A Reminder-Style Note from Fatty: I need your help in my ongoing quest to be a perpetually award-winning blogger. So please do me a favor and nominate me for a 2010 Bloggie, in the “Best Sports Weblog” category. Details on what you need to do — as well as suggestions for other blogs you might want to nominate (cuz you have to nominate at least three blogs (not necessarily in the same category, though) — are in my post from Friday. Today and tomorrow are the last days you have to nominate me, so please don’t delay in facilitating my admittedly pathetic obsession. Thank you.
In less than a month, I’m going to be running a marathon. No, waitasec, “running” is not an accurately descriptive word, because I know I won’t be running the whole time. Maybe I should say I’m “performing” a marathon? Executing? Attempting?
Which means I kinda need to get serious about this whole running thing in a very short period of time.
General Observations on Running
A long time ago I wrote a post about how I’d never take up running again. Which just goes to show that you should never believe anything you read on the Internet.
The truth is, cyclists and runners should understand each other better than any other two kinds of athletes. Consider:
- Both sports require you to earn your legs over a period of several years
- Both sports let you start from home and go
- Both sports encourage you to wear a lot of brightly colored, reflective polyester
- Both sports let you see stuff and go somewhere
- Both sports require dedication, but can be extremely satisfying, eventually reward you with a zenlike state as you ride / run
- Both sports are likely to get you honked at by people in trucks who have just been forced to veer slightly and go around you, thereby making them very, very angry
And you know what? I really seriously believe it: cyclists and runners generally understand what the other guy is doing and why.
But none of that helps me right now, because I’ve got a problem, which was brought on by the following sequence of events:
- About two months ago, The Runner and I signed up for the Death Valley Trail Marathon.
- Concurrent to this signup, I began trail running with aplomb.
- About six weeks ago, I started really enjoying trail running and abruptly upped my mileage, going from five-mile runs to nine-mile runs.
- I immediately messed up my right knee and left achilles tendon.
- I could not run at all — and in fact only barely hobbled along when walking — for several weeks.
- At about the beginning of the year, I began running again. Just a few miles.
So. To recap, I just started running. A month before the marathon I’ll be doing.
That’s OK, though, I’m sure I’ll be fine. I just won’t have much of a “taper” period before the marathon.
How to Fool Yourself
As part of my crash course in preparing for a marathon, I am running four times per week. Mondays, I run six miles. Wednesdays, I run eight. Friday, I run four. Then I do a long run on Sundays. With the “long run” getting a couple miles longer each week.
Yesterday, for example, I ran thirteen.
OK, “run” may once again not be a perfectly accurate word.
I will explain.
The Runner and I planned a thirteen-mile out-and-back run: start at home, go 6.5 miles and turn around. I have to say: out-and-back courses are an excellent tactic for running: you feel fine during the first half of the run. You get to fool yourself: “Oh, I’m just going for a 6.5-mile run right now.”
And then when you turn around, well, you’ve got no choice. You’ve got to get home. Because when you get home, you get to lay down. Which can be an incredibly strong draw.
And I must say, I was going pretty strong for the first half of the run — there was a few miles of relatively flat running, followed by about a thousand feet of climbing in three miles. And running uphill is definitely my strong suit — I was able to even sorta kinda stay caught up with The Runner.
Problems, In Ascending Order of Severity
Once we turned around, though, problems began to occur. And for whatever reason, these problems increased in severity.
First, my gassiness increased a thousandfold. I think it’s all the jostling. And the thing is, when I run, there’s no getting around the farts. They’re coming out. Furthermore, they’re coming out loudly. And still even furthermore, they’re coming out in rhythm to my footfalls. Frrrp-FRAP-frrp-FRAP-frrrrp.
The Runner tells me that there are clearly-stated rules of runners’ etiquette mandating that I drop behind her whenever I’m going to fart. I don’t know if there really is such a rule, but I don’t think our relationship is at such a point where I ought to challenge her on that.
So I just run behind her all the time. It’s the safest thing to do.
The second thing that happened on yesterday’s run was that I was caught in a conundrum: I was hurting, I wanted to slow down, I wanted to whine, and I still wanted to appear tough. But that’s a real problem: the “being tough even though you’re hurting” thing is mutually exclusive with the “wanting to whine and slow down” thing.
I came up with an ingenious compromise, though, one which let me have my Cake of Pain and Pity, and eat it too: Grunts of Pain. Every few minutes — I would time them — I would emit a short “ugf” sound, and then not comment on it.
The Runner — dutifully — would ask, “What’s up?”
“Oh, you know. Nothing,” I would answer, in a terse, manly staccato, letting my my pain and resilience be the subtext of the message.
“OK, good,” the Runner would reply, not slowing down at all, and definitely not calling me a brave soldier. Which means I clearly need to help her understand subtext and the meaning of staccato pronouncements sometime before the day of the marathon.
Third, I got cold. This manifested itself in the following ways:
- Nasal pendulum: Sweat mingled with snot coming out of my nose, and dripping off the tip. This viscous nastiness would hang off my nose and swing back and forth in time to my running. If I swung my head little, I could get it to do a loop-the-loop. Sadly, The Runner never saw this, because I was running behind her and farting at the time. Which makes me think: I’m quite a catch, aren’t I?
- Slurred speech: As the run went on, the sun went down and it got cold outside. Before long, I could feel a slowness in the way my face and lips moved, especially my cheeks. Then my speech became sluggish-sounding and slurry. It occurred to me that I was probably hypothermic and should probably be on the lookout for dangerous thoughts such as, “I think I’ll lay down in the snow, just for a minute. It looks warm and soft.”
- Giddiness: I said to The Runner — in a slurred voice, natch — “I think I’m going to go lay down in the snow for a minute. It looks warm and soft.” And then I started giggling uncontrollably at my joke, even as I realized it wasn’t that funny of a joke. “Hm,” I thought to myself, “I believe that my mind has been affected by the cold.” This made me laugh even harder.
Fourth, I ran out of gas. This was a weird and revealing experience for me. When on a bike, I can pretty much always stay on the bike. Even if I bonk, I can still turn the cranks. But around mile ten, I had to walk for a while. I simply didn’t have the power to continue running. “Sorry,” I said to The Runner. “I suck.”
“That’s OK,” she replied. But you know, it’s not all that comforting to be told that it’s OK that you suck. Which I did not tell The Runner, because I was preoccupied with how inviting a nearby snowdrift looked.
In a minute (or three), we started running again. After a mile or so, I had to stop again. This time I didn’t even say anything when I slowed to a walk, because I kind of hoped she would just keep going, seeing as how she was running easily and comfortably.
It was then that it occurred to me: the places that I was having a really hard time with were the flat sections. When running uphill, I’m still at least sorta using my cycling legs. When running downhill, gravity is my friend. But flats — those are not easy for a non-runner. Flats are where you find out that you have not yet developed a good stride or running cadence.
Plus, there’s the cyclist’s mindset — an expectation of how fast ground should be covered. On the flats, cyclists can just haul, especially if you’ve got gears. Distances disappear quickly and easily when you’re riding on flat ground. When running, though, flats take time and energy, and you’re only incrementally faster than when you’re running uphill.
In other words, the flat sections got into my head.
Eventually, we made it home. And while subjectively it seemed like I had been out forever, really it had just been a couple hours.
And that’s maybe the single biggest difference between running and riding: how long it takes for something to feel epic. On a bike, two hours is nothing for me. I can go hard for two hours and still be fine when I finish. Have a normal day.
Two hours of running, on the other hand, left me completely blown. I was exhausted for the whole evening, went to bed early, and slept hard the whole night.
And today…well, I can make it up a flight of stairs, but I do have to plan for extra time to do so.
So now I’m considering that in under three weeks I’m supposed to run twice as far as I did yesterday.
Yeah, that shouldn’t be a problem. At all.