There was a time when Superman was my least favorite comic book hero. His problem is that he has so many powers that it’s difficult to even enumerate them all. Strength, speed, flight, a whole raft of vision-related powers, cold breath, and nearly invulnerable.
“I swear,” I used to think, “his biggest challenge must be in deciding which combination of powers to use in a given situation.”
But lately, I’ve come to identify with Superman more and more, as my own arsenal of superpowers continues to expand.
Namely, in addition to being able to eat prodigious amounts of food, in addition to being able to eat food right after a hard event while everyone else is clutching their stomachs and fighting nausea, in addition to being able to recall the complete song lyrics to any and every top-40 song from the 80’s, I have yet another power:
I am a remarkably good giver of gifts. Seriously, if you ever get a gift from me, you can count on it being a good one. Better than you expect, and probably better than you deserve.
This power — like most superpowers, actually — comes with a caveat, however. In order for me to exercise this power on a person (i.e., in order for me to give someone a really great gift), I must have some kind of contextual similarity with that person. For example, because my Dad and I both love the outdoors, I have given him the extraordinary gift of excellent wool socks, and a GPS.
Similarly, since pretty much every one of my friends rides a bike, I have gifted them with Fat Cyclist apparel. Yes, sometimes my powers are rather self-serving, but I never vowed to use these powers for unselfish purposes.
Because of this caveat, until last week, any presents I have given The Runner have been bike-related. Bike clothing. Bike food. A bike.
But then — upon finding that I am going to be doing an Ironman in less than three months — I started swimming. By doing this, I quickly gained a new appreciation for this sport.
By “appreciation for this sport,” I of course mean “an exquisitely painful insight into the remarkable tedium and soul-crushing isolation of this sport.”
And then, magically, I got a call from H2O Audio. Would I, they wanted to know, be interested in trying out their Interval Waterproof Headphone System?
In other words, would I be interested having my swim time be less awful?
Why as a matter of fact, I would.
“You know what,” I said. “What would be really great would be if I could get a couple of these, because my fiance is also punishing herself for no good reason getting ready for an Ironman.”
“And it would be really, really helpful if you could overnight them, because, um….”
“Yes?” H2O Audio replied.
“Because Sunday’s Valentine’s Day, and I got nuthin.”
This, evidently, was sufficient, though first the H2O Audio rep asked whether I had a Third-Generation iPod Shuffle, which is what the Interval 3G system is made to work with.
“Yeah, thanks to my middle-aged memory and a washing machine, I do.”
“I beg your pardon,” she asked, not unreasonably.
“Well, I had the previous generation iPod, but the battery went dead during one ride, so I put the iPod in my vest pocket, with a very stern mental note to myself to be sure to remove the iPod after the ride.”
Kindly, she did not ask for additional details.
So The Runner got the Interval Waterproof Headphone system for Valentine’s Day, and my pride at giving this to her was not even remotely lessened by the fact that it had not been my idea, that I had not paid for it, and that I kinda got her a set as an afterthought to getting a set for myself.
The important thing is, The Runner — who, I might point out, rocks out quite a bit louder and harder and more often than I do — was basically being given a reprieve from her thrice-weekly sentence of solitary confinement.
And yesterday (Monday) morning, we tried them out. She was listening to Disturbed, Breaking Benjamin, and Three Days Grace. I was listening to Social Distortion, Alien Ant Farm, and Oingo Boingo.
The headphone system was easy to set up. Open up the little compartment, plug the iPod into the jack, then close the compartment and attach the thing to your goggles. There are three easy-to-find buttons to adjust volume, change tracks, and select a playlist.
The system comes with an enormous number of earplug inserts, in varying sizes. I’d be amazed if anyone couldn’t find a set that fit well (as a perfectly average-sized person, the set that were on the earphones by default fit me just right).
The construction seems simple and solid: rigid plastic with a hinged door, a gasket sealing the iPod off from the water. And since the headphone system costs more than the iPod itself, I’m guessing it’s well-enough built that it will do its job. I know, that logic makes no sense at all except inside my own head.
(Full Disclosure: H2O Audio sent both these sets of headphone systems to me at no charge.)
The most important thing, though, was that 40 laps went by like that. (Imagine me snapping my fingers as I say “like that.”)
I brought a camera along to take photos of The Runner, and was told, in no uncertain terms, that I was not to take photos of her wearing a swim cap and goggles.
And — for some reason — I was reticent to include photos in this blog of me in nothing but a Speedo and goggles. Because you’d never be able to un-see it, that’s why.
Anyway, I’ve only used this headset for one swim, so I can hardly call this post a review, but my impression is that this is going to be one of those things that I really rely on. And which prevents me from having pool-related nightmares and from breaking into a cold sweat whenever I get a whiff of chlorine.
If, for whatever reason, you — or someone whose sanity you care about — must swim for a long time (more than three minutes, for example), and with great frequency (more than twice per year, for example), I’m going to go out on a limb and recommend you get an H2O Audio Interval setup.
It could well save your sanity. Or — if you want to emulate my superpower and give one of these as a gift — your loved one’s sanity, which may be even more important.
PS: For my next swim — acting on a commenter’s suggestion from a couple days ago — I’ve added an audiobook to my iPod; it looks like I can switch from the book to music and back without losing my place in the book.
PPS: If you’re looking to buy, the Interval 3G Waterproof Headphone System for the iPod Shuffle is available at the company site for $99.99. Or if you’re a bargain hunter, they’re also available for $86.63 at Amazon.com (standard shipping is free).
PPPS: Big thanks to Ben for pointing H2O Audio toward me! Ben’s on a noble quest himself; check out his “Becoming Timberman” blog to see what he’s up to.
As a Triathlete, it is essential that I be athletic in three ways. This is actually what “triathlete” means! I’ll break the word down for you, because etymology is kind of a hobby of mine.
“Tri” is greek for means “three,” as you probably know. What you may not have known is that “at” is Bulgarian for “completely unrelated sports” and “hlete” is Ninevan for “merged into a single activity, with an eye toward completely consuming all of your free time.”
Ninevan, by the way, is both an incredibly compact and surprisingly expressive language.
Like most triathletes I have met, I am good at one of the sports (cycling in my case), passable in one (running), and terrified of the other (yodeling).
What? The third event is now swimming? When did that happen? I’m even worse at that than I am at yodeling!
Fortunately — and very, very coincidentally — I went swimming yesterday, for the first time since I got my Swimming merit badge thirty years ago.
These are my findings.
- One mile is very far. On a road bike on flat ground, it takes me about three minutes to go a mile. On foot on flat ground, it takes me about nine minutes (at least for the first ten miles or so — after that it takes quite a bit longer). Swimming on flat ground, on the other hand, really chafes my stomach. Ha ha! OK, honestly, it took about 35 or so minutes for me to swim a mile in the pool. Which leads me to wonder: is there any slower way in the world than swimming for a human to travel? Like, suppose a one-year-old had started crawling a mile and a breakdancer had started moonwalking a mile at the same time I had started swimming. I’m pretty sure I would have come in last, depending on how often the one year old stopped to eat some dirt, and how many times the breakdancer paused grab his crotch.
- I love cheating. At the end of each length of the pool, I would compress my legs against the wall and push off, hard, underwater. I would shoot underwater like a torpedo a very great distance. This was, in fact, my very favorite part of the swim, and the only part that I would call “fun.” Which leads me to think that I’ll actually be just fine during the Ironman, as long as the reservoir has walls I can kick off every 50 feet or so.
- I have been injured. With cycling, a fall can injure you very badly indeed. With running, your entire lower body is subject to fractures, sprains, and torn ASPCA ligaments. But with swimming, I thought that at least you can’t get injured as easily as you can with the other two events. Boy, was I wrong. Here’s what happened: After being in the pool for 28 laps, I was so incredibly bored that I wanted something — anything — to alleviate the boredom. So I intentionally poked out my left eye. The pain was intense, but it was in fact an improvement over what I had been experiencing up to that point.
- Swimming is Soma. I confess that I am middle aged and that my memory is not what it used to be. However, until yesterday I would have thought that I could at least remember a number for a minute. However, at least five times during my swim, I arrived at the beginning of a new lap and found that I could not remember whether I was starting lap X or X+1. In the interest of not rewarding my brain for its forgetfulness, I always chose X. So it’s quite possible — probable, even — that I swam quite a bit more than a mile.
- My massive quads are quite dense. While I am certain that my swimming form is admirable and darn close to perfect, I couldn’t help notice that my legs tend to sink a little bit. This was most noticeable when the tops of my feet started dragging on the bottom of the pool. I ascribe this to the fact that muscle is very dense — much denser than water. And so, with the magnificent quads that I have earned over the course of fifteen years, how could I help but have my lower body drag a little bit?
- The smell persists. No matter how long I showered and soaped and rinsed and soaped and scrubbed and rinsed, I smelled strongly of chlorine the rest of the night. I probably still do, but just can’t smell it myself anymore.
- The itch persists, too. Another really great thing about chlorine is how awesome it makes my skin feel. Specifically, it feels almost 20% less itchy than if I had rolled in poison sumac for twenty minutes.
- The exhaustion. Forty minutes of swimming left me completely cooked. Wiped out. Beat. Knackered, even. Frankly, until yesterday, I would have thought I am currently in good enough shape that 40 minutes of anything wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Wrong.
I can hardly wait to go swimming again tomorrow!
PS: Like most United States-ians, I’ll be spending Monday deeply contemplating our presidents. I’ll be back on Tuesday.
As I become more and more important, I find that this blog is no longer merely a blog. It is a business. With hundreds of employees. With every word I write, I am generating cold hard cash and a working wage for all the people who depend on me.
In other words, I consider this blog a business, and I like to think that anyone who reads this blog depends on it for whatever kind of thing I write that day. And since you depend on me to write something, I feel it is not a stretch to claim all of you as dependents on my taxes. Which means I am going to get a huge refund this year.
As the proprietor of this business, I sometimes have items of business to conduct. As a lazy business proprietor, I like to let these items accumulate until it’s almost too late to do anything about them, then spring them on you all at once.
Today is such a day.
However, I am happy to announce that all five items of business I need to conduct have something in common: they are all good things.
Item The First: There will be a 2010 100 Miles of Nowhere
Many people have emailed me recently, wondering if there would be a third annual 100 Miles of Nowhere, since last year’s was a huge hit.
The answer, to my great joy, is “yes.”
I’m working on the date, but am planning on it being in April. Here’s the thing, though: I need sponsors. Companies that are willing to do something a little unusual for some good publicity, and are interested in the fight against cancer.
I don’t need money from these companies. I need stuff to give away — stuff that is exciting and compelling and will make people feel like they must join this race, if only to get that cool thing that you’re putting in their schwag bag.
If you work at / own / have a good friend at such a company, get in touch with me, OK?
Item The Second: I Am Apparently A Sponsor of Team CarboRocket
My good friend Brad Keyes invented an incredible sports drink: CarboRocket. And then he got together with some other great companies — Ibis and Ritchey Components — and launched a new bike team: Team CarboRocket.
And then Brad asked me to also be one of the sponsors. I was confused because, well, exactly what do I have to contribute to a bike team?
But then I learned about how Team CarboRocket is really, truly different from other bike teams and I got on board, fast. Because I want to be a part of this.
Here is the press release. You should read it. And maybe you should apply to be on the team.
Team CarboRocket is looking for a few good, ordinary folks who are on the verge of doing something extraordinary. You may not even know what that extraordinary thing is yet, but you can feel it burning inside of you. Hopefully, you already enjoy cycling, be it on the road or mountain.
Team membership is open to anyone who’s interested in doing something big. You may be a total novice or a seasoned veteran, we care not. What we do care about is that — whatever your extraordinary goal may be — there is an enormous gap between where you are now and achieving that goal. Maybe you are overweight. Maybe you have never ridden even a tenth the distance you’re hoping to ride. Maybe you’re missing a limb or two. Whatever hurdle you have to reaching your goal should make you dig very deep.
If this isn’t clear here’s an example: You are currently an expert level mountain biker with a resume stacked with impressive finishes and maybe even some sponsors and you want to finish the Leadville 100 mountain bike race because you’ve never done it. Sorry, not digging deep enough, no need to apply.
If, however, you’re a sport-level mountain biker and you’ve been thinking that the Great Divide Race is a little bit too short and you think it’s about time somebody rides from Canada to Mexico and then back, well yeah. We’d like to hear more.
What’s in it for you? You will be supported and sponsored by none other than Ibis Cycles in conjunction with Bingham Cyclery, CarboRocket sports drink, Ritchey components and the ever humble FatCyclist.com. We can’t divulge exactly what awesome deals and swag you will be getting from each of these sponsors because we are still trying to figure out what Fatty is contributing. Maybe he’ll publish your stories. Maybe he’ll give you his super-secret recipe for quiche. It’s hard to say for sure. But we will say that you will like being sponsored by us. A lot.
What’s in it for us? We love a good story and we want to follow yours, from ordinary to extraordinary. We will be there when you fall down, first, to laugh at you and then give you a hand up, a dusting off and a gentle push onward. You will keep us apprised of your progress and ultimately your attempt at completing your extraordinary goal by updating your story at regular intervals on the team blog.
We want at least half the team to be women and total team members to be 10. We don’t want your entire story just yet, only 150 words or less. You need to tell us a compelling snippet of your story including who you are, what extraordinary thing it is you want to accomplish and why it will be so challenging. Email your 150 words to Brad@carborocket.com. The sponsors will then pick 10 people with the most compelling stories to make up the Team.
And then we’ll come up with a cool secret handshake or something. We look forward to hearing your outrageously cool idea. Oh yeah, there is a one week deadline for consideration. You have until February 19, Midnight to submit your snippet.
I tell you what: I’m one of the sponsors, and I’m still hoping I can make the team.
Item The Third: Free to a Good Home
Some of you may remember that there was a time when Susan couldn’t walk easily, but still wanted to get around. I got her this cool Revo electric scooter:
This retails for around $2500, if I remember correctly. Obviously I don’t need this anymore, but I’ve felt distinctly uncomfortable about selling it. I don’t know why.
Then last night it occurred to me: there’s bound to be someone out there who really needs this, and probably does not have the money to buy it.
I’d like that person to have it.
If you know who that person is, email me. You should know that I need to either give this to someone local or to someone who is willing to come get it. Because I just have no idea how — and don’t have the money (things are a little tight right now) — to ship this.
[Update: The scooter has been spoken for. ]
Item the Other Third: The Winner of the Michael Rasmussen Memorial Water Bottle
Eight or nine years ago I conducted a little mini-contest: come up with a good alternate use for water bottle lids. DSPBrian had the following idea reply:
The water bottle top is the ideal cookie cutter.
Perfect circles and if the dough gets stuck you can simply blow into the pre-purposed mouth piece.
It’s an idea that appeals to me because it is both elegant and completely ridiculous. Brian therefore wins the Michael Rasmussen Water Bottle:
Lucky, lucky Brian.
Item the Fifth: Love and Rejection…On a Plaque
A little while ago, I asked you to check out my sister Lori’s site — she needed six-word stories about love and rejection.
Fat Cyclist readers came through in spades.
And now Lori has posted photos of some of her plaques, illustrating your tales of love and sorrow. You should go check it out.
PS: Item The Sixth: I’m going swimming for my workout today. You know what’s sad? That nobody will be there to catch the hilarity on video.
I neglected to mention a very important thing in my post about “running” the Death Valley Trail Marathon yesterday. And that thing is that, as The Runner dragged me across the finish line, I thought to myself, “This was really easy and I bet I could have done this after swimming a couple miles and riding a century.”
And it’s fortunate I thought that.
You see, evidently I didn’t make it clear that I was totally joking when I said I could easily do an IronMan. Because Timex — one of the major sponsors of the Ironman — has contacted me and said, “OK, Fatty. You’re in the St. George Ironman. Let us know how it goes for you, OK?”
Which is awesome, for several reasons:
- Timex is going to give me some awesome schwag to give away and is going to help with my LiveStrong fundraising efforts. Huzzah for Timex!
- The threat of an Ironman gives me something to write about during the winter months, which is when this blog is generally pretty short on material, leaving me staring at the blank screen for hours at a time before I actually start typing something.
- I’ve been meaning to learn to swim for several years now, and this is excellent motivation to finally go out and do it.
- I’ll be able to check this off my Life List and finally be able to move “ride a recumbent” to the top.
- I’ll be able to demand that people begin addressing me as “IronFatty.”
- I’ve always loved triathlons.
But hold on. The race isn’t over. Not yet. In fact, I think it may be safe to say it hasn’t begun. Further, it may even be safe to say that I’ve got some work to do before I’m ready to do an Ironman.
Serious work. Serious work that must be conducted very, very seriously.
Here are a few of the things I am resolved to do, so that I will be able to execute this race with the seriously intense humility it requires.
- Learn to Swim: I have, as of a couple days ago, become a member of a gym. This gym has a swimming pool. I believe that is sufficient, though I may — from time to time — even go swimming in that pool. Well, “swimming” may be the wrong word. I intend to frolic in the pool. Eventually, I plan to be able to frolic for two full miles.
- Buy a Wetsuit: The secret to completing the swim portion of the Ironman is to have a good wetsuit. I am given to understand that these wetsuits make a huge difference in your swimming ability, floatability and technique in general. Let us just say that I am counting on this being true. And while i’m at it, i think i’ll also hope that my wetsuit will propel me forward, with no effort whatsoever on my part. That will be nice.
- Investigate Legality of Snorkels: Are they really not allowed in an Ironman, or just generally not used? Cuz I love snorkeling. I think I’ll check into swim fins, too.
- Buy a Bento Box: I will buy a Bento Box and put it on my bike. I will buy another and will use it when I am not on my bike. I will now eat all of my meals and snacks from a Bento Box.
- Investigate “Win Over The Crowd” Techniques: Specifically, I need to find out if it would be considered extremely cool or uncool to throw out handsful of candy to spectators, as if it were a parade. I suspect that with a $25 investment in candy, I could easily become the single most popular guy on the course.
- Get Proper Attire: I of course want to wear a Team Fatty jersey during the race, but am concerned that I won’t really fit in. So I think I’ll look into having a Fat Cyclist jersey custom-altered to be a half-jersey, perhaps both sleeveless and exposing my belly. This will really help me in the race, because I love to scratch my belly, and now I’ll have unfettered access.
- Always Wear Proper Attire: I will have all my shirts altered to be half-shirts, so I can become very, very comfortable with the idea of showing off my stomach to the world.
- Stop Socializing: I will stop talking to people or waving when I am riding. I will ride alone, and will delete my friends from my phone.
- Have My Sense of Humor Reconfigured: I will stop thinking that triathlons are bizarre and hilarious. I will instead start thinking that whatever triathletes think is funny is actually funny. Provided triathletes think anything is funny.
- Work on My Transitions: In order to fully assimilate the Ironman way of life, I will minimize my transition times between everything I do. Even this moment, I am wearing my pajamas under my street clothes. And under my pajamas is my swimsuit.
- Do Bricks: An essential part of Ironman training is to do two events back to back. This is called, oddly, a “brick.” Because I intend to embrace this race wholeheartedly, I will do bricks in my everyday life, too. I will have a breakfast-lunch brick, where I will eat both meals consecutively. I will have a Dinner-bedtime brick, where I will go to bed right after eating dinner. Yes, this is all very intense, but I am willing to sacrifice for my “sport.”
- I Will Forget How to Ride A Straight Line. And I’ll forget how to pedal circles, too. And buy clip-on bar ends and adopt a much less comfortable riding position, hoping that it buys me a few seconds of time, thanks to my much improved aerodynamic profile. And I will develop a more menacing game face.
Is there anything else I need to do to prepare for my first Ironman? No, I can’t think of anything else, either.
The bicycle is wonderful for a near-infinite number of reasons, but perhaps the most extraordinary is the fact that, when properly built up, a bicycle can coast.
When you are going downhill, you can stop working and yet keep going; perhaps you’ll even go faster. You can take short breaks on level ground, too. You can, amazingly, even coast uphill briefly.
You cannot, on the other hand, coast at all when running. A fact I, until this past weekend, never really fully comprehended.
26.2 miles is a long way to go without getting to coast. Really long.
The last Saturday before the marathon, The Runner and I decided that we’d try to get in a big run mileage-wise, but would skip the big climbs and descents we’d been focusing on. By doing a flat 18 miles, we thought we’d have a good idea of what kind of day we’d have when running the marathon. And we did fine, finishing the eighteen-mile run in exactly three hours.
But the next day I was sore. Left hip flexor pain. And it hadn’t gone away — not really — by Friday night.
Also, the weather was a little uncertain. Normally a hot, dry place even in the dead of Winter, Death Valley had been getting rain and snow. So I brought a huge amount of gear — the clothes I’d need for a Summer run, a Winter run, or anything in between.
It rained most of the drive — through Saint George, through Arizona, through Las Vegas and into Death Valley.
The cactus looked very confused.
The morning of the marathon was overcast and humid, but not raining. Not yet, anyway. Independently, The Runner and I arrived at identical dressing decisions: long sleeve light wool base layer, Fat Cyclist vest, wool socks, and shorts. I also wore a light wool beanie. The Runner did not, seeing as how she has hair.
We figured we’d be good in cold or rain with that combination. If the clouds cleared and it got warm, we were screwed.
We boarded the bus to the start of the race, and then the wind picked up. And it got cold. We huddled together, wondering if maybe it would be OK if we just started running a little early. Nobody would begrudge us a head start, right?
Then, almost exactly one minute before the race began, I needed to pee. Badly.
“I’ll be right back,” I told The Runner. “These things always start late anyway.”
When I came out of the outhouse, it was to the sight of everyone running down the dirt road. I had missed the start of the race.
I swear, this has happened to me in dreams, but I would never have thought that I would ever miss a race start in real life.
With the odd thought that I was currently in last place, I began chasing the field. Juking left and right, I passed the back of the field, looking for blue shorts, a white vest over a black wool shirt, and a white cap with a ponytail coming out the back.
There she was. On the left side, slowly running so I could catch her, and looking back often, wondering whether I’d ever catch up. It was her first kind move in what would eventually be a countless number of kind moves during the race.
Settling Into a Groove
The first mile of this otherwise flat course is downhill. The combination of gravity, embarrassment-fueled adrenaline, and start-of-race eagerness made me ramp up the pace. “Slow down, Fatty,” The Runner said. “This race has just begun.”
Yes, she really does call me Fatty sometimes. In spite of the fact that I’ve asked her to please call me “sir.”
I slowed down, and we settled into a comfortable — or what passes for comfortable when one is running — nine minute pace, where both of us are able to talk.
We had decided during the bus ride to the starting line that the theme of the conversation for this race would be “early childhood.” So we traded stories about friends, where we grew up, and pets. The miles slipped by quickly, and I was happy to note — several times in fact — that I was enjoying myself
Looking at my virtual training partner on my GPS (we had set them for a 4:30 target time), I could see we were ahead and building a strong lead.
A few drops of rain fell on us. Maybe ten, all told. But it was cold enough that I was glad for the Smartwool baselayer the whole day.
I have an assertion to make now. All wilderness, no matter what kind, is interesting and beautiful. I do not believe there is such a thing as ugly wilderness. Based on things I had read about this course and Death Valley in general, I halfway expected to come upon the first exception to this rule.
But Death Valley is no exception. Running through the bed of an ancient lake that stretched flat to the horizon, with salt crystals growing up at crazy angles, was remarkable to look at, and gave an impression of vastness that is entirely different from the vastness mountains or the sea convey. And it was definitely beautiful.
Then, as the lake bed gave way to desert and tenacious scrub, then to wiry, sparse trees, I was just amazed at the changes in scenery that had happened in just a few miles.
This wasn’t the landscape I had wanted to see. But it was definitely worth seeing.
The New Order
For the first eleven miles or so, The Runner and I ran side by side, talking most of the time. I made frequent optimistic speculation on how well things were going and our projected finishing time.
“We’re not even halfway there, Fatty,” The Runner reminded me.
“Can’t you please call me ‘Sir,’ as I’ve asked you to?” I wheedled.
Then, just after mile eleven, I noticed a change. It was about then that we started seeing the fast guys coming back on their return trip. The Runner would greet them with enthusiastic cheers. I would silently wave. Conserving energy.
And then The Runner began pulling away. “What’s up with that?” I thought. “Why would she be accelerating away from me?”
I checked my GPS. She wasn’t pulling away. I was dropping off.
I stepped it up, nearly catching her, and then falling back. This game of yo-yo continued all the way to the turnaround and beyond.
Still, in spite of my evident slowdown, I had good news: we had done the first half of the marathon in just under two hours. We were well ahead of the pace necessary to finish under 4:39. Heck, if we could just hang on to this pace, we’d finish the whole race in about four hours flat.
Keeping It Together. Sometimes.
At mile 15, I fell apart. My hip flexor had begun aching, and my legs were just so tired. I began formulating excuses for why I couldn’t finish the marathon. I highly recommend this technique, by the way, for a way to motivate yourself to not quit a race. Just try to come up with a good explanation for why you should quit. If you can’t put one together that sounds so good that you prefer it to the story you might be able to tell if you did finish the race, well, then you probably shouldn’t quit.
Still, I needed to stop running, even for just a minute. So I slowed to a walk, and hollered out to The Runner: “I need a break.”
Then, a tenth of a mile later, I started running again. Well, “running” is perhaps a little bit of a euphemism for what I was doing. Whatever it was, though, it was faster than walking, and I was able to turn in consistent eleven-minute miles with it.
And thus began my new marathon-completion strategy: run nine-tenths of a mile, walk a tenth.
And try to ignore the pain while I did it.
Honestly, I don’t believe I have ever looked at my GPS so frequently and so desperately as I did during the final ten miles of that run. Every third of a mile or so, I’d check the display again; had i got to my next walking break? No? OK, how about now? And how about now?
How To Fix Fatty. And How Not To.
The Runner had told me that she intended to stay with me for the entire marathon, and to her credit, she did. Even as my miles got slower and slower.
This, naturally, had the effect of turning the marathon into a bit of a lazy stroll for her. And she had energy to burn, which she expended in the following ways:
- Sticking her arms out like wings and zigzagging across the dirt road, making airplane engine noises.
- Running backward so she was facing me, and cheering me on by doing “a round of applause” for me (executed by sticking your arms straight out and waving them in a circle as you clap).
- Doing the “Watermelon cheer,” which is accomplished by pretending to eat a large slice of watermelon, then spitting out — rapidly — the pretend seeds.
As she did this, I discovered something valuable about myself, which I had not known before: Sometimes I have no sense of humor whatsoever.
“Please,” I said. “I need to do this my way.” I then went on to explain that I was in the pain cave, and that I would be retreating deep into it and not coming out for a while.
Adopting a new tactic, The Runner asked — around mile 17 or 18 I think — if I would like to hear her life story. “Yes, that would be great,” I said.
And so, for the next ninety minutes, The Runner babysat me to the finish line, just taking my mind off the run by talking to me.
If she hadn’t done that, I’m pretty sure I’d still be out there.
A strange effect of this course is that because there are no trees or hills for a big part of it, you can see huge distances. So at mile 23, I could see the buses at the start/finish line. It is so strange to be able to see things at that distance. It made me feel like I was much closer to the end of the race than I knew I actually was. I resolved to ignore them.
Which was a good resolution, because buses two miles away don’t look a lot closer than buses three miles away.
Little by little, we made it to the finish line. The final mile was uphill, and I had resolved to try to finish strong. The Runner and I accelerated.
And then, about fifty yards later, I decelerated. The Runner, however, kept going. “That’s good,” I thought, “She deserves to finish at least a little ahead of me after dragging me this far.”
But then she slowed to a walk until I caught up with her.
We crossed the finish line together, and I’m pretty sure I heard a spectator say, “Good one Fatty,” as we did. Thank you, whoever did that.
Our finish time was 4:27 — three minutes faster than our target time, and twelve minutes faster than my previous (i.e., seven years ago) finish time.
After I caught my breath, I asked The Runner why she waited for me at the end. “I waited for you the whole day,” she said. “It seemed silly to shoot ahead of you at the end.”
When you consider all this, you will probably not be especially surprised to learn The Runner and I are now engaged.
By the end of the day after the race, I was sore. By Sunday morning my hip flexor was so sore I had a difficult time walking. I didn’t really feel injured per se — just sore; after a few minutes standing and walking, I would loosen up and could get around, easily walking like I was no more than ninety five years old.
By this morning — Monday — things have improved even further; I can now walk as if I were no more than eighty.
But I daresay it’ll be a few days before I run again.
PS: Those of you who bet or otherwise incentivized me (you’ll find your bets here), please click here to donate to my 2010 Seattle LiveStrong Challenge. Thanks!
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