What Can Brown Do For You?

I can't wait to see this sign!

5 weeks from Monday, I will be toeing the line with some 25,000 marathoners as we get ready to run 26.2 miles from Hopkington to Boston.  This whole Boston marathon thing, once a sort of ethereal dream, is rapidly becoming a reality.  And the rollercoaster ride that is a marathon cycle continues.  Here are this week’s highlights:

Tuesday (aka The Easy Day)

On this day, I went an easy 7 miles or so, 3 and some change with Nathan.  While the pace never got out of control, it was gradually heating up after I joined Nathan on the trail.  Lucky for me, he was only running half an hour since this was his second outing of the day.  After he turned around to head in, I slogged my last couple of miles back to the office.

Thursday (aka The TMI Run)

*WARNING* The following contains scenes of a graphic nature.  If you have a weak stomach, are offended by descriptions of male nudity, or just don’t care for narration of the “too much information” variety, then please skip ahead to the next section.

Here’s where the week got interesting.  Shortly before leaving the office to go run, I felt hungry, and I believe that running while hungry is a bad idea.  So I ate the only thing readily available – some girl scout cookies.  I, much like this guy, believe in supporting the children of our community, and what better way to do that than by purchasing girl scout cookies.  But little did I know, this particular batch was apparently baked by Satan himself, for they were clearly cursed.  Apparently, the evil one mixed up these allegedly Shortbread cookies with prunes, legumes, and Metamucil.  After I ate 3 or 4, an internal time bomb started ticking.

Some supernatural force tried to warn me not to run – there were multiple signs.  For example, as I made my way to the locker room, the view outside was picture perfect, like a postcard you send to your friends in New England to rub it in how beautiful the South is in early March while they’re shoveling feet of snow off their driveways.  Nothing but sunshine and temps in the 60’s here.  But in the 5 or 10 minutes it took me to change, by the time I stepped outside, ominous clouds had rushed in, and significant wind greeted me.  Sign number 1, ignored.

I set off at a jog to meet Todd and Ted on the other side of the building.  I hadn’t taken 5 steps when a pain shot through my left calf, where the muscle meets the shin.  I immediately stopped and massaged it and starting trotting again.  5 more steps and the shooting pain returned.  I again stopped, panicky now, and stretched the calf some.  The third time the pain occurred, I walked the rest of the way to meet the guys.  Todd told me to try some heel walks.  I did, along with my usual dynamic stretches.  Another sign ignored.

Throughout this ordeal, I kept starting the Garmin.  Blank screen.  I shook it.  I thumped it.  I stopped and started it half a dozen times.  Finally, it came on.  Sign number 3.  Somewhere a god, or an angel, or a ghost or something, screamed, “What the hell does it take?  Am I going to have to hold him down?”

We started the run and I oh-so-very-gingerly jogged, worried about the calf.  But it felt fine.  My workout called for 6 miles between half marathon and marathon pace – I was hoping to keep things around 7:30 pace.  T and T weren’t going this fast today so we warmed up together and then I was on my own.

Things started out well enough, although my stomach rumbled a couple of times.  Aerobically, I felt great as I clicked off a 7:26 that felt like a piece of cake.  But the farther I went, the louder, the more violent, the rumble got.

By mile 2, it was clear I was having some, um, gastrointestinal problems.  I started feeling significant discomfort “down there”.  But I still managed to rattle off a 7:36.  “You can do this – ignore it and it’ll go away”, I lied to myself.

As I got deep into the third mile, things got bad, really bad, like doubled-over-with-stomach-cramps bad.  It suddenly became clear that this thing was going to happen whether I wanted it to or not.  Code red.  Internal alarms screaming.  My nether regions told me, “You have about 10 seconds before we clean house.  You’d be well advised to find a place to take care of business.”

I was on the most open part of the trail, directly behind people’s houses.  For a split second, I actually thought of trying to knock on somebody’s door, but I instantly realized how crazy that was.  “Please sir/maam – this is an emergency!”  But even if some kind soul would open their door for a madman, there wasn’t time.

I spotted a tangle of vines.  It at least provided cover in the direction behind me.  But the front was wide open.  Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers – I had no time to be picky.  I shot over there and assumed the position (after stopping my watch, of course – I wasn’t adding poo time to my split!)

Luckily, I had a window of opportunity where nobody showed up.  Because had someone come from the other direction, they would have been privy (someone please tell me you got that double entendre)  to Allen in all his full-frontal glory.  Absolutely nothing left to the imagination – we’re talking NC-17 stuff here.

Out with the bad in record time, I, now significantly lighter, resumed the workout.  I recorded a 7:47 for The Brown Mile, then rounded out the workout with a 7:25, a 7:33, and a 7:32.  I was proud of my resiliency and determination in the face of such adversity.  5 weeks from now, when I consider walking up Heartbreak Hill, I will scream at myself, “You did not poo in the woods and clean yourself with wet, fungi-laden leaves just so you could stop and walk up Heartbreak Hill.  Run!”

Friday (The Flawless Progression)

I met Nathan again on the trails.  I had another workout planned – this one a 7-mile progression.  I hadn’t eaten since a big brunch around 10:00, but I learned my lesson Tuesday – I’d be running hungry today.

Nathan was kind enough to oblige me, despite having run a tough 16-miler that morning, a run in which he’d had to tangle with a pit bull at mile 14 while a shocked busload of gawkers looked on.  But that’s Nathan story – you’ll have to get him to tell you the details.  I’ll  encourage him to start a blog of his own to share such gems with the rest of the running community.

This workout went flawlessly as calves, Achilles, and gastrointestinal systems all cooperated.  My best progression of the cycle, maybe ever, as I tend to struggle with this kind of workout.  I think I was motivated by Nathan’s pit bull story.  Here are the splits:

1) 8:45
2) 8:17
3) 8:06
4) 7:43
5) 7:41
6) 7:29
7) 7:14  

Sunday (The Long Slog)

I am beginning to see the Davidson cross-country course as a giant torture chamber.  Here’s why:

The plan called for 14 miles at marathon place + 20 seconds, which I guessed to be, at my current fitness level, about 8:00 to 8:10 pace.  So that’s what I set out to do.  I accomplished this for about a mile.

Then I got slower.  And slower.  And slower yet.  By mile 10, I was already struggling (and I hadn’t eaten a single cookie since Wednesday so no blaming the girl scouts for this one).  The thought of running 16 more miles was overwhelming so I blocked it out of my mind and just slogged away.

The only good thing about this workout is that I covered the distance.  Oh, and it’s over.

Epilogue

Another week down.  It was a week of crazy ups and downs, but that’s all part of being a runner.  I left out a few details like how I got my Boston gear and wore it to Runner’s Lunch, only to be chastised by one Kevin Ballantine.  And how Jay made a cameo in Charlotte, and how Michael Jordan showed up at Selwyn Pub, apparently in an attempt to get a glimpse of Jay.  But hey, if I share every single detail of my life, you’d never have time to read it all.

Suffice it to say, I’m still plugging along.  I’ll be happy when I finally toe the line for the grandest of all marathons.  I hope I see many of you there.  Until then, keep on running!

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