Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I Believed I Could Fly

Wherein I cleverly disguise a discussion on Newton’s Laws of Gravity as a race report.

Like a lot of kids, I had this idea growing up that somewhere within me was this hidden superpower and that, if I believed enough, I could make it become a reality.  I was sure I was one Professor Xavier mentor away from coaxing it out of me.  As a young boy, I wanted to fly.  I wanted to soar amongst the clouds with my pillow case cape.  As a teen, I reverted to my base desires and hoped to make myself invisible so that I could foil a bank robbery or, um, say, walk in to the girls’ changing rooms unnoticed.   As a young man, I simply wanted the power to overcome Jagermeister with my impenetrable steel liver.

And now I’m back to flying again…mainly because I can’t stand small children kicking the back of my seat during a flight.  Rob all the banks you want but Nitmos is going Detroit to New York non-stop in one single, childless bound.  R. Kelly, he of questionable judgment, general douchebaggery, and toilet training issues, was right about one thing: I believed I could fly.  I believed I could touch the sky.  Isaac Newton and his apple had other ideas but there was only one way to settle this scientific debate:  an experiment of one.

The Dances with Dirt 100k trail relay race is a much anticipated race around these parts.  I ran it last year and told you about it here.  It’s a hilly, off-road, wet, difficult race filled with fun, falling, beer, mud, poison ivy and, usually, a few swollen ankles.  Appropriately, it takes place in Hell, Michigan.  We had a five man team ready to cover the 15 legs of the course.  I was blessed with one river crossing (i.e. the perfect opportunity to test the theories of gravity.)

My money – the smart money, in this case – was on R. Kelly.  He believed he could fly.  I believed I could fly!  My Asics would not absorb a drop of non-sweat liquid, this I vowed. 

My river crossing was set for my third and final leg.  I figured I would launch myself into the air and fly away all the way home as a spectacular way to end the long day.  But a funny thing happened at the end of leg two.  They redesigned the course slightly and, oh, no, a surprise river!  Unprepared, I plopped into the water like a common bipodal Metropolisite and trudged across.  Asics soaked.  Not very heroic.

And there was no time to change shoes as my final leg came after a brief twenty minute wait.  So, off I ran into leg 3 with heavy, squishy shoes through the weeds, onto a two track, up a hill and nearly bisecting myself on a barely visible waist-high wire fence marked with a single barely noticeable ribbon.  The wire gave enough at the waist to allow me time to stop, back up a step and duck under to continue towards my date with destiny. 

The river approached; I could see it after leaping through the mud bog from one of the higher elevation grassy patches to the next.  R.Kelly vs. Issac Newton:  Game on.

Down the embankment with a few cautious steps ready to leap and jet away into the sky…


I believe I can fly; I believe I can touch the sky!

Off I go, gleeful, majestic, the fulfillment of a childhood dream!  Soon, all of our scientific notions about gravity would have to be thrown out and reexamined!  Nitmos, the non-fiction embodiment of Superman, takes flight!

Seriously, have you ever seen a take-off with such impeccable form?



It’s going great!  I’m flying!  Look at the joy.  I'm mesmerized by the shimmering mirror image of myself in the river water. I’ve broken free of Newton…of the laws of Gravity…confirming soon-to-be-Nobel-winner R. Kelly’s theory! 

Uh-oh?



Prepare for impact.

Les Brown is attributed the following quote: “Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss, you’ll still be amongst the stars.”   I’d like to modify that a bit.  From my experience, “shoot for the moon and, when you miss, you’ll be amongst squalid, cow dung, fecally-infested river sludge with a better than 50% chance of just having acquired dysentery.”  True, not as inspirational or bumper-sticker concise but definitely more accurate.


I don’t know what went wrong.  Maybe I didn’t believe enough.  Maybe Newton is right.  Maybe Les Brown and R. Kelly are full of shit.

Either way, I believed I could fly…and I ended up with a mouthful of cow shit flavored river water.  Don't follow your dreams, kids, you might end up with cholera.

Maybe next year I’ll forget all of this flying nonsense and just drink more Jagermeister (aka Steel Liver!).

Happy trails.
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Those of you who follow me on Twitter (see sidebar) already knew this.  Lucky you!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

When Will Marathons Come in Bite-Size Portions?

Another in my continuing series of race-improvement ideas.  See here for the previous installment.

The kids were off at school and I was rifling through my daughter’s Halloween candy bag, as I normally do, when another epiphany (ed: that’s not the giant drums, right?) came to me by the reflective glow of a Peppermint Patty foil.  My fingers slowly raked through the tumbling bite-size candy portions like an Asian masseuse through unkempt pubes.  So many “bite-size” portions…so evenly divided to save my teeth the trouble of separating a piece from the main body of candy…offering both a fun and healthier alternative to the “full-size” bar.

My maths aren’t no good but I believe it means:

Bite-size = Fun! = Healthier = BETTER

And here’s where the timpani comes in: Marathons should be offered in bite-size portions!

Let me explain since you come here for sciencey stuff.  Each bite-size Snickers is advertised as more FUN than a regular size Snickers.  It’s also marketed as healthier since, of course, portion control.  And since I would rather die than question an expensive marketing campaign geared towards misdirection and positive trigger words, bite-size is truly infallible compared to full-size.  (By the way, YES you may insert a “that’s what she said” at any point in this paragraph or the remaining text, reader choice, and it would be completely appropriate.) 

For example, without going over the maths, I believe one full-size Snickers equals roughly 29 bite-size Snickers calorie-wise, fat-wise.  Who’s going to eat 29 bite-size Snickers in one sitting?  Sure, throughout the day it wouldn’t be unusual to pound down four or five dozen but in one sitting?  Ridiculous.  And each and every portion involves a fairly rigorous and complicated set of finger maneuvers to open the little package in order to extract the chocolate shame pie.  You probably burn as many calories as you ingest simply by walking by the candy bowl, debating with yourself if you should have another, passing on after a mournful pat of the belly, and returning a minute later only to shift through the candy orgy in search of a prize, unwrap, chew, chew, chew, swallow.  That’s a lot of work and a lot of calories burned!  It almost makes more health sense to DO this several times a day than NOT to do it.  At the very least, it makes more sense than eating ONE regular size candy bar in one sitting.  No fat-burning candy bowl drive-bys.  No mentally exhausting debates filled with lust, anger, shame and, finally, sadness. Is this an approved diet plan/fitness technique?  It should be on an infomercial somewhere.  (PsnickersX?!)

So, how does this relate to marathons?  Well, let’s face it, running 26.2 miles is hard.  That’s a regular-size marathon.  If we learned anything from my maths and sciencish discussion in the preceding paragraphs, it’s that regular-size is bad and bite-size is good.  And this would be a good time to insert a 'that’s what she said'.  The math adds up.  You can basically eat as much as you want in bite-size portions without the harmful effects of a full-size portion. 

When I run a marathon, I usually start out strong, controlled, and confident but somewhere around 20 miles in my pace slows a bit, breathing becomes labored and, mentally, it can be a struggle.  I exhibit none of those signs after completing my third dozen of bite-size Snickers.  I’m just as ravenous, confident, and energetic as the preceding 35!  In an all-out effort, I can probably run a mile in around 5:10 (if I haven’t had three dozen bite-size Snickers that morning).  That would put me near the front of any marathon if not outright winning it.  But that’s only for a mile.  I couldn’t keep that pace for any more than one mile.  There’s something about a "regular-size" marathon that zaps my energy.

I’d like to split my marathon into 26 fun-size bites.  Over a few weeks, I could put together a pretty respectable marathon time.  One that just might have certain long-legged Kenyans quivering in their unflattering side-split running shorts.  Suddenly, in bite-size portions, I ‘m not just one of the (admittedly rugged-jawed, genetically “put together”) rabble trailing the leaders;  I’m a bite-size champion! (t.w.s.s.)

And that’s maths we can all get behind!  Race directors, take note!

Happy trails.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

It (Don't) Gotta Be the Shoes

Remember those early 90’s Nike commercials featuring everyone’s favorite anti-Bad Boy, Michael Jordan, and Spike Lee (aka Mars Blackmon) ruminating on the secret to MJ’s success? 


“It’s gotta be the shoes!  It’s gotta be the shoes!”

No, it WAS the friendliest ref’s whistle known to man but that’s neither here nor there.   I did a lot of b-ballin’ back in those years and, although I avoided Nike like any good Pistons fan – and human being, in general - would, I admit to being overly selective about my choice of footwear.  Maybe it really was all about the shoes?  Why take the chance?  I mean, if a celebrity, barely disguised and using a pseudonym, tells me to do something, I normally do it no questions asked.  That’s always been my policy.  Even if I feel uncomfortable doing what Carlos Danger has asked me to do with that rolling pin.

This shoe-fixation has carried on into running.  When I first started as a naïve, newbie runner, I wore Adidas Response (I know, right?)  Never mind that I was a bit portly around the midsection and could barely maintain a solid half mile of non-stop running, it had to be the shoes.  Certainly wasn’t ME.  Nope.

So, off to the specialized running store I went for the expert advice.  And so they recommended the Asics GT line.  Woooo, I thought I was personally fit with a shoe just for my stride and body type!  Little did I know that everyone was running in this, the #1 selling brand.  Turns out, that was more like going into Hot Topic, telling them that I have no innate musical discernment and unsure of my sexuality, and happily walking out with a One Direction CD. 

It’s been Asics GT-whatever’s for years now.  And they’ve been good shoes.  I have moonlighted with different brands from time-to-time and, you know what, they’ve all been varying degrees of “good shoes” too.  For years, I thought I HAD to run in Asics GT-whatevers or I just couldn’t do my best.  Maybe it’s a product of getting older, not liking unexpected things on my lawn, and no longer feeling the tug of misplaced loyalty and trusting fealty. 

I recently ran the Dances with Dirt in an old pair of Mizuno’s and I barely noticed any difference in comfort or support.   My current pair of Asics have long since expired their Run By date.  There’s almost no padding left.  I feel almost like a barefoot runner except minus the desperate need for attention and faux enjoyment.  I was going to ditch the shoes but my inner cheapskate won out.*

I remembered that several months ago some trusting company had sent me a free pair of Ortholite inserts to try out and review on my blog.  (Yeah, how’d that work out for you?)  Well, I inserted them into my dead Asics last night.  They went in smoothly like a lubed up rolling pin.  After a nice tempo six miler, I felt like I was running in brand new shoes.  Nice and bouncy and comfortable like a less methy Tigger.  I don’t need new shoes now!  Maybe I don’t need new shoes ever?

Turns out, it’s gotta be the inserts!**  It’s gotta be the Ortholites!

I always new Mars Blackmon was full of shit.

Happy trails.

(Were you just Ovaltined?  I think you were Ovaltined.)

*If you knew what we spent annually on soccer in this house, you’d guffaw.  Loudly.
**Take it easy, Carlos.
 
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In the last two months, I’ve completed two races.  Will I ever post a race report or photos?  Will I ever post again?  One can never tell…

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Running from Rheumatoid Arthritis

I thought I’d take this occasion to post about something that someone somewhere might actually get some use from during a Google search.  According to my history, most searchers usually arrive here through an unsavory combination of search words like “anal” and “leakage” and “Charlie Sheen”.  There is benefit to knowing about all three of those things but perhaps this post will delve into a slightly less off-putting topic.

I am a runner.  I’ve also been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).  So far, I haven’t been diagnosed with Handsomitis, Charmingectomy, or Modest Egoism.  In fact, unless your computer screen is 30 inches wide (and widescreen), you probably can’t keep my ego within frame.  Buy a larger monitor to view the whole thing.

The nice thing about the internet – and a blog – is that it doesn’t forget.  That’s also the worst thing.  But, in this case, we can all look back at the innocent little post I did, pre-diagnosis, where I complain about stiff joints and feeling old.*  Hey, whaddya know, I had RA and didn’t know it at the time!  How sweet and naïve.

Here’s the thing about RA for those not in the know: it’s an autoimmune disease; it’s incurable and, usually, progressively gets worse; it’s not as dire as some cancers but more ominous than, say, Handsomitis.**  For me, it started with sore, swollen joints on the outside of my feet every morning, then hips (which made it a bit difficult to sleep), then neck, finally, ending in the hands.  By the time it reached the hands, the foot, hip, and neck pain had mainly gone away, thankfully.  It took up permanent residence in the middle two fingers of both hands.  At the time, I thought this was just some sort of karmic retribution for all the flipping off I’d done (and was yet to do).  But, joke was on RA, as it only served to make my middle finger knuckles slightly larger and thus more visible from a greater distance.  Duh, winning! (We are still doing this right? It’s been awhile since I’ve posted.)

The long term outlook can be anywhere from nuisance joint pain to complete joint failure/replacement/immobility/beep-beep-beep motorized cart.  In some cases, it can progress into the lungs and heart wall lining and, well, not good.

The first symptoms appeared in December 2009.  After several months of believing the swelling was due to running or soccer or weight lifting soreness, etc., Mrs. Nitmos finally convinced me to head into the doctor’s office early summer 2010.***  Ultimately diagnosed with RA – which I told you all about here – I ended up on two medications.  First, a weekly eight pill regimen of methotrexate, which can best be described as tasting like Sweet-Tarts – if Sweet-Tarts tasted like death.  Methotrexate is RA's gateway drug.  Second, twice monthly, I would give myself an injection of Humira (I’m sure you’ve seen the non-stop ads on TV) into the upper thigh.  Combined, the two medications cost the insurance company a princely sum of around $2000 monthly.  Fortunately, I only paid around $100 monthly due to my decent work health insurance but I’ve always wondered how anyone without insurance (or with poor insurance coverage) manages.

And, believe me, I have my own insurance company horror stories as they tried frantically to force me onto other, cheaper medications so their bottom line would look better.  For profit insurance, hooray!  Several HOURS spent on the phone tussling with these soulless profiteers…but that’s a story for another blog…

Methotrexate is a baseline drug almost all RA patients take.   Then, you end up with a second drug and that could be Humira or Enbrel or Trexall or dozens of others.  If one doesn’t work, you go on to the other.  Fortunately, my doctor was always optimistic and confident that there is a drug out there that matches a person. For me, the first try was successful.  Humira (along with meth, as I lovingly called it) worked right off.  Within a few weeks, my symptoms were under control.  Within a few months, my joint pain had vanished.

And since this is a running blog, I should note that I never stopped running.  Again, my doctor is the best.  He totally contradicted the layperson’s advice (which I heard, repeatedly) that I should stop running “because you’ll just damage your joints further”.  As he said, the worst thing an RA patient can do is STOP exercising.  This, in fact, IS what many RA patients do which only serves to accelerate an AUTO-IMMUNE disease that, already, is compromising your ability to fight it.  The best defense, he said, is to take your medication, eat healthy, don’t gain a lot of weight (which many do as they stop moving and become immobile thus creating even MORE stress on the joints), and keep exercising.  The qualifier here, of course, is that if it hurts don’t do it.  Find a different exercise.  Fortunately, the pain in my feet went away. So, I kept running.  I kept fit.  In fact, outside of pill-popping and drug-injecting, this guy here felt completely normal or, at least, like a typical Wall Street trader hiding a secret meth addiction.

Early on, there were times where a run would totally wipe me out for the rest of the day.  There was some guilt too because the kids would want to kick a soccer ball around in the yard and, man, I was just beat and had to decline – something I normally never do.  But the thought to stop running never even occurred to me.  In fact, I considered it a key part of fighting RA.  Physically, I wasn’t 100% sure it was the right thing to do but MENTALLY it was exactly what I needed.

Drug-taking began in August 2010.  With no symptoms recurring, the doctor agreed to let me wean off the drugs starting August 2012.  First, we stepped down off the Death-Tarts.  By the time I was sitting in a New York City hotel room not running the 2012 NYC Marathon, I was off meth.  In February this year, I stopped the Humira injections (just in time before my insurance company decided to start charging me an exorbitant sum for it because THEY don’t have a deal with this manufacturer but DO have a deal with another drug manufacturer and were forcing me to an unknown medication….again, a story for another blog…)

It’s been 9 months and, so far, so good.  No joint pain.  No swelling.  As of now, I’m one of the lucky ones as my doctor tells me less than 5% of patients can go off medications.  Usually, pill-popping, injecting is a life-long thing.  He thinks it was due to my young(ish) age, being fit, and catching the disease EARLY – hitting it hard with heavy medication (which, again, the insurance company could not understand, you know,” costly”…but that’s a story for another blog…) - before the body adjusted to having it around.

There’s always the chance that the symptoms may recur at any time.  But, for now, there is only one conclusion you should all take from this somewhat somber tale:  I beat an incurable disease!  I healed myself!  Yeah, that’s right, Nitmos is just THAT awesome.

Adjust your monitor for continued viewing.

Happy trails.

*Also, note one of the commenters cleverly advising me to have it checked out in a follow-up post I did complaining about knuckle pain in March 2010.
**Not to be confused with Hansonitis that we all had a case of in the 90’s, Mmmm-kay?
***If you experience similar symptoms, the thing any RA doc will tell you is that the quicker you can get treatment the better.  RA can be stopped in its tracks with modern medicine before joint damage takes place but you must ACT within the first 6-8 months from the onset of symptoms.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Duel of the Son

The Fruit of My Loins Showdown

My colt is not a runner.  He plays sports.  Specifically, he plays lots and lots of soccer.  For my fellow Americans that may not be aware, soccer involves a significant amount of running at times.  It also involves a significant amount of players falling on the ground acting like they broke their leg in overly dramatic fashion every few minutes but that’s not relevant to this tale.

He runs…but only after things.*  When I come back from a long run and casually mention that I just knocked off 14 miles (really, only 8 but what does he know?) the response I normally get is “why are you doing that?  That sounds so boring.”  A runner, he is not.  Not yet at least.  I spent my youth running after balls too.  Well, not balls per se…well, kinda balls per se…you know what, you can all go to hell, you know what I mean.  Balls!

As a requirement for his high school soccer, he has to meet a fairly challenging two mile time goal of 12:45.  Two miles in 12:45?  Guess what 42 year old blogger just made a high school soccer team?  For Mr. Look Down His Nose at Boring Runners though, this was going to be interesting.

I haven’t seen him just plain run that far all at once.  Sure, I gently encouraged him.  I even got in a few humblebrags about how my own dedication and hard work made something that seemed difficult become easy.  It was during the discussion of fartleks where the conversation ended with a “ you know what, if you aren’t mature enough to say fartlek without snickering like a toddler then maybe…okay, okay very funny, stop snickering…I know the word ‘fart’ is pa-….that’s right, I just said ‘fart’ again.  STOP LAUGHING.  Fartleks aren’t – okay, it’s just a SWEDISH WORD SO STOP….HEY, IS THAT A NEW PIMPLE ON YOUR FOREHEAD???”  The rest of the drive home in silence.  Kids today.

Eventually he agreed to head up to the high school track so I could dump some long-overdue fatherly wisdom on his unsuspecting teenager ass.  Also, maybe show him a thing or two about running that I’ve learned over the past 13 years.  You know, real condescending father-teaching-naïve-son bullshit.  

I decided to start him slow – a couple of 800’s around 3:00 pace, separated by a 90 second rest.  I thought that might just be enough to break him.  And, when broken, that’s when I reintroduce the whole fartlek discussion.

I heard him breathing heavy following my lead but his footsteps kept right on my heels both sets.  I kinda expected to lose him during the second 800.  He was wearing a COTTON t-shirt ferchrissakes.  But, no, there was the typical non-runner slapping of the feet right behind me, overwhelming my perfectly tuned low-impact, barely audible stride. 

He did it though.  Two 800’s in about three minutes each.  Oh, his hands were on his hips and he was sucking in wind like a canklesaurus that just climbed a flight of stairs.  I threw in a little comment about how “this is good warm-up for me.  I usually do 4 to….18 of these.”  I could barely get the sentence out before descending into a gasping, coughing fit due to lack of oxygen that I explained away by blaming the huge fly I just sucked in.

I didn’t think he fully got what he needed from this session.  In other words, he wasn’t defeated.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned from running over the years, it’s that it is best used to show up, humiliate, or injure an inferior runner.   Since he was none of those things – just a bit tired – I decided to go for the kill.

“How about one balls out** 400 meter before we head home?” I suggest with pitched tent finger tips slowly tapping together under an evil grin.

Sure, he responds, unconfidently.

YES!  I wish I brought my shovel…cause I’m going to need it to scrape that ego up that I leave smeared all over the track. 

In my most condescending manner, I suggest to him that he shouldn’t start out in a full sprint.  Start the 400 comfortably hard then, at the 100 meter mark, start gently accelerating until the hammer is down at 200 meters to the finish. 

Unspoken?  Wave goodbye to Dada.  He’s gonna rip your will to run right out from you, sweetie.  There’s nothing more enjoyable then shredding the fruit of your loins into ribbons meter by meter!

With that sage strategy in place, we line-up to start our balls out 400 meters.***  I know he’s going to follow my advice because he foolishly looks up to me (I think).

Off we go!  And I’m GONE.  Fuck this if I’m going to let some 15 year old hang with me for 100 meters gathering confidence every step of the way.  The hammer is DOWN immediately.  Whoosh!

And I pop into a nice little lead around the first bend.  His footsteps – SLAP SLAP SLAP – grow distant behind me.  We hit the 100 meter mark and I’m in the lead by a good two seconds.  The fool followed my advice!  Now, just a little work over the last 300 meters and the Master will head home to modestly tell Mrs. Nitmos how the boy is still trying to learn the Art of Running.

But then the footsteps get louder again on the back straightaway.  He’s on my heels.  Did he follow my advice?  It was good advice but, really, it was designed more for me to get a lead and hopefully break his spirit than to actually, you know, help him win. 

By 200 meters, we are neck and neck.  And he’s in the second lane.  I glance at my watch and we are at 33 seconds.  I’m not normally a good sprinter and this is about as fast as I’ve ever gone.  I’m hoping he sprinted himself out trying to catch me as we head into the second turn. 

Turns out, he’s a fast little fucker.  I’m huffing and puffing through the turn.  He’s SLAP SLAP SLAPPING away – cotton t-shirt flapping in the wind - through the turn across the 300 meter mark oblivious to the need for a Garmin, specialty running shows and moisture-wicking….everything.   The arrogance!

We hit 300 meters and he shows no signs of letting up.  In fact, is that a kick down the home stretch?  Now it’s me and my barely audible, perfectly tuned stride that starts to fall away.  It’s painfully obvious that I’m not going to catch him.  Is he a machine impervious to exhaustion?  Is this the same kid that spends 8 hours a day playing Call of Duty and FIFA ’13 and doing rails of sugar off the TV? 

Truly, I underestimated him.  But if there is a lesson to be learned, I should be the one delivering it. 

In the final 100 meters, mid-stride, I change strategy.  Now, there is a lesson to be taught about winning gracefully, respecting elders, exemplifying modesty, and congratulating a competitor on a well-run race.

But I’m not going to deliver that message.  This ain’t an after school special and I’m not Oprah. 

“Aaaaahh!” I scream out.  I figure I have a second or two before he looks back…just enough time to gently ease myself onto my side on the track as if I’ve fallen hard.  I hold my leg in the air and grab my hamstring.  He finishes and circles back in an arrogant, non-exhausted jog. “What’s wrong?”

Here, I go for the two-fer:  (1) Rob him of his clean victory and (2) blame him for my “injury”.

“Well, I was just about ready to go for my hard finishing kick (grimace-grunt) after my warm-up 300 meters when you carelessly kicked some loose gravel into my lane. (grimace-facial contortion) I slowed up – you had been doing that the last 100 meters or so – to get around it (uggghhh, grooooan) but it slid under foot causing me to twist my leg funny in an attempt to avoid it.  I did the best I could but, man, you screwed me over.”

After a suitable amount of time selling the injury, I popped up and, feigning sportsmanship and general humanity, patted my son on the back and said, “Despite the rather large asterisk looming over it, that was a nice job you did there – including spewing gravel in my lane!”

And then we drove home…as only I could do of the two of us.

Happy trails.

* Meta Alert: I know, I know, WE run after abstract concepts like physical fitness, health, happiness, and PRs.  Tell that to a 15 year old.
** Look I don’t have a ‘balls’ obsession, alright?  It’s an expression.  Don’t get teste.
*** Stop it already.
_____________________________________________ 

Postscript:  My colt made the time with a nice 12:26.  The preceding story was entirely true up until the 300 meter mark at which point it diverted into Hey This Would Make A Better Blog Post Ending.  In truth, I finished 3 seconds behind him despite running my best 400 ever. 

The little shit.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Phantom of the 800s

The few of you that follow me on Twitter received an undetailed 140 character (or less) description of an unfortunate event at the track yesterday whilst doing some 800 meter intervals. Except, on my tweet, I didn’t use the word ‘whilst’. This is a problem I intend to correct on all future tweets whilst there is breath in my body.

The thing we all know about 800 intervals is that they can be grueling. As each one completes, you are that much closer to being done whilst also knowing that the next one will be more difficult to maintain pace than the previous. Your breathing will be more labored; your perceived effort will be higher. Real fuck with your mind shit. Do I really want to do these 800’s? Instead of six, how about five? Instead of 2:50 pace, how about 3:00 pace? Mentally, I start looking for an escape hatch to make things easier. In a way, I go through the five stages of grief during one 800 session:
  1. Denial – I’m not going to work this hard today
  2. Anger – WHY DO I HAVE TO DO THIS?
  3. Bargaining – Okay, I’ll do them but maybe only 4 intervals rather than 8.
  4. Depression – This sucks. Why does Beardsley hate me?
  5. Acceptance – Alright, I’m here. Might as well get it over with.
To distract all of these swirling emotions within, I ratchet up the ole iPod with some raucous RAWK music. Real ear bleeding stuff to get the heart pumping, legs churning, and mind fucked. I’m not a huge metalhead but I do dabble in a few headbangers to facilitate some speed work. I even had a playlist designed at one time for just such workouts. That playlist got deleted at some point during one of the never ending iTunes updates and has not been recreated. Since then, I tend to select an album or artist that I know can provide some adrenaline and hope that the record label required “power ballad” doesn’t pop up at some point.

That’s usually how I do things.

Yesterday, I decided to hit Shuffle and tempt the fate of the music overlords. Now, I know you are thinking ‘Nitmos, you are super cool and thus all of the music on your iPod would be Super Cool Approved also so what could go wrong?’ Thank you for thinking that and, largely, you are correct. However, it should be noted (as seen on my profile page), that I do hold a soft spot for garish show tunes. If you are surprised by this, you shouldn’t be. I recently used the word “garish” in a sentence. /deadgiveaway

It started out alright. My first few intervals had a nice smattering of 30 Seconds to Mars and Rage Against the Machine. I was off to a hot start. I knew I was cranking along when Linkin Park kicked in not once but back-to-back selections!! The home stretch was near.

But then some elongated silence. Did my iPod turn off? Battery drain? Seconds go by and…nothing.

Wait…not nothing. I hear something. What is that?

Nighttime sharpens
Heightens each sensation
Darkness stirs and
Wakes imagination

It started slowly, quietly and then built to a, well, sloooow show tune pace. Not something bouncy and Pirates of Penzancey. Nope, “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera instead. I’ve got 2000 songs on that iPod and THAT’S what is selected?!? Can a runner at least get some Joey Fatone up in here?

Now I’m as entangled in the torrid love triangle between Christine, Raoul and the Phantom as any normal red-blooded American. But in the middle of some 800 intervals, I care more about my own tortured soul rather than some damn fool with a half mask. But you can’t stop and change tunes in the middle of an 800 right? That’s got to be against some kind of runner code.

So, powered by the Original Cast Recording of the Phantom of the Opera, I completed my intervals. Somehow. I’m living testament that it can be done though it does not come with a recommendation.

And then Johnny Cash came on.

Clearly, I really have got to go over my iPod selections. At the very least, the lesson I learned the hard way for all of you is not to hit Shuffle whilst doing speed work. Too many things can go wrong. Anne Frank may be a Phan (or would have been, one assumes) but this runner is not. At least, not in this context.

In summary: Show tunes rule…but not during speed work.

Happy trails.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Immaculate Confection

I don’t know how it got in there – divine providence I’m guessing – but it’s there and letting me know it every step of every mile of every run.  I’m FAT right now.  Like, grossly obese stuff.  I must be a good 4-5 pounds (!!) over my normal race weight.  Look away if I repulse you.  Don’t laugh as I parade my collection of the Midwest’s finest wind pants before you each day.  Yep, I’m a wind pants guy now.  Fatties like me do what we must.  I pulled the string through them and everything.  I’m not even buying the good quality Adidas wind pants.  Instead, bulk Walmart models because what the hell.

The thing is I don’t know how it got in there.  Sure, I always put on a few pounds over the winter months – I’ve referred to it many times before as my Cheeto Layer – but I know where that fat layer came from.  See Cheeto, eat Cheeto.  See rum, drink rum.  See leftover fry wedged between the garbage can and floor baseboard, eat leftover fry wedged between the garbage can and floor baseboard.  Simple fat calorie economics.

But I don’t know where this first trimester bulge came from.

Once February rolls around, I start watching what I eat a bit more.  The holidays are over.  There’s no ready made excuse.  Speedo season approaches.  I can’t let a bulge get in the way of my bulge ifyouknowwhatImean.  Nothing takes away from the sensual delights of a male in a Speedo more than cottage cheese thighs and a donelop.*  As in “my belly just donelopped over my waist”.

I’ve been eating more fruits and vegetables.  I’ve been drinking plenty of beer but I’ve cut out (most) of the rum consumption.  Cheetos?  Not a single baked cheesy delight has passed these lips since the New Year.  No, either my system is automatically transposing the mixed vegetables into a bag of Skittles – just out of confusion due to the similar color spectrum – or something else is going on.

I think something else is going on you guys.

I’ve been blessed.  It’s an Immaculate Confection bouncing around my belly.  Except this one isn’t going to make it to the third trimester.  My recent spate of 800’s at the local track will see to that.  I don’t know that I want to go against the will of God and the gift of a tasty baked good but there are Earthly races to run.  So, my belly is on the shrink.  It’s demaculating.  I will not be birthing a sugary delight onto the world to save us from the South Beach diet.  Was Mary a distance runner?  I doubt it or things would never have gotten that far.**

I’m back in shorts; the weekly mileage is going up; the body is reshaping.  Sure, my winter Michigan Pale is still in full bloom.  Eggshell white mocks my whiteness.  But the sun will return around the time the belly leaves.  All of this according to prophecy.

Immaculate Confection or not.

Happy Nitmos 4:10.

* Well, maybe gnarly pubic hair jutted from underneath like roots and branches from the Fangorn forest.
** Come to Feet Meet Street for the sarcasm, stay for the blasphemy.
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Thanks for asking, yes we have chipped away at the 49 soccer games this Spring. There are only 27 left to go!  The colt completed 6 shutouts in 8 games of his last indoor session as Left Defender of the Goal.  The filly connected on 18 goals in leading her team to a 6-1-1 record in her last indoor session.  She’s on a 4 game hat trick (or better) stretch.  Now, outside! In the rain!  State Cup games!  Junior State Cup games!  Premier games!  See you on the pitch!  I can’t stop talking in exclamation points!  Seriously!  Help! This is ridiculous! !  !