Best $25 I’ll Spend All Year

Charlie and I are up in the Hamptons over the New Year holiday with some friends, and today Michael decided he was heading over to the gym for an hour. Now, I’d brought my running gear with me, but all the snow on the ground (and a lack of sidewalks near the house) has meant that I hadn’t actually done any actual running. So, I offered to come along to the Sag Harbor Gym.

That’s when Michael warned me that to discourage tourists in the summer from overrunning the place, that it costs $25 for a day pass. Ouch. But still, I needed the exercise (Michael and Kyle have been cooking up a storm of delicious food and I have been eating like I’m preparing for hibernation) so I changed and away we went. I did wish I had some shorts to wear, since I’d only packed workout pants, but still not too bad.

Well, the last time I ran was Thanksgiving, so it’s been a while. (And I only ran twice in November if I remember correctly, between illnesses and such.) And honestly, I was expecting nothing. Hoping for six miles, but we’d see what happened. As it turned out, I managed five miles at a 10min/mile pace. Not my old pace, but I knew I wasn’t going to just jump back in like everything was a-ok. When I finished up the first 30 minute segment on the treadmill, I was beat, and I walked for a few minutes while deciding if I was going to switch to another piece of equipment or not. In the end I ran again, but knew 3 more miles just wasn’t on the agenda (and that was ok with me).

I’m really pleased, though. It’s the start of getting back up to speed again, and it feels good to start moving. (Even if it’s in place on a treadmill.) In terms of a mental “you’re starting to get back to normal” jolt? So worth every buck. And as much as I’ve been enjoying my vacation, it makes me eager to get home so I can continue that process (carefully, worry not). Yay!

Hopefully everyone else has had a great New Year so far. I’m pretty pleased with all three days of it.

Running Choices

So. If (and I do mean if) I end up not running the Philadelphia Marathon, now what? One of the real downsides to the idea of having to scratch the Philadelphia Marathon is that it’s really one of the last marathons of the year on the East Coast. If this had happened before, say, Marine Corps or NYC, I’d have had Richmond or Philly to fall back on. Not the case here.

Anyway, the most obvious answer is, “Throw away this year’s training.” Well, not literally, but you know what I mean. Just move on and that’s that, no marathon until next fall, maybe run a 10K or something in the meanwhile. Training for a winter/spring marathon means being held hostage at least in part to the potentially bad weather out there, which can sometimes make things a wee bit problematic. Alternately, I could target a winter/spring race, of which there are four options on the table, each with their own pros and cons.

Continue reading Running Choices

No Run For Me Today

Well, the plan was to get up this morning and hit my last long run before the Philadelphia Marathon; something in the 20-23 mile range. It’s supposed to be a beautiful day out to boot, and I have to say I was genuinely looking forward to it.

Except… well… on Thursday when I went for my run, I took a slight misstep at one point and my right foot went perpendicular to the ground; you know, that moment where suddenly your foot has rotated over 90 degrees and your ankle says, “Please stop that right now!” I immediately recovered and kept going (I’ve done that a thousand times before!) and I figured that was that.

Well, I noticed at the office on Friday afternoon that the right side of my ankle was starting to hurt a little bit. Uh oh. And it kept hurting for the rest of the day. So, when I got up this morning and it was still hurting? I regretfully decided to scratch the run. 20+ miles on an achy ankle just seems like a stupid plan. So now I’m going to play it by ear. If it’s fine tomorrow I might tackle it then. Or I can do it next weekend (I should be fine with just a two-week taper if I have to), and really give myself a lot of extra healing time. For that matter, on Election Day I’ve been looking into volunteering possibilities, so maybe I could take care of it before that begins. We’ll see.

The irony of this happening right as I finally revamped my old, outdated MarathonGreg website is not lost on me, incidentally. (Some of the content still needs to be moved over—a small selection of photographs for starters!—but I’d say it’s about 90% done.) Ah well.

Jailbreak Run! (and other good things)

On Sunday morning, I did something that I’d last tackled in 2005—I ran the Marine Corps Marathon. Well, half of it. Sarah was running her very first marathon on Sunday, and I knew that while she wasn’t trying to show it, she was definitely a little nervous. (Who isn’t nervous right before their first marathon?) So, since I was already planning on going running that day, I came up with a sudden plan. I’d jump into the race at mile 2 (once Sarah got there) and then run with her through the most of the desolate parts of the course.

The plan came off without a hitch; she was surprised (but in a good way) when I hopped in with her, and I tried to keep her company through the parts of the course where you don’t get anyone out cheering you. This year, that was between miles 5-8 (Canal Road and MacArthur Blvd, west of Georgetown in the Palisades neighborhood), and then miles 11-15 (West/East Potomac Parks, and Hains Point). Once we were through all that, I knew the crowds on the National Mall and Crystal City would get her through the rest.

And while I wasn’t doing it for me? I had a great time. It was nice to just not worry about a finishing time, just enjoying the run. I was a tiny bit sad when I hit mile 15 and it was time to stop, but then again, it was also best to hop out while I could. It was a lot of fun, and very much something to keep in mind for the future.

And it was just part of a good weekend. Add in a nice “game day” party (with a lot of really nice people and some tasty food) on Saturday, a short run on Saturday morning (well, until I got rained on), tackling some much-delayed writing, and a low-key dinner with Charlie at California Tortilla… it was nice to have a relatively low-key weekend for me, for a change.

(Oh, that Anthony Bordain show I mentioned before? Not good as I’d hoped, alas. Oh well.)

Hibernation

I do not understand why I am so tired lately. I’ve been going to bed at a reasonable hour and then… bam. Sacking out hard. As someone who normally wakes up every two hours or so (and then usually falls right back asleep) it is very odd to wake up once, at most, the entire evening.

Now this may sound like a great thing, but the problem is really that it’s a symptom of something else. I’ve been finding it almost impossible to wake up in the mornings; I ended up having to scratch my Tuesday morning run for that reason, and this morning I actually hit the snooze button for a solid two hours before I was able to get up. Maybe I can squeeze the run between work and tonight’s book club, but we will see. At least I’ve done some non-running-exercise since my last run on Sunday; rowing and elliptical for an hour on Monday, and 50 minutes of my spinning class on Wednesday. But yeah, something is seriously kicking my butt this week.

$5.00 a BasketSo far, the best idea I’ve come up with is that I am somehow channeling all the woodland animals and trying to hibernate until spring. It would be sad to miss Thanksgiving and Christmas, but on the other hand, there is a certain appeal to it all. Hmmm. (Stupid autumn weather.)

Not much else going on, really. Last night’s dinner was fantastic; I’d marinated some chicken and put so much chipotle on it that even I found it really hot. Sooo good. Plus some chopped up eggplant that I fried for a minute or two, and then some pumpkin muffins to go with it all. (Most of the muffins will in theory go with me to book club tonight, but we’ll see if anyone eats them or not. I might be living on these for a while.)

Oh, and now my neck is mysteriously aching. I think it is bored and wants some attention. Hmph.

On the bright side, I am starting to get excited about the idea of adding some swimming and biking into my routine after the marathon. Hopefully that excitement will continue long enough into making it an actual routine, and not merely an, “It’s exciting because it’s not actually happening yet” sort of thing. We shall see! Those laps don’t swim themselves, after all.

How My Head Works

While running at the gym today, my right foot started hurting, feeling like something was poking/pushing into the inside of it. I finally stopped, took off my shoe, and shook it out as well as ran my hand along the outside of my sock. Nothing.

So I ran my cool-down mile, and the whole while it is hurting more and more. Almost like a wire is jabbing into my foot at this point. I finish up, and head home. The whole way back home I am worrying a mile a minute. Have I hurt my foot again? Did something tear? Is it a sprain? Something entirely different? Maybe I should book an appointment with the podiatrist right away. Can he see me today? What about my 16-mile run on Saturday?

I (finally) got home, pulled off my shoe, and ran my fingers through it again. No sign of anything poking out that would be hurting my foot. So I pull off my sock…

…it’s a blister. Probably a little piece of grit was inside my sock and rubbing against the bottom of my foot. But that’s what all the pain was. And that, boys and girls, is how my head works at times. Why pause and think, “I’m sure nothing is wrong,” when you can freak out about it instead? *sigh*

Excavating Sanity

It’s pretty bad when someone asks what the most exciting thing you did last weekend and your response is, “Cleaned my apartment.” It’s doubly bad when you’re not even done, yet. But it’s actually at the top of the list for me. That’s probably because when things slide in my home, it’s not a build-up of trash or dirt, but rather piles of stuff everywhere. At first it’s just a small stack of books next to the desk, and the next thing I know half of my home is infested with piles of things.

So, I’m folding in the “clean this stuff up” path with a “get rid of things you don’t need any more” mission, and so far it’s a success. I have three bags of books and videos to go to the library; I’m especially excited about having sorted through the two comic book “long boxes” that housed my Doctor Who VHS tapes and pared them down to just two “short boxes” instead, thanks to weeding out the ones that have been released on DVD. Suddenly I have a lot more room in my closet, hurrah! That whole section of my bedroom is now a thousand times better; the stacks of books and unsorted CDs are all put away, I’ve rearranged some of the shelves, and I no longer cringe when I look at my room.

I’m not sure why I ever let it get to this level when I look at what a relief it always is to take care of it—I mean, we’re talking about an end result where I walk into my room and just stop and beam at how much better it looks. You’d think I’d be going crazy to keep it that way. The strange dichotomy of my head, I suppose. And until then I have to just keep excavating my room like some sort of bizarre archaeological dig.

It was a good weekend in addition to that, though. Charlie’s good friend Devo is visiting from Boston, and she’s super-sweet and nice to be around. We hit the Jim Henson exhibit at the Smithsonian, and while I’ve heard complaints that there aren’t that many actual Muppets on display, I really love the behind-the-scenes sketches and drawings that he created. They’re both beautiful and a creative inspiration to look at. We also hit my favorite Smithsonian museum, the Sackler Gallery; the new Yellow Mountains exhibit on that region in China was simply breathtaking.

I also finally caught The Dark Knight, which I thought was very good, although not the nerdgasm that so many others seemed to be claiming. A really cheesy ending, but so many small and individual good scenes that I’m willing to forgive. I’d be happy to see a third Nolan Bat-movie down the line.

(And last but not least, while I did not miss going to Comic-Con in the slightest, seeing everyone’s pictures makes me miss seeing my friends there. Maybe I could just go to San Diego and not enter the show? Ha ha.)

Today my throat is a little sore from running in the bad air quality. I suppose I should be thankful it’s just Code Orange and not Code Red or Purple (aka, “Don’t even think about breathing” levels of badness). By the time I was done with my run it was too late to take the bus into work, but I might just leave my car here and take the bus home, then bus it back in tomorrow. I’m enjoying my extra reading time that I get from my once-a-week public transportation.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch…

It’s been a while since I’ve updated about life in the Wild World of Greg. Well, aside from talking about photos or nasty sugar-substitutes.

My work computer bit the dust big time last week. Now I’m on a replacement Lenovo, which has some things which are better than my old HP (for starters, shutting the laptop doesn’t turn it off, and since I use a large monitor at work this is a good thing), other things which drive me crazy (it’s a bit slower and is most noticeable by the 3-second pause before it will open a new browser window).

Artomatic seems to be going well. I set up a guestbook after the first weekend and there are a couple of comments in it that made me smile. No sales, alas, but hope springs eternal. I do think I’m going to run out of business cards before the end, so I decided to give Zazzle’s cards a whirl and printed some out. They should be here at the start of next week, which is good.

Charlie and I saw the Israeli movie Jellyfish last night and both loved it. It’s co-directed by the husband-and-wife team of Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, and written by Geffen. If I didn’t know better, though, I’d have thought it was written by Keret. I first discovered him through his graphic novel Jetlag (drawn by the Actus comic collective in Israel), and love his short stories—and while the film adaptation of his story “Kneller’s Happy Campers” (which he had nothing to do with) is reportedly awful, I think Asaf Hanuka’s graphic novel adapation of it into Pizzeria Kamikaze is great. Anyway, it’s a good, solid movie that doesn’t overstay its welcome; I was impressed with not only the script that alternates between dreamy tableaus and harsh reality, but with the visual stylings of Keret/Geffen. I’ll keep an eye out for their next film project.

The Capitol Hill Classic 10K last weekend was a blast, both for running it (I’d missed it last year thanks to an injury) as well as seeing old friends. It made me really appreciate both the work I’d put into exercise and running since mid-April, as well as all the people I’ve met through the sport over the years. Good times, good times. Even if I am starting to look like Paula Radcliffe and her hideously bad form when it comes to running, it seems.

Remember how I said I had three things I would think about buying if I sold things at Artomatic? Somehow I’ve ended up with two of them. Thanks to a gift card for my birthday back in March, I picked up Mario Kart Wii, which is so much fun it’s mind-boggling. I even got Charlie to play it and he, too, is all over it. Super, super fun, I cannot recommend this highly enough. (Also on the Wii front is Wii Fit, which I set up this morning and used for half an hour. I got it primarily for the balance and yoga exercises, and I love how well it analyzes my form. I think Fred will be delighted with the end results of me using this on a regular basis.)

Also, I was looking at the laser printer that I’ve been eyeing and the price had suddenly dropped $60 due to an instant rebate. Well, clearly it was a sign that I should buy it now. So it arrived today and I will set it up this weekend. I’m also quite pleased that it’s wireless, so I can set it up across the room and have it out of the way. I haven’t had a home printer in over a decade. What a strange feeling!

Last but not least, it is a super-small world. A week ago, on my way home from work I got trapped on the GW Parkway for 2 1/2 hours due to an accident in the southbound lanes that made the police completely shut down the entire parkway. Eventually everyone shut off their cars and walked around a bit, talked, and so forth. (I took the opportunity to read almost all of Tithe by Holly Black, which is also this month’s book club selection.) The entire time, though, I kept looking at the guy in the car behind me because he looked so very familiar. It wasn’t until afterwards that it finally clicked, though. It was my good friend Jon‘s cousin David, whom I haven’t seen in a decade. Bizarrely, he looks completely unchanged. (No doubt there is a portrait aging away in his attic.) Meanwhile, I look pretty radically different than I did in the late ’90s (much less weight and much less hair) so it didn’t surprise me that I didn’t look at all the same. But still, how funny is that?

This weekend, I am looking forward to not having to go away for Memorial Day weekend in, well, quite a while. Perhaps I can finally photograph some of Rolling Thunder? That’d be nice.

A First and (hopefully) Last

Friday night, I didn’t get much sleep—I’m not sure why, to be honest. I got to bed at a decent hour (and I’d gotten up early to hit the gym Friday morning) but it was well after 1am when I finally fell asleep. I know it wasn’t any earlier than that because I stopped looking at the clock after that point, but I’m sure it was much later. Then, I woke up around 6am and much to my surprise was wide awake. No more falling back asleep no matter how much I tried.

Needless to say, I was feeling a little run down when Charlie and I went to Crystal City so I could pick up my Cherry Blossom 10-miler number and timing chip, but I was hoping all I needed was some brunch to pick me back up. After some food, though, things didn’t seem to get any better, and it was about an hour later in the National Building Museum that at the end of the first exhibit, I said I really just wanted to go home. (The NBM continues to elude me, alas.) I was feeling exhausted and a little shaky, and all I could think about was a nap.

I laid down for about three hours (sleeping for one of them) and that seemed to help a bit. But I was still a little iffy at this point on if I should run the Cherry Blossom or not. I figured I’d play it by ear in the morning. I did go to bed and fall asleep at a reasonable time, so all seemed ok.

Except it wasn’t. I felt like I was struggling from the moment I started running, much worse than I had during the National Half Marathon last weekend. (Which you may have noticed I’ve been a little quiet about. That’s why.) By the time I hit the 5K point, I was thinking to myself that it was a shame the new course was so good because I wasn’t enjoying it at all. And when I hit the 5-mile point, I did something for the first time in eight years of racing. I dropped out.

I quietly walked off the course, turned off my watch, unpinned my number from my shirt and stuck it in my pocket, and pulled the timing chip off my shoe. I was only about a quarter mile from the finish and it felt like another five miles. Half of my head was screaming at me, calling me a quitter and pathetic, the other half protesting that it was the right decision to make. I was feeling exhausted and my pace had been starting to crash, my shoulder was hurting, it was just bad all around. But I trudged back to the start—it was too late to go back now—and turned in my chip and went home.

When I got in the shower, I couldn’t help but note that I should’ve still been running at that exact moment. And I felt like crap about it. There was a guy holding a sign at the race last week saying, “NOBODY LIKES A QUITTER” (presumably some phrase he shared with a friend of his who was racing) and that’s all I could think about.

Part of me says it was the right decision. Most of me thinks there had been smarter, better options: kept running but slowed down and didn’t worry about a finishing time; stayed home in the first place; e-mailed the race officials this time a week ago when Laura had switched over to the 5K and done the same thing as well.

I saw Rick and Emma both run by in the half of the race I was in, and they looked great and strong. I’m envious. On the side of the road I saw Joe and Sonia from Pacers cheering people on, and it made me want to go back to their group and start running with them and try and get back into running shape. All things to keep in mind.

Right now, I’m going to take a week or two off of running and just do some other forms of cross-training and such at the gym. Start fresh when training kicks back up on the 19th.

But at the moment, I’m removing any other small races off of my agenda. (Battle of the Boulevard 10K or Capital Hill Classic 10K.) I don’t think I could take the disappointment yet again. I’m done with racing for at least a little bit.

Running Quandary

As some of you may have already figured out by now, I plan out my longer races in advance. Far in advance. And one thing I’ve been thinking about for a while now is tackling the Walt Disney World Marathon’s Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge, in which you run the Half Marathon on Saturday and the full Marathon on Sunday.

Now obviously, were I to do such a thing I wouldn’t be going for a PR. Or even close. I’d be doing it for the experience and fun of it, and taking it slower. But it would be a neat thing to do, and my original thought was that I’d run it in January 2009.

However, this morning it hit me that doing so would make it my ninth full marathon. And perhaps a better idea might be to postpone it until January 2010 and make it the big 10th marathon extravaganza. (Before anyone gets any bright ideas: whatever I run this fall will be #8. I am not going to squeeze another marathon into 2008 so that I can make January 2009 the big 1-0.)

Of course, doing so means that I run the risk of not doing it at all, that perhaps by then I will have decided my time would be better spent doing things like playing Legend of Zelda and Trauma Center and Cooking Mama on the Wii. And I was looking forward to the idea of running it next January. But perhaps postponing would not be such a bad idea.

(Meanwhile, I still need to figure out a fall marathon. I’m probably going to try the NYC Marathon lottery again, but cannot count on that happening. And Julie and Laura have requested that we all run the same marathon this year, which makes NYC even more difficult. Philadelphia and Richmond are on the radar, so far. Hmmmmm.)

Decisions, decisions! Really, I should be worrying about the three races I’ve signed up for this spring (an 8K, a 10-miler, and a half-marathon) but that would be far too easy. Let’s not get silly, now.