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I finally did it.

I ran a marathon.

PhillyMedal2017.jpg

Apparently, I am officially insane.

Yesterday, I ran my first marathon in Philadelphia.  For those of you who may not be runners, that is 26.2 miles.  That happens to be just about 16.2 miles too much if you ask me.

RockyStatueRun

I ran faster than this statue!

Some people question  my sanity when I run everyday, in any kind of weather–rain, sleet, snow, sub zero wind chills, etc.  After mile 18, I was questioning my own sanity.

At the half way point, I felt more tired than I usually did after a half-marathon.  I have run two half marathons a year for the past four years.

By mile 18, I was thinking I might not be able to finish.  I have never hit a wall before.  I have hit a few cars, a tree, a light post . . . but never a wall.  For the shorter races, I almost never stop to get a drink.  I can run 13 miles without water.  I’m like a damned camel without the humps.

But everything I’ve read about running a marathon stresses the importance of fueling and hydration.  So at about mile 6, I started regularly hitting the gatorade/water stops.  And this usually meant at least a stop, if not a walking pace, because I am not one of those people who can run and drink at the same time–not without wearing most of the gatorade and choking.  I can barely type and chew gum at the same time.

After mile 18, it became noticeably harder to restart running and regain the previous pace after stopping for gatorade.  I started skipping water stations just so I wouldn’t have to restart again.

tinderdate2017M

What do you mean no RUM????

Around mile 20 there was a group offering cups of beer.  I am all over that.  I would have come to a complete stop for a beer at this point.  Had they had some bar stools there, I might not have finished the race.

I started grabbing half bananas and oranges that people offered along the route.  I kept looking for donuts or Reese’s Cups, but apparently those items are frowned upon by the racing establishment.

The route of the marathon travels up along the river, does a U-turn in Manayunk, and then heads back down the river to the finish line near the Art Museum.

The U-turn brought me back to the group serving beer,  Hallelujah!  One of my prayers was answered!  I paused to gulp down a second cup.   I was praying an awful lot after mile 20.  A mile later I was regretting not taking a six pack to go.

And then an interesting thing happened.

cutebutt2017M

Not that.  But rather, I found after mile 22 it was starting to get a little easier.  I still felt like crap.  Every muscle in my legs hurt.  But I actually felt a little better overall, and I slowly realized that I just might be able to do this after all.  It had to be the beer!

I crossed the finish line after 4 hours, ten minutes and 54 seconds (a 9:34 pace.)  After the race, I slowly–painfully–made my way back to the hotel.  Just stepping up a curb was a painful ordeal.  When I got back to the hotel room, I accidentally dropped one of my gloves on the floor.  I bent over to pick it up . . .

Who lowered this floor???!!!

OMG.  Running had shortened my arms!  I couldn’t reach the glove.  My back was stiff, my glutes were in pain, and my hamstrings acted like they had looked upon the head of Medusa and turned to stone.  I did manage to pick up the glove, but resolved that anything else I dropped would have to be left behind.

After a long shower, I could hardly put my socks on.

Why do we runners do this to ourselves?

I’m going to stick with the insanity defense for now.

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Today I competed in my second Pittsburgh Half Marathon.

PM2016Logo

By “competed,” I mean I tried to 1) finish, 2) without injury or embarrassment, and 3) with a better time than last year.  I managed the trifecta!

With an official time of 1:49:05 (pace=8:19) I came in 1305th place overall, and 51st in my age group (50-54.)  51 years old and I came in 51st.  Kinda cool.  This outpaced last years race with an overall time of 1:50:46 (pace = 8:26) and an overall place of 1802 which put me 72nd in my age group.

I’m not sure how many half marathon runners there were, but let’s just say there were a lot.  I lost count, oh, about 10 yards into the race.  (According to the website, there were 14,127 in the half marathon and 3,681 places in the marathon.)

The weather started out iffy, and it drizzled/rained for the first couple of miles.

RunningRain

IF IT RAINS, YOU RUN.  IF IT THUNDERS, YOU RUN FASTER.

It was actually a little refreshing, but it became a little humid after the rain stopped.   At the last minute,  I switched from a T-shirt to a long sleeved shirt.  Mistake.  Should have trusted my weather.com temperature predictions!  Instead, I looked out the window of my hotel and saw a lot of people wearing long sleeved shirts and light windbreakers.  Psyched myself out.  It’s kind of like reviewing your answers on a test and changing a correct one at the last moment because of second guessing.  Oh well.

I seemed to be the most popular runner.  I kept hearing, over and over again, “GO TODD!”  Now, I did have an ear bud playing music in one ear, and there was a lot of background race noise, so it is slightly possible that these folks were yelling “GOOD JOB!”, but I think they were cheering me on.

One sign read:  “IF TRUMP CAN RUN, SO CAN YOU!”  Thought that was pretty funny right there.

TrumpRun

Not from this race . . . . too much SUN!

Another one said “SHORTCUT” with an arrow pointing away from the main course.  I thought about it, but it seemed a little questionable, especially since the arrow looked like it pointed to a parking lot.  Maybe they offered a shuttle service to the finish line?  Had it pointed to a bar offering free beer, I’d have gone for it.

And, as I passed a group of young women sporting Nittany Lion logos on the back of their tank tops, I said “GO PENN STATE!” as I passed them.  A guy running next to me then yelled, “Penn State!  Let’s hear it.”  So someone else started yelling “WE ARE!”  and a chorus of “PENN STATE!” ensued.  After three cheers, the cheerleader yelled “THANK YOU!” and we all politely responded, “YOU’RE WELCOME!”

Never had that happen in a race before.

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After watching Penn State lose to Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl, I decided to go out for a late afternoon run to burn off some frustration and holiday sweets.  I am usually a morning runner, but I slept in.  I planned on running 6-7 miles, and surely I could get it in before dark.

Please don’t call me Shirley.

I was visiting this weekend and running in unfamiliar territory.  Being not far from Valley Forge National Park, and having run part of it a few days ago, I thought this would be a good place to run.  There appeared to be a nice loop on the map which looked about 6-7 miles.  What could go wrong?

This same question was asked by James Franklin and the Redcoats.  Neither fared well, and neither did I for that matter.  The plan looked great on paper.

Everything went well for the first five miles, until I reached a point which on the map below, corresponds to a covered bridge.

The bridge was closed for repairs, and so was the nice little blue path I had been following.

I was at the red circle.  I was parked at the green square.  I was as far from my car as I could get, and I could not go any further.

Valley-Forge-1

At this point, I had three choices.  One, I could turn around and head back the way I had come.  This would have put me in the 8-10 mile range which was a little longer than I really wanted to do.  The advantage, though, was that I would be traversing known ground.

The second option was to take a trail which ran along the same river as the blue paved path.  I hadn’t bothered to bring a map, but this same map was posted alongside the road before entering the trail.

The third option was to curl up in a fetal position and suck my thumb, waiting for a park ranger to come and rescue me.

Valley-Forge-2

Alas, I opted for the dotted line trail.  It didn’t look too bad.  Besides, it was getting dark and my mind was still numb from Penn State’s loss.

I made a mistake.

The trail climbed a mountain.  I was weaving in and out of trees, roots and rocks as the sun was disappearing and the already dimly lit woods was getting darker.  Each step brought me closer to a difficult choice:  turn around and go back, an ever longer alternative as I continued forward to what I hoped was the warmth and comfort of my jeep.  But I could sense lions, tigers and bears rustling in the underbrush around me, waiting for me to collapse into an asthma attack with the elevation, or in the fetal position sucking my thumb and waiting for a park ranger to rescue me.

Either way, I was wondering if I would ever get home.  I wasn’t even sure this stupid dotted trail would cross the water or if I was even going in the right direction anymore.

Just as the westering sun was setting, the trail headed back down Mount Krumpet and eventually deposited me on Route 23.  A welcome sight came into focus.  A bridge!  And on the other side–a paved trail that headed back to Washington’s Chapel.

I was saved!  I lived to get lost another day!  I wonder if Washington ever considered collapsing into the fetal position, sucking his thumb?

Probably not.

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How many times have you been at a bowling alley, ready to throw your next shot, perhaps a strike or two away from a perfect game (or just hoping not to throw ANOTHER gutter ball,) and suddenly it hits you?

“This ball stinks!”

I mean seriously.  When was the last time it bathed?  I have a bowling towel to wipe the excess oil from the lane, but that hardly counts as a good cleaning.

Somewhere, at some time, someone had too much time on their hands.  Or too much to drink.  And they thought to themselves, “why don’t we make scented bowling balls?”

I.  Kid.  You.  Not.

My kids bought me a Storm bowling ball for Christmas.  The box said fragrance: Caramel Pecan.  WTF?

NewBowlingBall

 

It really does have a scent.  It was making me hungry–like a huge piece of caramel candy.  I think I gained 15 pounds!  But who needs (or wants) a fragrant bowling ball?  And just what was wrong with the way my balls smelled before?

I promptly Googled this shit to see if it was real.

Aromatic Bowling.

Competitors dismiss Bill Chrisman’s scented bowling balls as a “novelty,” but he believes there’s more to his success than that, reports Jonathan Eig in The Wall Street Journal. Bill’s balls — marketed by Storm Products, Inc., stormbowling.com, of Brigham City, Utah — smell of peppermint, spearmint, orange, blueberry, amaretto, banana, cinnamon-apple, and pina colada, for instance. Bill’s been making the aromatic balls for about four years now, to a point where his brand is to the market leader in high-end bowling balls, ahead of Brunswick. (You might think Brunswick and the other ball-makers would be rushing scented balls to market. Storm does not officially claim that its aromas affect performance, but the company’s technical director, Steve Koempken, “says the aromatic liquid chemicals added to the vats of urethane had the unintended effect of increasing the tackiness or friction of the surface area, which resulted in a tiny bit of extra hook.” Not only that, but some customers report that the fragrances have the dual effect of relaxing them while distracting their opponents.

I am stunned.  Speechless (but I can still type.)  How does the chemical selectively relax one person but annoy another?  Technology is simply fantastic.

Do the chemicals act like pheromones?  Will my ball be attracting other balls?  What do the pins think about this?  So many questions; so little interest in answering them.

I wonder if they will start adding fragrances to running shoes.  Now that would be a great idea!

SniffingBall

I smell a 300 game in my future!

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The past week I had the opportunity to go running on Hilton Head Island, in the Sea Pines area mainly.  The weather was fantastic, although perhaps a bit more humid than one would choose for running.  After the winter we had in central PA, I will not complain about heat or humidity!

This was a typical view while running:

HiltonHead

The Sea Pines Resort area had an elaborate maze of biking/running trails that wound along the roadway system and golf courses.

Trails

This made running really enjoyable until . . . .

STOP

Thou shalt not pass! (DO NOT collect $200)

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  A STOP sign for pedestrians?

STOPcloseup

Well!  Isn’t that special?!  Let’s give the benefit of the doubt and the right of way to the two ton death machine instead of the helpless pedestrian or biker.  Who came up with this idea?

As if that wasn’t bad enough, there were still thoughtful drivers who would come to a stop to allow bikes, runners and walkers to pass.  The problem was, the cars behind said Good Samaritan weren’t always ready to stop–they weren’t expecting it, especially if they were local and used to this cockamamie hierarchy of right-of-way privileges.  Worse yet, one lane of traffic would stop, which they didn’t have to, but the other lane wouldn’t.  This was problematic when a small child on a bike started forward  because the nearest lane stopped, not realizing the other lane wasn’t stopping.  I saw this happen numerous times.

I have to be honest.  I ran many of these STOP signs.  Literally.  Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.  A Hilton Head cop finally pulled me over.

I tried to explain.  “I slowed down officer.”

He wasn’t impressed.  “You were supposed to STOP.”

“But I slowed down, ” I protested.

He then pulled out his nightstick and started beating me.

As I’m writhing in pain, he asks, “So!  Do you want me to slow down, or do you want me to STOP?”

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Scrolling down Facebook, I came across an add for compression socks for runners.

SeussRunners

I see this, and immediately, my mind isn’t thinking running socks, it’s thinking Dr. Seuss.

WhoVille

Every Who down in Whoville liked Running a lot, but the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville – did not. The Grinch hated Running – the whole Running season. Now, please don’t ask why; no one quite knows the reason. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were laced tight. Or it could be his shorts chafed and didn’t fit him quite right. But I think that the most likely reason of all… may have been that his Asics were two sizes too small. But, whatever the reason, his shorts or his shoes, he stood there on Race Day hating the Whos. 

I certainly don’t hate running, but why on God’s earth  would I wear something that looks like it was designed by Dr. Seuss or trendy in Munchkin Land?

I fully understand visibility, particularly if you run in the dark.  But seriously?  These things are visible from space!  They hurt your eyes!  I’m an eye doctor.  I should know.  And drivers might be laughing so hard they still run you over like the Wicked Witch of the East.

You have no running power here.  Be gone!  Before someone runs a car over you too!

I tried the whole clown shoe thing–you know what I’m talking about–those shoes that try to use every color in a Crayola set of 64 and were probably designed by the owner’s 3-year-old daughter in preschool.  The experiment failed primarily because they weren’t comfortable.  But the gaudy color thing is just not me.  It is actually getting harder and harder to find shoes that only have one or two colors, and don’t glow in the dark as if they were manufactured in Chernobyl.

In running, function and comfort should trump everything.  But do we have to sacrifice good taste?

Do we want our sport to end up like this?

AlCzervik

Nice thing about these clothes? I can play 18 holes and then jog 13 miles without changing!

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Had me a blast.

Summer Runnin’

Happened so fast.

I recently read a blog entry that discussed some of the downsides of running in summer weather, among which were complaints like it’s hot and humid, you have to wear less clothes (not sure why this is an issue,) chafing (which would be reduced if you wore less clothes,) salt encrusted selfies, and mosquitoes.

Of all the things on their list, I have to agree with the mosquitoes.  especially bugs in the mouth.

As someone who has run in -9 degree F weather in Pennsylvania and the 120 degree dry heat of Phoenix, I have experienced quite a spectrum of seasonal running and temperatures.  Without a doubt, I would pick 120 degrees in Phoenix over sub zero temps in Pennsylvania–any day.  No questions.  End of discussion.  And no mosquitoes at 120 degrees.  Maybe a gecko.  Or a scorpion.   And they won’t end up in your mouth unless you collapse from dehydration or heat stroke.

But if I had to pick one thing that bothers me the most about warmer weather running, it has to be the spider webs.

spiderweb

Run into my parlor said the spider to the guy !

There is a trail that I traverse along the course of my run.  As the temperatures rise, so do the number of spider webs crossing the rather narrow path.

I have visions of being caught like extras in Stephen King’s The Mist, or ending up like Frodo in a spidery cocoon.

frodoweb

I was just out for a run with Samwise and Smeagol . . .

You can’t always see the wispy strands, but you can feel them on your legs and face.  I end up running this trail most summer mornings with one hand held up in front of my face as though I am trying to elude the Phantom of the Opera’s punjab lasso.

At least I don’t need a machete.  Yet.

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