Saturday, May 26, 2012

Back at It

I take back all of the things I've ever said about how easy it is to recover from a marathon.

I didn't realize how sore I was until about ten steps into today's run. An awful run, full of sweat and slowness. I started to wish I would just poop my pants, so when people wondered, "Why's he running so slow and looking so miserable," they would just nod and say, "Oh, he pooped his pants." But no luck.

I'm guessing I ran five miles (1:02.50). Meanwhile, it's 95 degrees and my body is full of the piles of post-marathon celebration food, and I spent more than one night this week, staying up until 2 a.m. watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. So I recognize I'm dealing with several issues, and I don't feel awful about the run, but today I find it hard to believe I ran a marathon when I was younger.

Friday, May 25, 2012

After the Marathon

Okay, it's been a month. I suppose I was nervous, training for the marathon, thinking I might not make it, thinking I might be an utter failure, hoping, as I always hope before a big event, that I might get struck by a comet and would no longer have to worry about running the marathon.

No such luck. May 20th came, I ran a marathon, and here I am.

I didn't update the blog over the final three, four weeks of my training, but I did get in one twenty-mile run (about 2 or 3 too few as it turns out), and I ran several float workouts, logging about a hundred miles total over the month. In retrospect, I wish that I had been updating the blog at least weekly, but, like I say, I had a latent kind of terror about running 26.2 miles -- holy crap! That's a long way.

In the meantime, I continued to plan with Dr. Stick about race strategy: we talked mileage and training and expectations and pace; some days we talked as though we might just walk the first half; other days, I'm certain, we had our sights set on Meb and Ryan Hall -- look out, fellas, we're gunning for the American records. In the end, I think we can all kind of agree "marathon race strategy" is an oxymoron at best . . . a joke at worst. (Also, it turns out Meb and Hall weren't running this one.)

For instance this: I had a series of goals, as I always do for a race or a workout, and the only goal I hit was that I didn't poop my pants. I said before the race I would be terribly sad if I didn't get in under four hours. I finished at 4:05 -- respectable, a few minutes above average for my age group, but well off my dream goal and worse than my worst expectation. If you had asked me before the race, I would have told you, I'd rather poop my pants than miss the four-hour goal.

Dr. Stick missed his goal time for a few minutes as well, and we're blaming the heat -- high 80s -- and the sun (a lot of it). Though I stuck with him until I could see the blue of the 18-mile marker, he beat me by better than twenty minutes, but he was the first person (in a crowd of 20,000 runners and countless spectators) that I saw afterwards, and he said, "Good run, buddy. When do you want to start training for the next one." And I felt like Rocky and Apollo at the end of Rocky when Apollo says, "Ain't gonna be no rematch." And Rocky says, "Don't want one." Except I was playing both Apollo and Rocky, and Dr. Stick was looking at me the way Desi does when she drops the tennis ball at my feet -- "Wanna play fetch? Wanna play fetch? Wanna play fetch?" The next one! Ha! I looked around for a way out, but there was no comet rushing towards me, so I had to admit that after today, I probably won't run another marathon for at least a year.

That was Sunday, by Monday, Dr. Stick and I were planning race strategies again, scheduling 5Ks, half marathons, a 10K, talking about the Chicago Marathon in a very real way.

I'm not going to take up any more space talking about the run itself, I can only say that I am a different person today than I was last week. I hadn't expected this -- I expected soreness, I expected exhaustion, I expected wanting a nap -- but finishing that first marathon, I'm certain, is going to be one of the events that I look back on again and again in coming years as a moment of transition. I felt greater success at the half marathon, but that race did not change me the way the marathon changed me. I can't explain it beyond that just yet, because I haven't had time or distance to reflect on the run, but, if you'd like to know more about the transition, go out, run a marathon -- I'm sure you'll understand. It's worth every mile of training in the rain and the sun and the frozen wind. I'll say more about it by and by.

After the race, Dr. Stick's four-year son, who is a pretty good friend of mine, gave me a high five. I said, "Did you get to see daddy finish the marathon?"

He said, "Yup."

I said, "He did great, didn't he?"

He said, "Yup."

I said, "Are you proud of him?"

He said, "Yeah. Oh yeah!" Then he tilted his head to the inquisitive side at just the angle you know something astute is on the horizon -- in my courses, I call it the "Aha!" moment, when a student realizes something that is clearly of great importance. He said, "But how come you finished all the way in the back?"

Well. Bud. I didn't have an answer for you then, and I still can only say, "It's a long story." I'm sure I'll sit you all down someday soon and tell you.

But, for now, I'll just say, in an attempt to not finish all the way in the back next time, I start a new cycle of training tomorrow, and I'm gonna try to keep the world posted on my continuing relentless pursuit of mediocrity.

*     *     *

Meanwhile, thanks to Bob and Andrew for the great company and lending us a place to stay. Always a pleasure. In honor of our time together this weekend, I'd like to celebrate my favorite line from Bob's blog, "We are the Billy Joel one-man cover band." Watch the clip. You'll wish you could see them live.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Back on (the) Track

So Thursday night, I'm not ashamed to admit it, I woke my spouse up, because I was sleep crying. I was crying in my sleep. I tried to stand up and thought about screaming. Both calves were tight and burning. It felt as though someone had skewered me through my lower legs. Had I smelled onions, I would have known, I am a kebob.

Which brings me to my first bit of running advice. If you've taken a week off for an illness, and you run four miles, then have a chance to drive three hours to visit old dear friends and stay up until five in the morning drinking wine, even though that's just about when you normally get up . . . do it. Every time. Your calves will heal.

That being said, I took Friday and Saturday off for all of those reasons: my calves hurt, and I was recovering from being me but thinking I was me from fifteen years ago.


I ran my Cable Lane 7.75 (1:00.45) -- something about me said I should try to get in under an hour, even though I haven't yet done that. I was close, and that was good, considering my last week and a half.


Ran a new loop about four miles (32:15). I think I'm trying to convince myself that my recovery pace is an 8:00-minute mile. And that might be necessary for our Cleveland Marathon goal (3:30.00).

Tuesday (today):

I ran a twenty minute warm up, then ran 10 X 800 meter repeats with a 200 meter jog between each. My last half-mile repeats are here. Here's my splits:

Lap 1:(1:32).     Lap 2:(1:36).     800: (3:09).
Lap 1:(1:32).     Lap 2:(1:39).     800: (3:12).
Lap 1:(1:38).     Lap 2:(1:36).     800: (3:15).
Lap 1:(1:33).     Lap 2:(1:37).     800: (3:11).
Lap 1:(1:37).     Lap 2:(1:38).     800: (3:16).
Lap 1:(1:39).     Lap 2:(1:34).     800: (3:14).
Lap 1:(1:35).     Lap 2:(1:37).     800: (3:13).
Lap 1:(1:36).     Lap 2:(1:37).     800: (3:14).
Lap 1:(1:37).     Lap 2:(1:34).     800: (3:12).
Lap 1:(1:36).     Lap 2:(1:36).     800: (3:13).

If we don't count the anomalies (3:09 and 3:16), I could say that my mean was 3:13 +/-2: I feel very good about that. Looks like my average is 3:13. I admit it, I'm very pleased about those times. I might run this workout once more before my taper towards May 20. Or I might not, but I think when I pick my training back up in June, I'll have to rethink my goal: it had been 3:15 average.

The good news is my recent injury / illness hasn't necessarily hurt my training terribly. It set my confidence back, and I'm worried, still, about the long run, and my recovery time has increased, but my speed has actually continued to improve slightly.

So, again, never pass up a chance to visit dear old friends.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Uneasy Four Miles

After hardly getting out of bed for the past week -- laid up with some absolutely obnoxious illness that rooted itself in my face and brain; some folks like to call it a cold, I like to call it an utter lack of humanity -- I went for a four-mile run today. It was all I could do to finish in 42:22.

I felt like hell, but I'm certain I could smell all of the awful medicines and laziness I'd accrued from five days of Ny- and DayQuil. It'll take me a few days to get back on track, but I hope to be back on a marathon training schedule by next weekend.

Moral of the story: don't get sick. Sickness is a ridiculous condition.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Half-Mile Repeats

So, yesterday, it was half-mile repeats. The idea behind these, I suppose, is to measure how much exactly one hates oneself. If one likes oneself even a little tiny bit, one will stop at six or seven such repeats. If one has high self-esteem and is comfortable in one's own skin and feels good about oneself and the world, two half-mile repeats is plenty. I did ten.

First, I ran my two mile warm-up to the Pruitt Field track. Can you believe the University track team has priority over my whim? I was shocked, threw an absolute fit, stomped across the entire road to the bike trail and ran there instead. So the bike trail has clearly marked mile, and half mile marks, which is nice, but I had to run slightly uphill into a slight headwind one way and slightly downhill the other way. Scientists who read these posts, can one of you please explain why there's often a headwind, but never a tailwind: that is, why does the wind only blow when I'm running towards it? Is it magic? Did I piss off a wizard years ago?

Long story short, here's my times: up (3:18), down (3:12), up (3:19), down (3:11), up (3:12), down (3:02), up (3:18), down (3:16), up (3:11), down (3:11). First off, as for the 3:02, I can explain that: it's not my fault. I started the interval and passed this young man at a fair clip. Then the jerk passed me back, and, well, what would you expect should happen? I know that repeat did nobody any good, but, other than that, I'm entirely pleased with my results. That's a 3:14 average, which I am pleased with. Down a few seconds from my half-miles on the track which had me at about a 3:19 pace.

I'm feeling pretty worked, even a day later, but that soreness is negligible compared to my on-going upper-body lament from Monday's weight lifting. What an awful invention, weights -- as if the metaphorical world weren't heavy enough already, we had to invent actual weights to increase the burden. Great work, species!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New Horizon, Mile Repeats, Other Stuff


Off. I think I tried to get back on the road too soon after the half marathon. Running felt awful. I was tired all the time. I took today off. I talked to Dr. Stick about it -- he'd run a different half the day before I had -- he indicated that I also might be feeling some post-race depression. I shrugged and said, "Meh."


Off. Ditto.


3.4-mile loop at a steady, easy pace (28:12). Today was the first day I felt like a runner since the race. I've always heard to take time off after a race to fully recover, but I thought that was silly, because I signed up for the Cleveland Marathon (20 May), and, though it's still five+ weeks off, it feels right around the bend: I was, therefore, worried about falling off my training wagon.

Meanwhile, Dr. Stick agreed to meet me Saturday morning (20 May) and run the marathon with me. As a seasoned veteran of marathons, it's likely that we'll run together for awhile, then I'll get to admire the soles of his shoes as he becomes a dot on the horizon, and, with a little bit of luck, he will not have finished his post-race massage, meal, and nap before I cross the finish line.

Here's something I read today:
Any effort to envisage a goal . . . generates a spatio-temporal structure. Habit, by dulling the sense of purpose and of anxious striving, weakens it.
The passage comes from Yi-Fu Tuan's 1976 book Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. And it holds within it at least one of the central paradoxes of running (as I see it): namely -- I believe entirely in a sustained consistent effort for any runner; but that can be, let's face it, BORING! So . . .

When Tuan speaks of a spatio-temporal structure, I think, clearly, he means goals give a reality to the future, something that we can seemingly touch (or, at least, sense in a very real, physical manner), despite the fact that they do not exist on the same plane of existence temporally.

(Give me just a second here to counter my two sons who are currently rereading Stephen Hawking's The Universe in a Nutshell -- I know what you're thinking: "Because we can only exist in one point 'p' in space, even viewing time as an equivalent and tangible fourth dimension (along with length, height, and depth), would not allow for us to exist in multiple points 'p', 'p1', 'p2' . . . in time, unless one means truly to suggest that one can be in multiple places at a single moment." To my boys, I respond, simply, "You're grounded. Go to your rooms."

Phew! I'm glad that's settled. So in a sense, what I am suggesting is that this structure of Tuan's allows for, if not a physical connection with the future, then at least, an emotional or intellectual connection.

The beauty of this goal-setting lifestyle is that it flies in the face of the mundane, day-to-day habit, the sustained, consistent practice of running every day. We visualize our goals, in part to make them a reality, but also to make an emotional connection with the future to drag us through those maintenance runs, as though we are the crapradoodle, and the world is me . . . or would that be the world is I. So there you have it: Dr. Stick and I are setting out to run a 3:30.00 Cleveland Marathon (20 May).

In addition to this shared goal time, we will be able to bring our own personal talents and observations to the race in order to function as a tiny collective unconscious. For instance, he'll bring his experience of having run a half-dozen marathons to help us set a reasonable yet serious clip, and I know how to read a map and can thus locate the starting line (truthfully, I might just ask one of the other 19,000 runners standing around the streets of Cleveland).

See you all in Cle-town.

Meanwhile, my spouse keeps asking me, "Why are you reading that book?" and my answer, "Why aren't you reading this book?" each time receives a sigh, a headshake, and an eye roll. Which I take every time as an indication that I am a deep thinker and impassioned philosopher. Thank you, baby. So are you.

Before all that, though, I ran my 3.4-mile loop (28:12). It felt nice.


Ran two miles on the treadmill at the rec center after lifting weights (shoulders, chest, back, biceps, triceps) for twenty minutes -- first time touching a weight since 2005. Very embarrassing, kind of stupid looking -- I liked it.


Sore from weightlifting. Ridiculous.

Ran my own kind of float workout (Runner's World May 2012 has an issue on such exercises) today. It was too windy to run hills, and too cold to run repeats -- no science behind this, just the way I felt -- so I decided to run mile repeats uphill: if I hadn't mentioned it, I'm sure it would be easy to figure out there's very rarely science when I'm around. I ran a ten-minute warm up.

I wanted to pushed the mile uphill pretty hard in order to work on leg strength and turnover and lungs as I ran -- and it came to pass that those three things were worked on and the working on them was good and those three things were good. (Don't know how the language from Monty Python's Holy Hand Grenade scene crept into my language right there, but I'll try no to let it happen again.) As for the downhill, I tried to maintain my speed which would allow me to maintain some intensity, while recovering from the uphill.

My times: up (7:32), down (7:57), up (7:47), down (7:55), up (7:50), and I didn't have it in me to run back down. I ran this run once before, but I didn't check my splits before hand, because, well, it's been months, and I'm transitioning from the race back into training, so I didn't see any need to measure my now self against my previous self -- maybe next time.

It was my first hard workout since the race a week and a half ago. And it was good. Tomorrow: maintenance, I reckon.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My First Half


Dragged the crapradoodle around for 3.4-mile loop (34:56) – I don’t know if she’s really all that interested in running anymore – I think she’d rather sit at home and watch tv. On the other hand, she still does enjoy a good healthy bm.


3.4-mile loop (29:05). Slow and short, mostly just staying loose for tomorrow’s half-marathon, my first.


Pretty scary, running a half marathon . . . I didn’t know what to expect. On the other hand, I have been reading Runner’s World for years, so I made the following list of goals that would hopefully build on each other.

Goal 1: finish the race.
Goal 2: don’t crap pants.
Goal 3: finish in under 2 hours (9-minute pace).
Goal 4: finish in under 1:50.00 (arbitrary number that I thought sounded nice).
Goal 5: finish in under 1:45.00 (8-minute pace) – this was my best-case pace.
Goal 6: finish in under 59:43 (American record for the half marathon, set by Ryan Hall in 2007.

My plan for today’s race went like this: eight-minute miles, no matter what happens, just stick to eight minute miles. If I fell off pace a little, I figured I could still hit my first two or three goals. That would be fine. Eight-minute miles, that’s my motto.

I woke up this morning with an hour and a half to get to the registration. PB & J sandwich and a cup of Kefir – this felt like a smooth, easy, bowel-friendly breakfast – for the duration of the run, I didn’t get hungry at all. I felt strong and energized. For the walk uptown, I poured some coffee into a blue plastic SOLO cup, so I could ditch the cup when finished, and in order to better blend with any college students who might be wandering home from their beer pong games.

The registration was a little over a mile from my house. I started my mantra en route: eight-minute miles, eight minute miles, eight minute miles . . .

The first thing that I noticed when I got close to the registration table for my first marathon / half-marathon was how many people in the world are in much better shape than I’m in. Everybody there had legs you could use to study very particular branches of anatomy. Most of the folks were slim, lithe. I asked one Olympic-looking guy what his goal time was; he said, “Oh, I don’t run; I’m just here to watch my spouse” – even the spectators were fitter than I.

But that’s all fine, I told myself. I’m not here to beat the spectators or their wives. I’m just running for my eight-minute pace. I’m not going to win the race or even my age group, and everybody who finishes gets a little medal.

I got my registration sack and walked to my office on campus, about another mile. I had to walk through the growing crowd of runners, and the closer I got to the starting line, the more fit the people became. We had forty minutes till the race, and already hundreds of folks were running, stretching, plyometricing. The idea that today’s 13.1 was just another run fell away very quickly, and I started thinking, what if someone passes me with a mile to go (or after the first mile) – do I push hard, maybe through in a three-minute half-mile? No, I told myself, that’s not what we’re doing today; today is for eight-minute miles; call me the eight-minute-mile man. But what if I feel really good at the turn, should I add in some kicks, and start picking people off? I had to sit myself down in my office building and have a little chat with me:

“Look,” I said, “just run an eight-minute pace – nobody can fault you for that. 1:45.00 is a respectable time, and if you don’t quite get it, at least finish the race, and we’ll work on strategies next time.” Okay, I thought, I’m right. I just got a little nervous. Eight-minute miles, eight-minute miles.

I continued to run around in little circles, so as to fit in, and saw that some of my ROTC students had brought a cannon to the race. I thought it was very nice of them to show support for the runners, but I also worried about who they were thinking about shooting. It reminded me of the play my Uncle Dewey was in during his fourth-grade year: his first encounter with the stage, though certainly not his last. He was cast as a knight-errant, who, upon hearing a cannon blast, turns to the king and announces, “Hark! I hear a cannon.” For weeks, he practiced his line – at home, in the car, at baseball practice – “Hark! I hear a cannon. Hark! I hear a cannon. Hark! I hear a cannon.” Each afternoon at play practice, the gym coach would haul out the starter’s pistol for Dewey’s scene and fire off a cap: “Hark!” Dewey would announce, “I hear a cannon.” The day of the play, the school brought out the cannon proper – Mr. Effenauer put the capgun away – and, at just the right moment, Dewey took the stage. The cannon fired – KaBOOOM! – Dewey covered his head and yelled out, “What the hell was that?”

His first marathon was a totally different story.

I got bored with warming up – so I made my way to the start and got to listen to all the last minute advice from runners talking to other runners. The more experienced folks spoke of getting to the center of the road, so as not to get tripped and getting to the side of the road, so as not to get boxed in. They spoke of diet and pacing and prs and bowel movements and water stations and how to hold a water cup and what to do for cramping. Eight-minute miles, eight-minute miles. They spoke with great precision, almost obsession about splits and Gatorade and peeing in the woods – I felt a great kinship; these are my people. I turned to talk to one group – an older man and two teenage girls – about a recent bowel movement I’d had, but the loud speaker kicked on and introduced the “Star Spangled Banner.”

After the song, the loud speaker came back on, but it sounded like the Harvey Keitel SNL skit about the NYC subway PA – you know the one: “Mfmfmrrrfmmmrmrmrmr furmmr mhrmmmrm Athens mrmfrhm mmmmmrmh urrmrh rmmrh . . .” so I thought eight-minute miles, eight-minute miles KaBOOOM! What the hell was that?

The crowd started moving; we were off and running; all my best laid plans went to shit. My watch said 6:30 at the mile marker and 13:03 at two, but I was close enough to some folks with GPS watches to quickly learn that each of the first two mile markers were off by a tenth of a mile and that our actual pace had only been 7:15.

Two slim folks were running beside me, talking about bowel movements during some of their best marathons, so I introduced myself, said I was running the half marathon. They were both running the full, but, boy, did they have advice for me. We clipped along at a 7:15 pace for the rest of the first half of my first half-marathon where I made the turn, and they both kept going. During our chat, the more experienced of the pair had said, “The best bit of advice I can give a half marathoner is turn off your brain at about the nine-mile marker.” Little did he know, I had turned mine off when ROTC had fired off the cannon. The rest should be smooth sailing.

The crowd sure did thin out at the turn. I felt pretty good, despite the fact that I had blown my eight-minute mile goal. If I had a single thought it was maintain, at this point, just maintain this pace, but I found myself in a delicate situation. There were three runners about fifty paces ahead of me, and a whole group about twenty paces back. I’m awful at maintaining a race pace – I know this about myself from half a lifetime ago, so I knew I would soon get swallowed up by the group behind me whose pace I trusted more than my own. But then I thought, Why don’t I just catch those three up there and maintain their pace? It was a new kind of running for the middle, where I had to make the decision to fall back or to forge ahead, despite the fact that my plan was to just hang out. So I pushed hard for a few minutes, excited to catch these three runners and maintain their pace – what fun! But when I got to them, they were going slower than the pace I wanted. Luckily, another fifty paces ahead was another group of runners whose pace I thought I would like even better. So that’s how I ran the next six miles: brain off, testing other folks’ paces, like Goldylocks, to see whose I liked best. I got passed by two other people on that home stretch who were both apparently looking for someone else whose pace they liked better, and I hope they found it.

Though the mile markers were not verifiable, I’m gonna guess my body was starting to give out at about the eleven-mile marker. My body encouraged me to fall back a bit, look for that first group I’d seen behind me back at the turn, maybe give their pace a try again. But my mind told my body to stow it, and just maintain. My body said, “Wasn’t somebody supposed to turn you off?” And while my mind and body went back and forth about all that, the rest of me just loped around the final lap at local Pruitt Field. My time was 1:33.52. Met my first five goals. I guess all that’s left is to beat Ryan Hall. There’s always next year.

Monday: off.

Tuesday: off.

Wednesday: Cable Lane Loop – still very sore – 1:12.48.

Thursday: 3.4-mile loop (27.35). It’s no joke recovering from my first half.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Road to Athens, Well, Actually, Just a Road in Athens, But, You Know

Ran the same 7+mile loop yesterday -- I'm gonna call it the Cable Lane loop from now on. Ran it in the opposite direction than I normally run, which means that I got to apply the Jackson Principle -- uphill first. On the other hand, because the bike trail is below us, I still got to end on an uphill.

I decided to run at what I'm guessing is my half-marathon pace, something close to 8:30 miles, and add in some half-mile repeats where possible. For the first (25:05) minutes, it was mostly guess work, but then, on the bike trail, I had half-mile markers to help me. At which point, I ran (3:34), (4:03), (3:42), (4:25 (water fountain)), (3:37), (4:07), and (3:36) -- then (7:54) uphill to home. Total: 1:00.07. I wanted to get in under an hour, and I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for that meddling water fountain.

At any rate, I'll know more about my half-marathon pace by this time Sunday after I run my first Athens Half Marathon. I'll take it mostly short and easy today and tomorrow. On Sunday, I hope to finish the 13.1 mile race. I suppose a high-end goal would be (1:45.00), which is close to an 8:00-minute pace. If I do that, I suppose, my next goal will be to take down Ryan Hall's American record (59:43). So if anybody out there knows Ryan Hall, tell him to kiss his record bye-bye.

I might have to up my mileage, improve my diet, and grow a few more legs, but we'll see.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lancaster IV

Hadn't realized how long it's been since I ran my .4 mile repeats on Lancaster Road. Hmmmm. Well, I've been injured. What can I say?

March 27: Times: (2:57), (3:06), (3:10), (3:05), (3:02), (3:01), (3:07), (2:59). Average: (3:04). Mean*: (3:04) +/-7.

January 16: Times: (3:14), (2:57), (3:01), (2:53), (2:57), (2:51), (3:00), (2:52). Average: (2:58). Mean: (3:02) +/-12.

January 09: Times: (3:04), (3:11), (3:12), (3:03), (3:03), (2:57), (2:58), (2:59). Average: (3:03). Mean: (3:05) +/-8.

December 19: Times: (2:59), (3:09), (3:11), (3:00), (3:10), (3:00), (3:06), (2:57). Average: (3:02). Mean (3:05) +/-6.

Had a hell of a hard time finding a pace today. Seems like quite a while since I ran up that hill with the intention to run repeats. It felt good, but I couldn't find a comfortable speed.

It might take a few more of these workouts to get back into my previous hill condition -- at this point, I think a good goal would be to hit a (2:55) mean +/- 5, (2:55) average.

I don't have much else to say about it just now, except that I'm looking forward to the next Lancaster run.

Some days it's harder to get back into blogging than running.

* It also occurs to me at this moment that I might not know how to use the word "mean" appropriately.

10-Day Post

Phwew, what a week. I've been researching in Pennsylvania and have found myself somehow too busy to update this and all other blogs. The good news is: I've been running.

Friday (03.16): I ran my varsity cross country course, something I haven't done for fifteen years or more. What a course! Back me up on this everybody who ran cross country in Western Pa: one of the best courses in the state. Hills, open spaces, one long stretch, hills, hills, hills.

For instance:

This is the one long stretch I mentioned: we called it the flats. In retrospect, every workout was a hill workout growing up in this place.

But before we get to the flats, we had to share elbows and snot with three hundred other runners up this hill, the beginning of the course:

Up the gravel, through the pines, past the pavilion at the top of the hill -- it might have been half a mile to the flats, but it often felt like five.

I was never a good runner. I was above average. But in the mid-nineties, I'm pretty sure everybody running cross country was above average. My best time on our course was 16:30 (2.9 miles, a very fast course, considering the standard 3.1). I would have considered myself good at 16:15 or better, and my senior year, we had three great runners on my team, all running sub 16:00 -- it was always awesome to watch the three of them for the first quarter mile . . . also, to see them finishing post-race meals as I crossed the finish line.

Speaking of which:

Here's a picture from the pavilion up top back to the start / finish line. At this point, we've been running down hill for nearly a mile, and here's the final stretch -- fastest finish, I'd imagine you'll ever run.

I ran the course today in 22:35 -- not quite my own course record, nor was I pushing particularly hard, though I did feel like a kid again down that last stretch.

When I was in school the course record was 14:10. 14:10! It was held by Mike McWilliams of Grove City and Amy Rudolph of Kane, whose time I don't remember. Anyway, I only have to take nine minutes off my time, and I'll be back in business.

*     *     *

Saturday (3.17): I met with my famed chiropractor Dr. Stick this morning. I told him that my back had been hurting for some time. He said, "Now, the back is the part you can't see, right? The front is the part that's in the mirror? I always get those two switched."

I said, "I seem to be having some problems with my sciatica, maybe my fourth lumbar. Any advice?"

He said, "Have you been running?"

I said, "Yes."

He said, "Well, I'm stumped. Have you tried running farther?"

So he and I went for a 12-mile run through the "Valley That Changed the World." We either ran it in 1:43:18 or 1:48:13 -- I wrote it down, but can't remember. During the run, he wisely distracted me from my back issues by talking about high school basketball. Sometimes I forget how awesome I was when I'm alone, but Dr. Stick reminded me of how great we were, or how close to greatness we were. Almost certainly, if it weren't for one or two minor details (particularly, our height and our ability) we would certainly have won just about every state championship during the early 1990s. What fun!

We talked running and local politics and oil and industry and of course made slight mention of how sad all of the high school girls, who never dated us, must be now that we are both spoken for. Long story short: my back felt much better. More great healing. Thanks, Dr. Stick!

*     *     *

Sunday (3.18): Okay, normally I take the day after a long run off, but I felt great, and went out for a few miles. I ran 24:15 out, but remembered that I told my spouse I'd be back in 40:00, so I ran like hell to get home in 18:30.

*     *     *

Monday (3.19): Ran with my girls. Well, the big one ran, the little one biked, along the Rails to Trails. Three miles (40:00 minutes).

*     *     *

Tuesday (3.20): Had another appointment with Dr. Stick today. We ran 5 quarter-mile hill repeats at about 1:50 per. The run was great -- beautiful late winter PA weather -- a great time and place to sprint.

This will be my last appointment with Dr. Stick until Saturday 20 May when we'll meet in Cleveland for my first marathon.

*     *     *

Wednesday (3.21): My spouse dropped me off on the way to the camp. Ran seven miles at what I would call a 9:00 minute pace. No mile markers for the first three miles (28:45). But then I ran half miles at 4:30, 4:22, 4:26, 4:28, and the final two miles at 8:41 and 8:58. Plus an extra little kick at the end for a total of 1:05:45. Another lovely run along the Allegheny River Rails To Trails.

*     *     *

Thursday: Dr. Stick told me about a workout that I might enjoy for my back. He said he recently ran 8X800 meters, shooting for 3:20 for each repeat. I decided to try this today.

After a ~two-mile warm up (20:00), I found a track. Here's my times:

Lap 1                 Lap 2                800 meters
1:34                   1:39                  3:14
1:42                   1:38                  3:21
1:42                   1:40                  3:23
1:44                   1:36                  3:21
1:38                   1:36                  3:15
1:36                   1:32                  3:09
1:41                   1:34                  3:16
1:42                   1:40                  3:23

So I ran 4 repeats over my goal pace and 4 under. If we agree to call the 1:32 and the 1:44 anomalous, I'd say my pace is fairly consistent. Overall, I'm pleased with this run.

*     *     *

Friday: Ran four miles with the crapradoodle today at an adequate crapping pace (40:23).

*     *     *

Saturday: I ran two loops today. Lap one: 1:14.20. Lap two: 1:09:22. Total 2:23.43 (~15.5 miles) with a twelve-minute break in between loops. We'll call the break a ghost break, and strike ghost-pepper sauce off the list of things to eat on a cheese burger the night before a long run.

When I got home, I signed up for my first half marathon, which will take place in Athens, OH on April 01 -- hey, six days!

Also, my first marathon. I signed up for that, too. Dr.'s orders. Cleveland: May 20. I'm gonna hafta learn how to run farther by then.

*     *    *

Sunday: Off, reluctantly.

*     *     *

Monday: We're back home now, after about two-weeks worth of travel. I think, at this point, I'll be able to get back into posting more frequently.

Ran the same loop as Saturday (1:05.30) . . . probably faster than I should have, but I was excited to get home.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Road More or Less Travelled

Two roads diverged in a crude-oil wood . . . I turned left.

Two things, real quick: first off, it looked like the road-less traveled took me miles to go before I could sleep, whereas the beaten path steered me towards Shafer Run, which would eventually turn into Walnut St. which is where my folks' house is: where I wanted to go. Secondly, I'll save my rebellion for convention and authority -- I'll avoid that crazy, well-trod noise all day -- but when it comes to running, well, I don't need to twist any ankles this particular evening. I'm just saying, ankle-spraining gametrails are nice for cross country teenagers, but are tendons don't bounce back so well at this stage* of life.

*The stage of awesome-(though tender)-ness.

I spent five hours at a microfilm machine, and I'd still be there if it weren't for those meddling workers of advanced years**. Sometimes I feel like I've exhausted the material of the Valley That Changed the World, but then I get ahold of their newspapers from the 1860s, and it's as if I'm only beginning.

** They aren't so old -- a generation older than me, maybe. But, as I've previously indicated, generations often mark evolutionary advances.

Anyway, it took a mile or two to get my back unstraightened. I ran around the golf course by my parents' home -- it was a private course when I was growing up, and I was always afraid they kept snipers on the water towers, just in case some wild fourteen-year old was jogging. Now, it's open to the public, which means the snipers aren't allowed to stand on top of any permanent structures. Phwew, progress! The one thing that hasn't changed is that smell of crude oil so thick, even as a teenager I assumed the rest of the world smelled just this way, too. Nope, just home.

Also, I forgot my watch. Well, that's only part of the story. The full story is: this morning I was smart enough to pack my running clothes and shoes, my watch, and some almonds just in case I made it out for a run after the Oil City Library shut down. But like I say, they verily threw me out at closing time -- "But I'm learning," I cried as they geriatricked me out the automated doors -- "Go home and watch t.v., whippersnapper," they yelled. At which point, I felt like it was too late to ask to use the restroom.

So I hustled home. Left my gear in the car. Changed into the clean laundry I did yesterday. And was just dumb enough to forget all my running supplies in the car.

I hit the woods, some old familiar trails from my childhood, but they looked different -- perhaps because I'm one-and-a-third the size I was then -- or maybe age just skews our perspective and any explanation would be an oversimplification. I avoided the golfers out of habit (at this point, I suppose, one might call it respect). And I took my time, picking my way through the rocky trails.

After about twenty minutes (I didn't have a watch, but old, trained, rote memory tells me I'm right), I found the rock overlooking Oil City. This great big green and grey limestone's about a mile from the town proper, but you can hear the kids playing down on first street (across the river) and the cars rolling by down below on Allegheny Avenue. Anybody reading this from Venango County? You know the rock I'm talking about. It's like a time / space warp that draws everything in, and keeps everything distant. And -- and this is one of those things I know, but I also know I can't prove -- I can still hear myself from twenty years ago, crashing through the underbrush, dreaming of a P.R. or just to run with one of the top three runners on our team for another quarter mile or so. I can still see myself lean and forty pounds lighter, and hear myself telling my buddies how great I will be when I grow up.

I can only sit on that rock for so long though. Nine minutes and sixteen seconds to be exact. Again, you don't need a watch with nostalgia this thick. Anything beyond that makes me look desperate, like I'm trying to cling to the past. I gingerly hopped back on the path and turned left again and found an even smoother trail (I've seen roadsigns on less) and sailed down an oil access road.

Most of these oil roads are long out of use, but judging from the bootprints (still filling with water) and the smoke coming from the central power supply house, I'd guess it's still active. An industrial throwback to the independent oil producers of 1871. It's kind of neat to see and hear.

So, we'll call it six miles. I checked my text messages when I got home (one of which I'd sent as I was walking out the door) against the current time, and came up with a little over an hour. I'm not ashamed on a day like today to call it a ten-minute pace (remind me to tell you sometime the furious fistpump I gave myself when I was thirteen and ran my first sub-ten mile). There's some glory in finishing every run, even if it's not groundbreaking.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Drake Well Museum

Spent most of today in Drake Well Museum near Titusville, PA:

Doing some research about the early days of the oil industry. I've been in museums and libraries all week, but finding time in the evenings to get out for my runs.

On Monday, I was so smart that I packed my running clothes and shoes into the car, along with some almonds, just in case there was a place to run near where I was researching. Hazah! Still, I made it back to my home base (my folks' house) before taking in some air.

Today, though, I couldn't resist running around Drake Well at Oil Creek State Park. Luckily, I was still smart enough to bring along my running clothes. Unluckily, I was not smart enough to remember my running shoes. I had to run in my research shoes:
For any of you who object, "But those look an awful lot like your teaching shoes, Jackson," I have two things to say, first: you win. You should go on Jeopardy. You're very smart. Second: sometimes my shoes have to do double duty. And today my teaching / research shoes had to be running shoes. They're like the Kordell Stewart

of my feet.

Post Script: went about six miles (58:30), maybe seven. Who's keeping track anyway?

March 01
Thursday: -----
Friday: 4.0
Saturday: -----
            (Week: 6.4)
            March 05
Sunday: 3.0
Monday: -----
Tuesday: -----
Wednesday: -----
Thursday: 3.4
Friday: -----
Saturday: 3.0
            (Week: 9.4)
            March 12
Sunday: -----
Monday: 4.5
Tuesday: 6.0
Wednesday: 6.5

March to date: 30.4
Year to date: 201.1