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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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I wanted to let you know, in case you were lying awake at night wondering if I was still running on the icy trail near my house, that I am indeed still running on ice.  I could have my own TV show . . . ICE TRUCKERS RUNNERS.

Despite falling and seriously injuring my ego, I have continued to brave the winter elements.

This looks like a good place to run!

This looks like a good place to run!

Yea, though I run through the valley of the shadow of ice, I will fear no falls.  Thy tread and thy YAK TRAX they comfort me.

When I blogged about my accident, I mused that I would not be able to tolerate stopping and putting on YAK TRAX just to run the short distance between my development and our local high school.  Well, I lied.  I tried.  It’s not so bad.   It actually works very well.  And carrying the YAK TRAX (which are technically DueNorth ice cleats but I like the sound of YAK TRAX so much better) is no worse than carrying a water bottle on a hot humid day.

The time I spend to stop and put the things on and then take them off again is well worth not having to be bruised and picking myself up off the ice.

I am still really looking forward to spring, though.

As is this person . . .

Thank goodness it was the perfect texture for running!

And I’m glad there was no video of me!

That I know of.

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It was like déjà vu all over again.

There I am, jogging along.  Minding my own business.  And then there’s ice.  And then there’s me, falling.

Runner down!

So what did I do?

I jumped back up and continued running, before anyone else might have noticed.  There is a trail that leads from our development to the high school, and that was where I fell.  I fell right in full view of several houses.  I ran far enough to be out of the line of sight before I stopped to check for injuries or missing body parts.

Unlike 2009, when I fell on the ice while jogging around the high school, I did not seriously injure myself.  I did scrape and bruise my arm.  My hip hurts, but not the joint itself.  Just a flesh wound!  Or bruise.  I finished another three miles after the fall–including running back the same icy trail to get home!  I also apparently cut my ankle, but I didn’t even notice that until someone else pointed it out.

I was actually more worried about my Ipod.  I carry it in my hand inside my glove, and run the ear bud wire down my sleeve.  When I hit the ground, the music suddenly stopped.  I might have gone deaf, but I was more worried I had smashed my Ipod.  My right arm was hurting and took the brunt of the fall.

But a quick check showed that the wire had been pulled free.  I plugged it back in, the band played on, and off I went.

Now you may ask, why would you run on a trail you knew was icy?

TRADITION!  Tradition!

Why do rednecks ask someone to hold their beer and watch as they try to drive an ATV up a tree?

It’s what I do.  I run.  I can’t let a silly thing like weather get in the way.

The trail was there.  I had to get from here to there.  I couldn’t very well fly over it.  My dogsled is in the shop (it’s been a loooong winter.)  I ran on this trail yesterday without falling.  I fully expected to pull this thing off again without bloodshed.  Alas, I was wrong.

Couldn’t you run on a treadmill?

I own a dreadmill.  I hate the dreadmill.  I’d rather fall on the ice than run on the dreadmill.  I would not dreadmill here or there.  I would not dreadmill anywhere.  I would not do it with a goat.  I would not do it on a boat.  Well, I might if  I couldn’t jog around the deck.  But I digress.

I have noticed that when I run, my pace varies.  Here is a chart of my pace when I’m not running falling on ice:

PaceChart

If it were my heart rate, it would probably be fibrillation.  Don’t quote me on that.  Dammit Jim, I’m just an eye doctor!  I haven’t put a stethoscope on a patient’s heart in 23 years.

Now, can you imagine trying to run those peaks and valleys on a dreadmill?  My finger would have a blister on it from adjusting the speed up and down too often.  I would be in fibrillation if I had to do that.

And, if I haven’t been perfectly clear on this matter, I hate the dreadmill.

Couldn’t you just not run?

Couldn’t you just stop asking stupid questions?  I don’t ask you to just stop breathing do I?

So why don’t you wear YakTrax or some other product that would be useful on ice?

My you ask a lot of questions.  Just like I own a dreadmill, I have a pair of DueNorth Ice Cleats.  I don’t like them!  Oh, they work fine, if you are constantly on snow or ice and don’t mind things strapped to your feet besides your shoes.  But the road from my house to the trail–NO ICE!  From the trail to the rest of my run–NO ICE!  I would only need them for about a quarter of a mile or less, and I hate the clacking, bumpy feel of them on dry pavement.  Don’t roll your eyes at me–you asked!

OK.  I could stop and try to stretch them on over my shoes before I hit the trail, and then reverse the process on the other side.  Repeat for the trip back home.  Carry them in my hands when I’m not on the ice.  But if you don’t know me very well, I do not have the patience for that shit and I’ll take my chances with the ice.

So why did I bother telling you this?

CautionIce

It’s a public service announcement.  Ice is icy.  You might fall.  When you fall, you might get hurt.  If you get hurt you might go to the hospital.  If you go to the hospital, you might have to watch cable TV.  Don’t  get stuck watching cable TV.  Stay off the ice!

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Move over Steinbeck, I have a few words of my own.

It is probably–at least partially–my own fault for having faith in a little varmint from Punxsutawney.  The little rodent predicted an early spring this year.  Let’s be perfectly honest here . . . Phil has as much chance of correctly predicting the weather as the guys with degrees in meteorology and millions of dollars worth of radar equipment.  And Phil does it for free.

And I desperately wanted the worthless little furball to be right this time.

groundhogday

You see, I hate winter.

Winter comes with all the predictability and compassion of an unwanted season.  It is the last primordial vestige of the Ice Age (perhaps the only era in history worse than the Dark Age of Middle Age) and an annual reminder that Mother Nature can be less than a lady.

I do not like winter.  I like it not one little bit.  I do not like the cold.  I do not like it here or there.  I do not like it anywhere.  Wait a minute.  Strike that.  I do like winter in Hawaii.  But I digress.

I do not ice skate.  I do not ski—the thought of hurdling down the side of the mountain on a couple of bed slats doesn’t appeal to me somehow.  And don’t even have the gall to ask about cross-country skiing—that’s just stupid.  Why would any sane individual strap boards to their feet to walk from here to there?  I don’t fish in good weather, so ice fishing would be even more stupid than it sounds.  I used to sled as a kid, but as an adult, the hill going down has gotten far too short, and the hill going back up has gotten far too high.  I’m having angina just typing about it.  Excuse me, it was just gas.

So tonight it is snowing again.  The ground is white.  Some idiots would call it a winter wonderland . . . please!  This is Hell and it is freezing over.

Snow serves no useful purpose.  Rain at least waters things.  Life could not exist without rain.  Even plants in a desert have to get some water eventually.  But nothing grows in snow.  Look at a picture of Antarctica or the North Pole.  Or my backyard.  There is no moss on glaciers.  Ice kills.  No one in America besides me knows how to drive a car anyway.  You take your life into your hands just driving on a sunny day with a visibility of five miles.  Throw in a white-out and some slush in the passing lane and you’ve got a concoction that would make Dr. Kevorkian smile.

And after it snows, we have to move it.  We have to shovel it off our walks.  It snows again.  We shovel again–hoo what fun!   We’re like modern day Sisyphus’s shoveling, blowing and plowing as the snow continues falling, blowing, and cloning before we’ve even finished.  And then that jerk with the snowplow comes along and shoves more in my driveway before I even get back in the house.  He knows I love winter.  He knows I just love being in the great outdoors.  He knows when we are sleeping, and he knows when we’ve just cleared the end of our driveways.  He’s a moron and I may kill him if I get the chance.

No one calls this FUN!

No one calls this FUN!

Have you noticed that they never complain about global warming in the winter?

And deep inside my head, one of those many voices calls out.  “Why don’t you move south you idiot?”

I ponder this but momentarily.  This is my home and I will defend it from the elements for as long as I live, or until I retire, whichever comes first.  I do fear that I will die with a snow shovel in my cold, dead grip.

I have no more sense than a lemming and fewer cents in my pocket.

Why build a home in a flood plain?  Poor planning.

What causes food poisoning?  Home canning.

What’s worse than nails drug across a chalkboard?  Anything sung by Carol Channing.

Where am I going with this?

I do not know.  But I have miles to go and snow to throw.

All work and no play make me a dull boy.

All work and no play make me a dull boy.

shiningice

All work and no play make me a dull boy—a dull boy, discontent with winter.

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It was Man Vs. Nature.  The runner versus the elements.temp2

The thermometer declared a temperature of 11.5.  The wind chill was near zero.  The “real feel” temp was “pretty damned cold.”

Only a fool would go out running in this weather.  Fortunately, I fit into that category all too easily.

So I bundled up.  I wore heavy under armour sweatpants over compression shorts.  A warm tech shirt underneath a fleece jacket.  A balaclava to protect my face and a hat over top of that to keep my ears warm.  Two pairs of gloves.

I could barely move.  I felt like the Michelin Tire Man.

me2

My family (friends, neighbors, acquaintances, strangers on the street, dogs, cats and squirrels among others) make fun of my spandex running equipment.  But for comfort and speed, you can’t beat Lycra.

Seriously, can you picture Spiderman webbing his way through the city wearing a hooded parka, baggy sweatpants and ski boots on his feet?  It just ain’t right.

But off I went, or rather rolled, depending on how you look at it.

My Ipod started playing the Phantom of the Opera theme, which seemed oddly appropriate with the mask covering my face.  I was the Phantom of the Running Trail.  I felt like one of those people wearing the padded costumes that look like sumo wrestlers between innings at the ball park.

But Phantom of the Opera finished and The Heat is On started playing.  How ironic.  This was followed by Walking on Sunshine.  The Music Gods were having a grand old time today!

Not very aerodynamic!

Not very aerodynamic!

I was able to manage six miles, but I can’t say it was a pleasant experience.  Better than the Dreadmill!  But far from being one of my favorite runs.  My glasses kept fogging up.  I think I should go out and buy some anti-fog product for future use, but this is only like the second time in five years that I’ve had any fogging issues, so it’s probably not a cost effective use of my money.  I’m also glad I didn’t have LASIK–my corneal flaps would have surely frozen and fallen off my eyes!  And yes, before you laugh, it is possible, though highly unlikely, to freeze your cornea!

I actually wasn’t cold at all, and in fact, I think I over dressed.  The fogging was an annoyance, but nothing I couldn’t live with.  Barring a heat wave, I’ll probably go back out this weekend.  Nature won’t defeat me!

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Some people think are runners are crazy to begin with.  I saw a T-shirt at last weekend’s race that said, REAL ATHLETES RUN.  THE REST PLAY GAMES.

But how crazy do you have to be to run in the rain?

Apparently I am all over that.

Wet T-shirt Contest!

This past weekend was rainy, but fortunately fairly warm, at least for March in central Pennsylvania.  And in my defense, it was not pouring when I actually started out.  Barely drizzling.

But I was completely soaked by the end of a six-mile run.  The picture doesn’t do the weather justice.  You can’t see the water dripping from my visor or hear  the squishing of my shoes.

Weather has rarely been a factor in “whether” to run or not.  I have run in below zero wind chills.  I have run in 110 degree  heat in Phoenix.  Rain is actually fun to run in if it is not a monsoon and the temperature is above 60.  Rain and forty degrees is just miserable.  I like running in a light snowfall–it’s like running in hyperspace with the little white flakes whizzing by, or like running in a snow globe.  The snow dampens noise and it’s almost magical.   I have run in snow and ice.  I have also fallen on ice.  The weather won that round.

But this weekend, I won the wet T-shirt contest.  Of course, I was the only one out there, but who’s counting?

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Meteorology Lesson

The difference between summer and winter in Phoenix . . .

Summer in Phoenix

 

Winter in Phoenix . . . you can tell by the wreath!

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