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.