Running for It, Week 23: In which everything goes well and I unsurprisingly still complain

A couple of weeks ago, I hit the 14-mile mark, finally surpassing the distance I covered in the half-marathon. In that week’s blog post, I triumphantly declared that I had hit the halfway point in my marathon training. And I stood back and basked in the imagined glory that I imagined was justly mine to imagine.

Here’s the thing: apparently I do not know how to count, because that was week seven of an 18-week training regimen. For those of you playing at home, just so you know, seven is not halfway to 18. (I know some of my readers are from Arkansas, so I thought I’d better clarify.)

I just finished week 9, however, so now I can officially make my triumphal declaration that I am halfway there. Except that I’m not really in a mood to do so, for this reason: You mean to tell me that I’m only halfway done with marathon training?

Seriously, shouldn’t I be done with this stuff by now? All the sweat-soaked runs before work, rising at 5 a.m. on Saturdays for long runs, the obligatory blog posts that I have to write now because I promised I would despite the fact that I don’t really feel like it and nobody reads them anyway… enough, already! Can’t we just do this thing and get it over with?

A friend of mine told me the other day that I was probably ready for the marathon, that if you can run 13.1 miles, you can run 26.2. Is that even true? To be fair, I have heard that before, or at least something along those lines. I’ve done 15 miles, and that went pretty well. Could I do another 11ish without the training to get me there? Maybe, though I can’t imagine it would be pleasant. And I suppose I could take that line of thinking to its logical extreme: If the reasoning goes that if you can get halfway there, you can go the rest of the way… then clearly if I can run 6.55 miles, then I can run 13.1, then I can run 26.2. And if I can run 3.275 miles, then I can run 6.55, which means I can run 13.1 and therefore 26.2. And if I can run 1.6375 miles… well, you get the idea. Point is, I guess I better keep working.

All this to say, I’m starting to get a little tired of the training. It feels like it has gone on forever. Doesn’t it seem like I should be in Chicago by now? I wish I were. Training runs on the lakefront have got to be more enjoyable than these miserable slogs through the crippling heat of Kansas City. That said, this week did go pretty well. My four-seven-four midweek runs were almost fun, despite the sweat, and my 13.1-mile long run was almost–almost–approaching pleasant.

The best part of running a half-marathon on Saturday was noting that at the end of it, I felt pretty good. No excessive soreness and whatnot. My quads weren’t crying out for relief. Contrast that with my performance two months ago at Hospital Hill, after which I was basically wishing I was dead (which isn’t that big a deal, really, since I wish that several times a day). Anyway, it’s clear that I’m making progress. I’m a better runner than I was two months ago, and nine weeks from now, when I’m pushing along in a field of 44,999 other runners toward a finish line 26.2 miles distant, I’ll be an even better athlete than I am now.

Did you see that? I just referred to myself as an athlete, which sounds wicked awesome and may be the first time in history anyone has ever said such a thing about Price Horn. Of course, since I’m the one saying it, maybe I should not get the big head about it. After all, I’ve got nine more weeks to prove that I am a miserable failure.

(This is not, by the way, the first time in history that anyone has referred to me as a “miserable failure.” Nor will it be the last.)

Running for It, Week 22: In which I wait for the other (running) shoe to drop

Okay, I’m clearly doing something wrong. How do I come to this conclusion? It’s not that difficult. For one thing, I’m just about always doing something wrong. It is, quite simply, my nature.

But the main reason I am all but certain that I’m screwing something up is that despite the crippling, debilitating heat and humidity, despite my post-vacation lethargy and depression, and despite the fact that I ran farther this week than I have ever run in a single week before… it went really well. So well, in fact, that I fully expect something to go horribly wrong during next week’s runs. (Maybe I will be hit by a meteorite, or my leg-bones will spontaneously shatter into dust for no good reason? Frankly, that’s the best-case scenario.)

That’s not to say it was pleasant, really. I know I’ve been totally whaling on this Zombie Horse, but can I just say–for the eight-zillionth time–that running in the summer absolutely sucks? It’s not enjoyable by any stretch of the imagination, unless you count the insane, exhausted relief I feel when I’m done. (I myself do not). These midweek runs–shortish though they may be at four, seven, and another four miles–are exercises in sheer misery. Every breath is a labor, every stride like pushing through thick, damp cloth. I know you’re supposed to hold your head high and watch the horizon as you run, but more often than not I find myself plodding through every step, eyes focused on the asphalt at my feet as though I’m not worthy to even attempt this monumental task. Hubris, it is! Man was not meant to run such distances! 

All that said, I don’t really have much to complain about. Yes, it was hot, but I had good running times, right at the pace I’m hoping for. And that 15-miler on Saturday? I can’t even process how well it went. Yeah, I was tired at the end of it, as you might expect, but I wasn’t just drained of energy and unable to walk. I actually think I might’ve been able to squeeze another mile or two out of it. (I didn’t try such a thing, though. I may be a weirdo, but I’m not stupid. Well, actually…)

I think the reason it went so according-to-plan is that I finally heeded the advice of Hal Higdon in regards to walking breaks. He’s all for them, urging his runners to walk through aid stations (or, in training runs, stopping every mile or so to take a drink and walk for a minute or so). What I’ve done in the past is run for as long as I possibly could, only falling into a walking break towards the end when I was too tired to go any further. My last couple of miles would always be so slow that it would drag my overall pace down. So, I thought: why not actually try it the way you’re supposed to do it?

And that’s what I did: At every mile marker (provided by my phone’s Runkeeper app) I would slow to a walk for about a minute, take a drink from my Camelbak, and once in a while have a few bites of dried fruit. And what do you know… even with the walking breaks, I had better time for my long run than I’ve had since Hospital Hill. Why, it seems that Mr. Higdon knows what he’s talking about, by gum! I was just sailing through those 15 miles, despite the sweat, despite a brief rainshower. It felt fantastic.

Probably around mile 13 or so is when I suspected that I had to be doing something wrong. Because not only did I do 15 miles–the farthest I have ever run at one time ever–but I did so without stopping to take a dump. Not even once.

Yeah. I’m scared, too.

Running for It, Weeks 20 and 21: In which I am kind of all over the place

Yes, I am cramming two weeks’ worth of running news into one post. Why? Because I aim to disappoint, and brother, I disappoint in spades.

We just got back from a week’s vacation in Colorado (the end of week 20 and the vast majority of week 21), so I think you should cut me a tiny bit of slack for not updating the whole four of you who read this thing in a more timely fashion. The last thing I wanted to do was to waste valuable vacation time typing. And who could blame me? We were deep in the Rockies, staying in a fantastic log home with a fantasticker view of Lake Dillon and the mountains beyond. With that vying for my attention, obligatory blog posts kind of lose their allure, you know?

But that’s not to say that I didn’t keep up with my running routine. Because I did. (Mostly.) Week 20 went just fine, despite the insane heat that has afflicted the Midwest for the last several weeks, but I had so many other things on my mind–getting ready to leave, finishing everything up at work, actively hating life, etc.–that frankly, the details of that running week escape me. I mean, I vaguely recall a six-mile midweek run that went pretty well. It was a “pace” run: that is, one in which I’m actually supposed to run at the pace I want to run in the marathon. According to maestro Higdon, I’m not supposed to run that fast every time. In fact, for long runs I’m actually supposed to go 45-90 seconds a mile slower than that pace.

When the temps climb toward the three-digit mark, this is not, as you might imagine, a problem.

When, however, I was running by the cool, placid waters of Lake Dillon, I had to force myself to slow down. That’s right, I tried to keep to my training regimen as much as possible, despite the fact that I was on vacation and was therefore loathe to attempt anything that smacked of work. But it hardly seemed like work at all, really. Summit County, Colorado has nicely paved running paths that, um… run… through the whole county, around the bases of mountains, through city streets and fragrant stands of pine, and around the lake. A few hills here and there, as you might expect, but generally fairly even and pretty flat. After the hills and heat and humidity of Kansas City, it was a clichéd breath of clichéd air. (Even better: there were bathrooms along the route! And you better believe I used them. Oh, did I use them.)

But I didn’t want to overdo it; after all, even though the path was easy, I was still at almost 9,000 feet above sea level, and I had only been there for about a day. (I never really noticed any problems with the thinner air–I am, of course, an astonishing physical specimen–though other people in our party had a headache here and there.) And so, even though I slowed myself down, it was a great run, one that made me want to move to Colorado for training full-time.

That is, until I tried a seven-mile run in the middle of the next week. It went, shall we say, poorly. The grown-ups in the party decided to check out the Cataract Lake Trail, which we had heard was a nice, scenic trail that was advertised–via the Internet!–as being good for running. I had never really done a trail run before, but I felt like I was up to it. It was a 2.4-mile loop, so I thought I’d run it three times and get my seven miles in, no problem.

Then we actually started running it. To be fair, it is a great path for running, as long as you don’t mind the following:

  • a dirt path less than a foot wide, surrounded by a waist-high thicket
  • getting behind walkers who cannot let you pass them because they are on a dirt path less than a foot wide, surrounded by a waist-high thicket
  • fallen trees that you have to either climb over or crawl under
  • steep, rocky hills
  • mud
  • bees
  • snakes (yes, I almost stepped on a quick, slithery snake and it nearly scared the crap out of me, though to be fair when I’m running it doesn’t usually take much to get crap out of me)
  • tears

So after one loop of this thing I decided: “Never again, sir.” So I just ended up running down the dirt road a few miles and then coming back. The first couple of miles were wicked easy, which gave me some confidence, but then I realized the reason it was so easy: it was all downhill. When I turned around to go back, it would all be uphill, and wicked steep to boot. So the last couple of miles of that run were distinctly unpleasant. I had to take numerous walking breaks just to finish it. Disheartening.

I skipped the rest of my short runs that week. Come on, man… that seven-mile trail run just took it out of me, and I was on vacation! Don’t make me explain to you how vacation works.

Plus, I was saving myself for the weekend, in which I would face a daunting challenge: a 14-mile run–the longest I had ever attempted–after driving for what seemed like weeks through the flat, dry, hot wastelands of Kansas. We finally pulled into the garage at 4:30 Saturday morning.

Note: I normally do my long runs on Saturdays.

Another note: I did not do my long run on that particular Saturday. No energy, no sleep, and by the time I finally rousted myself out of bed, it was already pushing 100 degrees outside. No thanks! So I pushed it off until Sunday (today!) to give myself plenty of time to rest up.

Was it enough? Probably not. 14 miles is a long way to run, especially when it’s miserably hot and muggy outside. I got up wicked early to try to get it in before the heat of the day arrived to oppress and cower all under its influence, but even then… as soon as I stepped outside, it was like stepping into a city-sized steam room. Undaunted, I started running. And you know? It wasn’t all that bad. I tried out a new (new to me, anyway) running path in a park a couple of miles from my house. And I gotta say… not too shabby. It’s not all that long, so I have to loop it a bunch of times to get my distance in, but it’s nicely paved, quiet, pretty, and there are even bathrooms and water fountains along the route! (And you better believe I used them. Oh, did I use them.)

So I got my fourteen-miler done. Done and done. Yes, I was pretty beat at the end of it, even with incorporating some walking breaks, and I was so disgustingly drenched with disgusting sweat that I looked like I had run through a fire hose–a fire hose that sprays sweat. (If your house is on fire and they put it out with sweat, you might as well move elsewhere. You can never rebuild. That property will reek forever of B.O.)

Nonetheless, I did it. 14 long, arduous miles. I’m past the halfway point for the marathon now. I still have a long way to go, sure–I gotta do 15 miles next weekend, and my workweek runs just bumped up, as well–but I think I can do this. Chicago will be flatter, and cooler (probably), and there will be thousands of people of cheering me on. I can do this.

As long as they don’t have sweat-spraying fire hoses in Chicago. They don’t, do they? It doesn’t seem like something they would advertise.

Running for It, Week 19: In which I suck

English is an awesome language. It’s confusing, sure, and it doesn’t make much sense because it’s cobbled together from multitudinous influences, and its grammatical rules and pronunciation are so complex and full of ridiculous exceptions that its a wonder anyone speaks it at all. Wait, I guess English maybe isn’t so awesome as a language? For example, there are no words–not one!–in this language to effectively describe the sheer horror of my long run last Saturday.

I could say it was horrific, but that would fail to capture how terrifyingly awful it was. It was, hands down, the worst run I have ever undertaken since I started doing this thing. It was hot. It was muggy. My clothes were so drenched with sweat that I looked like I had jumped into a pool. A pool of sweat. And at some point, I’m pretty sure I forgot how to run. Seriously, I think the basics of bipedal locomotion completely escaped me around mile 8. I’m not even sure how I got home. Magic, probably?

I could say it was embarrassing, but it wouldn’t approach the sheer heights of humiliation I was experiencing. It was like I told my body, “Hey, we gonna do this thing today!” and my body replied, “No, sir, we are not. Not today.” Towards the end of the run, I had to keep taking walking breaks, and yes, right toward the end I had to go to the bathroom when there was–of course–no bathroom. (I actually briefly considered either going in my britches or walking up to a stranger’s house and begging to use their facilities.) I have figured out a formula for this:

For every long run of n miles, where n>5, Price will experience an irresistible urge to defecate at mile (n-1), if available bathrooms=0.

I could say it was puzzling, but that word doesn’t really express the magnitude of the confusion I felt throughout the run. What the #*@% is happening out here? Why aren’t my legs working? Why am I so tired? How could I have done 11 miles last weekend with no problem, and adding one more mile to it suddenly makes it impossible? I realize that I was doing a few things differently, but I can’t imagine they would account for all the problems I was having. For instance, I was trying out a new Camelbak that I just got last week, but it only added two or three pounds, at the most. I also was using a new interactive running app on my phone, one that would track my distance and give audible alerts about my pace and distance and such. Something was all wonky with it or my phone or something, because the podcasts I was listening to kept stopping and starting and jumping around. I think I finally figured out what was causing the problem, but I had to keep stopping to futz with it (without pausing my workout, so that screwed up my time and my momentum a little), and a couple of times the app crashed and I had to stop to restart it. (Note: probably not going to use that app again.) Still, those technological issues can’t account for all my issues (and oh, do I have issues).

I could say it was disheartening, but that would barely scratch the surface of how depressed I was when it was all said and done. I felt like a failure. It took me longer to run 12 miles on Saturday than it took me to run 13.1 miles back at the beginning of June. I ran almost two minutes a mile slower than I did that day. I know, I know, some of that can be accounted for by that screwy app, but still… way too slow. It made me think that I was making a huge mistake in thinking I could do this thing. If I can’t do 12 miles without collapsing like a wee baby, how on earth am I supposed to do 26? Then again, a flat course in Chicago in October is a whole different animal than a hilly course in Kansas City in July. Still, though… not the high point of my weekend.

At best, I hope I can just say that it was a fluke, but even then English fails me because while I could be saying that the run was a one-time deal that was a unique combination of multiple miserable factors that came together to collectively give me a boot to the head, the vagaries of my native tongue could also mean that my long run was some kind of parasitic intestinal flatworm.

Now that I think about it, that makes about at much sense as anything else I’ve written here today. Or ever.

Running for It, Week 18: In which I excrete copious quantities of sweat (among other things)

Here’s the thing: I knew going into this that the heart of my marathon training would be taking place in the middle of the summer.

Here is another thing: summer is hot.

Kansas City was hit with a mini heat wave this past week, with temperatures soaring to around 100 degrees (atypical for late June ’round these parts). And muggy… I’m pretty sure the humidity was around 648 percent (I may be rounding up a little). Long story short, it was a remarkably unpleasant week to be training for a marathon, even though I was running in the early morning when it was still only, like, 85 degrees, which seemed fairly arctic considering how miserable it would get in the late afternoon.

That said, I am generally not regretting switching to that slightly more aggressive training plan. I want to get home after a run and feel like I’ve done something. And oh, I did something, brother. I sweated. A lot. Even on the comparatively short and easy 3-milers that I do a couple of times a week, it was like running through clam chowder outside. On Thursday in particular, I was running my same-ol’, same-ol’ route and thought I would never get to the end of it. Even after I got home and showered and dressed for work and whatnot, I think I kept sweating for approximately a fortnight (again, I may be rounding up). And if June is like this, what can I expect from August?!

And so it was that I was kind of dreading my 11-mile long run (pushed off to Sunday instead of Saturday, since I spent all of Friday getting eaten alive by mosquitoes at our church’s fireworks tent, then got home in the heat of the day and was in no mood to add to my misery). But all in all, it went fine. I planned multiple loops that ran me back by the house several times, where I had cold water and some dried fruit waiting on the front step. It did the trick, and I completed the run without a hitch, despite my legs being kind of sore from a slightly 0ver-intense workout on my cross-training day. And by “kind of sore,” I mean “sore enough that I had a little trouble walking.” And by “a little trouble,” I mean…oh, forget it. You get the picture. But anyway, a few miles of running got my leg muscles all loose and limber-like, so no problem there. But, despite being drenched in my own perspiration, it felt good to be back in the game, doing double-digits again.

Well, it felt good for most of the run. I’ve dealt with this before, but I’ll say it again: I have got to get my gastrointestinal system on a better schedule. Not once, but twice this week I have spent the last mile of a long run with a package in the staging area, ready to be delivered. Aching to be delivered. If there were some way I could alter my delivery schedule so that the package could be dropped off the night before, or even in the morning just prior to a run, it would be so awesome.

(Just so you know, the previous paragraph was about dropping a deuce. You… probably figured that out already?)

Running for It, Week 17: In which I get what I asked for

So you’re bored with your training regimen, are ya? Tired of that same-ol’, same-ol’ routine, eh? Short runs every morning, and they all go about the same, and you feel like you need to pushed just a little bit harder, faced with just a little more challenge.

Well.

So you switch training programs, bumping up to a more aggressive plan. It’s not a huge change, but it does ramp your midweek run up from three miles to five, and that feels pretty good. Five miles is just a little more than three, but at least you feel like you’re doing something, and not just going through the motions. (You know, the motions… of running… I guess?)

So you get through a week of training, a week that is technically only slightly harder than your original training schedule called for, but still. And sure, the first Saturday long run of the new training regimen is a relatively easy six-miler, but you nonetheless get up on that Saturday, ready to pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself on how awesome you are because let’s be honest, Hal Higdon has thrown everything he’s got at you, and you took it like pro.

And then you start this east Saturday six-mile run, and about a mile in, it starts to rain. A couple of drops at first, then a steady sprinkle, and you think, “Okay, this isn’t so bad, it’ll pass,” and that’s when the skies open up. You wouldn’t call it a torrential downpour, really, but it is nonetheless a hard, driving, angry rain, made all the worse by the fact that you have to run into the wind for a solid three miles. And not just a light breeze, either: it’s a fierce, insistent wind that blows stinging rain drops directly into your face. Within a few minutes, you’re soaked to the bone. Cars drive past you, and their occupants are either laughing at your misery or puzzled as to why anyone in their right mind would willingly subject themselves to this punishment.

And then it starts raining harder.

So much harder that your wife gets worried about you and starts driving around looking for you, afraid you might be dead on the side of the road, struck by lightning or perhaps just so weighed down by soaked clothes that you’re lying face-down in a ditch unable to move. She finds you but you brusquely wave her off, because even though you are not enjoying this experience by any means, you actually find yourself getting some perverse kind of pleasure out of the whole thing. Maybe it’s because the very fact that you’re running in such horrendous conditions and not giving up means that you have what it takes to do this whole marathon thing, with the inner strength necessary to carry on through adversity when lesser men would have surrendered long ago. Or maybe you’re just looking forward to telling the story about how you ran through the worst rainstorm in the history of the Midwest and lived to tell about it (the story will, of course, grow in the telling).

And then you get home and it you realize, eh, it wasn’t so bad, and maybe you should just shut up about it, or better yet, whine about it on your blog.

NOTE: Every time in this post where it says “you,” you should read “me.” Because I was talking about myself, not you, really. Although I guess some of the sentences will sound grammatically suspect.

Running for It, Week 16: In which OMG YOU GUYS I AM LIKE SO BORED FOR REALZ

Meh.

I gotta do something different. This is boring.

A week of brief, three-mile runs topped off with a decent but dull seven-mile run on Saturday does not make for an interesting week. I know, I know, it slowly bumps up the mileage over the 18 weeks of the program. It’s a rational, sound approach.

But then, when have the words “rational” and “sound” ever applied to me?

I’m wondering if I chose the wrong training program. I’m using Hal Higdon’s “Novice 1” program, but now I’m thinking that I should bump it up to Novice 2. There’s not a huge difference between the two, but at least Novice 2 ramps up a little more aggressively.

That’s right: I’m complaining that it’s not difficult enough.

So anyway, I’ve missed the first couple of weeks of that ever-so-slightly-more-advanced program, but as long as I jump in now, I think I’m getting in early enough that it’ll be a smooth transition. Probably. I mean, if I had been following this program I would have done eight- or nine-mile long runs instead of six or seven, and I missed a couple of midweek five-milers, but that’s about it.

Yeah, I think I’m gonna switch. I’m going to push myself harder than I really need to. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. Harder is better! I will intentionally make things more difficult, not just in my running life, but in my life in general! I will tell everyone exactly what I think without regard to tact or diplomacy! I will act on every urge, no matter how self-destructive or ill-advised!

There’s absolutely no way this can go wrong!

(If this were a hack sitcom, here would be a jump-cut to a shot of me in a full-body cast in a hospital room. Canned laughter.)

Running for It, Week 15: In which I take a huge step backwards

It’s like I just finished the eighth grade, where I was on top of the world, the junior-high-school equivalent to a senior, and I’m all psyched and kind of nervous about moving on to high school, but hey, it’s still high school, just four short years from graduation and college and success in the great big world but then the principal walks up to you on the first day of ninth grade and says, “Look, we’ve got a new plan for you: you’ll still graduate, but first we’re going to knock you back down to kindergarten and you’ll have to work your way back up.”

That awkward run-on sentence is a terrible summary of last week, but by God it’s close enough: last week I began my marathon training by basically starting over from scratch, like I hadn’t spent the last 14 weeks steadily ramping up to complete one of the hardest physical tasks I’ve ever had to accomplish.

(Also, I was never at the top of the world when I was in the actual eighth grade.)

To be fair, I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do. The marathon is 18 weeks away, the marathon training plan is 18 weeks long. It’s not like I could just keep doing what I was doing and then just twiddle my thumbs for a couple of months, waiting for the marathon to happen. I may be relatively new to this running thing, but even I know that it doesn’t work that way.

So I started over, with a few three-mile runs and a Saturday “long run” of six miles. And let’s be honest: I don’t know that I would have been capable of much else this week. The half-marathon really took it out of me, and as I mentioned before, my quadriceps were horrifically sore. (The mere sight of a staircase was enough to fill me with sweaty dread.) That first three-miler on Tuesday was a bit of a slog, but I felt better on Wednesday and even better on Thursday, and by Saturday I felt like I was in the swing of things.

The training regimen builds in one day of cross-training (on Sunday) and two rest days (Monday and Friday). I have a confession to make… don’t tell Hal Higdon, whose training regimen I’m using, but I don’t like that. I don’t have time on Sunday for cross-training, and two days of rest during the week seems like overkill (I have to get up and do some sort of exercise on weekdays or I feel like crap the rest of the day.) I know, he’s the expert, but for the time being, I’m going to make Sunday a rest day, and then transfer the cross training to Monday and Friday.

Am I allowed to do that? Is it even legal? More importantly, is it a bad idea? Yes, I do have a history of having terrible ideas and then jumping right into them without pondering the consequences—for example, running a marathon—but look at the bright side. When I inevitably fail, I’ll post the news here for your reading enjoyment.

If I can’t be inspirational in victory, I can at least be entertaining in defeat.

Running for It, Week 14: In which success is achieved at a terrible cost

My quadriceps are trying to kill me.

Not that I blame them, really. I put them through 13.1 miles of prolonged torture yesterday, so it’s only just that I be made to pay for my heinous crimes against leg muscles.

Yep, I did it. 13.1 miles. The first hurdle in my year-long race to destroy myself has been cleared. And what a hurdle! I had heard that the Hospital Hill half-marathon is considered one of the most grueling courses in the country, but I told myself, “Come on, how bad could it possibly be?”

Oh… that bad.

Yeah, it was pretty rough. The course (see this elevation map) features three main hills. They all kind of look roughly similar, with the second maybe phoning it in a little. And to be honest, the first one–though it looks fairly daunting on the map–didn’t seem all that bad. I had started the race shooting for the 2:00 mark, so I was running with the 2:00 pace team. But after a mile or so, I felt like I could bump it up a little. Blame the excitement, the adrenaline, the idiocy, whatever… but I pulled ahead of them. Not far ahead, mind you. I didn’t want to overdo it. But for whatever reason, the first hill passed and I felt pretty good about it. The second hill wasn’t especially pleasant, but I got through it fine, as well. I was sure to walk through all the aid stations, and to drink something at every one, and I brought along some foul-tasting gel crud to properly stoke my running engines.

It had been in the mid-70s at the starting line, but ’round about mile 8, 8.5 or so I really started to notice the heat: mid-80s, with nary a cloud in the sky and a sun that was clearly in the mood to ruin everyone’s day. Some shady stretches helped, but the warmth was starting to make things unpleasant for everyone.

And then, around mile 10.5 or so, I just started losing it. I could feel my entire body screaming at me to, okay, knock it the heck off already, this isn’t funny anymore. As you can see from that elevation map link up yonder that the Broadway hill starts right about mile 10, where it continues, mercilessly, for like a mile and a half. The hill was not quite as steep as first one, I suppose, but it just seemed to go on forever. I was tired, and I was hot, and I felt like I had to pee. I was miserable and clearly flagging. It was right about then that I readjusted the “finish in under two hours” goal to “just finish this thing, for God’s sake.”

So, after the aid station at mile 10.5 (at which point the 2:00 pace team passed me and I cared not one whit), I walked for a few minutes. At first, it felt like giving up, but after a minute or so, I was like, “Man, I should have been doing this all along!” (Indeed, incorporating brief walking breaks into long runs is a valid strategy, and it’s one I intend to implement as I train for Chicago.) When I finally started running again, a little before the 11-mile mark, my legs were all, “Hey, what are you doing? We had a nice thing going there!” I was a little wobbly for a second, but I got back into my previous pace. I passed some folks handing out orange wedges, and when I jammed that thing in my mouth John-Locke-style,  it was like the magic of citrus kicked in and even though I was exhausted, something clicked in my brain and suddenly I knew I could do it. I was going to finish this thing.

The last couple of miles were mostly downhill (with one steep grade tossed in there to keep you from getting cocky), and by that time I could hear the loudspeakers at the finish line, and that was like a little shot of something-something to put a little bit more spring in my step. When I turned a corner and saw this big stainless-steel sculpture thing, which I knew was just a few hundred yards from the finish line, I was ecstatic. With the finish line in sight, I finally heard Shannon and Tom cheering for me, though I was too sweat-addled to be able to figure out where they were.

And so it was that I crossed the finish line. My final results:

  • 2:02:06
  • 918th out of 3170 total runners
  • 655th out of 1624 male runners
  • 73rd out of 205 male runners 40-44

Maybe it wasn’t two hours, but it was pretty darn close. To be honest, if I had it do all over again, I probably would have been a little less aggressive and maybe shot for 2:15 or even 2:30. Two hours is pretty aggressive for a first-timer at Hospital Hill, I think, but still… I was only two minutes over that! I think that was a pretty impressive showing for my first time.

Even more than hitting that two-hour mark, I wanted to finish in the upper half. I did that and then some. I actually finished in the top third overall (and was just shy of that in my division–why, oh, why did I waste those minutes walking?!), which is pretty friggin’ awesome for a dorky little short guy like me who is better known for being “that weird guy who reads comic books and talks about Star Trek all the time” than for anything, you know, athletic.

And so, I bask in the glory–briefly–and start working on the next hurdle: the Chicago Marathon. Today at church a friend of mine tried to encourage me with “You’re halfway there!” Well, no. I’m only like a third of the way there, really. I have to repeat yesterday’s experience two more times. Plus the 18 weeks of training that lead up to the marathon: 18 weeks running in the oppressive Missouri heat and humidity (I would have said “murderous Midwest mugginess” but that’s a little too precious). Geez, thinking about it that way brings me right down from that “runner’s high.” Way down.

Then again, my marathon training program starts tomorrow, with a day of rest. That’s right, I’m starting this next phase of my journey by doing a whole lot of nothing.

I hope that’s okay with my quadriceps.

Running for It, Week 13: In which I suddenly realize how the calendar works

The tapering continues apace, as I slowly ease back on my distances to prepare for next weekend’s Hospital Hill half-marathon. And so I–wait a minute, that’s next weekend?! I–I didn’t realize it was so close. This time next week, it’ll be over. Over. The culmination of 14 weeks of training, a season spent pushing myself to do something harder than I’ve ever done before, and it’s less than a week away. Do you realize what this means?

I’m not even halfway there.

I mean, sure, you could kind of look at the half-marathon as the midpoint of my travails. It’s got the word “half” built right in! But that’s not really how it works. Well, it could’ve worked that way if I had planned this thing out a little better, and picked a marathon that was a few months earlier in the year, such that my 13.1-mile run next Saturday would fit right into my training schedule for said marathon. But I didn’t do that; I just rashly registered for the first two running events that came to mind, and now I just gotta make it work.

To be fair, the training program for the Chicago Marathon starts literally the week after Hospital Hill, so it does kind of look like the timing works out perfectly. But look a little closer: that means that after next weekend I am basically starting completely over, from the beginning, like the last three months never even happened. Three-mile runs during the week, and so-called “long” runs of like six miles. That’s what I’m doing now, during these last couple of weeks when I’m taking it easy and barely even breaking a sweat. (Well, that’s not exactly true: I sweat all the time, even on easy runs, even when it’s like 40 degrees outside. I’m actually covered in sweat right now, simply from the exertion of tapping the keyboard. I’m a veritable perpetual motion perspiration factory. You could probably harness it for some kind of clean, plentiful, cheap, and odoriferous energy source.)

Anyway, all that to say, I’m looking forward to getting Hospital Hill behind me, but I expect the first couple of months of marathon training to be a little frustrating. Until I hit that 14-mile long run, I’m-a be all, “10 miles?! Please! I did this already! Come on! Make it interesting! Somehow! And who am I talking to, anyway?”

But perhaps I’m getting a little ahead of myself. All this whinging is predicated on the assumption that I don’t die at some point during the half-marathon. I’m not saying I expect such a thing to happen, but I can’t completely rule it out, you know? That would be just like me, too, to spend all this money on these running events, and then shuffle off this mortal coil without even finishing one of them. Pfft. Way to ruin everything, Imaginary Me!

Imaginary Me is such a jerk.

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