Monday, November 26, 2007

Apple pie and HDTV

So, what do apple pie and HDTV have to do with running? Well, let me tell ya. On Turkey Day, we headed to Rapid City for the annual Turkey Trot 5K followed by a gourmet meal at the Golden Corral (don't laugh, it's cheaper and easier than cooking it yourself and then having a buttload of leftovers). If y'all remember, I just set a new 5K PR last month and went sub-20 for the first time in the process. With the memories of how painful that effort was still fresh in my mind, I had absolutely no intention of pushing it that hard again at the Turkey Trot. My number one goal for this race was to win one of the 300 pies they raffle off following the race. This race does not have awards or keep official times; they just give away pies. I was actually so unconcerned about my race time that I ran 4 miles around the neighborhood before we left for Rapid City.

We drove down to Rapid after my morning run and arrived about 20 minutes before the race started. I paid my $5 fee, which got my name in the hat for the pie raffle, and set out for a warmup jog. It became apparent during this warmup jog that I was going to have to make a visit to the portajohn before the race started. Of course, by the time I got back to where they were located, there was quite a line and not a lot of time. I really didn't have any choice but to wait, because if I didn't then something ugly was going to happen during the race. Finally, about a minute before race time, I got into a portajohn and conducted my transaction as quickly as possible. Even so, I emerged to find that I was 40 seconds late for the race start. This is the kind of scenario that haunts my dreams before nearly every marathon I run, but this time I honestly didn't give a damn. I took off running, hit the start button on my watch when I crossed the start line, and set about passing the hundreds of walkers and slower runners in front of me. I spent the entire first half of the race running around people, bobbing and weaving and trying to find a gap that I could shoot through. Even so, my split time at the halfway point was decent (10:41). I was feeling pretty good at that point and had finally passed enough people that I could actually run a solid pace, so I decided to kick it up a little in the second half, just for the hell of it. I would pick someone in front of me and focus on them until they were behind me, then would seek out my next victim. Much to my surprise, I ran the second half in 9:49 and my overall time was 20:30 (according to my watch). I could have easily gone sub-20 again if I had pushed it the whole way and started ahead of the mass of humanity instead of 40 seconds behind it.

Anyhow, the race was actually just a prelude to the real reason I was there: to win a pie. Like I said, they had 300 of em to give out and I'm guessing there were at least 500 people there, so the odds were good, but certainly not guaranteed. I should mention that it was pretty cold that morning; temps were probably in the low 20s. I had built up a good sweat during the race and was actually kind of hot right afterwards, but 45 minutes or so of standing around changed that pretty quickly. As name after name was pulled out of the box, I could feel my toes getting more and more numb. I briefly considered whether a chance at a pie was worth hypothermia and/or frostbite, but quickly dispelled any thoughts of leaving early. Finally, approximately 250 pies into it, my name was called. I picked an apple pie and made a beeline for our vehicle so I could thaw out my appendages. Was it worth it? Hell yeah, it was.

So, that's how apple pie relates to running, now on to HDTV. Okay, honestly it doesn't relate to running, I'm just excited because I finally have one. As everyone in the free world knows, the big box stores have some insane deals the day after Thanksgiving. Well, this year Best Buy was offering a 42 inch plasma TV with 3 years no interest financing. To my surprise, my wife was almost convincing me of it as much as I thought I would have to convince her (does that make sense?). And, to tell the truth, she did the legwork to get the thing. You see, each Best Buy only gets like 15 of these things and in order to get one you have to be there at 3 AM to get a ticket, which allows you to come back when the store actually opens to pick up your TV. But, it's not quite that easy. In order to get a ticket, you have to get in line, which as my wife discovered begins forming Thursday evening. I want to go on record as saying that I DID NOT pressure or encourage her to spend a cold night outside of Best Buy just for a stupid TV, but, ever the trooper, she did it anyway (also for the record, I would have done it myself, but I was back at home watching the wife had already planned on being up most of the night getting our Christmas shopping done elsewhere in Rapid). So, long story short, we have a brand spankin new TV and all I can think about now is how badly I want to skip work so I can stay home and watch football in HD. It's like I'm a kid again, faking sick so I can stay home from school and play Nintendo (hope my mom doesn't read this).

Oh yeah, I ran 71.7 miles last week, my second highest total ever and only 3/10 of a mile short of my record, which I plan on breaking this week. That is, if I can peel my ass from in front of the TV long enough to actually run....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Winter has arrived

If you were in one of those pools where a bunch of people put in some cash and try to predict the date of the first measurable snowfall and you picked November 20, you probably got laughed at. Well, who's laughing now? Not me because A) I wasn't in one of those pools and B) I don't particularly care for snow. But, I live in South Dakota, so I'm gonna get it whether I like it or not.

So, yeah, I woke up this morning to a couple of inches of fresh snow and it was still coming down pretty good. Fortunately, the wind was minimal, so after I bundled up (wearing my running tights and facemask for the first time this fall) running was actually pretty comfortable. I was most concerned about the footing on the unplowed streets and unshoveled sidewalks, but to start out it wasn't bad. The further I went though, the worse it got because it was getting warmer and the snow was piling up, which resulted in a slushy, wet mess that is more tiring to run through than it's worth. So, although the plan called for 12 miles, I cut it short at 10. I actually wouldn't mind running in this kind of weather at all.....if I had someone on an ATV with a snowplow to clear a path for me as I went. If anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas, keep that in mind.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Well, it's been a hell of a weekend and very little of it has to do with running, but you're gonna hear about it anyhow, dammit! First off, as I mentioned in my last post, I took off at the buttcrack of dawn (actually a couple of hours before the buttcrack) to go hunting with some guys from work. We did a lot of walking with no success until, finally, late in the afternoon we spotted a group of mule deer that I was able to sneak (I'm sneaky like a fox) to within a couple hundred yards of. Three shots later (give me a break, it was a long way and they started running after the first one) my buck tag was filled. I came home with a nice 4-point muley, my first South Dakota buck. For the guys out there, he had a 23 inch spread (only a hunter would understand that, just like only a runner would understand that my VO2max is 50).

While I was traipsing around the South Dakota countryside in search of deer, the Montana Grizzlies were putting a good old fashioned beatdown on the Montana St. BobKittens. It was a game for awhile, but the Griz racked up three fourth quarter TDs on their way to a 41-20 win and a perfect 11-0 regular season. They've now won 16 straight Big Sky Conference games, have won 10 straight Big Sky championships and will be going to the playoffs for the 15th straight year (an NCAA record). Their first round opponent is the Wofford Terriers. Come on, really, Grizzlies vs. Terriers? That doesn't even SOUND like a good game.

And, last but not least, the team that causes me more grief than any other, the Seahawks, got some vengeance from the Bears with a 30-23 win today. Coach Holmgren said last week that he was sick and tired of the running game sucking ass (okay, those are my words, but close enough) so he was going to let Hasselbeck sling it. He wasn't lying and Matt lit it up against the Bears.

Oh yeah, and I had a kickass 10 mile run this morning with the last 2 miles at or below my Boston qualifying pace. Sweet.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I love the smell of a 20-miler in the morning

Well, I've been slacking on posting again but, really, not a hell of a lot has happened. I run, I go to work, I come home, I sleep. Repeat. With no real goal races on the horizon, there's not much for me to obssess about. In any case, running has been going fairly well as I've posted 70 mile weeks for the last couple. I had intended on hitting 74 this week, which would break my personal weekly high by 2 miles, but other endeavors are going to get in the way.

You see, I like to hunt. Don't ask me why, because the whole thing seems kind of ridiculous when you really think about it, but then again, so does running. I guess I have a natural affinity for ridiculous pasttimes. I like to fish too, which would also fit into that category. Back to my point though, I like to hunt and this year I scored a highly coveted Any Deer tag for the Slim Buttes area of northwestern South Dakota. This is a hard tag to get (South Dakota awards tags on a lottery system and a lot of hunters throw their name in the hat for this one) so I don't want to waste the tag, or the $45 I spent for it.

Here's where my ridiculous pasttimes start to butt heads. The Slim Buttes are 80 miles from my house, so with driving time and time spent wandering around trying simultaneously to find a deer to shoot and not get shot by another idiot trying to find a deer to shoot, it's a time-consuming affair. I skipped out on 6 miler this past Sunday to drive up there and hunt, with nothing to show for it. This coming Saturday, I had a 20 miler on the schedule and was fully planning on running it and avoiding the Buttes until the other hunters had thinned out. But, some coworkers also have tags up there and are going on Saturday and asked if I would like to come along. I was immediately torn. Stay home and run or go with them and hunt? Ultimately, hunting won out as I just can't pass up an opportunity to avoid wasting money. We are leaving at the insanely early hour of 3:30 AM and will probably be gone until dark, which doesn't leave much room for running 20 miles.....nor will I probably have the energy after a day of hopefully dragging a huge buck out of the South Dakota boonies.

So, obviously my running schedule was going to take a hit. Looking back at my last several weeks of running, I decided that a cut-back week wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for me, so I decided that if I could get in at least 15 miles before work today (Friday), I would be happy with a 55 mile week. Secretly though, in my twisted little brain, I wanted to bag that 20 miler almost as bad as I want to bag a trophy buck. So, I made every arrangement to run 20 this morning: I brought gels with me, I got up a half hour earlier and I thought about 20 the entire time I was running. Generally, when I run in the pre-dawn darkness, I don't have the desire to go more than 12-14 body just does not have enough energy that early in the morning. Today was different though. At mile 10, I was starting to drag a little and was having a hard time wrapping my mind around another 10 miles. But, by mile 14 I was feeling great and by mile 16 (just when the sun was really starting to shed some light on the world) I was flying. The last 5 miles were my fastest even though I wasn't conciously pushing the pace any harder than I had for the first 15. It was a great feeling and ended up being one of the easiest 20 milers I can remember.

So, I bagged the 20 miler (and a 60 mile week). Now for that trophy buck....

Monday, November 5, 2007

And on the 21st day I rested

Without really intending to, I just completed a 20 day stretch of running every single day, twice on a few days. This finally dawned on me yesterday when I actually looked at my training schedule and saw that the last rest day was a few weeks back and the next one was still a couple of weeks away. It seemed like 40+ days in a row might be a little excessive, so I decided to take yesterday off. The thing is, I was actually more sore yesterday than I am on a normal day when I run....I don't know if my legs were in shock that I wasn't abusing them some more, or if it was just the 20 days of running catching up a little bit. All in all, 20 days in a row isn't really all that profound of a feat, I know several people who have gone months or even years (and I will soon be one of them), but it is, for now, a personal record.

The thing is, all that running didn't seem to slow me down any. Smack dab in the middle of that streak was my first ever sub-20 5K and at the end of it was an 18 miler on Saturday where I absolutely, positively could not force myself to run slow. For long runs, I would prefer to go at an easy 8:30-8:40 min/mile pace to save my legs some. But on Saturday, I was consistently reeling off miles under 8:15. I kept on trying to force myself to slow down, but as soon as I stopped thinking about it, the pace went right back up. I actually stopped after five miles and forced myself to walk for 30 seconds, hoping that I could get all the switches and gears reset and slow down, but it didn't work. I had a few slower miles on the hilly portions of my route, but ended up running the whole thing about 30 seconds faster per mile than I wanted to. With two miles left, I said to hell with it and cranked out a couple of sub-8:00 miles just to get done. So, I ended up with the fastest 18 miles I've ever run outside of a marathon. Not sure what that means, if anything, but I'll take it as a good thing for now. And, even after that, I still felt good and ended up hiking around in the woods for three hours that afternoon in a feeble attempt to kill a deer.

Maybe I couldn't slow down on that 18 miler because I was so pumped up from watching the Olympic Trials Men's Marathon that morning. Most people would think it crazy to wake up at 5:30 AM on a Saturday morning to watch some guys run laps around Central Park. That may be true, and if it is, then I guess I'm crazy. I was pulling for Ryan Hall and he flat out kicked ass. He didn't even look like he broke a sweat and ended up winning by a couple of minutes and breaking the OT Marathon record in the process. Freakin amazing. I would be ecstatic if I could run one 4:32 mile and he was running that pace toward the end of the marathon. I'm looking forward to the Olympics in August. An American hasn't won gold there since.....well, hell, I don't know when, but it's been a long time. Ryan Hall is probably our best shot in the near future.

As exciting as Hall's dominating performance was, it was countered by the sudden death of one his close friends and another elite marathoner, Ryan Shay. Shay collapsed just 5 miles into the marathon on Saturday and was given CPR immediately and transported to the hospital by ambulance, but was declared dead on arrival. Apparently, he had an oversized heart and early indications are that he had a sudden heart attack. You occasionally hear stories about marathoners dying in a race, but they are almost always about older, slower runners and often involve heat and/or dehydration. Shay was only 29 and definitely wasn't slow, nor was it hot in New York on Saturday, which makes his death even more shocking. Can you even imagine how Ryan Hall must have felt? One minute, he's on top of the world after crushing a field full of America's best marathoners, the next he hears that one of his best friends just died. Crazy...