Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Runners 2: The Sequel!

The [morning after running a marathon], nothing puts the cherry on top of quads that feel like pulled pork BBQ like discovering that your shin started to bleed internally…I walk like I’m on tranquilizers, and my shin will keep me sidelined for no less than 3 weeks.  But do I regret anything?  No.  I just ran a marathon on a bum leg.  One day, when I’m out of this wheelchair and forget how traumatic this all was, I’m coming back for vengeance. 

     Those were my words not quite 11 months ago.  In less than 2 weeks from today, I’ll be attacking a second marathon, this time in Washington D.C.  I swore I wouldn’t train in the Houston summer again, and I broke that oath.  Won’t blame Rob this time, I was bound and determined to finish a marathon stronger than the disaster-filled San Antonio run, and Washington’s Marine Corps marathon appealed to me for a few reasons.  I know a slew of people in the area, mostly from college, which’ll ensure a few cheers and perhaps some cold Propels tossed my way.  It doesn’t hurt that a race course taking you through the D.C. Mall ensures you a few miles of blissful distraction from the fact that you’re running.  The flirtation became a done deal when Teddy called me up in June to let me know that (a) he and Junior were signing up and (b) registration had just opened and typically closed within 36 hours.  The thought of the humor ensured in my future if I helped force Ted into going through the training was a bigger influence than I should admit.  In any case, I registered and bought myself a dandy MCM running cap within minutes of hanging up.

     A major after-effect of the first marathon was a substantial rebound in the weight department.  Despite eating better than I had before the training began a year prior, I put on more weight than ever in my life within a few months.  A year of marathon training dropped 5 lbs; stopping threw on 20.  That was frustrating, to say the least, and this put me in a seemingly worse situation than before for training round 2.  This is a very upsetting lifestyle and makes about as much sense as taking up smoking as a weight control measure.  

When I kicked off the DC training in June, things were looking dim – I was struggling on 8 milers, I was shuffling along even slower than before (think of a city bus rolling on flat tires), and the Houston heat was slapping me down like I was an arcade game hedgehog.  Still, things started to turn around in a surprisingly short time.  One of the nice things about my newly purchased home is that it sits by a paved bayou hike & bike trail that runs doorstep to doorstep to my work (a shade under 9 miles*).  I’ve been biking it (~40 mins, less risk of getting crushed by cars than riding the actual streets) and it’s done wonders for strengthening my back and legs.  Thankfully for my coworkers, I have ready access to a shower.  As a bonus, the biking helps me get cardio without pounding my knees, taking off the pressure to do runs 4-5 times a week.  When your commute is your daily workout, it’s a beautiful way to recapture the time you would have spent hauling off to the gym, plus burning calories isn’t a bad tradeoff for saving gas money.  

So thanks to the bike regiment, I decided to cut the weekly runs down to three: two “commute runs” and one long one on Saturdays.  The 9 miles can be tough (especially after work with the sun still up) but doable; I leave my secondary bike and run home one day, then run in and take the bike home later in the week (using the primary bike in between).   Beats the pants off of getting up before 5 A.M. three or four times a week to wedge in a 4-5 mi run before work.  That was incredibly draining on me mentally between the lack of sleep and the hours it was robbing from my life.  Two commute runs aren’t a big deal at all, and this means I only have to wake up pre-dawn twice when you include the Saturday haul.  Plus, 9 miles is a third of a marathon, and that’s a nice thing to remind yourself of to keep the confidence up.  

Between fewer runs and the biking, I’ve enjoyed much stronger legs.  Every postseason, one or two NBA players will suit up for a game despite a moderate injury like a sprained ankle or swollen knee (of course, this player would not be named Peja), bringing about the following yearly quote: After an 82 game season, everyone’s banged up and playing with pain.  You just got to play through it and rest in the summer.  Ditto for a marathon: usually from the mid-point of training on, pain management is a part of every runner’s experience: you wake up with a stiff back and legs, you pop some aspirin to keep your knees quiet on the run, you lose toenails, (and if you’re lucky) you battle fun things like IT band inflammation and tendonitis.  Get a stress fracture or a MCL tear, and you’re out of the game.  This year, my PM has been absolutely minimal – I’m just over two weeks out and all I’ve got is a foot and knee that get sore post-run.  That’s fantastic!  For further comparison, see Ted; he got a cortisone shot in his increasingly bum knee a week ago.  And he’s still looking to do the race.

All of the things I learned last year have been a big help; once again, you’re not ready to do a marathon until you’ve done one – don’t fall for that “15 and you’ll be fine” load of (Mike?) malarky.  One new trick I’ve learned is, in the same vein as Vaseline, Immodium AD can be quite the friend.  Some emergency pit stops send a boy to the nearest grouping of trees, some aren’t that easy to deal with.  You can roll the dice on a McDonald’s being inside the rapidly shrinking red zone, or you can head things off at the pass with a couple pills.  

I’ve developed a fierce loyalty to the Adidas a3 collection of gigarides, megarides, and microrides and refuse to lace up anything else.  I’ve discovered I really prefer wearing those running caps that I’ve always thought were the dorkiest piece of apparel in sports.  In the spirit of NBC’s Heroes show, I’ve developed a superhuman ability to hear cars and bikers coming up from behind me at ranges of a quarter mile, even with the iPod on full blast.  

Being able to play the cars like Frogger is a key skill to hone in this training.  They’re out there to kill you, period.  You’ve got 4 populations out on the road/paths: the cars (aka flying missiles) out to run over everything, the bikers, the joggers, and the walkers.  The cars are simple enough to understand; they mistakenly believe they have 60/60/24/7 right of way when they almost never do, and they’re rarely aware of anything that isn’t a car, car radio, lane, or a traffic light.  Suburban mom on a phone in a Lexus RX?  Better stop, cause she won’t even glance or drop a single mph as she hooks the right turn despite your crossing signal.  

The bikers are nowhere near as deadly, and they come in two subgroups: the Lances and the Kermits.  The Lances aren’t hard to recognize, since they pour hundreds to thousands of dollars into their outfits and bikes as if they’re bound for Europe.  They can be a pain to deal with, since they’re the most obnoxious and entitled.  Lances treat each ride as if they were being stopwatched, won’t give friendly waves back since it would upset their aerodynamic posture, and expect you to dive out of their way if they’re coming up ringing their bell.  The Maverick Top Gun fly by is their calling card, and they get out and out PISSED if you force them to touch their brakes for any reason.  All that said, if a Lance sees another Lance with a flat, they’ll pull over in a heartbeat.  If a walker was on the ground shot in the chest, though…The Kermits are your more casual, upright cyclers.  Probably the happiest people on the road, since they’re getting a breeze and are relaxed.  Hard not to like the Kermits.

The walkers can be somewhat frustrating, as they’re typically the most oblivious and take up the most space, especially since they’re the most likely to be two- or three-across or wondering into the middle of the path.  Dog-walkers can add even more potential for trouble, since you never know what Astro is going to do.  On my bike commutes home, the afternoon stroll moms are far and away the most likely to shoot me a “how dare you” gawk when I yell up that I’m going to pass them on the left.  On the whole, they’re not too bad.  

In the end, we’re all hypocrites.  We curse the bikers while driving, we flip the cars off while jogging, we’re freaked out when the bikes zip by with no warning, we cut off cars while biking, we don’t always shout up a warning to joggers while biking, etc.  We’re hypocrites.  Oh well.  I just have to hope that karma doesn’t come swinging in the next two weeks before the marathon.  The law of averages would have to figure that I’m due for a Navigator to pulverize my knee into powder as I bike through the 610-feeder, but just let me nail D.C. first.

*8.85 according to my bike odometer



Blogger Rob said...

Immodium, ey? Interesting....

And what are these hats you speak of?

Sorry I'm not able to be in DC... I'm sure you'll nail it...

3:28 PM, October 18, 2006


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