, quite often, go eat ice cream.

Mr. Rhetorical is back. “Has it worked?”

Do you see any dirty clothes around?**

I’ve read many articles on the proper core strengthening technique and I’m always disheartened to see most of my techniques on the Do Not Do This list. But I do do them. (snickers) I will continue to do do them…though, begrudgingly, I may try to incorporate some of the slow holding of positions. Maybe I’ll have Mrs. Nitmos yell Freeze! on occasion. She’d probably like that anyhow as I’d be less inclined to prematurely crunch.

I encourage all of you runner’s out there to start (or continue) some form of core training. I’m a believer. Mr. Rhetorical is a believer. The Situation is a believer. And you should always believe everything you see and read on the internet, right Mr. Rhetorical?

Why are you such a jackass?

Time’s up!

Happy National Ab Month and…

Happy crunching.

*How do I know? Because it’s on the internet, of course!
**Whose with me? Huh? Huh? Washboard!....if the washboard as only one rung.


Thanks to Roison for bringing this (non)holiday to my attention.

Monday, February 01, 2010

I Can Run 100 Miles

Not consecutively, of course. That’s crazy talk. I find my mileage, like my personality, is better in smaller doses.

With apologies to The Proclaimers (and who thinks maybe they should apologize a bit to us for this song as well?), my February wraps up with a nice little total mileage near 100 miles. I did not run 100 miles. I didn’t even walk 500 miles…and walk 500 more just to be the man who walked 1,000 miles. I ran a shade over 94. What’s with all the walking anyhow?

Ninety-four miles represents a January high for me. Usually I spend the first two months of every year in a semi-hibernation waiting out the snow, ice, and cold. Not this year. I figure that if I want to make this the Year of the Ass Kicker, I better get off to a good start. You know, get my muscles pulls and debilitating injuries over early so I can quit YAKing by March. Why delay things?

I believe it was Brooks in The Shawshank Redemption, when faced with the movie refrain ‘get busy living, or get busy dying’, decided to get busy dying by kicking the table from under himself and hanging from the rafters. I think I’ll be like Red and choose to get busy living. In this case, get busy living is represented by a complete listing of runs on my training log. Not a missed day for the month! I sure know how to live it up, don’t I?

Today is the official kick-off for Bayshore Marathon training. And, of course, it is a rest day. I know how to start a plan the right way. Some of you schedule a run for the first day but that just seems silly. There’s 16 weeks to go. Pace yourself.

Also, even though I reference a “plan”, I still have not actually put my plan on paper. It’s still swirling around in my head along with sports scores, the plot to Lost, and amidst the wreckage of unrealized childhood dreams. I’ll tilt my head and dump it out my ear onto paper later today or tomorrow but don’t be surprised if week 8 contains ‘throw winning touchdown in the Super Bowl’ in place of a long run. I don’t know what’s going to come out. Plus, wouldn’t it be nice if once – just once – Runner’s World had an article about ’16 weeks to your best marathon!’ or ‘Our new plan for your fastest marathon ever!’? Help a brother out. Someone’s asleep at the switch over there.

So, off I go into February…into Bayshore training…with a get busy living attitude. Of course, if I come home again with my fingers mildly frost bit and face ice-wind burned like I did yesterday, I may be looking for the nearest rafter and a strong rope.

A month from now, Brooks’ way may not seem so bad.

Happy trails.

January total miles = 94.25

Sunday long run: 12 miles @ 6:59 pace. Started out easy, got cold, picked up the pace, got really cold, decided to really pick up the pace and negative split the sumbitch. My hands were tingling and burning for the first half hour after returning home.