The Weather, It Is A-Changin’

Wow…  I mean, FUCKING-A wow!  What a fantastic little stretch of weather we’re having here in Southern New Hampshire.  I tossed on my shorts for yesterday and today’s runs.  Rocking out with the white-ass legs and loving every minute of it.  Picked up a new pair of ear buds, some cheapo $20, over the ear ones that worked pretty well today.  It’s amazing how weather plays such a huge part in my mental health.  I’m not saying I’m unique in this, it’s just such a nice change of pace.  I’m like an idiot dog that completely forgets that winter isn’t forever and right around the corner, we’ll all be out there dropping gallons of sweat and looking towards Autumn for some relief from the heat.

Here’s a big middle finger to everyone who hates the time change coming this weekend too.  I LOVE IT!  In the bat of an eye, we add an hour of daylight to the afternoon!  It’s incredible.  I know, I know, we “lose” and hour of sleep, but anyone with children…  or dogs for that matter, know they aren’t aware there’s a time difference.  They don’t give a shit I’d prefer to sleep an extra hour.  I’ve learned to embrace the spring time change.  The way I see it, if you leave work at say 4:30, your body gets ready to leave work at 4:30, but now your body’s 4:30 is actually 3:30.  See?  You’ve tricked your dumb brain and you feel like you’re leaving early.  So save all your pissy Twitter and Facebook posts and get ready to enjoy your extra hour!  You’re welcome.

Broken Month

this winter's broken me.

this winter’s broken me.

I’m going to get right into it, I’ve had a real hard time getting out there and putting in the miles.  It’s a total mind-fuck not having the motivation to go do what I love.  This month in New Hampshire has been, without a doubt one of the shittiest I’ve endured.  I’m not sure if it was any colder, but we definitely had more snow and that’s what has absolutely broken me.  This is the first winter I’ve spent as a runner and it’s crushing to not have the trails or even roads passable.  We’ve had such frigid conditions mixed with a ton of precipitation and it’s making for very icy sidewalks and mostly unusable trails.  Where I live there isn’t a great trail system.  There are mainly a couple of rail trails that the snow mobiles use and some remote areas that are just conservation land that isn’t maintained.  This is great in the spring/summer/fall months when you can pretty much run some decent technical stuff all by yourself without worry of dog walkers and bikers, but in the winter, with the snow up past your knees, it sucks for running.

I’ve had some other runners tell me that they tend to do less running and more snowshoeing and cross country skiing in the winter.  Those both sound great, but first it’s not running and second, I have to save up for a new pair of running shoes, I really don’t have the dough to drop on some seasonal gear.  I was using the gym, but after about 4 miles on a treadmill, I always develop blisters, so long runs are out.  I’ve fallen way off my marathon training without a long run in two weeks and that’s taking it’s toll mentally on me.  I moved my schedule around this week so I can get in a full week of running and that’s cleared my head a little.  I’m planning on an 18 miler this weekend and depending on how that goes, I’ll decide if I’ll still run the marathon I planned on in late April.  I’m trying not to beat myself up about it, but it still stings a bit.

I really didn’t think about how the winter here would disrupt my running.  We had such a mild November and December weather wise and then blammo, January and February were the worst, but I’m starting to see the end now.  I’m starting to feel the sun coming up earlier and we get to turn the clocks forward next week, which should help.  It almost feels like the worst is behind us and I’m looking forward to having a full season of running.  The good news is that I’m already miles ahead of where I was when I started last year.  I’m just going to try and make it through the rest of this crap and exhale as soon as I can.

Clarence DeMar Half Marathon – Race Day

(This is part 2 of my first experience running a half marathon.  For the first part, click here.)

My good friend John, who was originally going to run the full marathon, but got super sick and missed almost the entire month of September and wasn’t able to run at all, picked me up at 7 am to bring me to the starting line in Surry, NH.  We hung out for a while chatting about the race until about 7:30 and I headed up to the start line and got my head right.  I always feel weird before a race that I’m running by myself.  I know my routine and what works for me before runs, which is really nothing.  I checked my phone to make sure my playlist was set for the run.  I made sure my inhaler and banana snackens hadn’t fallen out of my flipbelt.  I took a couple of bad pictures and kinda just watched everyone else.  There were so many different types of people out there.  One thing I didn’t do was think about the race.  I had spent the last week obsessing over it and the last couple of days walking through the course in my head…  ALL THE TIME.  I was ready for the mileage and obsessing now would just allow me to get into my own head too much, and that’s a bad place for me to be before a long run.

There was some music playing through the loud speakers that felt like a constant repeat of Meat Loaf and Queen.  It wasn’t that bad, and honestly I wasn’t paying that much attention to it.  Before too long, Ted McGreer, owner of our local running specialty store, Ted’s Shoe & Sport, announced we had 15, then 10, then 5 minutes until a hard start at 8.  The full marathon was starting at the same time in the next town over.  After some nice words about how this was the inaugural DeMar half marathon and everything that goes along with that he counted down and fired the starting pistol, which I realized at that moment was the first race I’d run that used one.  Pretty cool for me.

The beginning of the race was a short downhill and through the parking lot of a nice little state park next to Surry Mountain Lake.  It was pretty slow going until we got up to the road where folks were able to spread out and find a pace.  I was able to lock onto my desired pace of 9 min/mile pretty quickly once we hit the road.  After about a half mile, the course turns down into a back country road and quickly connects to the meat of the first part of the course, a half mile climb through some truly beautiful foliage. It’s at this point you start seeing more and more people out cheering.  There were definitely folks out in the first 3 miles, but from this point on, you probably couldn’t run a quarter mile without there being people cheering for you.  People I have never met.  People who don’t know me or most of the other runners, but there they were.  It was such a fantastic feeling.  I usually shy away from anybody giving me an “attaboy,” but I couldn’t help but grin and thank everybody.  I mean EVERYBODY, at least I tried to.  I thanked anyone that I made eye contact with, all of the volunteers at the water stations, all of the police officers that were stopping traffic.  I tried to make sure they all knew how much I appreciated their work.  And I really, sincerely, did appreciate it.  This race completely opened my eyes as to how positive an event can be for a community.

Besides the normal wear and tear of a longer run, there was only once during the race that I was a little worried.  Right about mile 6, the top of my left foot, which has been giving me problems over the last few weeks (Extensor Tendonitis?), really spiked with honest to shit pain.  Over the course of 8-9 steps it went from, “huh, this again.” To “what the holy fuck?  Now?”  At this point, I told myself that there was no way I was stopping and that I would have to run with whatever was happening down there.  I was lucky and whatever the little flare up was, it dissipated by the time we entered Wheelock Park for a nice downhill cruise.  Besides that, I had a couple of little blisters that came from older shoes and soft, like a baby’s forehead, foot skin.

At mile 9.5 the race course scoots by my parents house, the house I grew up in.  They were already at the finish line cheering my daughter on as she finished the children’s 1.2 mile race.  My mom made a great sign and put it on an eisal so that everyone could see it.  It made me feel fantastic and helped keep me focused during the last few miles.  As soon as we hit Wheelock, I was on roads and paths that I’ve been running on all summer.  I knew every little climb, every shitty sidewalk and every downhill.  I was super comfortable with finishing the race strong, and by the time we were at mile 11, I knew that I had a great chance at coming in under 2 hours.

The last few miles were really a blur.  Maybe it’s that I’ve run them so often and my mind tends to float sometimes, maybe I was focusing on keeping my pace up, but for whatever reason, up until we hit Main Street at mile 12.9 or so, I was blank.  When I hit the last, tiny uphill that lets out onto the end of the race, I became fully aware.  I looked at my watch and knew that I would come in under 2 hours and that I would probably do it in under 1:58.  When I saw the last turn roped off and the crowd of people, I started to float.  I moved past at least 3 runners as I turned towards the finish line.  I started looking for my family as I got closer to the finish.  I saw my wife and then my parents and finally my daughter.  I stopped my watch and bent low so a little guy, maybe 5 or 6 could put my finishers medal around my neck.  It was a fantastic morning and I will honestly cherish this race as my first giant hurdle crossed.  I’m sure there are plenty of little things I’m forgetting about the race and I’ll add posts here and there to flesh out the details more, but over all, I was able to perform nearly exactly how I wanted to.  Someday one of these things is going to go sideways and I’ll need to have a mental massage, but this race was, most certainly, not one of those days.

Friends Fighting Cancer 5K – Race!

And it’s over.  6 weeks of preparing, all for today, and it was really worth it.  I was even able to get my sub 25 minute 5K!  Barely, at 24:58, but it still counts.  It SO counts.  First, before anything else, here’s the real distance and info recorded from my Garmin and shown to you in beautiful red by strava.

The race was held in the old mill area of Manchester, New Hampshire.  When I researched the race before, the layout looped around the local AA baseball stadium and back to the start.  This year it was an out and back.  This is only my second race, and my first where the course just folded back on itself, and I have to tell you, I’m not a huge fan.  It was nice to cheer on the leaders as they came by.  I liked the course itself, mostly shaded and mostly flat.  I did feel a bit squeezed by the path at certain points.  That’s probably just in my head though.  When I run bike paths and trails, it never feels tight.  I think it was the adrenaline of the day and my mind thinking that we were on roads most of the time.  Just silly hogwash.  The day was an absolute beauty.  Low humidity, low temperature and a nice breeze.  Weird thing is that I got real dehydrated halfway through the race.  before the race I held the same routine I do every day before running, and running way farther than 3.1.  I’m thinking that the adrenaline and excitement must have taken a bit more out of me pre-race than I thought they would.

Now, my Garmin says 3.16, strava says 3.2 and so does map my anus.  I did the first 3.1 in 24:39 which is a little slower than my PR from last week, but the route I often run here has a sweeping downhill that I’m usually able to fly down.  To be fair, it also has some bitch hills that today’s course did not, but either way you cut it, no excuses, I finished the race, officially at 24:58!

I mentioned that I beat my goal of 25 minutes, but I didn’t mention that I actually nailed down 2nd place in my division and 21 overall!  AND, I was the oldest in my group.  Those kittens have got some serious tomcat shit to worry about next year!…  That sounded, bizarrely gross…  Never mind.  I’ll take it.  My first race.  I accomplished my goal, actually for the year, but whatevs.  Actually placed in my group and had a blast doing it.  I’m a little disappointed in the way other runners finished and just took off, but that’s on them.  I had a blast cheering on the finishers and spending the morning in a beautiful sun.

My folks were able to come, and so did my brother in-law, Steve and my old timer pal, John.  John’s training for the DeMar Marathon that is run here in Keene and the nearby “villes”.  We went to high school together and never really decided that it wasn’t a good idea to hang out.  Someday, the stories of our troubled past will be told, but this is not that day.  It was amazing driving over with my parents.  I wrote before how my mother was a long time runner, but I never mentioned that my father also ran state championship level track in high school in Ohio.  He was also a star half back and played college football as a defensive back.  During my senior year of high school, I was lucky enough to have been elected co-captain of the football team.  After the season, during the awards banquet, which anyone who has ever played high school sports knows, is an absolute waste of time and a real bore.  Usually held in some shit-hole gym or cafeteria and usually a good 30 degrees warmer than could ever be comfortable.  Our football banquet was absolutely no different.  That all sucked, believe me, but what was worse than that, what was an absolute failing on my part, was that when the captains were allowed to spend some time thanking people, I neglected to mention my father.  My father who had hardly missed a single PRACTICE since I started playing football, let alone games.  My father who was a junior high math teacher who also taught an advanced class which started an hour or so BEFORE school in a town 30 minutes away for 35 years and still got to our practice field nearly every day to watch the second half of practice and drive me home.  My father, who always kept his cool when I turned into an idiot stoner for most of my junior year.  My father, who’s son got up on stage and thanked coaches, fellow players and maybe even a trainer or two, and never once thought about thanking his father, never mentioned it.  My father, who has lost both of his parents to cancer and nearly his son, drove with said son, an hour and a half away and cheered him on while he ran a race dedicated to raising money for cancer research.

Pops, thank you.  Thank you for coming to all of my practices and games.  Thank you for showing me how a man is supposed to play sports.  Thank you for teaching me that eating a raw onion before a football game is a god-damned genius way of creeping the shit out of opposing running backs (and a few teammates too).  Thank you for brilliantly composing a teaching career that has impressed thousands of students, athletes, parents and piers.  Thank you for being a father, never an enemy, always a friend and forever a mentor.  Thank you for never, ever disappointing me.  If I can ever be half the father you were to Deanna and I, my daughter will want of little.  Thank you dad.  I love you.