“I Hate Uncle Jamie”

Not really.  In fact, I don’t have an Uncle Jamie.  That’s a funny line from an 8-year old in the movie Love, Actually.

What I do hate is the taper.  I am absolutely going stir crazy. I know it’s going to help me come race day, but in the mean time, I’m hating it.  When I started running again about 7 months ago, I couldn’t have imagined that I’d ever get to the point where I am addicted to running, but that’s what it feels like.  For seven months I’ve increased my mileage week after week, little bit by little bit.  I’ve run 5-6 times a week in rain, snow, sleet, high winds, and beautiful days alike.  Building, building, building.  Now, I’m supposed to just turn that off?  Very, very difficult.

The good news is that we’re just over a week away from the race, so I only need to bear with it for a little while longer.  I also have the comfort of knowing I’m not alone:

“I agree with the tapering. Frustrated with wanting to run longer…a little bit of insanity.”

“I know I keep talking about the taper, but it’s really playing mind games with me. Is it normal to feel sort of sluggish at this point? Blah. HELP!”

“I’m scared. I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m an emotional mess. Here I am just 5 days away from my first ever half marathon and I can hardly stand it.”

Let the taper begin

Yesterday was my last long-ish run before the Flying Pig Half Marathon on May 2.  Having never tapered before, I’m not sure what to expect, but I have to admit I’m a little nervous.  Many of the runners I know or follow seem to go a bit stir crazy during a taper.  I can certainly understand since I know I find it hard to fathom that I’m actually going to decrease my running for two weeks.  Since I started last September, I’ve focused on building my fitness and mileage slowly, but steadily.  Now I need to turn that part of my brain off and ease back.

BTW, I’m loving my new running shoes.  I knew you were concerned.

New Shoes. A Divorce Story.

So a little over a month ago, I had gotten to the point where my Saucony ProGrid Ride2 shoes had about 500 or so miles on them and had lost their support and cushioning, so I set out to get a new pair.  I liked the Saucony’s, but didn’t love them.

I got some input from running friends on DailyMile, headed to my local running store, and ended up buying Brooks Glycerin 8‘s.  I think I made the youthful mistake of reacting to all of the things I thought the Saucony’s didn’t have, and went the complete opposite way.  The Brooks felt much more structured with much more support.  I really thought I’d found “The One.”

I gave them a chance.  Honest.  I did.  We tried and tried, then went to counseling, but it just didn’t work out.  After 6 weeks of running with them, I had face the cold, hard truth: we just weren’t made to be together.  I grew to hate them and resent them, and frankly, that’s just not good for any relationship.

After making it through all of the emotions that come with breakups, I decided it was time to get back out there and find a new love.  Oh yes, I considered the whole online scene, but I think I’m just too old-fashioned.  How anyone can choose a new mate based on pictures and descriptions is beyond me.  “Perfect balance!”  “Long-lasting uppers!”  “Superior cushioning!”  Give me a break.  And I’m Ryan Hall.

Back to the old watering hole I went.  (Well, it’s actually just a running store, but they do have a water cooler.)  I poured my heart out to the bartender (clerk) about what I hated in my ex.  After patiently listening to me prattle on, he said, “I have someone I want you to meet.  I think you’re going to love ’em.  Back in a sec.”

Now, I know I was eager to move on, but when he came back with his friend(s), I would swear there was glow like I had never seen before.  And harp music.  Yes, the sweet, sweet sounds of harp music.  I slipped them on, went for a brief jog, and just knew we were meant to be together.

Without further ado (and unbelievably laborious analogies), my new mate(s).

Pearl iZUMi SyncroFloat III
Pearl iZUMi SyncroFloat III

The Pearl iZUMi SyncroFloat III.  We’re only two dates (runs) in, but I just know we’re going to be happy together.

Half marathon distance

This Saturday I decided to see how attainable my stated goal for the half marathon really is.

The run started out fine, but I have to admit that the last half didn’t go that well.  I didn’t feel anywhere near as strong as I did just a week ago on my first 12 mile run.  But, I did finish the run and I came very close to the goal I have set for the race.  The goal is 1:55:00 and I completed this run in 1:55:31.

There are a couple reasons for worry:

  1. It was an absolutely perfect day.  Very little wind, mid-fifties, clear blue skies.  Who knows what race day will bring.
  2. While there were some hills in my run, there was nothing that compares to Gilbert.

I am just deluded enough to think that there are a couple reasons to be positive too:

  1. I won’t need to carry my own water around.  I hate those damn hydration belts.
  2. Adrenaline is a wonderful thing.
  3. Other runners.  ‘Nuff said.

All in all, based on this run, I feel like I’ve set a great goal.  It’s aggressive enough that it will keep me pushing throughout the race, yet I already know I can do it.  When I ran my first ever 10K just over 5 months ago, I was blown away by the effect the crowd had on me.  And that was nothing compared to the runner support at the Flying Pig.

I’m ready.

Top 5 things I think about while running

Last night during my run, I was thinking about the things I think about while I run.  I’m pretty sure had I continued, I would have found a parallel universe.

The top five things I think about while running.

  1. “Who’s idea was it to run after eating tacos?”
  2. “Keep going.  Just make it to the end of this next block.”
  3. Whatever life has handed me that day/week.
  4. “If anyone finds out I listen to Britney Spears while I run, they’ll take away my ‘cool guy’ badge.  Wait a minute.  Where’s my ‘cool guy’ badge?”
  5. My sons.  Am I being too hard on them?  Too soft?  Am I stealing their struggles? Am I giving them enough?  Am I giving them too much?

If truth be told, numbers two and five dominate my thoughts most days.

A simple thank you

A few weeks ago in this blog, I hinted at health issues a loved one in my family was dealing with. A little later, I addressed the concern a bit more directly.  Three days ago, the details came forth in what was a very difficult post to write, but more to the point, a very difficult period to go through.

With just a few days’ time to reflect, I can tell you that I have been absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support my family has received during this time.  My mother flew to Cincinnati without a moments’ hesitation to take care of my boys while I supported my wife.  My younger boy’s baseball team all got together to sign a card for him to let him know he’s loved.  Team moms gave rides to practices and neighbors helped with bus stops.  Since we flew home the day of the funeral, my family has not had to eat a single meal of our own cooking as neighbors and friends continue to simply show up with prepared meals.  My sisters have sent flowers, my aunts have sent Facebook messages, my dad drove cross-state to attend the funeral, co-workers have covered meetings, and my email inbox has more “keeping you in our thoughts and prayers” messages than anything else. While it has been incredibly hard to have lost someone so special, it has also been an amazing reminder of just how much we are loved.

And since this is a running blog, I’d be remiss if I did not also thank the many runners out there, many of whom I’ve never met in person, who have sent me incredibly kind, personal notes of support and encouragement.  I’ve mentioned DailyMile many times in this blog and how much support the people on it have lent me as I continue to progress in running.  But until recently, that support had always been of the running kind and typically public: “Don’t skip your recovery runs,” or, “Keep up the cross-training as it will help you become a better runner.”  But over the past month, the great running advice has also been coupled with numerous, personal, direct  messages of support for my family.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  Every running event I’ve ever raced or attended has been filled with people encouraging one another.  Since “joining” it, I’ve come to believe the running community is supportive at its core.  But I also now believe that the people that connect on DailyMile go above and beyond and actually care about one another.

I hope that when the time comes, I can be there to support the people I care about when they need it most.  Until then, I’d just like to say, “Thank you.”  From the bottom of my heart, “Thank you.”

Into each life some rain must fall

This past Sunday was a bittersweet day for me and my family.  My father-in-law had been trying to recover from back surgery for a little over a month and not doing well at all.  My wife was in Florida to be with him and her mom.  I had been scheduled to run the Heart Mini Marathon here in Cincinnati but I was completely conflicted on whether or not to run the race.  On the previous day, Saturday, March 27, the family had decided to adhere to my father-in-law’s wishes, no matter how painful the decision, and remove the life-support machines on Sunday.  The doctors had told us that a number of his organs had completely failed, and because of that, he would likely only survive a couple of hours without the machines.

When I learned this on Saturday, my very first reaction (aside from the obvious grief) was to get on a plane immediately and get down there to be with her family.  When I talked to my wife, she was adamant that I run the race on Sunday.  Absolutely adamant. “You have no idea how important it is to this family that you go a do what you’ve been training for.  Run the race, then come to be with us.”  As we talked more she explained her position.  She knew our boys had watched me (and sometimes accompanied me) while I’ve trained over the last six months and she knew it would be a positive lesson for them to see that hard work has its rewards.  That I could understand.  What I didn’t expect to hear was that her family in Florida wanted and really needed me to run it as well.  They wanted to see some “normal” things in life continuing to go on and they wanted to see me, whom they thought of as “the runner,” doing what I’d trained to do.  In then end, although reluctant, I decided to go forward with it.

Early Sunday morning came, and with it a forecast of steady rain and 45 degrees throughout the race.  Based on the numbers I saw, that forecast must have kept a good number of people away because it was nowhere near as crowded as I had expected.  Based on my recent training numbers, my goal was to run the race at an average pace of less than 9min/mile and I did manage to beat that.  I finished the race (a 15K=9.3 miles) officially in 1:22:09, or an average pace of 8:48 min/mile.  I also managed to pull off negative splits, which I felt good about.

Midway through the race, I started to think about my wife, her dad, and my family.  I replayed the conversation in my head where my wife told me that I had to run the race because it was important to them that I did.  It made for a very emotional mile or so. I must have looked pretty silly running along with tears running down my face.  Getting to the finish line was emotional as well, but a really odd mix of emotions.  Guilt for taking the time to do the race.  Happiness for finishing the race and feeling like I still had more.  Loneliness as there was no one to meet me at the end.  Worry that the end had come while I was running.

By the way, not a drop of rain fell during the race.

As soon I finished, I headed back home for a quick shower, then back to the airport to go be with my wife, her mom, and her family.   My flight lifted off at 2:00 PM.  My father-in-law slipped away from us at 2:10 PM.  I didn’t make it in time.

When I landed and found that he had died while I was in the the air, I was overcome with sadness and guilt.  One race that day had gone well, but I couldn’t help but think I had lost the important race.  I truly don’t have any way of knowing if it would have made a difference had I made it in time or not, but I do know it’s something I’ll think about when I get back out on the road putting one foot in front of the other.

I need to get back running.  I need the physical exertion to help get through this.  I need the time to be alone with my thoughts and sort this out.  The only way out, is through.

Jack Frost, 1935-2010

Be still, sad heart, and cease repining,
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining,
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Rainy Day