Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tell Me What's in the Box!

Boxes are fun.  Perhaps not the boxes themselves but the anticipation of opening the box and finding something wonderful inside like a donut or a unicorn. Unless you are three years old.  At that point in your life anything you can chew on is endlessly amusing so opening the box is an unnecessary step on the road to happiness.  And that is reason number 426 that I spend as little time as possible with children.  I'm going to go ahead and assume that the majority of my readership is above the gnawing on boxes stage of life.  There may be one or two of you out there that haven't made it past that point but I'm cool with it.  I don't judge.

So what was in the box I showed you the last time we met?  Where did the box come from?  Why do we need to put things in boxes?  Am I stalling or just trying to increase my word count?  All valid questions.  The answer to the most important one is that my birthday was last week and I used the opportunity of celebrating my beginning to buy new running shoes.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Merrell Trail Glove.

Are you ok?  Do you need a minute to collect yourself?  Did they take your breath away?  It's ok, just let your emotions run wild.  I wept when I first saw them and you should too.  If you think they look a little familiar you are not incorrect.  Let's take a look at the evolution of footwear according to my feet.

The Little Italian LOVES it when I put my dirty running shoes on the table.  

For those of you who don't have long term memory issues you may recall that my first foray into trail running was done in a pair of Chuck Taylors.  We can all agree that was not a great plan.  But it did lead to the purchase of the bright yellow Nike Zoom Waffle XC 8s you see on the far left of the above picture.  They served me well.  They were fast, light, had removable spikes and were yellow.  That last bit was their best trait.  After many miles in the dirt they had to be shelved and were replaced by the shoe you see in the middle.  Look familiar?  Yeah, that is the Merrell Sonic Glove.  That has been a fantastic shoe but there are some major differences between those and the trail gloves so a change was in order.  First, the trail glove has a mesh upper for increased breathability.  I'm sure you have all been terribly worried about the breathability of my running shoes. Second, the Trail Glove has a flexible stone guard in the forefoot.  Other than that the shoes are identical except for one major performance enhancing quality of my newest pair.  My new shoes are silver.  Silver shoes have been clinically proven to go faster.  I don't make this stuff up folks.  If you can find it on the internet, it's real.  

My decision to go with this particular shoe was not one I took lightly.  The whole minimalist running craze has flooded the market with shoes for that category.  More options means more studying which means more coffee and that leads to me getting the jitters.  I'm so tired but I can't blink and my hair is vibrating.  I do it all for you though.  

So why did I buy these shoes?  First and foremost they are a true minimal shoe with zero drop from the heel to the forefoot.  The upper is well thought out with a durable material and formed rubber toe guard.  If Pegasus wore shoes he/she/it would have worn these.  How's that for a product endorsement?  That should take a little of the air out of Michael Jordan's sails.  See what I did there?  You're welcome.

Be honest, you are really just admiring the color.  I know, they're cool.

The other major factor in my decision was the Vibram outsole.  Vibram soles got Jim Whittaker to the top of Everest.  If their soles can do that they can do anything.  Well, almost anything.  They can't make me a sandwich.  But if they did make me a sandwich I'm sure it would have bacon.  All the best sandwiches have bacon.

Everest.  Seriously.

I do intend to put my new kicks to good use in the very near future.  And yes, I'll tell you about it here.  On August 31st there is a ten mile trail race in Davidson.  I put this race on my schedule back in January with every intention of not breaking my leg in March.  Yeah, about that.  I guess Shakespeare was right.  Regardless, I've been back on the trail for nearly a month and despite my slow pace I've got the racing itch.  I can see this going one of two ways.  My dream would be a first place finish followed by champagne, a medal and the ability to eat dairy.  Reality will most likely be a finish near the back of the field with my lungs coming out of mouth.  That sounds nice too though.  Besides, The Little Italian keeps telling me ice cream doesn't taste that good.  The fact that she always says it with a spoon hanging out of her mouth does make me question her honesty.  Just a little.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Tools of the Trade

I know I've been away from the blog for too long when I start getting angry messages from faithful readers who have trouble getting through their morning constitutional without my musings.  To those of you who have suffered, I'm sorry.  Seriously though, if you wait for me you'll be backed up to the point of bursting.  I don't want that on my hands.  You shouldn't want that on your hands either.

So what has been happening in my little world as of late?  Big things.  Huge things.  Things that involve getting off the couch and getting back to the work of being fit and fast.

First things first.  That does tend to be the most sensible way to proceed.  When I broke my leg the accident was attributed to the fact that I require prescription glasses to do just about everything except sleep yet choose not to wear them while riding and running.  Not a great plan.  You can go ahead and stop wagging your boney finger of judgement at me right now.  I can't see it anyway so you are really just scolding your computer.  Your computer deserves better than your scorn.  Besides, The Little Italian told me that she wouldn't let me leave the house until I rectified my retinal retardation.  I do live in constant fear of her beatings so off to the optometrist I went.  I'm sure you're thinking that because I'm impossibly cheap I walked out of the store with a glorified pair of safety goggles.  Well, not quite.    There are times in life when you have to look deep down into your pocketbook and ask yourself if having money in that vacuous space is more important than looking really, really, ridiculously awesome.  The answer is an emphatic no.

Oakley Flak Jackets for the good people.  In 'oh so pro' white.  

I was a little apprehensive about spending as much on a pair of glasses as I might normally spend on a new crank-set for Stumpy but the moment I put them on something amazing happened.  I could see! You wouldn't believe how much there is to see in the woods.  Trees, birds, bears, leg breaking roots, rocks, dragons and other humans!!   All those things that were once just  a blur to me became incredibly sharp.  The brilliant contrast produced by the amber lenses turned the once jumbled forrest into a clear, crisp visual playground.  The only downside is that I once thought everything was blurry because I was going so fast.  Sadly, that illusion is gone.

I happened to come off the couch just in time for the hottest few weeks of the year.  Stumpy is conveniently adorned with two water bottle holders. I am not.  There was a moment when the idea of drilling water bottle mounts into my forearms crossed my mind but I chose to go in a different direction.  I have all the tools I need to do it but feared that it might look strange to have bottle cages poking through the sleeves of my dress shirts while sitting at my desk.  Oh, the sacrifices I make to hold down a professional career.  In an effort to find a suitable hydration solution I went to a local running store in search of what people pursuing this silly non-cycling activity call "hand-helds".  These are water bottle with straps that hold them to your hands. At first I found the whole idea a bit bizarre but in the interest of integrating into the culture of running I thought I should give it a go.  $25!!!!  TWENNNY FIVE DOLLLL UUURRSS!!!!.  For a plastic bottle wearing a belt incorrectly.  Yeah, that was not going to happen.  Runners are dumb.  Feeling a little dejected after experiencing some painful sticker shock I hung my head and went home convinced that I would have to die of thirst or wear a Camelback.  Neither option seemed particularly appealing so I went to the garage to ask Stumpy for advice.  Yes, I talk to my bike.  Don't act like I'm the only weirdo around here.  You're the one still reading.  

Anyway, there on my work bench was the answer to all my problems.  Or at least one of my problems.  A tube with a hole in it.  Ordinarily a blown tube is nothing to get excited about.  It usually means you had a bad day.  But not today.  I slowly walked over to the tube and carefully lifted it from the table.  I examined it closely and, as if from the heavens, a light shone upon it.  That light comes on every time the garage door opens but this time it seemed much more meaningful.  After a little quick scissor work I had created my very own runner approved water transportation apparatus.  I completed my first run with it this weekend and can proudly say that my homemade hand-held is top notch.  Smells good too.  Ask any bike mechanic, they'll agree.  If I could find cologne that smelled like grease and rubber I'd wear it every day.  Olfactory bliss right there folks. 

$25.00.  Seriously? Not on my watch mister!

My return to the trail would not be complete without the acquisition of one more essential piece of gear.  Thankfully, my birthday is this week.  Budget be damned, I've got celebrating to do.  Look what I found:

What's in the box?  Wouldn't you and Brad Pitt like to know.

We have a lot to discuss and the day has grown long.  I guess you'll just have to wait to find out what lies beneath the lid of this unassuming little brown box.  Stop by before the end of the week and I'll show you.  It will be like a reveal party but without the pending horror of someone pushing a tiny human out of their body.  That can't be normal.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hey! Look Over There...

I'm not attempting to distract you while I steal your sandwich.  Unless you have a really good sandwich.  If I find out you have corned beef and miracle whip on wonder bread you are in big trouble.  Just keep your hands away from my mouth and accept that you won't ever see your beloved sandwich again.  Maybe you should just order a salad next time.

I recently wrote a post for the Carolina No Name Ultra Trail Runners website.  Check it out along with other great content at  Don't be afraid.  I know new things can be scary but we can do this together.  Like tandem kayaking, fraternity parties and democracy.  Wait, do all three of those things give you herpes?  Maybe you should go check out the site on your own and I'll just wait here.  I'll miss you though so don't be gone long.  And while you're away, get me a sandwich.  

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Adventures of Captain No-Pants

As my regular readers may imagine, I've had a little free time over the course of the past six weeks.  When we last met I thrilled you with the terrifying, dramatic and heart wrenching story of how I broke my leg.  That is how I remember it anyway.  If you weren't crying at the end of my last post you my not have feelings.  You know where people without feelings go, don't you?  That's right, they go to Washington DC.  Do you want to pay those rent prices?  I sure as hell don't so get out the tissues and bring on the tears.

My initial thought after breaking my leg was that I would recover quickly and be running again within six weeks.  I came to this conclusion based on my extensive medical training and comprehensive knowledge of human anatomy.  The fact that I had to pay a little visit to Wikipedia to find out what a fibula was doesn't mean I'm ill equipped to diagnose injuries and recommend treatment plans.  It simply suggests that I will only be able to provide medical services to the most dedicated discount shoppers.  And people from South Carolina.  They won't know the difference anyway.  It's not like they know how to read.

My lengthy foray into the mysterious world of couch surfing left me more than a little bored.  I was once told that only stupid people get bored.  I would like to amend that statement.  There are now two types of people who get bored; stupid people and the physically incapacitated. The good news is that I have handled this entire process with the highest level of dignity and an unwavering focus on both my mental and physical well-being.  It also turns out that I'm a superhero.

The world needs heroes.  Life can be dim and ghastly.  Evil lurks around every corner.  When the light of hope fades to an infinitesimal speck a savior must rise to reignite the flame and champion a new era of human triumph.  Did I mention that I spent two full weeks sitting on the couch in my underwear drinking beer and eating chocolate brownies?   Dairy free, gluten free, IBS friendly chocolate goodness.  Breakfast and dinner both thank you very much.  It was magnificent.  Maybe I cut my brownie into the shape of a dark overlord and laughed manically while I sliced him into bite sized pieces with my spoon.  Then again, maybe I didn't.  Actually, I did.  No pants.  No mercy!!  The evil brownie emperor paid for all the ills of the world and was washed down in a dark brew of water, yeast, malt and hops as Captain No-Pants was draped in an American flag.  Don't you judge me.  Judge the brownie king for all the pain and suffering he caused.  He didn't deserve a trial by jury.  Of course, looking back a jury trial might have been the way to go because then I would have had cookies.

There is no excuse for my terrible eating habits during this ordeal but I can very easily justify my pants-free lifestyle.  Let us simply call it the exuberance of youth.  I recently had the opportunity to spend some quality time with a three year old boy.  Yes, there was another adult present.  Where did you think I was going with this you weirdos?  To protect the innocent I shall refer to this particular three year old at JT.  I'm sure that no one will crack my secret code. Of course, any teenage girls reading this may assume that I've been spending time with Justin Timberlake and that thought is far more terrifying than the idea of me hanging out with a child.  Where was I?  Yes, the pants.  There has been a recurring event during each of my visits to the home of the intrepid JT.  I can't help but notice that he takes his pants off at every possible opportunity.  Sometimes he has something on underneath.  Sometimes he doesn't.  But each time he squeals with joy as he flings his trousers to the floor.  With a smile that nearly splits his head he runs unencumbered across the floor without a second thought to the social norms that dictate keeping one's lower half covered.  Do his actions justify mine?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  Either way, if he can do it I can too and if the UPS man doesn't like it he can just leave my packages at the door without a signature.

So if you want the plain boring truth about my recovery all I can say is that I'm plugging along just fine.  My X-Ray on the 19th showed that the break in the fibular head has not fully healed but is not far from it.  I am under strict orders not to run or ride my mountain bike until May 20th.  Three more weeks.  In the meantime I have engaged in some light hiking, rides on the greenway and daily laps in the pool.  The bone will be 100% healed by this time next month.  My knee on the other hand is a different story.  That is going to take a very long time to fully recover.  How long?  Let's just say there will be a birthday, a couple religious holidays and a superbowl along the way.  But not to worry.  I've learned a great deal from this experience.  Or maybe I've learned nothing at all.....

Back to racing before the end of the year?
Damn right I will be.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sorry Steve, That Leg is Going to Have to Come Off

I should be sitting here writing a race report for the Top of Mountain To Ya 11k.  I should be.  Instead, I'm going to tell you a story.  Its the story of a young man and his legs.  Up until 7 days ago, both of those legs were what I like to refer to as "not broken".  That is the state that I prefer my legs to be in at all times.  And so the story begins.....

Last Sunday I found myself with a brief window to sneak in some exercise prior to heading out for dinner with the parents.  Stumpy was in the garage waiting for me but in the interest of getting some more running miles into my legs I opted to run a quick loop out at Sherman Branch.  I figured that a little over twelve miles at a reasonable pace would serve me nicely.  And it did.  At least for a little while.  After completing the Roller Coaster and the first half of the main loop I concluded that I was slightly overdressed for the rising temperatures.  My body temperature was just a bit too high for this time of year so I took a shortcut back to the car to shed a layer.  I stripped off my long sleeved jersey and headed back to the trail in my running shorts and a sleeveless base layer.  This is when my day got really interesting.  In my minimalist attire I found that I was far more comfortable and kicking along at a significantly faster pace than in the first few miles.  As the trail passed beneath my feet I found myself in a playful and light footed mood.  I ran across trail side obstacles and jumped off ramps reserved for those on two wheels.  Passing other trail users I extended friendly greetings as my pace quickened even more.  Then, on a completely benign stretch of trail only a few meters from the turn to the Lake Loop my day took a frightful turn.  

That's right, I was attacked by a bear with chainsaw arms.  It was terrifying.  I narrowly escaped with my life.  Lucky for me he had a taste for small children so I threw Girl Scouts at him until his appetite for blood was satisfied.

That may not be the whole truth.  In fact, the real story is far more terrifying.  As I approached my next turn I was attacked by this:

I was not the least bit afraid of the Tommy gun.  I was more afraid of the giant wave crashing through the woods.  We've been in a drought for years so it is easy to understand why I would fear large volumes of water.

OK, fine.  I'll tell you the real yet very lame story of how I broke my leg.  I was running along and only half paying attention when my left foot caught a root.  Half an in inch in any direction and I would be writing a race report right now.  Somehow my foot managed to get caught in just the right way to stop all forward progress.  At least on my left side.  My right leg kept going.  Bad times.  As my leg flew forward I looked down just in time to see the back of my heel hit the ground.  As my knee hyper-extended the full weight of my body came crashing down and I heard a loud crack.  That is not a sound you want to hear.  That is much worse than the sound of the chainsaw bear because the chainsaw bear isn't real.

After spending a moment on the ground attempting to collect myself but failing miserably I decided it would probably be best to move.  With an abundance of adrenaline pumping through me I hobbled through the woods back to my car.  Only on the drive home did I realize the full severity of my injury.  Have you ever tried to drive a stick with one leg?  Yeah, that's a pretty good time right there.

Upon return to my sprawling urban estate I calmly explained to The Little Italian that it might not be a bad idea to go to the ER.  Yes, calmly.  That is exactly how I remember it.  If she attempts to tell you otherwise just know she is lying.  And she was drunk when I got home.  And the house was on fire.  And my cat was speaking Spanish.  Calmly.

If you ever have a true emergency I would strongly suggest that you not visit the ER.  Unless you have a knife sticking out of your face you probably don't want to go there.  And if you do have a knife sticking out of your face it might be too late anyway.  Depending on the size of the knife of course.

As I went through triage and explained what happened there seemed to be a certain level of comprehension from the medical staff.  Enough in fact that they felt it would be in my best interest to take several X-Rays.  I enjoyed that part of my visit.  Who doesn't enjoy a good X-Ray?  Anyway, no fewer than 6 different people attended to me during my four hour stay.  The only  problem I could see is that they did not seem to be talking to each other.  Two and a half hours in I was given an ice pack.  Ice packs are great for broken legs.  Another hour later my leg was wrapped from mid-quad to mid-calf in an Ace bandage.  And then the doctor came in.

He looked like a  professional.  He talked like a professional.  But.......

THEY MISSED IT!!!  They shot images of my leg from my knee to the tips of my toes from multiple angles.  I told them I thought my leg was broken.  The work was done for them.  6 people looked at me and no one noticed that my leg was broken until I went to Orthocarolina the next day.  I was there for three seconds before Chip, master of all things Ortho, said to me "hey look, you broke your leg."  No one at the ER seemed to notice.  Nor did they show me my X-Ray.  They simply told me I was fine and should probably take some Ibuprofen.  At least they gave me an ice pack.  That was awesome.  

A positive attitude is the key to a speedy recovery.  Here you see me expressing that the ER staff is #1 in my book.  Mental note:  throw away ten year old shiny blue running shorts.  Not a good look.

So here we are, you and I, embarking on the linguistic journey that is an injury blog.  The injury itself is a fractured fibular head.  There is some soft tissue damage as well.  I figure that second bit is of no consequence as we Michigan natives are anything but soft.  The physical pain is nothing to write home about.  I've had worse.  The only troubling moment I had this week was looking down at my leg after returning home from work on Tuesday and seeing that I had developed a cankle.  In the shockingly small part of my brain that handles logical thought I knew it was just inflammation.  The rest of my brain was telling me it was the rapid onset of obesity.  I've seen it on TV but had no idea it could take over your body incrementally. 

Two weeks on crutches and 6-8 weeks of limited weight bearing are looming in front of me.  I don't handle inactivity well.  I've already watched a dozen documentaries and am considering taking up wood carving.  A life sized replica of chainsaw bear would look great in my living room.  Until my mail order chisel set arrives I'll have to remain focused on developing a pedal interface for my crutches. What could possibly go wrong?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

February - Like January, Only Later

As a native Michiganian the month of February holds a special place in my heart.  Not in the warm, soft loving area that one might think a month containing Valentine's day might go.  No, more like a dark place in the back where only pop musicians and politicians go.   How could I possibly possess such negative feelings for the shortest month of the year?  The February thaw, that's how.  For those warm climate natives unfamiliar with this concept, allow me to explain.  Winter in Michigan starts somewhere around October.  If you live north of the bridge it may start as early as July but that is a story for another time.  Once winter starts the entire state becomes engulfed in a cloud bank that does not relent until April.  The temperature drops, the snow depth rises and the citizens drink beer.  So goes winter in the wolverine state.  But every year without fail there is a brief respite from the misery of winter.  For a few short days each February the clouds break, the temperature rises and the snow begins to melt.  The entire state population rejoices at the coming of spring because each year they forget just how long winter truly is.  Then, as suddenly as it began, the thaw ends.  It leaves behind muddy trails, a depressed populous and the first half of winter.  Screw you February!!  And screw you too Justin Bieber.  I do not have the fever.  If I did I'm quite certain there is some sort of medicinal treatment available.

And that is reason number 847 why I moved to the south.  Write that down.

Slowly but surely I'm starting to embrace the year's shortest month.  I'm still at the very early stages of this new relationship with the once dreaded month after January.  How early?  We'll say second base early.  Some good things are happening but I'm just not willing to commit to going all the way.  I'm sure that will leave me with some frustration at the end of the month but March will be there to take care of me.  Sweet, sweet March.  There for you like your neighbor's older sister just when you need her most.

My mom just read that.  Worse than that, she thought about it for a second.  If I weren't 35 years old I'd probably be grounded.  Back in the day when I was young enough to be grounded it usually entailed taking away my Intellivision and being forbidden to watch The Greatest American Hero.  There are members of my audience who had to use Google twice to understand the gravity of that last sentence.  I'm not old, I'm just mature.  And sophisticated.  I should probably throw handsome in there too just for good measure.

So what have I been doing this February?  Running and lots of it.  I've also been learning.  What did I learn?  Well, that brings me to my first race report.  Two weeks ago I ran the 10 miler at Paris Mountain.  It seemed like a great idea at the time.  Two ascents of Paris Mountain which of course also meant two trips down.  The weather was cool and the sky was clear.  Did I mention I had bronchitis?  Yeah, that is a pretty important detail.  I probably should have stayed home but someone told me that running was a great way to recover from bronchial ailments.  Great, I've found someone as nuts as I am.  And I take advice from him.  I might be screwed.  Anyway, despite the fact that I couldn't really breath I had a great time at the race.  The trails were super technical which kept me focused.  I started out way too fast but at this point I've simply accepted that as my signature move.  I crossed the line in 1:31:34 and finished 28th out of 52 men.  Not bad for a little dude running on one lung.

Yesterday was the icing on the February cake as I ran the South Mountains Half Marathon.  38 degree temperatures and a light rain proved to be ideal running conditions.  The course description was spot on as well.  The event flyer said that just when you think the hill can't go up any more, it does.  It went uphill a lot.  Roughly 17 miles according to my calculations which seems a bit odd as the race was only 13.1.  I found myself struggling with the amount of vertical in this event which simply means I need to get to the mountains more.  I felt much better than I did two weeks ago.  It was nice to have my lungs back but my finish was about the same.  I crossed the line in 2:15:07 and finished 29th out of 52 men.  Mid-pack.  Home.

The real highlight of the second event was that I was rewarded for my lengthy uphill slog with a two mile downhill on a wide open fire road.  Ordinarily I prefer to run on single track but with this being my longest event to date I was eager to finish and didn't mind a little easy cruising at the end. Over those last two miles I managed to pass eight people.  How did I do that?  Not by any level of skill I can tell you that much.  As the members of my running club will tell you, I don't know how to slow down.  Once I get kicking down hill I just keep building speed until I hit flat ground or something solid.  Hopefully the former.  Either way, it's a hell of a good time.

What lies ahead?  The end of February sure enough.  And March.  Oh my beloved March.  On the 17th I'll be headed up to Hanging Rock State Park for a 10 miler full of climbing.  And for all those folks back home, March is spring here.  Warm temperatures and blooming flowers.  Like the the promise of the thaw but with delivery rather than hope.  Yeah, screw you February.  Right in the ear.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Where Do Those Hills Go? They Go Up.

Dateline Saturday, January 12th 2013.  The Morrow Mountain Trail Race.

I went.

I raced.

Now you'll read about it.  Just keep both hands on the keyboard.  I don't ask for much, so at least give me that.

I had a plan going into this event.  The plan was really quite simple.  Toe the line and take a deep breath.  When the starter turns everyone loose, DON'T PANIC.  All I needed was a nice easy pace to get my legs warmed up.  A couple miles at a comfortable tempo would help me settle into my stride and gradually pick up speed as I chipped away at the ten mile course.  Such a simple plan.  So beautiful in its lack of complexity.  How closely did I stick to this plan?  What plan?  I don't remember a plan.

As we were unleashed from the hell that is the start line I saw some very fast looking runners jump into the lead.  My first inclination was to stick to the plan.  The simple, sensible plan.  My second thought was "ooh, they look fun!".  On second thought, screw the plan.  I left the majority of the pack behind me as I sprinted up toward the leaders.  I ran at a leg busting pace for the first mile and half.  That is when I saw the first of three hills to be conquered during the event.  It was brutally steep.  The runners ahead of me were all walking, some with their hands on their knees.  This is the point where I was fairly certain I was in trouble.  My lungs were already in my throat as I began the ascent.  I pushed to maintain what I felt was a respectable pace but simply couldn't hold it.  As I slowed to catch my breath I crossed the two mile mark.  I panicked again and tried to lift my pace once more.  That didn't work.  I reached the top of the hill physically spent with the majority of the course still in front of me.  The descent was a meandering affair with gentle gradients and a seemingly endless series of turns.  I kept my pace reasonable as my heart rate returned to a sustainable level and I recaptured my breath.  It was at this moment that my day got much, much better.

Half way down the first descent I was caught by Matt, the amazing one-handed runner who has two hands.  It's a long story but trust me, it's an interesting one.  I have run with Matt before both on local trails and at my first competitive event back in November.  I have no experience being in front of him, or even close behind him for that matter.  Rather than over think the scenario I welcomed the familiar face and graciously stepped aside to let him do a little pacing.  Matt paced me through the rest of the descent and into the next stretch of flat trail.  My legs were starting to feel good as we lifted the pace a bit.  I was in my happy place and then we hit the second ascent of the day.  It went up.  Straight up.  My merciful pacer raised a finger to point at the runners ahead of us near the top of the hill.  He remarked at the vertical distance we had to cover as I started to question leaving my bike at home.  Another slow grind to the top.  Another descent.  This time the descent was much more aggressive.  I haven't quite figured out how to run downhill yet so I decided the best approach would be to simply lean forward and get my feet out of the way.  I didn't say anything about descending in a controlled fashion.  Nope, I flew down the hill with my arms flailing wildly to help me maintain my balance.  At the bottom I encountered a sharp turn where I nearly took out a course marshal.  She was cute.  So am I.  She'll forgive me.

On to one more flat section and the final climb.  This is where I started to relax and enjoy not only the feeling of my legs turning over but visual aesthetic of my surroundings as well.  A large fog bank had settled over the area so as we climbed the hills I watched as the runners ahead of me appeared to disappear into the clouds.  The final hill was a shallower climb than the earlier ascents so I was able to keep the pace higher.  When Matt and I hit the top together I was ecstatic.  A long descent, and less than two miles of flat land were all that separated us from the finish line.  Matt crushed me on the descent aided by his superior experience and surely his greater body mass.  I lost him heading into the last section of trail but caught up to another old friend.  The devil himself from the Humbug Buster 7k was kicking just ahead of me.  We exchanged pleasantries and ran together past the trail marker indicating we only one mile left.  Matt could be seen up ahead so with a little over half a mile to go I bid farewell and asked my legs for just a little more.  

As I caught Matt for the final time he told to me to enjoy the final few hundred yards on my own.  I crossed the finish line and quickly turned to congratulate the two men finishing just behind me.  At the time I was uncertain where I had finished overall.  I knew I was in the top 20 based a few kind course marshals providing details throughout the race.  My final position was the least of my concern at the finish line.  I turned back on the trail and ran to where I could stand on a stump and cheer on the rest of the finishers.  That is where I stayed until the very last runner came in.  I whistled and clapped and cheered as if each runner had just finished first.  Then I fell off the stump.  If there are pictures of that incident you'll certainly never see them here.

So where did I end up in the final standings?  I came in 19th out of 57 men overall and 4th out of six in my age class.  Not bad for a mountain biker with a running problem.  The times were much slower than I expected due to the difficulty of the course.  The overall winner finished in 1:11 and trailed well behind at 1:38.  

Onward to the next one.  On February 9th I'll be rolling out of the Queen City before dawn to take on Expedition Paris Mountain in Greenville, SC.  I can assure you of two things.  First, no matter the overall theme of my race report, I will be making fun of SC.  Second, did I mention I'll be making fun of SC?  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Consistently Inconsistent

If there is one truly predictable feature about this blog it is that you never really know when new material might appear.  A predictable lack of predictability.  I tend to like it that way.  I'm just here to keep you on your toes.  Trust me, the anticipation of a new post is always far better than the actual content.  Unless I start posting more ice bath pictures.  Then the content will win.

It has been a while since I clicked away on my keyboard in pursuit of somewhat amusing blog fodder.  Inspired by my lack of motivation to do my real job I find myself locked in a back office with some time to kill while I stare out at a foggy image of the Queen City.  The weather does not need to be good today so I'm not upset.  The weather does need to be good tomorrow.  Why?  Tomorrow is race day.  Unlike so many race days in the past, Stumpy will be staying at home.  As noted some time ago, I am not currently planning to attend any mountain bike races in 2013.  So what type of race will I be participating in tomorrow?  Go-cart?  Wheel chair?  Hot air balloon?  No sir.  Tomorrow I will be joining 200 skinny folks in tiny shorts for the first event in the Search for the Mountain Goat trail run series.  10 miles in the woods on foot.  The wheel chair race concept is looking better every minute.

This will be my second competitive running event.  Ever.  That's not very many.  The hope is that I may have learned a great deal from the first one.  If you are scratching your head wondering if you missed the race report from my first event let me assure you that are not losing your mind.  I'm just lazy.  It has been over a month since my first event and this is the first attempt I have made at recapping that experience.  So here we go....

It was a dark and stormy night...

Wait, that's not it.

It was a cold yet sunny  morning....

Now we're talking!

November in the south tends to bring cool temperatures but certainly nothing compared with the barren north-land.  The day started with temps in the low 40s so I spent the hour or so after registration running around trying to keep my skinny butt warm.  The race itself was a 7k jaunt through the woods.  150 people toed the line and with this being my first foray into running with a purpose I chose to set up camp mid-pack.  I like it there.  The people are friendly, the mood is light and it is just far enough forward to not feel like sandbagging.  How long did I stay there?  For about two seconds after the gun went off.  As soon as I saw the lead group dart toward the first turn I just couldn't help myself.  I sprinted to the front and remained in 6th position for the first mile.  That mile was not so good.  We covered that mile in under 7 minutes which would have been fine on any other occasion but we still had three miles to go.  Just as quickly as I joined the front runners I started to fall off that group.  The second and third mile were spent sucking wind and wishing I had my bike.  But I didn't have my bike.  What I did have was a man dressed all in black sitting 3 feet behind me and matching me kick for kick.  I feared the devil himself may be chasing me so I inquired as to his intentions.  When I heard a friendly greeting passed through labored breath I figured I was safe.  Unless he was lying.  The devil can be sneaky like that.

As I fumbled through the middle of the course I managed to keep track of my position without much difficulty. Heading into the final mile I knew I was sitting in 13th place.  Bad luck.  With my legs and lungs both feeling a bit better I picked up the pace until I saw a runner ahead of me through the trees.  Having a rabbit to chase was all I needed to lift the pace a bit more.  It took about 800 meters for me to bring myself to his shoulder.  Apparently he didn't like that very much.  As I attempted to pass he took off like a shot.  I found that to be most unpleasant so I picked up the pace and brought myself to his side once again.  That was all I had to do get my competitive fire burning.  With the finish line in sight I kicked away and put more distance between the two of us with every stride.  I crossed the line alone and quickly turned to cheer on my two closest chasers.  And that is where I stayed for quite some time.  I knew where I finished and didn't need the specifics.  I spent the next thirty minutes at the finish line cheering on those who were rolling in.  High fives were extended.  Good chats were had.

So how did the official numbers look for my first trail race?  I finished 12th out of 149.  My official time was 32:59 which put me 3 minutes behind the winner.  3 minutes is an eternity over such a short distance but I am confident that I could have run a little bit faster had I run a whole lot smarter.  I raise my glass to lessons learned.

When I stand at the start tomorrow morning I will have ten miles ahead of me.  The race announcement bills this event as the promoter's toughest yet.  That sounds nice.  10 miles, three big hills and one happy little dude in his running shoes.  There will definitely be a race report.  There may even be some photos.  How soon will it be posted?  Could be an hour, could be a week.  Isn't that what you love most about me?  A promise to provide you with literary pleasure on a timeline that has no boundaries.  See you soon.  Maybe.