Cankerworms Are the Masters of April Fool’s Day

After finishing my long run this afternoon, I sat down at my laptop, and as I am wont to do, I read over a few random Facebook posts.  Somebody made an April Fool’s Day joke and I thought to myself, “Ah, I should do that”.

I appreciate a good April’s Fool day prank as it’s pretty tricky to successfully pull off.  I thought the best one of last year was posted by Mark Hadley.  While I don’t remember the exact wording, it went something like “Maximum Performance Running would like to announce Alan Webb has joined the MPR team.  Welcome aboard, Alan!”

I was driving and Scott Helms was riding shotgun as we were headed down to Charleston to run the Cooper River Bridge Run 10K.  Scott was checking out Facebook on his phone when he read Mark’s post to me.  “Wow!  That’s a pretty big deal – Webb’s world class.”  Then it hit me, I remembered the date, and I envisioned Coach Hadley chuckling somewhere.  Good one, Coach – you got me.

Back to today, I pondered for a second and then thought, “I know, I’ll post that I ran some crazy fast pace for my long run today”.  Hm, what would be the Goldilock’s time for such a post?  If I posted a time that was too fast, I’d get called out immediately.  “I ran 18 miles today at 6:10 pace.  Bring it on, Boston!”  Nobody would ever buy that one.  But put a time that’s too slow and I’d defeat the purpose altogether.

But if I posted a “just right” time that was both fast and yet possible/believable enough to trick somebody, people might respond with “Awesome!  You’re gonna tear it up in Boston!” and then I’d just feel like a jerk.  So I went with the safe bet and made no April Fool’s Day post at all.

In reality, I ran a progression long run that went fine until about mile 15, at which point I started crashing and burning.  Uh-oh, back to being scared.  Last week, I felt very optimistic after a Boston Marathon simulation long run where I finished strong, even up the brutal Senator Royall hill.  This week, I’m paranoid again and thinking, “Oh god.  Can I do this?”

I’m limping around my condo.  When I stand up, I literally have to use my hands to help lift my right quad.  It’s too sore and weak to lift itself.  This scares me – this scares me a lot.  If I’m this beat up after a slow 17 mile run, how bad will it be after I try to race 26.2 miles?  I don’t want to think about it.  Let’s take a look at how I got to this pitiful state, shall we?

The April Fool’s Day Long Progression

I was scheduled to run a 17-mile progression.  I started on the streets  of Davidson with my logic being I’d rather hit the hard stuff first, before I got tired and my form started falling apart – save that for the soft surface of the trails.

I was fine on the streets.  I started out at around 9-minute pace and gradually sped up.  After 9 miles or so, I hit the trails at about 8:30 pace and I steadily dropped it from there.  By mile 13, I was running about 8:05 pace and feeling confident, looking forward to hitting some sub-8’s.

I passed a couple on the trail and the lady, with a sense of urgency in her voice, asked, “Hey, are you going to the pipeline?” In my head, I thought, “What the @#$% is the pipeline?” but I responded, “Excuse me?” to try and buy some time until I could figure out what she meant, but she asked it again and I still had no clue what “the pipeline” was, so I just said, “Yes.”  “Well watch out, we saw a copperhead down there.”  Crap, now I had to figure out if I really was going to the pipeline.

A few moments later, I had my answer – the long straightaway on the outer loop is “the pipeline” – there are little posts all along the trail that read “natural gas pipeline”.  Somehow I had managed to ignore these until today.  Now I had to focus on each footfall to make sure I didn’t pull a Meagan Nedlo and run right over a copperhead without seeing it.  My “looking for the copperhead” mile split was 8:25 – no big deal, I rationalized that I must have slowed down in my search for the snake (which I never spotted, by the way).

The next split was 8:18.  Okay, slowly getting back on track, let’s speed it up.  Nope, my body would have none of that as it told me “Sorry bro, we’re all done here” and I finished up things at a snail’s pace of 8:51 and 8:54 for the last 2 miles.  This super slow pace made it extra easy for all the repelling cankerworms to alight upon me.

I found hundreds of these guys inching their way across me today. Earlier in the week, I misspoke and called them ring worms and Nathan hasn't stopped making fun of me yet. (photo courtesy Charlotte Observer)

Just as I was finishing the long run, I randomly encountered Nathan who was about to begin a run of his own.  He asked me how it went and my body language and slurred speech did the answering for me.  I stopped and bent over, put my hands on my legs, exhausted-basketball-player-during-a-timeout style, and attempted to say, “Okay, good through 15, then the wheels fell off”, but it came out, “Mgay, phud drew filthteen fin dawheels felth moff” as I gasped for air.  I wanted to blurt out, “Please help me back to my car!” but I’m way too proud for that.  After Nathan was on his way, I actually ran the last 100 meters or so of the trail out of a stubborn need to prove to myself that I could keep going.  But even this last little bit turned into a wounded-wildebeest-on-the-verge-of-death kind of a shuffle.

As I stumbled around the Davidson parking lot and tried to gather myself, while I picked the hundreds of cankerworms off my clothes, I tried to convince myself things would be fine in 2 weeks.  “I know I’m going to PR at Boston!”  And there it is – April Fool’s!


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