Friday, October 19, 2007

I saw the light

So I was outside mowing the rice paddy, er, lawn, today when I was nearly overcome by a brilliant light. Almost certain I was about to meet my Maker, I dropped to my knees and looked upward. Turns out it was our long-lost sun attempting a cameo appearance.

I had practically forgotten about the sun's existence. I haven't seen it in quite some time. It feels like it has been since the Reagan Administration. It hasn't been that long, though. I know that because it was present in grand and frustrating fashion during the Twin Cities Marathon on Oct. 7. It seered me that day.

Since then, however, I can't recall seeing it. And it's not just because of my nocturnal ways. It has rained and rained and rained here. My dogs paws have become webbed. I thought I might need an ark just to maneuver my way to the mailbox. And when it hasn't rained, it has been cloudy. Densely cloudy.

The sun never managed to fully emerged today. The sky just became brightly white behind the clouds in a very isolated area for maybe 30 seconds today. It wasn't much, but it was a reminder that it still exists. Our lack of sunshine in the past several days is just a reminder of what's ahead of us in the next couple of months, when it isn't unusual to go weeks without pure sunshine.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


This has to stop.

I was humbled by the marathon. Again.

It has become a recurring theme. Long gone, it seems, are my days of sub-3:30 marathons. It was only three years ago that I PR'd (sub-3:26 at the 2004 Twin Cities Marathon). Might as well have been a lifetime ago.

I've become progressively slower. It started with a barely noticeable slip to 3:30 marathons. Next came the mid-3:30s. By Grandma's Marathon in June, I had slipped to 3:45.

Today, on my birthday, I posted my second slowest marathon time ever. Plus-4 hours.

Only in my first marathon had I run so slowly, and then I was only by about 4 minutes slower. Twenty marathons had passed since then. Twenty sub-4-hour marathons, including Twin Cities and Chicago three weeks apart in 1999. Heck, until Grandma's three-and-a-half months ago, I hadn't been on the slow side of 3:45 in this millenium.

The easy answer to these slower times is weather. The weather at both Grandma's and Twin Cities this year was among the warmest in the history of both races. And I felt it. Conditions were far from conducive to distance running. Everyone who ran posted slower-than-expected times. Even though my times were among my worst ever, I didn't slow as much as many runners, including many who are more acclomplished marathoners than me. Or so I'm repeatedly reminded.

Weather, undoubtedly, played a role in my recent marathons. It seems like Grandma's is warm every year now and the conditions at Twin Cities have been on the warm, sunny side of favorable for years. But weather alone can't explain what's happening to my times.

So if weather alone isn't the answer to my ever-increasing slowness, what else can explain it? Age, certainly, could be a factor. Perhaps a huge one, especially now that I'm knocking hard on the door of my next decade. That scares me. I'm not sure I want to continue running marathons if it means I'm going to get slower. After all, marathons aren't exactly fun to me and I've always said running a sub-3:30 marathon is easier than running a 4-hour marathon.

Part of the answer might be illness and injuries, which although varied, seem to have suddenly become chronic. If it isn't soft-tissue damage to my toe, then it's a strained abdominal muscle, a sinus infection, allergies or an ankle that has been swollen for two-and-a-half years.

Perhaps another piece in the equation might be training. Maybe I just don't train as intensely as I once did. This certainly seems to be the case, but it's likely just the result of the above-mentioned maladies. I just can't run as hard in my training as I did only a couple of years ago. And I'm not sure it's a desire thing.

Although maybe it is. Maybe I've just lost my fire, my passion for running as hard and as fast as I can for mile after mile. It wasn't until recently that the notion of "quit" ever crossed my mind during a long run or a marathon. Maybe I'm just weaker, both mentally and physically.

Truth is, I'm sure none of these explanations alone is the real answer to my slower times. All, I'm equally certain, have affected me to varying degrees during every marathon I've run during the past few years.

I don't know what I do or where I go from here. I wasn't shy about advertising my birthday run as possibly my last marathon. And that was before I suffered the way I did en route to my slowest time in 20 marathons. Time and conditions aside, it not be a bad way to call it a marathon-running career. Twenty-two marathons entered. Twenty-two marathons survived. It's a good number, I think. Much, much higher than I ever planned to achieve.

Add that I finished this last one on my final birthday before I enter an entirely different phase of my life -- fatherhood is less than two months away now -- and it might just be time to call it quits.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Gone, not forgotten?

Dear Blog:

It has been a while since I last posted. My bad.

So many things going on in the past 18 months. Running -- four more marathons -- impending marriage, actual marriage, injuries -- not related to marriage, thankfully -- three houses/yards to maintain, a third dog and a baby on the way.

Much has changed in my life. Something -- or some things -- had to give. So blogging it was. Nothing personal, of course.

It's not that I forgot about you. I didn't. Look, I've even been diligent about updating my running odometer and marathon list. I just haven't written.

It's not that I haven't thought about it. I thought about writing plenty. I just never got around to it.

That should change. I think maybe I'll pay attention to you more often, in ways beyond updating my running exploits in your right column. I certainly have a thing or two to write about nowadays. I might even go back and fill in some of the gaps between early in 2006 -- when I last posted entries -- and today. Just don't hold me to it.

It's good to see you haven't completely let yourself go in my lengthy absence. Keep it up.

Take care,


Monday, April 09, 2007

"We're what?"

It wasn't unusual for World's Most Wonderful Wife to call me at work during midday. She does so frequently and our casual, run-of-the-mill conversations always provide a much-needed and very welcomed respite from my workday.

Today's conversation was anything but ordinary, however. Near as I can recall, it diverged dramatically from the usual nanoseconds after I heard her say the words, "We're pregnant."

Um. Uh. Um....

It isn't often I'm at a loss for words. In fact, I'm rather proud of my grasp of language as well as my ability to translate thoughts into something resembling coherent conmmunication. But this was different.

I was dumbfounded. Speechless. Completely overwhelmed by the moment and the meaning of her words reverberating between my ears.

It's not that it was completely unexpected. We were hopeful that one day soon we would conceive. But it's not like we were working toward it in rabbit-like fashion, either.

I didn't know that WMWW was even considering taking a pregnancy test. I hadn't a clue. She had done nothing recently to reveal even a hint that something might be happening with her body.

So her words shocked me. In a good way. In a very good way.

I can't even explain how they affected me. It was like I was suddenly ensconced in some science fiction movie moment, with the world whirling around me as time stood still for me. My heart rate rose. My voice likely did, too. Tears welled up in my eyes. My hands quivered. My body tingled. I could feel my body temperature rise. My mind went into overdrive.

Heck, now that I think about it, the moment, physiologically speaking, probably wasn't that much different than it was during conception. The mind, though, that was completely different.

I can think of only a few other occasions when my mind went off like it did. Those were all harrowing, seemingly near-catastophic instances. Like when I was in seventh grade and I nearly drowned. All I remember about my seconds under water was a sort of out-of-body experience for my mind. All I thought about as I was taking in water and my friends were rushing to save me was what my mother would feel. I similarly experienced similar thoughts during separate accidental 180-degree spins on busy freeways.

This was different in the sense that this was all very positive. I wasn't thinking at all about my death. I was thinking about life. Another life. And my thoughts didn't immediately veer toward how I thought my mother would react, although I knew she would be positively elated about our news.

But it was the same in that if felt like I was experiencing, however momentarily, out of my body. My mind raced in ways I can't comprehend, just like in my near-death experiences. I was instantly flooded with so many thoughts.

Me? A father? Will I be a good parent? Will it be a boy or a girl? I don't care which gender it is, just so it's healthy. But if it's a girl, I'll have to join the NRA and interrogate any potential suitors. I've only held two babies, very briefly and uncomfortably, in my life. I've never even changed a diaper. We're going to need to convert our home office into a baby's bedroom. I better get my sleep now, while I can. Hey, I'm an world-class worrier already, what am I going to be like as a father?

It was a truly surreal moment for me. Absolutely otherworldly. And it was awesome.

Eventually, I was able to utter a reasonably coherent sentence. At least I think was able to do so. WMWW and I went on to discuss so many things during our not-so-routine midday conversation. It seemed like we talked forever -- talk excitedly, anxiously, nervously, eagerly -- although I'm fairly certain we limited our discussion to somewhere around an hour. Work could wait. This was a moment I had to savor as best as I could.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Back at it

I returned to running today. In very modest fashion.

A 4-mile run was plenty for me. In fact, it was grueling. Five weeks to the day between runs definitely affected me. In my training log I made the rare "heavy" entry for "Perceived Exertion." Fortunately, I was able to put "no" in "Pain Felt During Activity" category. There was discomfort as I favored my right big toe, but nothing I would characterize as pain.

Today's run certainly wasn't much. It proved I'm nowhere near where I would like to be, where I should be with my conditioning at this point in the year. But there's still plenty of time before I begin heavy training for Grandma's Marathon. I just have to be prudent and stay within myself. I have to remember that the past five weeks gone, lost forever in terms of training. I can't make up for that time. I just have to accept where I'm at now. And I have to start anew.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Life on the sidelines

Five weeks.

That's how long it has been since I last ran. It's the longest gap between runs for me since I began running about a dozen years ago.

It isn't unusual for me to take some time off in the winter, but not like this. Then again, I've never been injured quite like this.

I have a bum toe. Hurt it five weeks ago while trying to help Big Dog down the steps. He was in a drunken state -- the result of much medication for his epilepsy and a bout of pancreatitis -- and he was very, very wobbly on his legs. As usual, he was more than ready to go outside upon waking one morning. He immediately made his way toward the door. He hit the top of the steps and staggered downward. I reacted quickly, grabbing the top of his harness to prevent him from falling down the nine steps to the foyer. His 84 pounds, not to mention the effect of gravity, pulled me with him. I jammed my right foot into the third step as I struggled to keep both of us vertical. My upper body rolled down and forward as I held him. Somehow, we both arrived upright on the landing. The only problem was my right big toe, which had remained planted in the step not only when it landed, but also after the rest of my body hurdled to the foyer.

I knew I had done some damage. It swelled immediately. I couldn't put any kind of weight on it and it was painful to put on footwear.

This lasted for the better part of the last five weeks. It was so bad that I recently broke down and went to see a specialist. I'm not much of believer in physicians -- I mean, I believe they exist, I just don't believe they ever able to tell me something I don't already know -- but I made an appointment to see a podiatrist anyway. I hadn't run in more than a month and wanted to know if I would do any additional damage to the toe joint if I did run.

Just as I figured, the podiatrist was of little help. X-rays revealed the ever-ambiguous "soft-tissue damage." Uh, yeah, so? What does that mean? Are we talking cartilage? Ligaments? No help. Furthermore, when I inquired about resuming running, I was told it depended on my pain threshold. Um, duh. Isn't that always the case?

So, given this information, I'm going to run again soon. Very soon. I'll deal with whatever pain or discomfort I encounter. I don't know what I've lost in terms of conditioning by not running -- I did hop on my trainer a couple of times for some non-weight-bearing aerobic activity -- in the past weeks and I can't afford to be sidelined much longer with training for Grandma's Marathon looming.

The break from running hasn't been completely miserable. I think I've probably gained five or so pounds -- not sure if that's just a function of not training or if it's an effect of married life -- so that's discouraging. But mentally, it has been nice to have some time off. It's just more than I needed. A couple of weeks would've been plenty.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Date night?

It's not like I needed another barometer to tell me that I'm some kind of endurance athlete freak. The fact that I made it a point not to ride my cycling trainer until midnight last week so that I could pedal while watching ESPN2's taped broadcast of the Tour of California was enough of a clue. That I recorded other stages to watch in the future while on my trainer solidified the notion.

Fortunately, I'm not alone in my endurance athletic freakiness. My bride-to-be, Greatest Girlfriend Ever, is too. And then some.

That explains why we spent our Friday night together, in what might be considered to be date-night fashion, doing something I'm guessing very few other couples would even consider doing. Especially on a date night.

We had reservations for two at Spinervals.

Yep, that's right. The same Spinervals of the DVD-recorded cycling workouts.

We pedaled away on our cycling trainers. Together. Side by side. In her basement. On a Friday night.

How sick is that? Cue the Jeff Foxworthy-like "You might be an endurance athlete if..." mantra.

Sicker still? We enjoyed it.

It wasn't about either of us needing to get in a cycling workout. I'm not planning to participate in any races before my June marathon. She's still months away from her next triathlon and already had spent nearly 10 hours this week in various training endeavors.

Our workout passed with unexpected swiftness. The monotony of training alone was erased by having each other to pedal with. It wasn't exactly one of the leisurely bike rides we take together occasionally on balmy Friday nights in the middle of summer, but it was good nonetheless.

Does that make me or her an endurance athlete freak? No. To say that it does would be to ignore all of the other things that makes us endurance athlete freaks. And those, as anyone who knows us will attest, are too numerous to mention.

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