Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hello, Achilles

Yay! I crossed the finish line of fort2base.

I ran a fast race. I was happy.

My left Achilles tendon on the other hand, was pretty pissed off. I had determined it was my achilles by doing what any one does when they have something wrong medically - ask the internet. The trick with asking the internet is to not ask just one source. One source may tell you not to run (and truthfully, who can follow that advice?). Too many sources will lead you to believe your injury could cause death. Two or three sources may be just right.

I'm pretty sure it happened somewhere up the climb of that large hill that I refused to walk up. Maybe the other runners had it right.

Injuries, to a certain extent, are second nature in distance running. It's not a question of 'if' but 'when.'

Post fort2base I decided to take a few days off, eat some pizza and drink some beers. Oh, and visit the foam roller. Who thought I could do a 9:35 for 11.5 miles anyway?

Around lunch time on Tuesday I was getting restless. My lower left leg was tight and my achilles was puffy. From what I had read, you can run with an achilles injury, just as long as it's not severe.  How was I going to find out if it was severe? Go out on a run. So I did just that. Sort of.

I ran for about a mile and a half, then walked. Then it got tighter. I stretched it out and tried running again. But I couldn't loosen it up. After some short, slow runs and more walking, I called it a day.

For the next few days, I would RICE (rest, ice, compress, elevate) to get me to Sunday, CARA's Ready to Run 20 Miler.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Will [Fort2Base]

Early in the spring, I came across a booth at the Shamrock Shuffle Expo for a Fort2Base run. As a save the date, they passed out a door tag which has been on my office door since. As the summer months have gone by, I've kept the race in mind.


Race Day:


We rose shortly after 3:30am, picked up Jeff and Sara by 4:30, and were then on our way to Great Lakes. We cruised to our destination until the last few miles, when we reached a traffic jam. A combination of traffic lights, two lane roads, and a military checkpoint had slowed matters.


When we parked, it was still dark as night. We followed dim street lights and verbal directions to find packet pick up, a lucky porta potty on the way, and then to the bus.


Jeff would run the 5k which was held on the base. The 11.5 mile run was a point to point, and Sara and I were on our way to Ft. Sheridan. 


We arrived to a small field of runners. Many had shirt memorializing the day or supporting Salute Inc. Many members of this group were in the military. A short speech followed by the National Anthem occurred right before the start.


Then the gun went off. Sara planned on running a fast race. I however, was not so sure. I had thought of running the race safe at my training pace of 10:30. Then I'd thought of just going out to see what happened.


The cool morning allowed for a great start. As I looked down at my watch, I realized I hadn't calibrated it as I had planned to during the week. Now while running I couldn't remember - was it reading miles as too short or too long. At mile 2 I decided just to look at time. I had done two miles in less than 19 minutes. If I kept this up, I thought, I may be looking for a bus ride back to base.


At the 5K I checked my watch again; 27:30. Wow. I've never run a 27:30 5K. How am I going to finish this race? Around the four mile mark, I was reintroduced to Curt. Curt is a charity runner with Team Salute as well. He had said hello and good morning to me on the bus. We were wearing matching shirts for the charity.


Curt and I got to talking about a lot of things - The day, our height, where we lived, what we did, the traffic jam, the military, my brother.  And as we continued to talk, the miles kept going by. 


Mile 5 was equal to my best Shamrock Shuffle time a few years ago. 


The 10K mark time beat my best 10K by a few minutes.


So then Curt and I worked in to the conversation what we had been avoiding - our speed. Curt said I was running much faster than he was prepared to run that day, but he wasn't showing any signs of backing down. I admitted I normally ran 10:30's. He checked his watch from time to time reminding me we were killing 10:30's. Thanks so much Curt!


We reached mile 8 and I still felt great. We were getting ready to head on to the base. I had thought of a strategy of how I would gradually slow down as to not burn out and have to walk at the end. I would still have an amazing race if I did this. But as we approached the base and I saw young men in uniform, I couldn't help but feeling an overwhelming sense of Gratitude and Will.


I shelved my strategy and instead said:


I can keep going for 3.5 more miles. I can do this because I have trained to be able to, but more importantly, I will do this because my brother has spent years away from his home, his country, his friends and his family. He has done this because he felt it was important. I am ever so grateful. Ten years ago he was 18 and in basic training. Ten years ago we had no idea what was about to happen. In ten years, he has been to Korea, Afghanistan Iraq and back. He has done so willingly in service to his country. So I will keep going.


Curt and I traveled through the streets of Great Lakes. Then we headed down a steep hill. So steep that we had to shorten our strides and slow ourselves down from going too fast. When we reached the bottom, we knew eventually we would go back up. But for a mile or so, the course smiled at us, letting us believe for a moment that maybe there wouldn't be an uphill.


Then around mile 10. It appeared. It wasn't a Nasvhille rolling hill. It was a straight up, man-I-wish-it-was-snowing-and-I-had-a-sled-hill. At the bottom of the hill were Navy members. They cheered us on and yelled at us to conquer the hill. 


Everyone in front of us was walking. Curt said he would walk up the hill. I looked at him and said it was ok, I would meet him at the top. I knew it would be hard, but I had decided some time ago that I was going to run this race as hard as I started it. I had to. And so, for as far as I could see in front of me, along side me, or a quick glance behind me, I ran alone, up the hill.


The last aide station had military members handing out water. They saw me running over the top of the hill and were cheering hysterically for me. My vision became cloudy with tears. All I am doing is running. Why are they cheering for me? Then I turned the last corner where I saw Jeff and Sara, and then, the finish line.


One hour, fifty-one minutes later.


Thanks Dan.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Post 20-Mile Explanation

Last Saturday,  I had a great 20 mile run with the CARA 10:30's, but more importantly, with Carrie. We decided at the North Avenue water stop to leave the group behind and continue on with a two man show. Finishing out this way allowed for no lines at any drinking fountains we felt the need to visit, plenty of trees to use as support to stretch, and a two-on-one assault on Cricket Hill.

I've had a my far share of sub-par runs this training season. Saturday rebuilt our spirits that we will have great race days. Carrie's now tapering for Berlin, while I'm preparing for 20 mile run #2 on September 18.

Running 20 miles is a process. Once you finish running, there's stretching, icing, driving home - the list goes on. I had plans to meet up with Brian and Kim later in the day. Both understand the processes of training for a marathon.

Here was what I told them I needed to do -

North Coast Music Festival starts at noon, however, there is no way I will be there at noon. I have 20 to run Saturday morning. We doing 2 miles before the 6:30am group and then 18 with the group. My very bad math estimates that it will take us 3.5 hours to do 18, and thus, ending at 10am.

I will then hobble to the lake where I'll ice down my legs that already hate me. From there, I will proceed to my brand new car, with it's amazing new car smell, and enter it covered in sweat, salt and lake smell. I will then drive said car through a McDonald's drive thru where I will purchase one large fountain Coke using a credit card (since I don't run with cash).

I will then proceed home, now regaining consciousness, feeling empowered that I got my ass out of bed and accomplished 20 miles before noon. As I park at my place and attempt to get out of my car, I will realize that I'm already getting stiff. Walking up one flight of stairs to my place will be challenging, but the most important thing is to no spill the cherished McDonald's fountain Coke.

I will enter my place where Dave will kindly ask how my run went. I will give him a really long explanation, during which, he will come over in my general vicinity and smell me. A rather disgusted look will appear on his face and he will tell me to go shower.

After the shower, I will eat three huge pieces of Captain Crunch french toast, covered in butter and syrup, because, well, Captain Crunch + french toast is not enough sugar or fat for me already. A food coma will soon follow. I will then enter my bedroom and crash for approximately two hours.

Sad thing is, I was right on all accounts with the exception of the length of my nap. 90 minutes was all I could handle - I was too excited to head to North Coast.

A Nashville Tale [Brian's Story]

Brian had a pretty incredible experience in Nashville, though I'm not speaking of the race. Here's a true tale of a runner's attempt to reach the starting line of a destination race.

"The story of my first experience doing a destination race starts with fading sunlight in the city of lost children. 

No, wait, that's not where it starts.  The events leading up to that are every bit as important for the reader, to provide the proper context.  It is April in Chicago.  I'm planning to leave for Florida for a week to visit my grandpa and play some golf ... and then head to Nashville to meet up with my friends for the Country Music Half Marathon. 

My last training run before the half was 8 miles.  Well, it was supposed to be 10, but since I hadn't run anything longer than 10k in months ... the training run, at 95 degrees on a humid Florida morning, didn't go smoothly.  This was further complicated by something my Chicago Lakeshore trail training didn't prepare me for - how the properly share the trail with Alligators. 

So back to the city of lost children.  I try desperately to never book flights out of Orlando.  Millions of children of all ages, all backgrounds, nationalities, cultures and customs ... all with one thing in common.  They are all crying because they don't want to leave Disney World.  So my exit from the city of lost children is filled with their cries and their howls (which I drown out with my iPhone and headphones).  And my journey has yet to begin.

Because I made the brilliant decision not to stay downtown in the $500/night Holiday Inn Express with my group (Important note:  All of them are women) the night before the race, because I ... um ... the morning of a race.  You know, there are things.  One needs to do.  So after a lovely dinner with the group, I headed off to check in at my hotel - you know, the one that's not conveniently located. 

Backing up a moment, when I picked up my rental car (note:  a VERY nice Ford Escape - I was really, really impressed with the vehicle) they offered me a GPS for $20 a day.  Now, I have an iPhone - what do I need a GPS for?

Does everyone remember that part where I was drowning out the cries of the children by playing music?  Anyone with an iPhone knows what's about to happen.

THe address for the hotel on my reservation actually doesn't exist.  I'm staying at a very nice, classy Days Inn near what appears to be the airport. 

Actually, that's the address that doesn't exist.  After a quick call using SYNC (yes, it works) (iPhone Battery 6%), the guy at the hotel gives me a different address, which doesn't appear to be as close to the airport.  But upon arriving, I realize it is actually closer to things ... hm, how to say this ... nearer to say, night workers.  

As I pull up to the hotel - the impossibly steep driveway that reaches the hotel perched high on a hill overlooking what could only be described as a sketchy diner - complete with thuggy late-teen, early 20s folks in loitering in the parking lot.  But that's not really what I noticed first.  No, its the crime scene tape blocking two of the rooms on the second floor.  That's what really draws my eyes.

Upon entering, there are several people in the lobby ahead of me.  At this point, I'm concerned about the wellbeing of my rental.  The guys behind the counter - two guys of Indian descent - both have their shirts unbuttoned further than is appropriate, and both are wearing gold chains.  I've actually walked into a SNL sketch.  For the first 5 minutes, literally nothing is said.  The two are on the phone, apparently on hold, no one in the lobby is talking ... its just weird.  Oh, and the people in the lobby - the "couple" in front of me - a guy who clearly came to Nashville to be a rock star - Jack White meets Kid Rock - and his ... um, escort - a charming couple.  He - despite not actually actively smoking, he was producing a full cloud of an entire bar of cigarettes ... from his faded and cracked leather jacket and ironic t-shirt.  (Her dress, on the other hand was certainly far too small to retain any such odors).

When its finally my turn ... the guy explains to me that ... my room isn't available - indicating the upstairs where the crime scene tape is.  Now, I should point out, that I pre-paid for this room ($45) though American Express - its not just a reservation, its a pre-pay.  But, he can't offer me my money back ... instead, he'll book me at the sister property ... just down the road. 

Now, I can't argue with going anywhere that's not this place.  I'm in.  Nothing could be worse.  But, I tell him I need extended checkout.  I need to have the room until 3pm.  (I'm thinking I didn't want to leave my luggage in the back of the rental while we run the race).  He agrees for $15 I can have extended checkout. I give him the cash, and he gives me, in return, a business card with the words "checkout at 3pm OK" scribbled on it (Note: Easy way to save $15). 

Now I'm off to the next property.  Americas Best Value Inn.  It is NOT just down the road, its another 10 miles away.  And its 11pm.  iPhone battery = dead.  Race meeting time 5am. 

Ok, I show up, and I'm in another movie, but this one is far creepier.  There's no one in the parking lot, and it ALMOST looks passable as a hotel.  Of course the guy at the desk (also a wild and crazy guy, but this one of eastern european descent) tries to haggle with me about the checkout, and about the room in general ... calls the other hotel ... begrudgingly gives me my key.  And then I walk into the room.

Holy mother of god, I wasn't prepared for this.  The first thing that draws your eye, after the horrifying polyester bedspread and the broken lighting fixture is the bloodstain on the floor.  It also had a few drips ... like whomever was bleeding was trying to either get to the place they bled the most, or trying to get away from it.  Whichever, the efforts to remove the stain were weak. 

Then I noticed the fact that the toilet wouldn't stop running (and the water squeaked) and when I went to go over and have a look, that's when i found the toilet seat was not attached to the toilet.  Hmmph.  Oh, oh oh... and they have haphazardly screwed plywood over the area under the sink. (Later, I learned this is a precaution to prevent their clientele from removing the pipes to sell as scrap - typically in exchange for crystal meth.) 

There are no bedbugs.  its late.  I'm tired, and I need to get to sleep. 

When I wake up (at 430), and realize my luggage is FAR safer in the back of my rental than it is in this room, I carry everything to the car.  I walk by the office, and the guy behind the desk (wild, crazy guy #3) now has his shirt off standing at the desk and is either dancing or copulating with an unseen party ... or just being extra special creepy.  As I'm loading my luggage into the car ... a woman - EYES WIDE OPEN, very few teeth - walks by and says "OH!  I'm surprised to see someone!  I thought i was the only crazy one up this early!" ... and wanders off. 

Lesson learned.  Sharing a room with 3 girls is TOTALLY ok. "