Sunday, September 23, 2012

Trading Chaos for Quiet

             “Base, you got a minute?”  I hear it constantly and I know within the next few moments, one or more of the following will happen, I’ll:  get a change in schedule, get a new student, have to write an IEP, be asked to provide progress monitoring for the intense state audit, go to a meeting, get a duty change (hehehe—‘duty’ still makes me laugh), do something for the new teacher evaluation system or drop everything and deal with a kid in crisis.  Add to this the endless stream of phone calls and emails (which I am fastidious about returning), eluding that kid who has become my shadow, yelling at my desk mate as his stuff creeps onto my side again, and leaving the building for the relentless fire drills.  Top this all off with all the regular start of the year stuff, actual teaching, planning and reflection, and you’ve got a very busy teacher.
            I couldn’t wait to get on the trails.
            On the trails, all I have to worry about is whats 4-6 feet in front of me, how I’m feeling, and what I need to do to push forward.  The more challenging the course, the more I have to focus on those three things.  Although the work is rigorous, it is quite freeing.
            Virgil Crest 50M was my escape this weekend.  I considered it a training run, to prep for a more treacherous run in a few weeks.  The elevation chart occupied a few of my thoughts, but I pondered more how I would attack the terrain vs. any trepidation of covering the ground.  This being an out and back course, I decided not to use drop bags.  I wanted to test my abilities to “make do” when the going got tough for a longer period of time (similar to what I’ll face in a few weeks).
            Prior to race start, I ran into Chris and her husband Joe (Team Honey collectively).  It was great to chat.  Chris was attempting her second 100 and Joe was her crew.  I asked Joe what I could expect and he said “That trail is going to do everything it can to put you on your ass.  Run smart and conservatively, and you'll be okay.”  He also became my advisor each time I saw him on the course.  He would give me a hug, a word of encouragement and a verbal kick in the butt.  Thanks Joe!
            It didn’t take long for me to figure out that Joe was right about the course’s intentions.  The rain the night before made the course quite slippery, especially the creek crossings and descents.  I missed the sand-based trail at Dirty Girl, because I knew this clay was going to churn up fast.  I got lost once and landed hard two or three other times within the first 10 miles.  To stay focused, I kept asking and answering the following two questions of myself:
                .     Why are you here?/To train, so get moving          
                .     What is your goal?/ To stay healthy, so stop falling down
(Obviously one of those things was more in my control than the other.)
            My mantra this race was a paraphrasing of an ironic epitaph stating, “don’t be afraid to live your life”.  It gave me the courage to charge obstacles I would have otherwise been tentative of.
            By mile 20, the rain started.  It was heavy at times, but mostly just constant.  It didn’t bother me as a runner, but the course quickly became a muddy mess.  My footing wasn’t trustworthy and I wiped out several more times.  I was about as far away from clean as you could get!
            I saw Chris on the course fairly frequently.  She and I would leapfrog positions, and swap stories.  She looked so strong; I had no doubt that she would finish her 100.  I was also quite happy that I was “only” doing 50.
            By mile 40, I realized that I was not as recovered from the Dirty Girl as I had hoped.  I was still able to attack the climbs and not face-plant the descents, but I just felt weak.  Virgil taught me that I really need to manage my running leading up to Oil Creek, if I want to finish that monster strong.  Training time well spent.
            In the end, I’m down two toenails, have a bruise on my right hip and my left knee, and even after two showers, I'm still finding mud.  It took me longer than it normally takes me to finish this distance, but:
1.     I trained, and I trained hard.
2.     I came out healthy.
Mission accomplished.
            I’m certain, chaos will find me first thing Monday morning.  However, if you want to get my attention, you may need to give me a minute…I'm not quite ready to give up the quiet of the trails.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rock and Roll and Chad

This weekend was a blur.  Friday night, I had the rare luxury of the house to myself.  Unfortunately, I also had a boatload of work to trudge through.  Saturday started early, as I was on the road to Philadelphia by 4 am.  Why Philly?  Because the greatest shoe company in the world comped my race and gave me a chance to represent them.  I love being a moving billboard for Brooks, and proudly wear their clothes and shoes.  I'm pretty tough on my gear, and Brooks has always been up to the challenge.  I love you guys.

Back to Philly.  At the expo, I got a chance to meet John Bingham, the author of The Accidental Athlete and former Runner's World columnist.  Mr. Bingham is a gentleman who promotes the back of the pack.  His philosophy is that runners should run as slow as possible, in order to get their money's worth from the race.  He believes  that anyone who puts on a pair of running shoes and registers for a race is an athlete, not just the top ten finishers.  His book had me laughing out loud, and it was an honor to meet him.

After the expo, I had some free time, a luxury I exploited.  My friend Chad and his family also made the trip, but they were smart enough to leave on Friday.  Our kids take karate together, and we became fast friends due mainly to Chad's inability to let me sit quietly.  Within a short time, I was dropping hints about completing a half marathon.  We signed up for one together and I hope the beaming pride that oozed from him after that race never fades from my memory.

Well, here we were again.  Chad now has 9 half marathons under his belt (and two other distances, I know you count total races, buddy).   And, he's registered for several more halfs.  I believe I have created a monster.

At the start, I got to run up the Art Museum's steps, ala Rocky, while Eye of the Tiger blasted through the speakers. Hokey? Maybe, but c'mon aren't you a little bit jealous?  Then I found Chad, and I literally skipped over to him.  I danced to the blaring music as the gun went off and we waited the 1/2 hour to get to the starting line (that's what happens with 26,000 runners).  Chad and I decided to start the race together.  His back was hurting and I just wanted to make sure he got off to a good start.  We would run the first 5k at his pace.

The race was awesome!  There were bands or single musicians every half mile.  Some quite good, and some, well...  Chad, who did the touristy things yesterday, was pointing out landmarks for me.  When he showed me the building the Liberty Bell was in, I had to act.  I jumped off the course, ran to the building, cleared security, found the bell, took a good look, ran out the back door, and ran to catch up to Chad.  Very cool, and very worth it.  I did the same thing at Ben Franklin's grave.  I missed Betsy Ross' house, but there is always next year :)

At 5k, Chad knew I was itching to stretch my legs.  He was in good shape and keeping his pace.  I did not have a worry about him crossing the finish line, so we parted ways.  I kicked it into gear.  It has been a long time since I have run a race for speed and it felt really, really good.  I held even splits and got to pass about 14,000 runners.  How cool is that?!?!  Had I not raced with Chad, which I in NO WAY REGRET, I might have set a new personal record for this distance.  I even had an impromptu slow dance with a guy dressed as Mr. Incredible (don't tell Mark).  Yeah, I had a good day.

I called Chad during the 6.5 hour ride home.  His race went better then expected, and there was that pride again!  Way to go, my friend.  I enjoyed every second of our time together.  But, completing this race now puts you one half marathon ahead of me----let's meet in Philly again next year, so I can get closer to evening the score!