Fifteen for My Fifth: 15.05 Miles

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Who’s wedding anniversary is today?  Who kicked off their big day by getting out of bed at 3:45 am to run 15 miles?  How does the divorce rate of distance runners compare with that of the general population?  Who’s had enough questions for a Saturday morning?

If I were to say that I’m not yet tired of going to bed at 9:30 on a Friday night, I’d be lying.  Lying like Paul Ryan about his marathon finish time.  Yes, this getting-up-way-too-damn-early nonsense is quickly getting old; Presidential campaign old.

But the show goes on.  I walked out the door at 4:00 am sharp, into a beautiful, clear, 60-degree “morning.”  Sigh, I remember when 4:00 am was still “night.”  But I guess there comes a time to put away childish things.

After the usual (i.e., sucky) first mile and the big climb up Bear Tavern past the airport, everything fell into place very quickly for me.  I can honestly say I didn’t really “feel” anything until well into the thirteenth mile, when a bit of hunger set in, and various minor twinges made themselves known to me.  For my money, the scariest part was the two miles or so spent on Route 29 and Maddock Road.  The former is a two-lane State highway with no shoulders to speak of; the latter, a 1.5 mile stretch of rural beauty by day that is just so much pitch-black nothingness in the middle of the night.  Oh, and I almost rolled my ankle something wicked at about the 14-mile mark.  Occupational hazards of running in the dark, I suppose.

Crossing the imaginary finish line, I absolutely, positively could have kept going, believe it or not.  Overall, this journey was a massive win for me.  Beyond the objective data from this run (especially, longest distance ever), knowing how good I felt throughout and how much energy I had at the end are very good signs.  I fully realize that I’m still eleven miles short of my ultimate goal, but this is some real progress I’m making here.

Deer Count! 6 (Living Deer Count: 5)

Toenail Update!  All ten still look and feel A-O-K.

According to my dailymile stats, I burned over 2,000 calories this morning (in reality, my actual burn was probably quite a bit higher, because dailymile doesn’t know I’m a lard-ass).  Before the sun came up.  Happy Anniversary, indeed.

Speaking of…hardly anybody reads this pile of garbage (yet, I hope), but I can’t quite explain how lucky I’ve been to have Lady Legs-o-Lead by my side all these years, and as my wife for the past five.  She has given me undying love, a beautiful son (with another on the way), and too many memories to count.  Happy Anniversary, Lady.




I was unable to log my short Monday run.  Several hours after enjoying a yummy Sunday lunch with friends at a beloved haunt near the West Trenton train station, I still felt…full.  Which is extremely odd for this here human trash disposal.  Visiting friends for an impromptu barbecue/playdate (oh, my…I just used the “p-word,” without irony or derision.  I have indeed gone to the dark side), I could barely eat a damned thing.  I’d planned on putting back just enough to be polite, but that was about it.  However, when not even the hot dogs looked good, I knew something was amiss.

Nobody bothered to give me much advance warning, but I would soon learn that my gastrointestinal tract decided to have a Closeout Sale, as in EVERYTHING MUST GOOOOO!!!  Somehow, I was able to neatly and discreetly “relieve” myself in our guests’ powder room, in a short enough time span that nobody asked me if I “fell in,” or something similarly sophomoric.  Hoping I was all better, I gutted out the rest of the gathering, though my complete lack of interest in food, even after I’d just “made room” for it, was alarming.

Except I wasn’t better.  Once I’d admitted my plight, Lady Legs-o-Lead could not get us home fast enough.  I was afraid I was about to destroy the interior of our sensible compact sedan, torpedoing its resale/trade-in value before we unload it in favor of a “family car.”  I learned that Kegel exercises are definitely not just for women.

Home.  Believe it or not, about one half dozen episodes of”Family Guy Puke” ensued.  I was a human fountain of partially digested food and liquefied excrement, racked with chills, and more than a bit dizzy.  I wanted to die.

The main symptoms subsided in the middle of the night, but I awoke Monday a hollowed-out half-a-man.  Weak as a kitten with feline leukemia.  So dehydrated, and having donated every nutrient in my body to the local sewage system, I could have cramped up my calves just by looking at them.  Work was out of the question.  Food was out of the question.  Running was definitely out of the question.  The only thing not out of the question was wrapping myself in a blanket, lounging on the recliner, and catching up on The Sopranos (What a great show!  Have you heard of it?).

So THAT is why I skipped my Monday run.  I know; what a wuss, right?  I should probably stop kicking the shit out of myself over it; I’d been 100% compliant with my training schedule for the first ten weeks, and I only missed a 4-miler.  Looking back over the training for my 13.1s, I recall that I missed training runs (even weekend 8- and 10-milers) like the NFL replacement referees miss obvious cases of defensive pass interference (i.e., left and right), yet managed to do just fine on race day, but this is different.  TWICE as different.  But still, as much as I read about flexibility, flexibility, flexibility, I feel like missing even one training run will be the difference between a finisher’s medal on November 18th, and an unscheduled visit to Hahnemann Hospital.

I’m overthinking this, aren’t I?

Radioactive Technical Fabrics!!!

“Oh…it looks good on you, though.”  -Al Czervik, Caddyshack

In addition to my new shoes, I decided to stock on up running clothes over Labor Day weekend.  September really is like Christmas for this tubby stumbler.

Because I am not made of money, I want the cheapest comfortable gear I can get my hands on, because I’ve learned the hard way that no matter how well I care for it (better than I used to, but I’m still often forced to stuff wet gear into a suitcase for the day, or “bake-dry” it in a rental car) it will fall apart and/or smell like hot greasy death before I know it.  Therefore, Nike, Under Armour, and whoever else can suck it; I prefer the Champion C9 line, which is carried exclusively by Target.  Insert joke here, about “exclusively” and “Target” appearing in the same sentence.

Since I do the majority of my runs before most of the world gets out of bed, visibility is of paramount importance.  This means I deliberately select colors that I would otherwise not be caught dead wearing.  Luckily for me, one of my favorite colors has always been “Highway Safety Cone, with a Whisper of Salmon.”

This photograph really does not do it justice.  I’m can’t be absolutely certain of this, but I think the label describes the fabric content as “99.5% Polyester, 0.5% Plutonium-239.”  When I showed this piece of haute couture to Lady Legs-o-Lead, she was temporarily blinded.  And her hair started falling out.

Because we live in a century-old home with period-appropriate closet space (i.e., hardly any), and also enjoy pretending we’re still in college, we keep some of our clothing – and all of my running gear – in a re-purposed bookcase in our bedroom.  I was a little bit worried that the glow from this shirt would keep my lovely bride awake at night, so I usually hide it under several pair of old, crotch-rotted compression shorts.  I’m a little bit afraid of being subjected to “enhanced” security screening at the airport, so I think I’ll have to leave this item behind when I skip town on business.

Suffice it to say, if I’m ever vaporized by a motor vehicle while out on an early morning run, it will probably not have been an accident.

SLoB is an ID-iot: 9.4 miles

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“Life I embrace you / I shall honor and disgrace you / Please forgive if I replace you / You see I’m going through some pain / But now I see clearly / And the dawn is coming nearly / And though I’m human and it’s early / I swear I’ll never forget again”

-Blues Traveler, “Optimistic Thought”

I wish I could say that Trenton Thunder baseball did not mess with my Saturday long run a second week in a row, but I have the willpower of a hypothetical someone named I.D. Idderson, so you can imagine how that went.  Aggravating matters further, a postponement to Sunday was out of the question due to prior engagements, and the rest of Saturday was not looking so good, either.  So I set a 5:15 am alarm on my cell phone, which happened to die while I was in the midst of sleeping off nine innings’ worth of beer and hot dogs.

Falling out of bed a few minutes past 6:00, I realized that the full ten miles was not in the cards, because I was hoping not to be the rate-limiting factor in the day’s activities – nobody’s fault but mine that I didn’t get up on time.  Rather than bag it altogether – which really was looking like a great option at that point – I decided to modify my Ewing-Hopewell Death March, down to (what I thought would be) a reasonable eight miles; considerably less than what Hal Higdon ordered, but a galaxy better than my fat ass going back to bed for another hour.

I felt way better on this run that I deserved to and, thanks to my failing spatial skills, only pared about a half mile off of my scheduled ten.  Which was great for the training schedule, but not so much for Saturday’s “life” schedule.  I can’t wait until I need to get up at 3:30 on Saturday mornings to get in my long runs without ruining the rest of my and my family’s day.  Just why am I doing this, again?!?

The good news is that my stunning lack of self-control Thunder baseball will not wreck a long weekend run for me until next April at the very earliest.  The bad news is that I just know it will happen again someday…because I know me.

A Half of One: Aftermath

The Boy woke up a little bit before I got home from today’s run, so I excused Lady Legs-o-Lead, so that she might finish her sleep.  I started my post-run recovery by sitting on the couch, watching a Curious George DVD, eating a toasted bagel with peanut butter, and drinking three cups of coffee.  You have to replenish those fluids.

A few hours later, I folded myself into my Volkswagen Jetta and drove the 45 miles to Philadelphia International Airport.  Creaking out of my low-end German import, I felt ninety years old.  Just missing the cut for a standby seat on an earlier flight, I had an hour to kill.  Because Terminal F at PHL sucks donkey dong (even more so than the rest of that ghastly airport), there was nowhere to sit.  Which was probably a blessing in disguise; who knew if I would be able to get up?  I stood near a recycling bin for an hour, feeding it sections of The New York Times as I finished skimming them; I was too tired to read.  The flight attendant would thank me.

I boarded a Canadair Regional Jet, the passenger cabin of which was likely engineered by a midget with a vicious mean streak; I mean, what the FUCK?!?  Using this aircraft for a flight of more than 250 miles should be a felony, but I digress.  After two hours on this medieval torture device with wings, I disembarked in Indianapolis, hobbled into a rental car, and drove two hours to Fort Wayne.

Thankfully, my rental car had a satellite radio, so I rocked out to “Hair Nation” for all 130 miles of this road-tripper’s paradise.  Faster Pussycat, anyone?  Arriving at the Fort Wayne Marriott, I dumped my gear and treated myself to a succulent plate of barbecue pulled pork, and a sufficient quantity of red, red wine.

I might be wrong on this, but this could be exactly how NOT to recover from a 13.1 mile run.  To get back on the schedule, I owe myself four miles before the crack of dawn, but I am already stiff as a board.  I don’t think this will end well.

A Half of One, and an Unwelcome Partner: 13.15 Miles

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My Saturday long run was pre-empted by a Friday night of Trenton Thunder baseball, and the binge drinking bad dietary decisions that inevitably ensue.  Fuck it, I figured, it’s the playoffs!  Hal Higdon would forgive me for taking an extra hangover rest day.  Or would he?

Saturday was spent being a good and repentant boy.  Lady Legs-o-Lead prepared a lovely, healthful dinner for us, which was low in fat and laden with carbs, but not exactly light on fiber, either.

This is what is referred to in literary circles as “foreshadowing.”

At 4:45 am, after a nudge to the back that gets a little less polite with each absurdly early weekend alarm, I staggered out of bed, geared up, and toed the line for my third half marathon.  It was exactly like running a sanctioned race.  Except there was no expo.  No swag bag.  No technical shirt.  No camaraderie.  No wacky signs along the course.  No finisher medal.  No random strangers, calling you by name and offering encouragement.  Not even sunlight, until about the 7-mile mark.  No fun.  No nothin’.  Other than that, it was exactly like a real half marathon.

On the other hand, there was no line for the Porta-Potty.  No Porta-Potty, for that matter.  No nervous energy.  No emotions.  Just 13.1 miles of asphalt, the occasional deer, and the occasional car passing me too closely on a too-narrow road.  Just run, fatty.

And run, I did.  A half is such a different animal when it’s just another training session, as opposed to this monumental achievement you’ve been training toward for four months, when you’ve never logged more than ten miles in your life, and have no idea if you’re going to break down a quarter mile from the finish.  Today, I just ran, ran, and ran some more, until I arrived at home, a sweaty mess that was about 30 seconds away from leaving an ungodly mess in a place where it definitely did not belong.

I don’t know if this is a function of age or what have you, but on-demand bowel evacuation at 5:00 am is just not something I’m capable of doing…unless I ate at White Castle the night before.  I gave it a half-hearted try, but threw in the TP and hoped for the best.

About 45 minutes into my jaunt, I felt the slightest twinge in my lower abdomen, at which point a track from the immortal Deep Purple jumped the queue in my mental jukebox.  “Feel it coming / It’s knocking at the door / You know it’s no good running / It’s not against the law / The point of no return / And now you know the score / And now you’re learning / Ah-ha, what’s knocking at your back door.”

Oh, dear.

Visions of Grete Waitz danced through my head.

I can and have suffered this sensation through much shorter runs, but I was nowhere near the halfway point when this pile of pasta, lentils, and assorted veggies requested liberation from my lower gastrointestinal tract.  This was not the running partner I was hoping for.  In the tenth mile, I noticed that the health club was coming up on my left.  But alas, they would not open for another 20 minutes.  No good.

Mind over brown matter, I repressed all thoughts of such delights as Snickers bars, brownies, or chocolate soft-serve ice cream (I was hungry.  Get off me, OK?).  Thinking about anything else – even about how being hit by a bus would put me out of my misery – I managed to battle the waves of…urgency, and find my way to my porcelain throne, even remembering to grab a Sunday paper first!

Lesson learned: Start later, or eat better the day before.

Merry Kicks-mas!!!

Yesterday, I bade tried to bid a fond farewell to my Brooks Ravenna 2s, which had dutifully helped propel my fat ass through at least one thousand training miles, a shitty-tee-shirt-drawerful of 5Ks, and two half marathons.

I asked my wife if these shoes were suitable for a charitable donation; one man’s junk, right?  Her look suggested that I’d instead proposed emptying my son’s fetid diaper pail into the Rescue Mission of Trenton’s donation box.  “Throw them out” was the take-home message.  I will probably pretend to do this, only to sneak them upstairs to my office closet.  Men have strange attractions to useless things.  So do women; I mean, my wife has stayed with me for nearly five years.

So I set off for the only kind of shoe shopping that truly excites me.  If accompanying my wife to a shoe store is a tax audit, then buying a new pair of running shoes is a sensual massage with a happy ending.  I can’t tell you the name of the store, but it’s a Company devoted to Running, in a town that contains an Ivy League University.  I recommend it highly; mostly because they really, really know their shit, but also because I’m always the biggest fatty in store, and they never, ever judge me.  To my face, anyway.  For example, the kid who helped me out didn’t even laugh once when I told him I’m running a marathon in November.  What a nice boy.  When I told him I was replacing a year-old pair of shoes that had about a thousand miles on them, his face betrayed a look of horrified shock.  “Whoa, DUDE!!!  Are you TRYING to wind up in a wheelchair?!?” Or something to that effect.  While I have been exposed to a lot of (frequently conflicting) advice on the point at which your kicks are toast, I figured I’d get yet another free opinion from the shoe kid in front of me.

“Oh, two hundred, two hundred fifty miles at the very most…I mean…yeah, it’s expensive, but it’s your FEET we’re talking about.”

Two.  Hundred.  Miles.  You are fucking kidding me, right?  I can’t imagine even Phil Knight having the balls to say that.

Because this kid was genuinely nice, I did not reply “YeahhhhhhhNO. What do recommend for a 42-year old working stiff whose mommy and daddy don’t pay for all his running gear?”  I simply nodded, with a polite “Hmmm…yes…I seeeee…thank you for that advice.”

This trip was to be pretty easy, because my last pair of shoes was absolutely perfect, and you’re supposed to dance with the one who brought ya, or something like that.  Barring a significant design change for the current year, this would be a slam dunk, and it was.  Super Nice Shoe Kid returned with my size 13 personal-watercraft-with-laces, and I slipped into them.  Ahhhhhh…  No way was I going for a spin on the treadmill in the store; I already embarrass myself more than enough on a daily basis, so I just strolled a few loops around the sales floor, so happy with what my feet were feeling.  Then I took them off, and gave them a good, long look.

I mean, WOW.  The last pair of Ravennas was super-cool in its own right, but they were worn for nothing but running, save for one time a couple months ago when I went directly from trail to lawnmower, too tired/lazy to change into boots.  This pair?  Well, I’m going to have serious trouble relegating these to my running activities.  I have a wedding anniversary coming up, and it will be very difficult for me not to lace up these bad-ass kicks when I take my wife out on the town.  They are just that awesome to look at.  Blue laces, people!  ‘Nuff said.

As an added bonus, my perfect running shoe set me back only $100 (I will tell you what you can do with your $250 model with the GPS transponder and USB jack in the heel).  On the flip side, my layout for ancillary gear set me back the same amount.  “That’s how they GET ya!” my mother would probably say.

I need four miles this afternoon, and it’s been raining all day, which means that about half of the course will be muddy.  What does it say about me that the weather makes me want to leave the new shoes in the box, and take out the old pair out one more time, for old times’ sake?