Thursday usually means tempo runs on the track at Bally's gym: five miles of following the white line on the Road that Never Ends (tRtNE).
These days every run means a trip to the gym. I live in Phoenix, Arizona. When I arrived at Bally's it was 105 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Few persons can train effectively for distance in heat like that. It will be that way until October. I don't even try to deal with it.
People wonder how I do it — all that running on a 155-yard track. I've been doing it that way during warm weather for nearly five years. Physical training is largely a matter of mental discipline. Running indoors is, for me, a part of the discipline. I've gotten used to it. I even like it. It's that or no running at all.
Fifty-seven laps around tRtNE adds up to 5.02 miles. For me a good brisk pace is anything under 9:27 a mile, a simple thing to monitor with the wall timer, because it comes out to precisely six laps every five minutes.
Today my plan was to run a relaxed mile, or until I felt warmed up, then to run hard for as long as I could endure it.
At twelve laps I was 31 seconds ahead of pace — running too fast. Whenever that happens I know one of two things will happen. I'll either hold on bravely to the end, or I'll go down in flames. In either case it was going to hurt.
By 24 laps the suffering had begun. It was one of those days when I thought of nothing but the run every step of the way. Relax the hands and arms, don't slap the feet, straighten the back, open the mouth, forcibly eject more breath, forcibly inhale more breath, look straight ahead, not at the comely twenty-year-old girl stretching in the northwest corner.
The halfway mark is always psychologically meaningful, at any distance. It's like coming to the crest of a hill. It's at that point I suddenly become aware that for every lap I have run there is also one less lap to go: 29 down, 28 to go; 30 down, 27 to go. One lap run and the difference increases by two. Somehow it seems as though I'm gaining two laps for one every time around, though I know that I'm not really.
Unfortunately, when I'm conscious of the passing of each and every lap, it means I'm miserable.
My officially tested sub-maximum heart rate is 171 BPM. In tempo runs I try to maintain a heart rate between 145—150 BPM. Every time I looked at my heart rate monitor I saw readings in the 150s, never in the 140s. At lap 36 I let up and took one relatively easy lap, but my heart rate was still 150, so I picked it up again.
And so it went. By 48 laps I knew all I had to do was hang in there, but at fifty I took another easy one, with the same result: still gasping for air after shuffling along for a lap. If I was going to suffocate, I might as well go as fast as I can to get it over with. Somehow, I called up enough extra resources to sprint the last lap. Whew! I was whupped. It was a quality run, so noted with a Q in my log.
My total time was not extraordinary: a 9:10 pace, my fifth fastest five miles ever, of 82 recorded runs at that distance, but the fastest of 1999. Twice I have run it at a sub-9:00 pace. My HRM told me I averaged 151 BPM (88% MHR) and peaked at 159 (93% MHR). I rarely ever get it above 161 while running, except when I'm doing intervals and recovering completely between times, when I can occasionally pop it up to 164 for as much as a lap.
Tomorrow, Friday, is my weekly day for complete rest — no cross training, no walking, no nothing. Just the couch, a good book, and probably snacks I'll regret — but not too many, because I'm hoping to recover well enough to do a decent half marathon training run on Saturday afternoon.
In the next few reports I'll address problems of maintaining discipline while coping with the unexpected.
Saturday afternoon is normally my hardest workout of the week. I do my long run, follow it with some weight training, and sometimes even finish off with a swim.
Yesterday Real Life encroached upon my plans. I had an unusually busy day planned. One weighty obligation would occupy me all morning at our Kingdom Hall, then another starting at 4:00 PM, which I anticipated would take an hour or two. I would be within a few minutes of the gym, so I could dart over there at noon and be back by 4:00 and have time for a half marathon long run at least.
It was not to be. I became entangled in the morning affair beginning at 10:00 AM, and finally left the building at 10:40 PM. If I hadn't brought a PowerBar and a banana with me I wouldn't have eaten all day.
Fortunately, the business I was occupied with was utterly necessary and worthwhile. It was a painfully long day, but well-spent. It left me mentally exhausted, unable to do anything else at all of value upon returning home.
With a big zero in my running log for yesterday, I had a total of 26.55 miles for the week, instead of the 39 miles expected.
Because I arrived home hungry, I ate a full meal consisting of a salad, pasta, and carrots at 11:00 PM, which Suzy had waiting for me — nutritious, to be sure, but too much for that time of night.
Then I topped it off with a bolt of bourbon while we watched a sleazy movie Suzy had rented, thereby staying up until after 1:00 AM, knowing I had another too-busy day ahead today. Dumb. I should have scrapped the movie and gone to bed.
To some degree the flow of daily events is beyond our control. We are all subject to the foibles of time and unforeseen occurrence. But part of the discipline of physical training is learning to adjust to these circumstances, while continuing to progress. It is necessary to learn to fit running into our life, not to fit our life around running.
When I arose today at 4:58 AM to do some serious studying, sleep deprived, still digesting food, and with that edgy feeling that even one drink of hard alcohol can leave you with after a short night's sleep, I knew I'd failed to make the best choices last night, and that I would pay for these in reduced performance today. It was my own fault.
I had an event-filled Sunday morning, as I always do, but was free after 12:30 PM, when I headed to the gym. It was my determination to run the half marathon today that circumstances would not allow me to do yesterday — 149 laps on the Road that Never Ends. (It's technically 67 feet further than a half marathon, if the posted distance of a lap at Bally's is taken as correct.)
But it's not as simple as that, as anyone who trains regularly knows. You don't just head out and run that far without the right context. It's true that I had the rare advantage of two consecutive days of rest from running, but I was also tired, and my mind is not adjusted to running long on Sunday afternoons. To do so represents a change of habit, heaped upon my weary, distracted condition. Added to that was the disadvantage of not having hydrated properly this morning. I started under less than ideal conditions.
Getting out of phase has other consequences as well. I happen to be taking vacation this coming week. Tomorrow I will be home, and on Friday as well, but will be out of town from Tuesday through Thursday, indulging in pure folly — sightseeing in Las Vegas! It's not my choice of a way to have a good time, but Suzy got one of those freebie plane and hotel deals by listening to a timeshare pitch and wanted to go. She's generously indulgent of my running fantasies, so I owe her the same consideration in return. I don't know what the week will bring in the way of opportunities to run, or how it will affect my volatile eating habits. I'm not optimistic.
But today was today, and once I got to the gym I had that to deal with. One thing at a time is enough.
The next day will have its own anxieties. Sufficient for each day is its own badness. — Matthew 6:34
Because I'm starting the week with a long run, and will try and resynchronize with another next Saturday, I could log 44 miles total for the week. Therefore, I decided to run slowly the whole distance today, not pushing it at all, but merely putting in the miles.
Within just a few laps I was dismayed to find that my right shin was hurting and on the verge of cramping. It was disturbingly uncomfortable for a while, and I worried about inducing shin splints. I kept trying to run slowly and loosely, periodically shaking my right foot at the ankle on the forward stroke to loosen up. By thirty laps I wondered if I would ever push through it. I'd taken three Advil and a Succeed! capsule before I started.
Sure enough, by fifty laps the leg relaxed, and I was fine. The rest of the run was uneventful.
Weekend afternoons are usually placidly quiet at the gym. Most reasonable persons are home recreating with their families, as they ought to be. Only irresponsible nuts like me spend a whole afternoon on the weekend at the gym working out. But it was 107 outside today, and the alternative was to clean the pool. No thanks. That can wait until tomorrow morning.
Runners handle their time running in one of two ways. Elites tend to focus on the mechanics of the run itself. Others dissociate, losing their thoughts in their personal cares.
I find that I do both at different times. I'll never be an elite runner, but I think about my run more often than not.
Today I did bits of both. For a while I reflected on the import of yesterday's activities, and on how genuinely successful and worth doing they were.
For a while I thought about balance. Many years ago, during a bass trombone lesson with with Ed Kleinhammer of the Chicago Symphony, Ed said, "If you look at any musical organization, you'll notice that the guy who's playing the best is also playing the easiest." It was a profound revelation to me at the time, and has stuck with me ever since.
This truth can be applied to any physically challenging activity. I thought about the trick of balancing a broom upright in the palm of my hand, something I can't do well. When that broom is in perfect balance, the body controlling it moves the least. All motion and effort is directed toward getting under the center of balance, trying to achieve stasis.
Similarly, one runs best when properly balanced, even if it requires effort to achieve the optimum posture, as contrasted with sluffing along slowly while slouched over, as some of us talentless geezers are prone to do. For some period of time I worked diligently to find the position at which I feel perfectly centered. Doing so on a regular basis is similar to practicing scales and arpeggios on a musical instrument. Once the mechanics become habit, it helps you out later on.
Pass it on.
Today's run went well. By 120 laps I started to feel fatigue in my butt muscles and in my right hip flexor. For a few laps I ran faster, then faded. By the end I was tired, wobbling slightly, and glad to be done.
My final time was 2:15:52, a 10:21 pace, not my worst ever, but the slowest by four minutes of ten recorded runs at that distance. It surprised me when I added it to my records, because I thought I had tracked at least twice as many half marathon efforts, and I know I've run it as slow as 2:20. Both my first and third half marathon races were slower than 2:15. My training PR for the distance is 2:04:08, and four months before that I ran it one second slower.
No matter. Today I was slow on purpose, and achieved exactly what I wanted to do. That's why we go to work out in the first place.
On this Monday of summer solstice, I had the pleasure of sleeping in until 8:00 AM, a luxury I rarely have. After a tough weekend, I needed the sleep.
Although I have two more marathons ahead of me this year, and am aiming to PR the second one, for the rest of 1999 I consider myself to be in training primarily for the Across the Years 24-hour race.
Even some dedicated runners are unaware that such events exist. The object of a fixed-time race is to go as far as possible in the time allotted. They are generally run on a measured loop course so that laps can be counted and the distance accurately calculated. Across the Years will be run on a certified 400-meter track at Arizona Boys Ranch, in Queen Creek, Arizona. The event also features a 48-hour race and a 6-day race. These races go around the clock; they are not staged.
The marathons I'll run in a few months are merely commas on the way to the year's final exclamation point. Therefore, my biggest concerns from now on will be with escalating my mileage, and with learning to run when I'm tired, while avoiding injury in the process.
Yesterday I related how my routine got out of whack over the weekend. Offsetting my long run by a day introduces problems for this week, which is further complicated in that I'm on vacation all week, and will be out of town indulging in craziness the next three days.
Even though I ran 13.12 miles yesterday, with no walking and no drink stops (my usual practice in runs up to fifteen miles), I headed out today to do a supereasy five-mile run-walk combo, but forfeited the strength training I usually do on Monday afternoons. I started with twelve laps of walking (slightly more than one one mile), followed by 24 laps of snail-paced slow running, at about 11:30 pace — so slow it seems to take extra effort to stay in motion — then another twelve laps walking, and wrapped it up with nine more laps of slow running, a total of just over five miles.
Last winter, while training for Crown King 50K, I ran over five hours in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve one Saturday, then went to the gym the next afternoon and ran an additional three hours. On that day I learned to establish a slow shuffle pace using a weird motion unlike anything I've tried before. I was comfortable, was getting airborne, and going only about thirteen minutes a mile. I've never since been able to repeat that exact motion, although I came close today. I'd like to rediscover and develop that technique for use in future ultra runs.
Tomorrow we're off to the breeding ground for Elvis impersonators, while my running plans for the next three days remain a big question mark.
Yesterday proved to be a red letter day for me, a milestone I will never forget. On Thursday, June 25, 1999, I was officially inducted as a lifetime member into the Worldwide Society of Geezers. The initiation went as follows.
We had just walked over two brisk miles north on Las Vegas Boulevard in 105-degree heat to a resort called the Stratosphere, a gambling joint that supports a needle-thin tower which reaches 1,081 feet into the air, the tallest building west of the Mississippi. There is an observation level at the top. Admission costs $6 for adults.
 If you look at it from far away.
That is, of course, unless you're a senior citizen! According to their sign, that applies to anyone over the age of 55. I'm a few days away from being 56, well past the age for my bar mitzvah of Geezerdom, by Stratospheric standards.
So I stepped up to the cashier, and for the first time in my looong life said, "One senior and one adult!" Seniors are not adults in this establishment.
She didn't ask for ID or proof of age. Evidently my qualifications were obvious in her eyes. Somehow I snuck by her that I just happened to be wearing a T-shirt that says WHISKEY ROW MARATHON 1999, in one-inch letters, arched across the top. Perhaps she saw it, but assumed I drove the sweep vehicle.
After collecting my ticket, at a savings of $3, I hobbled weakly over to the entrance gate, to avoid arousing any suspicion, and we went up to take a look around. My life will never be the same.
In true Las Vegas spirit, they have a couple of thrill rides at the top to loosen the bowels of visitors. The High Roller is the highest roller coaster in the world. The Big Shot is one of those rides where they pull you up to the top and then drop you and let you bounce a few times. It costs extra money for this.
Of course, such excitement is far more than a person at my delicate stage in life can tolerate. I could only watch while brave young'ns demonstrated their courage for their elders, screaming in terror as they tore by just a few feet over our heads.
Following that experience we walked hurriedly the two miles back in the blazing heat, arriving just in time to pick up a shuttle and get out of town.
As I anticipated might happen, I did no running whatever from Tuesday through Thursday. Precious little opportunity was available for it, but there was no need for it either. Suzy and I walked for several hours each of the last three days, much of it in scorching desert heat.
We had never been to Las Vegas, except to stop for dinner at the Luxor (the one shaped like a pyramid) in October, 1997, on our way up to St. George, UT, for the marathon. On that occasion we arrived at 6:00 PM, while it was still light, and left by 8:00 PM, when things were lit up. It was an amusing experience, but that was enough of it for me at that time.
On Tuesday we got off the shuttle bus near the south end of the Strip at 1:00 PM, looking and acting like garden variety dumb tourists, and began walking north, in and out of resorts, seeing what there was to see. We finally folded up and headed to the hotel (Palace Station, a short distance from the Strip) about 10:00 PM, and got a good night's sleep.
Wednesday was our long day. We hit the Strip at 10:00 AM, saw everything we could see, walked plenty, took in the Cirque Soleil show Mystère at 10:30 PM, and didn't return to the hotel until 1:00 AM.
The frenzied pace was broken briefly at midday by a visit to Belaggio, at $1.4 billion in construction costs, the ritziest place in town. The classiest tourist offering by a long shot is the astonishing Belaggio Gallery of Fine Art, featuring paintings by Rembrandt, Renoir, van Gogh, Matisse, Manet, Monet, Pisarro, Pollack, Kandinsky, and others. We learned that $300 million of the cost was invested in the works of art alone.
The works in the collection are all genuine first rank masterpieces, things we've all seen in picture books, not sketches or unknown lesser works. At one point found myself standing in a doorway, within three feet on either side of two van Goghs, one of them his last work, paintings I have known of for years. The hairs on my head nearly stood up. It was like unexpectedly coming face to face with a couple of Beatles.
Viewers stood transfixed in hushed silence, whispering when they dared to speak at all, with wands of wisdom pressed to their ears, which spoke the tale of each work on display in response to the keying in of their numbers.
What a strange contrast this storehouse makes with the environment not far out the door: thousands of perfectly tuned euphonious slot machines singing a C major chord in unison as they consume the life savings of hapless hopefuls who don't understand math. I would have sooner expected to stumble upon a clavichord recital of Canzonas by Girolamo Frescobaldi played by Gustav Leonhardt at the Stardust Lounge.
Yesterday's exploration was largely taken up by the forementioned jaunt to Stratosphere, with secondary stops along the way. By the time we finished with late lunch, we were obliged to make the return trip quickly.
There was no opportunity for running the entire trip. Being on foot for so long surely accounts for something. The sore calf muscles I experienced from Wednesday through this morning testify to that. It's impossible to know exactly how much we walked, but I've recorded five non-aerobic miles per day in my log, a conservative estimate. It could easily have been double that amount.
This level of exertion was not at all difficult for me, but was another experience for Suzy, who is not an athlete, and has within the last two years experienced first a full-blown case of plantar fasciitis, followed by a bone spur in her heel, and most recently a metatarsal stress fracture. However, she would crawl up the side of a mountain on her knees if she knew there was some kind of good time to be had at the top, so she endured the trekking without complaint.
"Hi! My name is Lynn, and I'm a foodaholic."
There, I've confessed it in public. Yes, I'm the sort of person who will eat whatever is within reach until it's gone, regardless of whether I'm hungry.
There seems to be an unwritten law among peoples of the western world that vacations and good times go hand in hand with eating too much and other forms of overindulgence. Therefore, for me the biggest problem with traditional vacationing is eating.
Food is available in Las Vegas (along with other vices) in vast quantities. The eating is good, and it's cheap. The best dollar value is in the all-you-can-eat buffets to be found at every single resort we visited. We ate at two of them. The seafood buffet at Rio was exceptional.
One simply mustn't go into such a place with the idea of nibbling. You go to have the sort of banquet that health-minded persons allow themselves perhaps once a year. Two days in a row is a bit much.
It's a sad fact of life that not all persons can handle unlimited portions of food properly. I've never gone into a buffet restaurant and not seen at least one person in the 400-pound range, sometimes sitting alone, crushing a chair, and loading up on enough nourishment to kill the average buffalo, probably thinking what a great deal he's getting.
I'm still on vacation, but now it's time to get back in the groove. It's 109 degrees here today, and is predicted to be 112 tomorrow and Sunday.
So off to the gym I went to do laps. I ran an easy five miles in a time that ranked seventieth in 83 recorded runs at that distance, the third slowest of 1999. My average heart rate for the run measured exactly 80% of my MHR. After that I did conscientious stretching and went home.
This has been one mighty strange running week. This afternoon I ran a half marathon. Bumping my Saturday long run to Sunday last week results in a total of 52.68 miles for the week.
Yes, it's silly to record mileage in hundreths when I can only estimate some sessions, but that's how I do it. The distance on the laps I run at the gym is accurate enough to count to two decimal places.
When I got home and recorded my figures I realized my schedule said I was supposed to have run only twelve miles. Whoops! I ran too far.
Today's run went fine, but slowly once again. I ate more than I needed before starting. In addition to the usual admixture of three Advil, a Succeed! capsule, and a Pepcid A/C, I consumed a whole quart of Gatorade before even leaving the house, plus around 800 calories between breakfast and what I ate when I got home from being out trying to teach the world this morning.
I've learned that when I'm properly fueled and hydrated at the beginning of a long run, I'm usually a little uncomfortable, bordering on bloated. This leads to early labored breathing. I've learned not to panic. This always passes within half an hour, by which time I start to feel the benefits of the liquid, fuel, and drugs all at once.
Come to think of it, that phase feels good!
I always wear my Oakley sunglasses when I run, even indoors. I have the M Frames, the ones that don't fold. I can wear them all day on the top of my head, and they never slip.
The reason I wear them is not just because they look cool, even though they do. I'm too old to impress anyone with that sort of vanity. No one has ever accused me of trying to impress anyone with my looks.
When I run I wear them normally. I also wear a headband. The broad frame sits flush against my forehead all the way across, up against the bottom edge of the headband, and forms an effective seal against sweat from dripping in my eyes, which are particularly sensitive to the salt in perspiration. It drives me crazy when I forget either the headband or my shades, as I constantly wipe burning sweat out of my eyes with my fingers or my shirttail.
The Oakleys filter out ultraviolet light from the fluorescent ceiling fixtures. They reduce the amount of wind striking my eyeballs. Best of all, the darkness gives me a sense of isolation, as if I've climbed into a runner's cockpit. They enhance my ability to concentrate.
With the assistance of my cool shades, I tend to fall into a semi-trance when I run long. Much of the time my eyes are almost shut, allowing only a sliver of light through my left eye, to avoid running into anyone. I can do this for a half hour or more at a time without bothering to look at my lap counter, timer, heart rate monitor, or the clock on the wall. At such times I'm able to work out many of life's problems.
Shortly after I started my run Sheryl Crow whined over the sound system, "Every day is a winding road." Yeah, tell me about it! Perfect. At that moment I hit my rhythm, and before I knew it thirty laps had passed, the bloat was gone, the drugs were working, and my shades and I were running synchronously.
Running often at the same gym you get to know the regulars. The place was a little busier than usual today, and I met up with several folks I talk to often. This not a disagreeable thing, except on rare occasions when I'm seeking metaphysical solitude. Today was not one of those days.
First there was Darla, a young woman I've known from my Real Life outside running for at least eight years. She teaches the children's aerobics class at Bally's. At barely age twenty she married a handsome foreign bodybuilder, the sort of guy who can do chinups continuously for twenty minutes, and who happens to be in practice as a pediatrician with his similarly endowed identical twin brother. Darla is now six months pregnant and already looking ripe but healthy.
Next it was Mike from Eritrea, who has lived in this country a long time. He told me that he was on vacation the last two weeks, and that from Monday through Thursday of this past week he and his family were staying at Belaggio in Las Vegas, where we visited Wednesday and saw the art exhibit. Small world. Mike ran for just a few minutes today.
Finally there was sad-eyed George, a slow runner who always looks depressed, though I doubt that he really is, normally. Today he looked more depressed than usual. As I caught up with him I exchanged the usual, "How's it goin'?", expecting to pass right on by, except that he responded that he's terribly worried because a week ago he got laid off of his job after twelve years. With thirty years in his line of work, he wasn't hopeful of finding a new job soon. Meanwhile he has a wife and family to support. So I ran with him for a half dozen laps, offering words of comfort.
He asked if the company I work for, Motorola Computer Group, is hiring people with his skill. We are, since our small piece of Motorola recently got an enormous contract and we're hiring people right and left. So I told him how to get to the job listings on our company's Web site, and he expressed gratitude for the lead as he dropped back in pace.
It seems that getting the information from me caused him to go into oxygen debt. There are a few people that I consistently run faster than. George's younger brother is even slower.
That was the last of my encounters. From then on I ran solo, as slowly as last week, but in a groove. Today was my eighth consecutive day of exercising without a rest day, and I didn't want to overdo it, just to get the miles in.
A few laps before halfway I hit a zone, but it lasted only a short while. I was running so easily at mid-run I didn't want to stop for water and an electrolyte tablet, so I didn't.
Ten laps later I reasoned that I should either decide to run straight through without a break, or stop soon so I would have enough run left to get the benefit of the rest, water, and electrolyte. The next lap I walked one, and downed an entire twenty-ounce bottle of water, then started again.
At 120 laps my left knee started to throb, so I tried running a few steps lifting my knees up high, which helped. Other than that, I got through the run with no unusual tiredness, and picked up the pace the last two miles. As I finished, a woman was singing over the sound system, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!" My sentiments exactly.
Dig this: my time was 2:15:53, exactly one second slower than last Sunday's run at the same distance. That made it a new personal worst at that distance by that interval. Now about that walking break I took?
I'm not one who practices the Galloway method of running with walking breaks at timed intervals. Gallowalking works well for many people, but not for me. I walk when I absolutely must on extra-long runs, maybe a minute or so every four miles. This pattern roughly approximates the scenario at water stops during a marathon. I've never learned to drink and run, and I'm not anxious to do so.
After walking four more laps to cool down, I headed for the weights and worked hard for seventy minutes, counting stretch time at the end. After that, I hit the pool for fifteen minutes and relaxed another five minutes in the whirlpool, satisfied with my geezerly workout for this day.
I've slowed down significantly since this time last year, by an average of perhaps thirty seconds a mile. I'm not sure why.
One factor is advancing geezerhood. Another is being several pounds heavier. Yet another is that I'm working hard to increase endurance once again, and running often on tired legs. Other than that I don't have much of an explanation for it, because I'm working just as hard.
My immediate goal is to ramp up mileage from the roughly 35 miles a week I've been doing to fifty miles a week by the first week of August, and to hold it there for a month. On Labor Day weekend I'll run an indoor 50K training run. Then I can begin to taper for Twin Cities Marathon on October 3. If I accomplish all that, I'll reach a new high-water mark for sustained distance, and will be well along the way to being prepared for my 24-hour run at the end of the year.
Big talk, huh?
"Did he really say he's going to run a 50K training run on a 155-yard indoor track?" you may be chortling to yourself. Yes, that's what I said.
What it all means, looking from this end of the project, is being willing to run when I'm tired, and to endure those character-building runs that cause persons with less gumption to give up.
It should go without saying that all the while I'll continue measuring, observing, and analyzing, to be sure I don't overextend myself to the point of overtraining or inducing injury. I say this because apparently, based on some reports I've read on the lists, some beginning runners believe that succeeding at distance running is largely a matter of showing up at the starting line of a chosen race, gritting one's teeth, and being willing to bear any adversity regardless of the cost, until one arrives at the end.
For me, running is all about preparation and training, not completing races. The races are just the frosting on the cake; the cherry on the soda; the whipped cream on the pie; the butterscotch on the sundae; the ... Never mind.
Now you know why I gained eight pounds last year despite running 1825 miles.
The point is that without the cake, the soda, the pie, and the ice cream, the frosting, cherry, whipped cream, and butterscotch become meaningless.
Well, not exactly. The real point is that races are not standalone objects, but goals toward which one reaches with training. By the time I get to the starting line of any race, I know I've earned the right to be there, because I've prepared for it. And so it should be with everyone.
Today's run was a piddling three-miler at 10:08 pace. Given that I just finished a 52-mile week, including a half marathon yesterday, I was happy with that effort. My next day of complete rest will not be until next Friday, as I continue to ride the ripples in the wake of last week's disturbed schedule.
Following that run I did strength training for 45 minutes and went home satisfied.
Last Thursday I was baptized into geezerdom when, for the first time ever, I asked for and got a "senior" discount on an admission ticket. The slide has begun.
Today I received in the mail a copy of a magazine entitled Senior Pages — The Valley's 55 & Better Guide to Complete Living! It's all ads for heart surgeons, laxatives, and golf stuff. Aaaarrrgghh! The end must be imminent. Note the subversive manner in which they use "better" to mean "older."
I'll fight it. I'll run harder.
I'm a genuinely friendly person, but not aggressively so, because I'm also shy. In my heart I'd like to say a cheerful greeting to everyone I see, but in practice I keep my mouth shut almost all the time.
Therefore, some people I've been seeing at the gym for years I've never even said hello to. One man in particular I've wanted to greet for a long time. Today I was walking around the track to get warmed up and caught up with him at a time when he was walking, too, so I finally said a smiley hello and we exchanged names. His name is Winston. That's as far as the conversation went this time. But he smiled back.
Winston is an impressive runner, given that he appears to be in his mid-seventies. He could well be even older. He always runs with a much younger woman, perhaps his daughter, who appears to be about forty. If this pretty lady is his wife, then Winston is even more of a stud than I thought.
Winston runs exactly one pace all the time, always for the same distance, about four miles, and always the same three days of the week. When I'm running on dead legs and struggling, Winston and his partner can lap me two or three times in the course of their run. When I'm feeling good and running well, I can lap them the same number of times.
Another day, another new running friend. Why are we so afraid to say hello to people we see every day?
Today's run was productive — five miles on the Road that Never Ends. When I began I was in a mood to push up the effort a notch, so I started out aiming for a pace of six laps in five minutes. A year ago I did that daily. After 18 laps I was 28 seconds ahead, but already laboring, so I cut back just a little.
By two miles I had to force myself consciously to inhale and exhale deeply and rhythmically. Been there, done that — I used to suffer from asthma. Over ten years ago, long before I took up running regularly, it mysteriously went away and never returned.
At three miles I was uncomfortable. By four miles I was not having fun, and soon after I ran out of gas. Although I almost slowed down to recover just five laps from the end, I caught myself, and willed myself to see it through to the end.
That qualifies as a tempo run for me, albeit an unintentional one, so I won't try to do another one later in the week. My time was 47:25, a 9:26 pace, 27th of 84 recorded runs at that distance. Last year at this time I rarely ran this distance any slower. My heart rate averaged 151 and maxed at 157, 88.3% and 91.8% of my MHR respectively, so in that regard it was a good effort.
Oh yeah — I lapped Winston three times.
Six months ago today I resolved that six months from today I would be a participant rather than an observer in the next edition of the 24-hour race I watched on that day. And now I'm halfway to that goal, if time were the only measurement.
But the major effort has just begun. This evening I calculated my monthly totals. So far this year I have run 896 miles, four miles ahead of this day last year, an average of 4.95 miles a day. I'm also five pounds heavier than I was at this time last year. This morning when I got on the scale it said 185.4, the highest I've been since I took up running conscientiously five years ago.
In June I ran 168 miles, second best only to January for the year, when I reached 186. Next month I anticipate covering 190 miles as I escalate from 42 through 50 miles a week. The next two months will be the hardest training I have ever done.
Today I planned on running nine miles after work, high for a midweek run. To help me along I brought an extra PowerBar with me this morning. Unfortunately, it was consumed by noon. Food does not keep well in my possession.
This afternoon at work we had a big deal meeting. It was only afterward, at 2:30 PM, that I realized free food was available. Cookies! My single most favorite drug. I'm exercising as much as I can and still fighting my weight; I know the only solution that remains is not to eat as much, in other words, to starve slowly. But there was a whole tray of large Otis Spunkmeyer cookies sitting there. So I took one that was covered with M&Ms and ate it.
Suddenly I felt like Adam in the Garden of Eden — naked and hoping no one would notice. But it was so good that two minutes later I ran back up the stairs and took two more. Yum! After all, a man has to have his carbohydrates before his workout, doesn't he?
Bad runner! Bad, bad runner!!
Carbohydrates or no, one hardship that makes me want to bail out of a run is stomach acid. Fortunately, I rarely suffer from it, and if I anticipate there is a possibility I might, I'll take a Pepcid A/C before starting. Stomach acid is provoked by foods with oil and fat in them — for instance, cookies with lots of chocolate in them. So I usually can guess when I'm in for trouble based on what I've been eating, and take steps to prevent it.
I arrived at the gym with my stomach already in a turmoil, hoping I might find a Pepcid A/C in my gym bag. There was none. Neither was there any Advil nor any Succeed! electrolyte caps, both of which I normally carry and could have used. I took a long drink of water before I started, hoping to dilute the poison.
Sure enough, the cookie monster attacked within a few minutes. Each surge begins as a hot bubble that works its way out until it erupts in flames in my duodenum, causing me to stagger and groan audibly.
I hate it when that happens, which it did every three or four laps. Finally after four miles it began to subside.
But I made it — 9.07 slow miles on the Road that Never Ends at a dismal but manageable 10:30 pace, the end to a good month, if overall pace is not considered.
Yesterday I wrote no journal installment because my run was ordinary in most respects: 10K on tRtNE at a 10:01 pace. Richard the podiatrist, one of the persons I talk to most frequently at the gym, picked me up less than ten laps into it. Richard is six feet two inches, muscular, fourteen years younger than me, and runs a 6:30—7:00 pace, but rarely more than eight or nine miles. He was gracious enough to slow down to my pace and hung with me for the remainder of my run.
One more five-miler tomorrow and I can take a rest day.