Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Unto The Breach

It is marathon time again this Saturday morning. I’ve staged a mental taper intervention and now it is time to get this thing on.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast appears to be uncooperative. I have run in rain. I have run in wind. I have run with snow falling. And I have run in nice, perfect 50 degree weather. On all of those occasions, the runs have been strong and true.

However, like most, my body does not react well to heat. There is ample evidence testifying to my lack of running acumen above the 70 degree threshold. (I hope I do not go to hell for I would have to become a cyclist.) Saturday’s race is calling for heat. Sure, they say low of 57 and high of 80 on race day. That means, it’ll be 57 degrees at approximately 3 am and 70 degrees by 7:00 gun time…and rising. It’ll be a warm one so I’ve already adjusted my carefully plotted race day goals.

Goal #1: Survival.
Goal #2: Attempt to BQ under 3:21.
Goal #3: Do not deliriously hallucinate…unless it helps obtain goals #1 & 2.

It’s a shame, really. All of this awesome training seems destined to be blown to smithereens by weather whimsy. I will do my best to control pacing at the beginning – to refrain from racing against the rising mercury – to prevent overheating, blown gaskets, uncoiled springs, and flying nuts and bolts at the 20 mile mark like a demented cartoon jalopy.

There is a distance to cross. A breach to conquer. Like Indiana Jones during his Last Crusade, I must choose my path wisely before a misstep sends an over sized table saw blade through my race.

My apologies to Shakespeare:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the road up with our spiritless runners.
In training there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of a race gun blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest runner.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of races past!
Runners that, like so many Prefontaines,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their shoes for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your Garmins; now attest
That those whom you call'd marathoners did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to race. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made on roads and trails, show us here
The mettle of your spirit; let us swear
That you are worth your training; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘Let’s race! Ready, set, go!’

On second thought, clearly Shakespeare owes me the apology. I should have been his editor.

See you post-marathon, after the 26.2 mile breach, dear friends, once more.

Happy trails.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fine Folks

The fine folks at You know what, I can’t do this. Have you ever noticed that whenever one of us is asked to review a product, we always start out the review by saying the “fine folks of (insert company name) sent me (insert marginally interesting product)” and it was WONDERFUL!!" I read reviews that start like this ALL the time. Heck, I’m sure I’ve even deployed “fine folks” somewhere along the line. But enough is enough.

Fine folks? What makes them so fine? Just because they sent you something for free you feel obligated to call them “fine folks”? If anything, it demonstrates a lack of judgment. When you send me something for free – especially a liquid – you just don’t know what it’ll get mixed with, have dunked into it, or where it will be slathered. I’ve never done a Wordle word cloud for this site because I don’t want to face the reality of ANUS appearing in large, bold letters across the middle. Still, I get free goods from time to time and, if you don’t like the review, who’s to blame really? Wordle?

But somebody sent me something again! Or, rather, they fell into my web. This week’s victim volunteer is cheribundi. They make cherry juice and, apparently, disdain commonly accepted capital letter usage. It was a huge mental hurdle to NOT capitalize cheribundi in that last sentence after years and years of average to slightly below average public schooling taught me to capitalize names. Their website confirms that it is a small ‘c’ so rest assured this was not a comment on their product from yours truly. Watch how awkward this next sentence is without a capital letter.

cheribundi makes cherry juice. I grew up in the self-proclaimed Cherry Capital of the WORLD. It seemed like a good fit. Note on my sidebar the presence of several Cherry Festival races. Me and cherries have a long history together (get your mind out of the gutter). I wanted to like this product right off. They had me at “cheri”. They claim there are 50 cherries in every 8 oz bottle providing you with 2 servings of daily fruit. That sounds great but the 50 pits? Ugh. They rattled around in the bottle like a box of rocks.* Every swig sounded like a mariachi band was playing.

Taste? Very good. A wee bit strong but not too bad. Last year, POM Wonderful sent me pomegranate juice to try and that was STRONG. This cherry juice is merely strong which might explain why POM went with all caps in their name but cheribundi opted for no caps. It has a refreshing taste and keeps the people in my ancestral homeland employed. Plus, as you can see by the breakdown below, there is a secret ingredient to every bottle of cherry juice. See if you can spot it.

I must have left a lot of DNA around those cherry farms while growing up.

I recommend cheribundi cherry juice. For non-conforming grammarians, they deliver a better than expected product.

In short, it is fine, folks.

Since it is review day, I might as well get this second one out of the way too. I just finished Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and it was a very interesting read. Great story. Interesting science. Some history of running. Some comparison of modern day running to ancient running. Enough evolutionary science to really piss off a certain segment of the society. Again, maybe I’m easy to please today, but I recommend! I’ve had this book on my shelf for a few months but finally picked it up after seeing the local high school track team running barefoot past my house.

Now, some people who have read this have felt inspired to go out and buy, or build, some rubber soled sandals for more primitive, natural running. I did not feel so inspired. At least, no more inspired than I was to buy a guillotine after reading A Tale of Two Cities. I don’t know what the evil shoe companies are doing to our feet but, for now, I’m happy to pay a 3000% mark up for my comfortable Asics just as I am sitting around at night in the glow of my monster high definition television communicating via internet instead of a candle, quill pen, tuberculosis, and a stack of correspondence.

McDougall makes a compelling point about running and how we’ve lost our natural way. While the book was fascinating, the philosophy being espoused caused me to shrug my shoulders and think ‘eh, that’s alright, I’m happy with how things are.’ Besides, instead of trying to run like the Tarahumara, maybe we should outfit them with running shoes and slow THEM down. That’s the Western Way, after all. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! How ‘bout a McDonald’s too?!

Thus ends two-for-one review day at F.M.S., my fine folks.

Happy trails.

*If you can’t appreciate satire, I’m not going to explain it to you. You’re probably the same person who peels a banana, throws the bone away, and wonders what is left to eat. To be fair to cheribundi though, I will explain it: There are no pits.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

As Long As I'm Running It...

I guess I should set a goal, right? The Bayshore Marathon is May 29th. Based on my understanding of the Mayan calendar, today is ten days from race day. (And two years from the end of the world - unless John Cusack is your limo driver.)

I am in full bore marathon taper mode right now. If taper was a drug, I’d be in a black painted room sitting on a urine stained mattress with a rubber tube wrapped around my arm and clenched between my teeth getting ready to inject a warm, recently cooked concoction of taper into my vein. I’m in such a taper haze that I’m swatting at little Hal Higdon’s and Dick Beardsley’s poking me with pitchforks atop miniature smoke snorting dragons. I’m not going to tell you what I would do for more taper but if you understand that I sit on this mattress picking at abscesses through the trapezoidal openings of my fishnet stockings, I think you get the picture.

Street value of taper not influenced by recession!

Eventually taper comes to an end and it is time to race. Taper is marathoning’s cruel joke. You spend weeks – months – building yourself up, mentally prepping, and then, rest….wait…struggle to stay focused. Completing the build during the training plan feels like such an accomplishment that I have to remind myself that peak training WASN’T the event I was striving to reach. Then, I sit around (or, what feels like sitting around comparatively) for a few weeks injecting taper and getting slow and fat (or, what eating too many fudge stripe cookies and watching Lost is doing to my body). I think I’d prefer to take one week off from my peak training week as a cut back week and then dive right into the marathon the following week. Depending on how this marathon feels, I may eschew decades of studies and “experts” advice and do this the next time. I feel like all this taper injecting is causing me to lose the edge I had after my last 21 miler. This bulge in my side: is it fat or a rib? A few weeks ago, I’m pretty sure it was a rib but now…

For those of you whom have been with me for awhile at F.M.S, first I’m sorry. Second, you may recall that I’ve always been a proponent of the multi-pronged race goal plan. I even provided an example – not for the squeamish – in which I met my 5k race goals (numeric, malicious, transcendental, farcical) by ultimately shooting chocolate covered cherries from my anus at the end (my farcical goal, duh). I’m not going to get that elaborate here. Who has the energy? Instead, like the Mr. Pragmatic I am, I’m going to set my race goals perfectly in tune to how I have been training.

Official Bayshore Marathon Race Goals (in ascending level of difficulty):

1. Beat 3:21:00 (re-qualify for Boston 2011 – I get 5 more minutes to lollygag this year!)
2. Beat 3:12:19 (set new PR!)
3. Beat 3:11:00 (always wanted to run a non age-graded BQ time)
4. Beat 3:09:00

Those that have been with me for awhile – again, I’m sorry – know that calve cramping has been my constant nemesis (other than Beardsley). And this is invariably brought on by warmer temperatures. Ten days out, it unfortunately looks like Bayshore may be a little warm for my tastes – possibly in the 60+ degree range at start. I’m keeping my fingers crossed because this training season has gone as well as any of the previous seven marathons. I feel like I should knock off the top three goals – if weather cooperates – with a 50/50 shot at #4.

This is the Year of the Ass Kicker, as you may recall (and again, again, I’m sorry), and this is the first race to, well, kick ass.

Just a few more days of biding my time… Taper? I can quit any time I want. Honest. It’s not a problem. Well Hello, who did you say you are? Candy Finnigan?

Happy taper

Thursday, May 13, 2010

These Legs Were Made For Running

So, where was I? I’ve been gone for several days. Did anyone notice? If a Nitmos fails to blog, does it make a sound?

I surprised Mrs. Nitmos with a birthday trip. It’s a special birthday for her so I wanted to do something, er, special. Considering the temperature is once again regularly dipping into the 30’s around here, did I take her somewhere warm with sun-bleached canopies, margaritas, and thong bikinis (and mankinis)? Cancun? Jamaica?

Nah, I took her to a city. A cold and windy city. A city on the same basic geographic parallel as our home. And just to up the ante, we flew in moments after a second bomb scare closed down the streets near our destination hotel. That’s right, New York City! Happy birthday! (Try not to get exploded.)

We stood in Detroit Metro airport watching the coverage of the mysterious ownerless cooler in Times Square hoping to catch sight of our hotel somewhere in the background. And hoping they wouldn’t honor our ‘front of the house’ view request. Somewhere towards the back would be okay after all. Somewhere faaaar away from exploding SUVs.

Having never been to NY before, we did the whole tourist thing. We’re talking Times Square (multiple times – Mom didn’t raise many smart ones), Statue of Liberty, Empire State building, WTC site, subway rides, and a minor communicable eye infection.

Scouting the NYC Marathon course

As a runner, I find that every vacation turns into an advanced scouting expedition for a future race. We were standing atop the Empire State Building and I found myself taking note of the Verrazano-Narrows and Queensboro bridges as well as the location of the 5 boroughs and what I remembered of the NYC Marathon course map. You know what? When looking at the course from 86 stories up, a marathon is a long freakin’ way.

The highlight for Mrs. Nitmos was the Wicked show at the Gershwin. I was able to get tickets close enough where the actors spit wasn’t landing on our heads but yet we could still smell what they had for lunch. The next night we rocked out to Green Day’s new American Idiot show. Loud. Flashing lights. And I was flipped off at least 15 times. Yes, awesome! Green Day’s drummer snuck in just before curtain and sat a row behind us…then disappeared again just before the end.

We paid entirely too much for dinner at various NY hot spots. The delicious taste of ocean trout and lamb chops slide down my gullet with only a tinge of regret for the college my kids won’t now experience. But, not to worry, the key lime pie dessert made me forget completely about it/them. The image of their sad little uneducated faces obliterated by a bulging belly and a gaseous burp.

We were at Monday’s Letterman show. Unfortunately, some American Karaoke reject was signing. He was also close enough to smell his lunch. It smelled like nervousness.

I was most happy to see that there is still someplace in this world that you can buy 5 t-shirts for $10.99. Of course, all of the shirts say I (heart) NY. We didn’t buy any because we didn’t want to commit to that level of relationship with New York. If New York’s best friend passed me a note asking me to check a box if I Liked NY or Like Liked NY, I’d probably check the Like NY box then giggle, try to contain my excitement and slide it back.

Imagine...not standing on the memorial.

We walked pretty much everywhere except for a couple subway rides to the far flung lower Manhattan sites. By the last day, Mrs. Nitmos and I were thinking about running a few miles in Central Park. For us Midwesterners, how often do you get to do this? Well, for these Midwesterners, it will have to wait awhile. It was cold and windy and, frankly, our legs were tired and bodies weary. We walked around Central Park for a couple of hours on sore and dead legs but no running.

I can run for hours but walking can be a real chore sometimes.

All in all, it was a good trip. We didn’t explode. We also came home with red, wind-burned faces which, if viewed with squinty eyes in a bathroom mirror, look quite a bit like a Caribbean sunburn.

Happy trails.

After 6 days of hardcore taper (i.e. no running), it was back to business yesterday. 6 miles with a 3x800 mixed in (2:47, 2:48, 2:48) and a finishing 400m kick @ 1:16. Taper on!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Rungasm II: The Runwakening

Taper is here a few days early. Now it is time to keep this finely tuned (and eye pleasingly shaped) machine I call my body primed, ready, and refreshed for the Bayshore Marathon on May 29th.

The final long long run (as opposed to short long runs or medium long runs - c'mon you know you subdivide your long runs that way too) was completed a few moments ago. Sweat is dripping onto my keyboard, turkey sandwich, and issue of PlayCalves* just so I can bring you this update in a timely manner.

Twenty-one miles down and it was completed as rungasmic as the 22 miler a few weeks ago. I don't know what it is but the long runs for this training season have gone as smoothly as any so far. The Year of the Ass Kicker is on! Of course, since I'm due for a poor long run, I'm sure karma will bite me in the ass on marathon day in the form of an 87 degree day and 30 mph winds.

21 miles @ 7:15 pace (elapsed time 2:32:24). Negative split! And last mile the fastest in 6:53!

If you are in the mid-Michigan area, be forewarned that another of my rungasms has occurred all over the streets. Chose your steps carefully.

Much like that 22 miler, I started slower than normal and held that easy pace for the first 8-9 miles and then just slowly picked up the pace. Eased on into it. No cramps afterwards. In fact, barely any stiffness or soreness at all. I popped 2 Tylenol after 12 miles (like before) and took shorter strides to ease the strain on my legs (I have a tendency to over stride).

I've been searching for my White Whale since the Boston Marathon. Have I finally found it? (Man the harpoons!)

Time will tell but this was a satisfying way to start taper. I feel like leaving $50 on the nightstand for the Run Fairy** to pick up.

As I sit here eating my rapidly soaking sandwich, one thought occurs to me: Maybe...could it be...after 30 years have I finally answered this question? The question that has been on everyone's mind: Is THIS what Willis was talking about?

Have a great weekend.

Happy trails!

* You should see the centerfold. Nice calves...but I think they're implants.
** Maybe not a Run Fairy but a Run "Escort".

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Resistance Training, Running, and American Allusions

It’s called wind. Besides the stretchy bands, it’s the closest I come to resistance training when running. And did I mention that it sucks?

It’s one thing to go into a session of planned resistance training…know what you are up against…prepare some scowls and grimaces in advance. It’s entirely different to start out on a nice, wind-free run with butterflies swirling about you and birds chirping their applause as you bounce freely down the sidewalk. And then take a casual little left hand turn and BAM! a wall of wind filling up your cheeks and flipping your hair back like a 1950’s greaser.

Spring is always a windy season around these parts so you kind of expect it. What you don’t expect is for the American flag – the very symbol of our freedom and patriotism – to be a bold-faced liar. I check the wind level against the flags on the nearby school flag poles when I run. If I can’t trust the American flag to tell me the truth, what can I trust? Maybe George Washington didn’t chop down the cherry tree? Maybe Bill Clinton did have sexual relations with that woman?

Case in point, yesterday I took off on my lunch hour for my intervals at the high school track. Technically, I was “in a meeting” according to my public calendar. The meeting was at the track with Mr. Puke Threshold. I head out the door and past my filly’s elementary school. It’s breezy and a pleasant 60 degrees. Blue skies, butterflies, birds, the entire enchilada described above. The school flag is lying as limp as a boy scout leader at a…er, never mind.

I hit the track for 3 x 800 with a bonus 400m finish. It’s nearing taper and I have a 21 miler scheduled for tomorrow so I’m not going to push the interval count. Just trying to keep the legs fresh and primed for the upcoming 5k training after this marathon wraps up in a few weeks. After a nearly two mile warm-up, I arrive at the track and start the first 400 meters. 100m…200m…nice and easy…

BAM! Turn the third corner and smash of wind hammers me in the face. I was looking for Lee Harvey in the press box the way I suddenly went back and to the left….back and to the left…

Dig in. Embrace it. When it comes to running, this is my resistance training. As much as it sucks, the only way to go is to embrace it as a beneficial work-out. Rounding the first corner, the wind relieves again. The liar flag is still hanging limp. Maybe it’s one of those fake flags but, unlike the moon landing flags, this one is frozen flaccid.

Back into turn three and BAM! another sudden gust about knocks me back. I feel like I’m running with one of those cute little midget parachutes on my back. Lower the shoulder and charge like Teddy Roosevelt up San Juan hill. Hang on, it’s going to be a rough ride.

By the time it’s done, I’m cursing at the wind with a steady stream of m-f’ers. The liar flag got a few choice words too. I clapped my hands together and took out two butterflies. And don’t think I didn’t pop the bottom of the bird’s nest sending a few eggs over the side.

Resistance training and running? Yeah, it sucks. Mostly because you don’t know when it’s coming. And also because insects and animals tend to die when it happens to me.

Happy trails.

3 x 800 @ 2:48 average pace (2:47, 2:48, 2:49). Final 400m @ 1:16.

Tomorrow 21 miles and then TAPER!

Mrs. Nitmos and I depart on a surprise birthday trip for her on Friday. She doesn’t know where she is going yet. Maybe I’ll pop up in a town near you. Keep an eye out.


The Best.

1918-2010. R.I.P.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Mrs. Nitmos Is A Mudder!

Yesterday, Mrs. Nitmos completed her first start to finish solo race. It was a 5k under a steady downpour. Worse conditions, in fact, than any race I’ve ever raced in over the past 10 years. You know what I found out? Mrs. Nitmos is a mudder.

The race took place at the local community college, Michigan State University. They are well known locally for farming, cows, and beer-fueled riots when their sporting teams win (or lose) high-profile games. I live so close to their animal research facilities that I can often smell the cow and sheep dung wafting over with the spring air across my regular running routes. While this is welcome as a masking agent during my usual mid-run flatulence, it can spoil a summer cook-out. Nonetheless, it is a cute little college so Mrs. Nitmos, as part of an office challenge, signed up to run the race with some co-workers.

The race finished in the decrepit, dated stadium of the school’s football club. Thankfully, their mascot, a cartoonish chap with a broom atop his helmet, was not there to threaten the runners. My colt and filly, filled with tales of the child eating mascot since birth, would have been terrified.

We waited inside the stadium for Mrs. Nitmos to arrive beneath the protection of an umbrella. The rain and stadium rust speckles danced off the canvas and slid to the sticky cement floor around us. To the expected minute, she burst through the tunnel leading onto field and dug hard for the finish. The poorly drained field and loose turf would not prevent her from finishing strong.

She finished in the top 25% of her age group and top half of all runners. I don’t need to be told that it is never a good idea to compare a woman to a horse. But, if I can be forgiven this one transgression, I think it is appropriate: Mrs. Nitmos is definitely a mudder. Despite the downpour….despite the rain-soaked clothing…despite the smell of moist animal dung and recently extinguished couchs from the nearby streets, Mrs. Nitmos charged through to the finish for a new (default) PR.

She proudly wore the colors of the race-hosting school’s rival for the finishing picture. She was exhausted and wet and ready to go home. She had run hard and needed a blanket and a bucket of food and probably a good brushing.

On the way out, we all took cookies off the post-race runner’s table. We were hungry. I don’t care what you think of me. The cookies tasted delicious…like the savory goodness of an ill-gotten grape from the grocery store fruit aisle.

We might have had a Rice Krispy treat also. If so, we might also have discarded the cellophane wrapper to the ground before departing the stadium.

We are pretty sure no one would notice.

Congratulations Mrs. Nitmos!

Happy trails.

Soccer! My colt’s team experienced a bit of a humbling at the hands of one of the worst teams in the league with a 3-1 setback on Saturday. It’s probably a good thing as his team, annually one of the best teams in the league, was starting to get a big head and took the game lightly. Lesson learned: The other team gets the same type of juice boxes so you better be prepared to play.

My filly, on the other hand, took out a can on a neighboring communities “team”. I say “team” lightly as they appeared to be little more than a group of colliding atoms bumping around with no direction. We had to lend them 2 players each quarter as Team Atom was short-handed. My filly pumped in 4 goals for us in an 8-1 victory. For good measure, she also scored the only goal for the other team when playing against us. So she had 5 goals but a +3 for the game, in hockey-speak.