It was just a little 5.0 kilometer run, that’s all that it was, but oh what it meant to me.
It was the first time that I have run twice in three days since last March.
I’ve run intermittently since the Big Sur Marathon, but for the most part I have been trying to let this messed up knee and calf heal themselves.
Conditioning has been lost (passive voice). I finished the run this evening a good six minutes slower than my PR last October. That was humbling. On the plus side, it’s the fastest that I have finished a non-race situation since March. Is the glass half empty or half full?
I have a race I want to try to run on Labor day. It’s short (5.3 miles), but difficult bridge run. I know my legs can do it, I’m just not sure my lungs can.
Travel day 19 of 2014 had me waking up at 4:30am in Osaka, Japan after a typical Japanese business dinner. Japanese sake has no preservatives, so one doesn’t wake up with a headache. It took about 6 hour and a lot of baby aspirin to relieve the headache I didn’t have.
The meeting for the day took up about four very intense hours and then we went out for lunch (more sushi). After that, I was free to go back to my hotel. I packed my bags for tomorrows train trip and decided to take a walk to the nearby Nike Store.
Because it is so humid, I put my running clothes and strapped on my Garmin to take it on a test run. My Garmin has miraculously recovered from whatever problems it had on Monday when I was in China. Were I a conspiracy theorist, I would think that maybe the PRC doesn’t want people using unauthorized tracking tools, but that would just be nonsense (This is why they don’t give me access to WordPress in China).
Very quickly, my walk became a run. This was the second run this week and the second since the Big Sur Marathon. I didn’t think the calf would be ready to run again, but it was. I was able to take some big long strides down the streets of Osaka for as long as my diminished fitness would allow. It felt wonderful to open up and be able to take a full stride. City running is fun, except for all the stopping at red lights.
It was about 3km to the Nike Store where I found a few things for the family. I spent like a billion yen, I’m not sure how much that is in dollars, but I am sure I will hear [it] from my wife the transaction post tomorrow.
One the way home, I saw a Starbucks with a sign for a Marble Carmel frappuccino with JELLY. Yes, chunks of jelly IN the drink. Although I am usually a person who goes for the skinny drinks, this had to be tested and it was oh so fun to suck up the jelly.
I think it might have been better as a peanut and jelly frappuccino, but what do I know? I also had a piece of tiramisu. Don’t judge, I’ve eaten according to everyone elses rules this week. In China, one does not eat all the food on the plate at is potentially awkward for the host. In Japan, one eats whatever is put in front of one whether it is still moving or not. This was a chance to have just a little moment of self-determination in a week of being a perpetual guest.
As I walked out of Starbucks the skies opened and the rain poured down in buckets. I ran into a nearby Apple Store to check out the inventory. It was interesting to see a Japanese Genius Bar and all the users all nicely queued up.
As the storm passed, I made my run back to the hotel. Surprising the knee and calf did not tighten up as they have during the past six months. Perhaps this time off from running is helping them recover. Nothing teaches gratitude like not being able to do what one enjoys.
It’s about 7:30pm now. I am packed and ready to hit the road in the morning. I have back to back phone calls with California and Europe starting at 10pm tonight. But first, I need some dinner. There is a sushi bar across the street that makes a nice presentation of some good sushi. As presentation is very important here in Japan, I thought I would share how my dinner was presented.
If nothing else, the first work week is over. Tomorrow is a travel day and if the cooperates, Sunday will be a really awesome day.
In each of my four years as a runner, I have participated in the Whittier Spooktakular 5K run. This is a fun little event that raises money for this small LA County community and promotes good health to the children of the area.
Year after year, this is the penultimate event on my racing calendar. Yesterday’s Whittier race was to the hour, 14 days before my start at the Santa Barbara marathon.
I am still slowly recovering from a calf problem that has curtailed my marathon training. The last few weeks I have been back into long runs of 14-17 miles on the weekend. The long runs aren’t as much physical training, but mental reinforcement of my belief that I can run 26.2 miles within the allotted time. At this point, my self-doubts about this next marathon are a bigger problem than anything physical.
Last year, I didn’t have a time goal for this race; well I didn’t until the last hundred yards when I saw the finish line clock roll over from 29 to 30 minutes. For the uninitiated, a sub 30 minute 5K requires an average pace of just under 9 minutes and 31 seconds per mile for 3.1 miles. That’s an easy sustained pace for many to achieve, less so for me. My average in 2012 was about 10 seconds per mile too slow. That feeling of being so close to being under a 30 minute finish gnawed at me all day and apparently all year.
A few days ago despite no recent speed work and a dubious calf, my brain sent a dictate that I WOULD finish this 5K in under 30 minutes. Subsequently my brain expressed a strong desire to play tennis on the Thursday and Friday nights before the race. I learned a long time ago that tennis in the evening makes for heavy legs and slow running the next morning. I considered skipping tennis on Friday to aid in achieving Saturday’s goal, but like a short-sighted manager, my brain wanted to have both tennis on Friday and a personal record on Saturday. My brain is an undisciplined asshole sometimes.
The first 1.25 miles of this course are uphill at an 11% grade. About a quarter-mile into the race I starting to suck wind. My doubt-prone mind started telling me that I was in no condition to run a mile, let a lone 26.2. and all the gym and bike work had failed to keep me in the shape I needed to be in to run a marathon. At that exact moment my GPS sent me an audio cue that I was running up this hill at a 7:26 pace, which is about 2 minutes/mile faster than what I would normally consider a fast pace for myself on flat terrain. It became OK to slow down and take it a bit easier.
At the apex of the run, my pace was under 10 minutes/mile and with 1.5 miles of 11% downhill grade ahead of me I knew I would hit my goal if I just kept going.
I do not remember much of the rest of the race. There was no socializing, no time to take pictures or to thank the volunteers. I was in my head, focused and running to the finish line. The only thought I recall was that if I didn’t finish in under 30 minutes, I would have to wait a year to try again.
My official chip time was 29:00.3. I took a 90 seconds (5%) off my 2012 time. I was happy with that. Immediately after the race my knee started to do an impression of a startled puffer fish. The compression tights and the post-race massage helped.
I spent the rest of that lazy Saturday at home. I thought about this race that I have enjoyed so much and the exchange of the joy of running the race to the joy of hitting my goal.
I also thought about how my mind was so willing to throw my body under the bus at the fist sign of difficulty. I need to remember that on marathon day. Before the race, the quarter-mile audio cues seemed too frequent, but the real-time data effectively knocked out the negative self-talk that wanted to dominate my thoughts.
Self-doubt is insidious, especially when it is about one’s body or ones ability to rise to do something difficult.
Despite drinking every ounce of pre-race and post-race fluid I had with me prior to the starting gun sounding, a half mile into this race, I was parched. It wasn’t so much that it was hot, it was just dry. That’s the way the desert is.
The 17th Annual Southern Nevada Legends of Cross Country Challenge was the only race being held during the weekend of my high school reunion in Las Vegas, so I signed up.
The race was a fundraiser for a local cross-country scholarship program. The field was filled with YOUNG runners, including several local high school cross-country teams. It was weird to be back in a part of the world where I grew up surrounded by so many high school athletes. Running was something I didn’t do in high school. I was asthmatic and brought up believing that running wasn’t something I could do. It took me 25 years to realized that particular belief system was wrong.
This was a fun but slightly difficult trail race. I love trail races. There was lots of sand, it was warm, dry and the 2400 ft Southern Nevada elevation might have been a bit of a problem had this race been more difficult. I was very happy with my time, although I came in 84th of the 92 men; running will keep you humble. This was a field of very serous runners.
After the open division finished, the Legends heat started. The entire field of men and women were done in just over 20 minutes.
I went out on the course to watch the legends runners and stood with parents much like myself. These parents were cheering on their children much like I do my cheerleader. There was no rivalry, just support for all the runners regardless of what school they ran for.
Maybe it was being back in Southern Nevada, maybe it was the high school environment and the supportive parents, maybe it was just the phase of the moon, but I started to miss my mom. She passed 16 years ago. This lonely feeling came over me. I wished that my mom could have been there at that moment to cheer me on. Maybe she was.
But life is often a choice between focusing on what you have or what you don’t have. Rather than focusing on missing my mom, I Facetimed my dad in New York. I told him what was going on and he was loving and supportive. What more could one ask?
Late last year, The Child told me that she wanted to do a Color Run. It’s an event where the runners/walkers are sprayed with colored cornstarch as they go through the 5 kilometer (3.1 mile) course. She had planned to run the event with a friend of hers so we signed her up without a second thought. I am not keen on obstacle course, mud or similar events, so I chose not to register.
As race day approached, we realized that The Child’s friend did not register because she had doubts about her ability to run a 5K. As race day fell on the day that marked the start of my training for my next marathon, I decided to join my baby in the event.
The race started at 8am at the Fairplex in Pomona at a nice toasty 86ºF on the 8th day of summer. I normally would not run a 5K with water, but because of the temperature The Child and I both did.
The event draws so many people that the race organizers have runners start in waves every thirty minutes. Because we wanted to beat the heat, we arrived early for the first wave. The Child has been blessed with the ability to run a mile in 7 minutes. On a good day, I average between 4 and 5 minutes slower. At a Disneyland race once, I kept pace with her for about 3/4 of a mile, but once she realized I was near her, she got mad and kicked in the afterburners leaving me in the dust.
I put everything I had into it the start of this race and was 4th in the race about a quarter-mile in. The Child, oddly was running about a 10 minute pace during the first mile and was behind me. Something wasn’t right. I stopped to take a picture of her as she passed me and then I stayed strategically behind her.
My child could be missing a limb and she wouldn’t admit that anything was wrong. I know that she was more than capable of running in the heat, so I shadowed her; whenever she walked, I walked. When she ran, I ran. It’s a weird feeling running with one’s child when one knows that something isn’t right.
I used to live near the fairgrounds in Pomona back in the late 1980s. Last time I was there at the Fairplex was with an old girlfriend, SueEllen Snyder. She passed away a few years back and as the race navigated through the fairgrounds, I flashed back on being at particular places with her during the county fair back in 1988. I remembered that time and place vividly. I said a quick prayer for her and her family and kept chasing my today.
The color stations are what initially had me not wanting to run this event. The idea of running through colored cornstarch was really not appealing to me. Turns out, I was right. I wore my wrap around sunglasses to keep the stuff out of my eyes and I held my breath as I ran through each station, none the less, after the race, I was spitting blue.
The very cool part about this race for me was that the last bit of this race involved a lap around the horse race track. As the Child was nearing the finish line and clearly not going to pass out, I decided to open things up a bit and run a bit harder. In my mind, I was Secretariat.
After I passed The Child, I found myself feeling like a bad parent that I left her behind just to feel myself opening up on a race track. That feeling was short-lived as my daughter sprinted past me. We both made a break for the finish line. I poured it on and sprinted past her at the finish line (although she claims she came in ahead of me).
The after party was held on the inside of the race track. There was plenty of room, lots of food and beverages for sale and a rocking stage. Every 15 minutes or so, they would have a color party where the race participants would open color packets and throw color in the air. It made for a beautiful moments, but also made for some additional coloring opportunities.
This was an incredibly poor way for me to start a 19 week marathon training program. My schedule called for 13 miles and as it turns out, I only ran 2.85 miles rather than 3.1. Seems the course was a little short, but oh well; it was an even more about fun and smiles than it was about pace and distance.
The Child had corn starch all over herself, in her hair, and in her ears. Turns out it’s not so much the corn starch, but the corn starch mixed with sweat that was the problem. Let me put it like this, when I took my shower after the race, my chest was dyed the color of the Wicked Witch of the West. Nothing like the site of ones self with dark green nipples. After two showers, my scalp was still blue.
The event was incredibly well-organized and fun. The staff and volunteers were high energy. The crowd was fun and the venue was safe. Best of all, the race pictures were free for download. Would I do another color run? Probably not, unless The Child does.
Post Script: As the day progressed, The Child became warm and started to complain of a sore throat. She has a bug.