I thought I'd try something a little different this week. A video blog about my attempt to run 30 miles over at Laguna Seca on Sunday.
You Tube really did me a favor with that freeze frame shot right there didn't they?
I'm not entirely sure why the last video is so blurry, I think it might have been some condensation on the lens. Who knows.
The other thing I should mention is that I plan on running a 50k next weekend, so I wasn't exactly freaking out about the aborted 30 miles. The distance of my loops was also a bit off, they came out to about 12.25 miles a piece so running another full lap was going to push me way past my comfort zone for today.
All in all though, I feel great the day after, so I know it was a level of effort that was sustainable, which is great news because I was fairly comfortable the entire time. Would have been better if I hadn't been a bonehead and forgotten my food for the final push.
Ever made a boneheaded move that cut your day short? I felt pretty lucky that I was at least smart enough to plan a loop that prevented a total disaster.
Used to be, that when I wanted to go for a run, I just threw on some shorts, found a matching pair of socks, and took off.
Those were the goddamn good 'ol days.
It seems like now I need to find the "right pair" of shoes in the rotation, the pair of shorts that don't chafe if it's a long run, a water belt of some kind, my homing beacon (otherwise known as a Garmin), my Road-ID (not griping here, this is mandatory kit, really), some type of music player, and my sunglasses.
If you saw me get ready you would wonder if I was getting ready to go running or preparing for two straight days tracking wildebeests old school style in the African bush.
At the end of the day though, I have what I need and my run is generally more comfortable and enjoyable because of it. Although I admit, some days I dump most of that stuff (or at least the nervous agitation that goes along with my preparation) and just go running, sans the high tech junk.
The one thing I had yet to find though, was something to keep the sweat out of my eyes. You see, I'm a heavy head-sweater.
Not like this guy:
But pretty damn close.
I've tried a few different solutions.
The "T-Shirt Turban":
Both of which just weren't working for me in the long run.
The hat gets funky like George Clinton while the turban just won't stay put over the long haul.
Like I said, 'effing high maintenance.
Then I found this baby:
Yes, like on Survivor.
Not only does this baby wick away moisture like a champ, and is able to keep up with my faucet-like forehead, but the picture highlights the fact that I raise my eyebrows when I smile about 85% of the time.
I suppose I could wear it like this instead:
I'm guessing the other folks on the rec trail would prefer the goofy raised eyebrows thing though.
And of course a guy can never have too many mini-skirt / tube top options in his closet.
In any event, this thing is awesome and has exceeded all of my expectations for a moisture wicking headband thingy. It also doesn't stink when it dries and on runs of 20 or more miles all I have to do is flip it over to the "dry side" at the halfway point and I'm good to go. In retrospect, I wish I would have had one of these babies when deployed. They would be money over there.
I prefer the "Sahariane" method of wear, but if you go here, you can see the dozen or so other ways to wear it, or get one for yourself if you are so inclined. REI and Amazon have them for about 20 bucks or so. Worth every penny really.
So while I might have just added one more piece of "mandatory" kit to my already over-engineered bag of running equipment, at least I won't be stopping by the public restroom on the trail, crying like a baby, desperate to wash the sunscreen laden sweat out of my eyes . . . anymore.
So, a few years ago I was deployed to Afghanistan. During that time I blogged on a website you might have heard of called MYSPACE. It was mainly for fun and a way to keep my family informed and hopefully, laughing rather than worrying about my well-being.
So, in a little bit of a blogging experiment, I'm going to occasionally post some FLASHBACK posts of what I think are some decent stories. I hope you enjoy . . .
The last couple of weeks have presented very little in the way of entertainment. A lot of that has to do with weather which has slowed us down quite a bit. It really is just a boring time to be over here. I say boring and the rest of the family jumps for joy; it's the soldier's paradox. We hate to be bored and unemployed but being employed generally involves bullets going both in and out. So I suppose I will be content to be bored...
Recently though, I was provided with the ultimate in Civil Affairs tools. A Dentist and a Vet. For me this is a huge boon; I can now advertise a whole new product to the people beyond my deep pockets. As an added bonus, I get to learn a whole bunch of new things from the visiting experts. I kind of enjoy getting my hands dirty and as luck would have it, both the Vet and the Doc were happily willing to let me participate.
I asked the Dentist if it was possible for me to pull a tooth; I mean, how many times are you going to get to do that? Of course it's drudgery to him so of course the answer was "yeah sure". Luckily the camera was there to capture the experience.
Fortune has also provided me with the ability to act like I know what I am doing in a variety of circumstances. I figure I have all the credentials I really need. Medical school is overrated.
Overall, the emphasis on oral hygiene in Afghanistan is well, not high. By not high I mean, uh, they really don't even know what you are talking about when you discuss it. The impression I got is that they treat their teeth like sharks do; they are more or less disposable.
A toothbrush might as well be a flux capacitor when you hand it to them. Mostly they just let their teeth rot right down to the root and then have it yanked when the painkillers don't work anymore. I actually heard Doc say that this one guy had Advanced Perio "something something" (some made up doctor word I am sure) and that basically his gumline would recede until all of his teeth just loosened up and fell out like chicklets. Yummy. And he was such a handsome man. But I digress.
We had a small dental clinic set up last week and Doc (we'll keep his name out of it) and I decided this was my chance. I was a bit naïve and kind of stepped up to the first one I saw. After I looked into the guys mouth and said "THAT'S a tooth? You're shitting me." we decided I should wait for something that resembled an ENTIRE tooth. And Christ, after watching him chisel this chunk of bone out of this dude's mouth with what look like a flattened ice pick, he was definitely right.
Alas, my time had come.
This is Doc explaining to me how jealous he is of my skill-set and how I have learned in five minutes what it took him years to master. Doc also has this rare disease that makes him look like some kind of Men's Fitness cover model; it's really disgusting.
This is me using the ice pick thingy to loosen some of the whatchamacallit from around this guy's lower mandibular toofy tooferson. See, I told you medical school was bullshit.
Once Doc recognized the SKILLZ he was able to stand back and watch the master work. Almost to phase 2.
I felt like I was pretty much cooking with gas at this point. To describe this in a tactile way, the process of pulling was much more like working a nail from a board that the foot-on-the-wall yank that I expected. It required a kind of grip and wrist roll technique. And of course copious amounts of injected painkillers.
This picture was taken immediately after I uttered the works "Fuck dude, is it supposed to break in half like that?" Doc said "Uh, yeah, that'll happen" He said this in a tone that was of course respectful of my obviously vast medical knowledge.
With the patient's face brimming with confidence in my abilities, I remained undaunted.
Success of course was never in doubt. And after scoring a touchdown you need to look like you have been there before. I expressed this sense of self-assurance with an I-hope-I-didn't-just-crap-my-pants look on my face. The patient was similarly impressed with my cat like reflex's and surgical precision.
Not wanting the Dentist to feel like his year's of hard study went to waste, I let him handle the next two teeth. I use the term teeth loosely as they were white, but had the hardness of circus peanuts. I'm not really sure what that means but I am sure that I could find out in five minutes and a Google search. MedicalSchoolSchmedicalSchool.
Seriously though, Doc is pretty much the man. Pulling teeth and providing care in one of the harshest places that I have ever been is a real skill. This guy is a true pro. To be able to pull teeth on the tailgate of a truck with the wind blowing so hard you can barely stand up is something to be applauded.
This stuff is great. It's also a bargain at roughly 1200 dollars a bottle at Starbucks.
Normally I complain like George Costanza at such things, but today I am stuck waiting for my car to repaired. Or possibly broken some more, depending on how the mechanic decides to play his hand.
In any case, I'm stuck here in coffee wonderland with my laptop and a smile letting my mind wander about stuff that doesn't really matter a whole lot to other people. And then I stumbled into a thought that probably does, at least to those in the running community.
At first I wasn't sure about it. It seemed rather unseemly even to think it. I'm sure I might be backhanded in public if I happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I've looked over both shoulders though, and there appears to be no one there. So I'll just go ahead and say it.
I'm not a fan of Ryan Hall and I don't think he's going to be anything other than a career 4th or 5th place guy.
There, I said it.
I have this inkling every time I watch the guy talk or read what he is quoted as saying (yeah, I got it, things can be taken out of context. Barring a one on one interview, this is what we're left with.) Up until recently though, I couldn't quite put my finger on how to summarize my thoughts. Until I read Moneyball, by Michael Lewis.
Moneyball is about a lot of things really. Mostly it's about Baseball, not running. Primarily it's about Billy Beane, the former "almost was" baseball player turned managerial whiz kid of the Oakland A's.
Billy was always an amazing player, according to virtually everyone who ever saw him play. A physical specimen that dominated every level he ever played in. Until he got to the Major's.
When he arrived for his first stint with the Mets, he was dumbfounded by the fact that he didn't have the same level of success. Simply could not imagine the notion that he wasn't kicking everyone's ass. It never occurred to him that he might fail. When he did, he discovered he wasn't mentally equipped to handle it. What's interesting, is that right up until the time he finally decided to call it quits, everyone believed it was a matter of time before he lit things on fire. Despite one small detail, he never did.
Here's my point.
I don't think Ryan Hall is equipped to fail either. This is why I don't believe he's ever going to be any better than he is right now (which is pretty damn good, but incapable of winning a big one).
Of course, he reacts the opposite way that Billy Beane did. He doesn't throw tantrums that would be the runner's equivalent of breaking bats. He smiles and basically shrugs it off with his "I'll get 'em next time" attitude.
Which is fine, if your goal is to continually put up American records and establish yourself as a guy that can hang on until the Kenyans get serious and leave you behind. But if Ryan Hall is going to be something other than the subject of a cheesy olympic games interlude on NBC designed to garner home-team sympathy, he's going to have to see these things as something other than manifest destiny.
I'm sure that some will believe that this has something to do with the fact that I disagree with his spiritual approach to training or life in general. Eh, not so much. Anyone who knows me knows that I plan about the same way that Hall does, which is to say not much or not very diligently. Then again I'm not trying to win an Olympic medal or a major marathon.
The genesis of the "whoopity dooda" attitude makes no difference to me.
I could care less if he believed in the sanctity of green leafy vegetables or nothing at all. Either one of them can pave the road to mediocrity on the world stage.
Which is precisely where I believe Ryan Hall's free spirited navigational system is taking him.
It rained like hell the other day here in Monterey.
It didn't seem all that serious to be honest. I thought it was all but finished. It was for this reason that I decided to take my new phone and listen to some Pandora.
A little bit of rain and copious amounts of Dave Grohl always makes me happy:
Clearly, I'm pleased. Or constipated. Whichever.
After running down the hill, I found this little fella was not at all pleased with his current predicament:
Apparently the rain had washed him from his happy home and placed him, rather unceremoniously, into the street.
Monterey being the kind of place it is, I wasn't there for 30 seconds before a cavalcade of locals parked their cars to help usher the future Seagull snack to safety. To give you a sense of his immense size, it took four of us just to move him. I'm sure that didn't have anything at all to do with general clumsiness and various shrieks and squeals. And that was just MY contribution.
And thus, having saved a life less than a mile from my house, I moved on.
And I got wetter.
Others may run and hide their heads, but not I. I continued on. I also looked like a total moron trying to keep my phone from becoming completely and totally soaked by the experience.
Then it got cold. My shoes were holding onto the water like a dish sponge. This was officially unfun.
I finished the run looking and feeling like a half-drowned rat.
I'm not sure what it is about race weekends that make one reflect about things. Participation isn't even a requirement really.
I'm not participating in the 2011 Chicago Marathon today in any way shape or form. The event however, has an impact well beyond the borders of Illinois that's so visceral, I can feel it out here in California. Twitter is blowing up with split times, well deserved "kick ass" hashtags and reports of post-race pizza that are making me drool as I write this. So many people are experiencing the river of awesome that comes with your first marathon, the lake of misery you feel like you are drowning in at mile 20 and the crack cocaine version of the runner's high you get just from finishing.
Every time I see a mass start at a major marathon, I'm reminded of what it represents. Just doing the math will blow your mind. Take as an average an amateur who runs a 6 month program at 30 miles a week, a hugely conservative estimate. That's 700 or so miles. Multiply that by the 20,000 or so that might be out there and you get about 14 million miles run, just to prepare. That's obviously going to vary based on the size of the marathon, but the number will always be huge. Huge. And occasionally, too much. There are more than a few runners that are too injured to compete. And that, my friends, sucks.
Two years ago this month I started running barefoot. Or minimal. Or whatever the hell you want to call running with as little as possible on my feet.
Two months later I gave myself a stress fracture that became so nasty, I heard an audible pop signifying the fact that I actually broke it. When I went to the Doctor two months later (yeah, I know) he was amazed at how badly I snapped it. The good news was that the ensuing calcification gave me an armored foot. The bad news was that I needed to slow the hell down.
Slow down. WTF. I thought the point of this running thing was to go faster.
So I chilled. I listened to my body. I rested when I felt like it. I ran hard when I felt good. Barefooting reminds you that you have to listen more, and speak with your feet less. It's going to take as long as it takes to get there. And boy did it take a while. It was months before I could start training for my first marathon, the 2010 Marine Corps.
What I decided however, was that it wasn't going to be about the event itself for me. I was raising money for a charity, blogging, learning how not to bonk and just generally discovering what kind of a runner I wanted to become. Of course, the type A in me (what little of that there is) was hell-bound to finish, but I managed to keep that in check most of the time during my journey to finish. And that's exactly what it is to me. A journey. Sometimes it's a long strange trip, but it's a journey nonetheless.
For me, John Steinbeck was right when he said, "A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it."
You can schedule things. You can plan your runs to the 1/100th of a mile. You can control every variable on a treadmill. But sometimes, you can't control shit.
And when that sometimes happens, and all you can think of is shit, it sometimes helps to think of the journey.
The 3 hour bs'ing sessions with your running partners. The long run you made and didn't think you would. That bicyclist you passed on your way up the hill.
Because you know what? All those tweets, signs, hoops and hollers are a representation of the journey, not the destination.
My best to everyone whose weekend was everything they thought it would be and to everyone who wishes it could have been more. Enjoy the finish and/or relish the opportunity to get after it after you heal.
Just remember that Jimmy Buffett was right. "If it doesn't work out there'll never be any doubt . . . that the pleasure was worth all the pain."
I've mentioned the UltraRunner Podcast before, but I feel compelled to mention it again. Every time I listen to the episodes featuring Sunny Blende, the sports nutritionist, I learn something new about running, nutrition, and the "what to do's"/ "what not to do's". She also has a very clever webpage as well.
This time my attention was piqued by her "what to do when things go wrong" comments on the podcast. You can click here to listen. Thankfully she was kind enough to summarize some of the more important points and stick them in a handy chart.
In my opinion her comments are not limited to ultrarunning either, the same nutritional issues can rise up and bite you during a marathon as well. In any case, if you are interested in learning more about the nutrition of ultrarunning or marathoning, you might be well served to download the PDF file and stick it on your fridge for a while.
For what it's worth, I don't know either of the guys that run this podcast. I'm not shilling for them at all. Goodness sometimes deserves to be touted for its own sake.
For the uninitiated, drop in hockey is basically a semi-organized pick-up hockey game during which semi-fit and hyper-competitive everyday folks can legally beat each other up for the low low sum of twelve bucks a person. You know, for practice. It's also a great excuse to use a bunch of hyphens in one sentence.
Apparently it's also a great excuse to comment on the dude with the "classic" equipment.
"Holy crap dude, that stick is classic! They haven't made those in years!"
"Dude, those wheels are sooo ancient. I'm impressed they've held up this long."
I absorbed the compliments while simultaneously attempting to parry the backhand that came along with it. As the exercise in verbal ninjitsu continued, the following things occurred to me inside my second-hand brainbucket I called a helmet:
I'm not 20 anymore. Well done Perry Mason. You finally discovered that your body is no longer a seemingly bottomless well of energy, capable of turning cheeseburgers and Heineken into rocket fuel. You weren't even limber and incredibly athletic then, what in the hell made you think you could jump back into this?
My brain knows where to go, but my legs are having a hard time getting me there. Ain't it funny how your brain gets quicker and your feet feel like they're encased in lead-lined concrete? You should have known that you were going to have those "Bambi on ice" moments dude.
I need to give my legs a break on game-day. Wow, how absolutely Aristotelian. What exactly made you think you could run for two hours and then play hockey in the evening? Feel like doing some synchronized swimming just to add a cherry on top? You're an idiot.
My body reinforced the sarcastic inner-voice logic by forcing me to remember just how sore you can get after a game. Ever wonder what muscles are used during hockey?
Running has prepared me for most of it, but the muscles that weren't ready, sure let me know it. Primarily, the inner legs and groin muscles (that you use to push off) were almost debilitatingly sore. My lower and outer back muscles were also smashed to bits.
On further reflection though, it occurs to me that this could be fantastic for my overall fitness. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that playing hockey is like an hour and a half long core workout.
Now if I could only get my mojo back so the college kids will stop commenting on the "classical" nature of my equipment.
There was a time in my life when I hated running. Truly hated it.
The Army made me do it and I often did everything I could to get out of it. I wasn't above faking injuries. I never did this after I actually commissioned and started acting like an adult, but as a stupid college kid, I did it all the time.
I wasn't fat.
I wasn't lazy.
I was just into other stuff.
August of 1996 was a pretty exciting time. New college, new friends, new dorm room away from home and as luck would have it, a new inline hockey rink right smack dab in the middle of Colorado State University.
This, as it turns out, was not going to be good for my GPA.
Four years prior to this, I had caught the hockey bug . . .Bad. I had always had an interest really (my mother's first husband was what you MIGHT call semi-pro) but I remember seeing a live game my Freshman year and thought, "I'm going to learn this game. If it kills me."
And so, with the same voracity that I currently pursue running, I taught myself how to play. With no ice around, I was limited to roller-blades. I grew up roller skating so this wasn't much of a transition. Turns out I was fast. Much faster than most in fact, but I was always by myself or with my friend Kevin who happened to be from Michigan. So there I was, skating around garbage cans and moving a tennis ball around in an abandoned cul-de-sac in Lake Tahoe with my friend Kevin teaching me the basics. He realistically suggested I learn how to play solid Defense, because my puck skills sucked. So I did.
Four years later I was nearly passable as someone that had played for a while. One small problem. I had never actually played on any kind of team. No pickup hockey. Nothing. The closest I had ever been to a break away was getting a full head of steam going through "pine cones 1 and 2" and attempting to fire a puck over the "milk crate goaltender" and into the "net" which looked conspicuously like a rectangle of duct tape on my garage.
So you imagine the whirlwind of emotion going on inside as I stared at this rink on that bright sunny day in August. A plexi-glass lined slab of concrete that looked oh so much sexier than the pine needle covered streets of Tahoe; it felt like it was built to welcome me to my new home.
For the next six months that rink became my second home. If it was sunny (and sometimes even if it wasn't) I was out there. Pick up games were a constant. I went through roller-blade wheels like a barista going through coffee filters. Little bits of hockey tape were stuck to everything I owned. I was in heaven.
And then there were the tryouts. Colorado State was in the fledgling stages of starting an inline team, which would of course play second fiddle to the nationally ranked club team that played on ice, but that hardly mattered. It was a team. With real jerseys and shit.
I began to have delusions of grandeur. I kinda wanted to try out.
My best friend Andy, who happened to be a pretty good player in his own right, suggested we go for it. The worst that could happen, according to him, is that we got a few hours of free skating and it would be great practice, whether or not we made it or not. Sounded great, except for enormous likelihood of public embarrassment I could possibly endure.
When we arrived at the rink for tryouts, the sights and sounds of the rink washed over my brain. Pucks smashing into glass made that high pitched crack that always makes first time visitors duck. The snap-snap-thump of pucks dancing around a stick and then summarily discarded into the goalies pads. Coaches screaming classic aphorisms like "24 square feet of net Jonesy, and you didn't hit one F***ING INCH!". The thought of being able to pull on a green and yellow jersey with my school's name on it forced a plastered grin onto my face.
Andy pulled me aside after we dressed, "Just play good D dude. No one likes to play D. If you do that, you might have a shot." There were 75 guys here. 30 or so were going to make it. Despite all that, I felt like I had a chance. A "Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber, like one in a million chance, kinda chance" but a chance nonetheless.
I felt good about it.
I felt reasonably prepared.
I felt like I wanted to puke a little. Okay, maybe a lot.
So I skated as well as I could and no one was as surprised as me when they called my name as the 30th person selected. I was asked to be the fourth line Defensemen (read: the lowest on the depth chart) but hey, I was asked. I also got to pick my number last. I chose the last one on the list. A reminder to myself that I had nowhere to go but up.
Up, as luck would have it, would be a lot of fun. I worked my way up the roster, eventually starting on offense for the "A" squad. I coached a kid's team when I moved back to Reno. Hockey even played a fairly critical role in the first conversation I ever had with my wife (but that's a story for another time). And then, after all that, I just stopped playing. Timing, kids, the Army, and circumstance all played a role in it. I just sort of moved on. Didn't miss it much. But I didn't think about it much either. Except for that one time in Afghanistan when I wanted to prove to the Canadians that some American Soldiers actually have some game:
That's me in the middle there, wondering if I had time to grab a Tim Horton's doughnut.
And then the other night I had a random conversation with a guy on the Naval Postgraduate School team. It's the B squad he said, and everyone is just having a good time really, but they need another player. He invited me out to watch their league championship game.
I knew after walking the door I was going to sign up.
The smells were the same. And they're not good, but so awesome.
The sounds were the same. Too loud, but incredible.
The hair on the back of my neck stood up the entire time.
And so I must confess, running is cool but lemme tell ya, there are few things in life that compare to something like this:
So as weird as it sounds, I guess I'll be playing for both my undergrad and grad school. I'm not sure how in the hell this is going to fit into my training schedule. I'm not sure I care either.
I do care about whether I whiff on that one-timer though. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go see if I have enough duct tape to make a 6 ft wide rectangle on my garage.