Monday, July 25, 2011

Righteous Runner Rules for Righteous Running

"The Lord, the Lord Jehovah has given unto you these fifteen… Oy! Ten! Ten commandments for all to obey!" – Moses, "History of the World Part 1,” Brooksfilms (1981)

  1.  Thou shall not spend more time traveling to a race than it would take to actually run the race.
  2. Thou shall not use a treadmill next to an occupied treadmill unless it is the only available option.

  3. Thou shall not covet others runner’s pace, distance, supposed strength, outfit, shoes, time, or medals.
  4. Thou shall not run when there are excessive heat warnings or air quality warnings—even if other people are out there. Nor shall you run when the roads are covered in ice and it compromises your safety and the safety of others on the road.
  5. Thou shall never wear the same sports bra twice without it drying out or being washed.
  6. Thou shall always have a spare set of running clothes in the car.
  7.  Thou shall reuse plastic water bottles twice before recycling.
  8.  Thou shall take a rest day or three or week or month.
  9.   Thou shall smile and nod at passing runners.
  10. Thou shall honor thy body and thy soul equally. 


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

More Important Than a Finish Line

Because there are more important things than medals and free bananas.
Because when your boyfriend texts you during a race, “I just got into an accident” you stop running. Everything stops. The clocks, your heart, your breath, everything. Stops.

This weekend was the Back on my Feet Midnight Madness 8 Mile Run. I fundraised for this event because Back on my Feet is a remarkable organization that I would love to be more involved with. I really liked (at first) the idea of running at midnight. It’s a break from the early morning starts and peanut butter toast breakfasts. The race takes place along the scenic (in the daytime) Philadelphia Art Museum Loop, a course I’m more than familiar with. Four miles down Kelly drive, a little more than 4 miles back along West River Drive, around the Art Museum, finishing at the start of Boathouse Row.
From the very start, there was mysterious bad mojo around this race. The day was just weird. As I was getting ready, Scott says his stomach is in knots but he doesn’t know why. I offered him an out and he could be excused from the silliness of driving to Philly at 10pm to deal with parking in a congested area, so I could run in the dark while he sat bored for 3 hours.

As we walked towards Boathouse Row and the starting line, I got surprisingly nervous. Was I concerned about 8 miles at midnight? Nah. I didn’t like the concept of running in the dark through a sketchy areas.  I got, like, really nervous. All of the runners were required to wear reflective gear and there was a contest for the most illuminated runner. I decided to stay by THAT person. At the stroke of midnight, we were off. 

The race started well. Running in the dark means running without the punishing heat or humidity and significantly less distractions for a short-attention span like mine. I was concentrating so intently on the darkness and not tripping that the miles flew by.

But an easy race in the dark is not was this post is about.

Mile 7. My phone lights up. I see my boyfriend’s name and smile to myself that he’s probably sending something like a ‘good luck!’ or ‘see you at the finish line!’ type thing. But it wasn’t. It was the kind of message that pulls you out of your head and brings all your priorities back into focus.
“I just got into an accident”
Stop. Legs stop. Heart stop. Lung stop. Life stop. I step off the course and text back, “What? Are you ok? Where are you?”
Legs start. Heart starts. Mind sprints. Imagination goes faster than my body ever will. He had to get gas. Is he by Board Street and Spring Garden?/That’s a crappy area. What kind of accident/What if they take him to the hospital/What hospital/I won’t be able to see him/Is he ok/what happened/why/where/he has my keys/I don’t have my wallet/or any cash or credit card. Get there. Get there. Find him!

The phone rings after what feels like an eternity but was probably only two minutes. There was an accident. A red light was run, cars collided, police on their way, at 25th and Fairmount.
“Where are you?”
“ 25th and Fairmount!”
“Ok! I’ll get there! I only have about a mile to go.” I’m not really sure what the rest of the conversation was because I became focused solely on finishing this damn race.
Imagination goes wild with crazy scenarios.  Unfortunately for me, my legs didn’t have quite the momentum or power in them left as my imagination did. So, as I pushed and fought to run the longest mile of my life, ever, my mind had the car being towed with my apartment keys into, had me being locked out of an emergency room while some nurse said I wasn’t allowed in because I’m not family, had him crashed in north Philadelphia with scary gansta types that even the Fresh Prince of Bel Air couldn’t handle just circling him, had him in a fight with some drunken bar dude who hit his car, had me stranded in Philadelphia with nothing but my cell phone and my Garmin. Keep in mind, this all happening at around 1:15 am.
I could have been running a 8 minute-mile pace but it seemed like I was getting no where. I needed to finish the race and find him. As I finally  passed the Art Museum, I realized that I was in the Fairmount section of the city and holy smokes, there’s 25th street. Without a second thought, I turned right off of the course and headed up 25th.  My first DNF. 
I could see the police lights from Kelly Drive. I ran up and saw the black Acura that I mock him relentless for, smashed by a street lamp. I see my always calm, always collected, never stressed out, rock of a boyfriend leaning against his car, a cigarette shaking from his lips. He told me to go finish the race. he'll be fine. 
I refused. Because there are more important things in life than finish lines and free bananas. There are far worse acronyms than DNF. I have at least twenty race medals but I only have one boyfriend. I love running and I love the feeling of crossing a finish line, but I love that guy more.  The feeling a hug or a nervous hand squeeze trumps a 'good job' from a weary volunteer any day. 

Ironically, this sign says No Stopping. A car plowed right over it.

I’m not comfortable discussing the details of the accident. Let’s just say, there was an angel at that intersection and both drivers were extremely lucky. Scott limped away with a sprained foot and a superficial  head wound  from the airbags deploying. The other driver had a sore chest. The car is totaled but can be replaced. Scott now has the athlete creed of RICE- rest, ice, compression, elevation—tattooed on his foot. Not really, but the foot is so swollen that you could probably write this entire blog post on there and have room for comments.
The other vehicle involved

Nights like Saturday  reminded me that anything can happen, life can change in a moment.  We can control our diet, our pace, our weekly mileage, our time, but we cannot control life. It is how we handle crisis that defines us. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Running is a big dumb jerk

You know what?

Chicken butt, yes. And also...

Running is kind of a big jerk. If running was an actual person, I probably wouldn't want to be his or her friend. 

Running is passive-aggressive.
Running uses painful things just as shin splints to tell you when you need new sneakers. It's like when your brother would punch you in the arm instead of saying "hi" or to get your attention. Shin splints are totally unnecessary and rude.  When you didn't eat or hydrate enough before a run, it will make you struggle. If running is really mad, you'll end up passing out. 

Running is horribly inconvenient. I would not mind running in the morning if it wasn't so darn early. It is very presumptive to expect a person to be out of bed, dressed, and ready by 5:45 a.m. You have to run all the damn time too. Weekends are for long runs, Wednesdays are for speedwork. Year round too. You have to run in the icy depths of winter and the high heats of summer. 

Running is your socially awkward friend who no one likes. 
Not everyone 'gets' running, so you have to spend a lot of time explaining it. Running, in this case, is like that person you're forced to be friends with because your moms are friends. She hangs out with your friends and somehow manages to alienate, annoy, or irritate everyone in the group and you have to apologize or explain her to everyone later: yeah, that's running. 
"No really, she just doesn't hang out with people alot. She didn't know you liked him!"
"Yes, I run even if no one is chasing me." 

Running is high-maintenance and demanding. 
You cannot half-ass a relationship with running. It gets very angry when you do and won't show you the results you wanted and avenges with pain. I half-assed my training for the 2011 Gasparilla Ultra Weekend and I paid a very sore, nauseous, sweaty price. It goes back to the passive-aggressive running. 

If running was a girl, it would surely be on a Real Housewives series. It's an expensive hobby to maintain, it never stops up, and no one quite understands why it's popular. 

Running is a Squatter.
Once you start with running, it's hard to stop. Running is that person who said you'd give a ride to for a week while their car is the shop and then you end up waiting for him every morning for a year. I started with running three miles a few times a week. And then it wanted me to run further and more often. And then it wanted me to run a 10 miler, then a half marathon and now a marathon. It's really greedy.  

jpg (179×145)

Running is confusing. 
Running can make you gain weight. Running hurts but you crave it. You can never count on running. You may have trained, you may have eaten right, stretched and gotten to bed early. And then you may have a crappy race. Or you may have drank the night before, barely trained and not really have wanted to run and you'll set a PR. 

I'm about to face an inevitably sucky run. I will sweat from every pore of my body before my Garmin clocks 1.0 mile. My legs will hurt, my stomach will rumble and there will be some other mysterious pain or problem. And I'll do it all again tomorrow. Because while running is a big jerk, I love it. 

How about you? How was running abused you? Let's talk some trash on running. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Loosing Control of Voice Control

Of all the dangers I've faced and annoyances I've tolerated along this runner journey, there is none as infuriating, as aggravating, as relentless, as the Voice Control feature on the iPhone.

Voice Control has cost me a phone, and nearly my sanity. I finally invested in an iPod shuffle to fulfill my entertainment needs while running. After screaming "CANCEL!" CANCEL VOICE CONTROL! Please stop, please...I hate you!" at the top of my lungs at 6:45 a.m. on an isolated trail,  I knew I had lost the battle. Evil application, 1, Lindsey 0. Below is my unpublished recap of my ultimate sacrifice to the running gods during the Long Branch Half Marathon in May.

I usually try to resist turning my music on during a race until after the half way point. The first 5K is usually pretty exciting and the crowd support is loud enough. My mood is pretty good at that point and I like eavesdropping on conversations and people/runner watching. Once I get mad at the marathon momma behind me or a little miffed that a 55 y/o man just passed me, I know it's time for music.
Before the race. Here is where I'm thinking, "Gee, I hope that voice control thing doesn't go wild and piss me off. That would surely suck. 
Earlier in the week, the ipod discovered voice control. I have no idea what voice control is, how it's activated, or why it even exists but holy hell--there is nothing more frustrating than jamming out to your favorite tune and then having it skip forward to another song, then skip back, then slow down, then speed up for NO REASON. I didn't touch anything. I was rocking out with JayZ and comisserating on our 99 Problems when suddenly Lady Antebellum was Running to Me and then Pink was Raising her Glass and then Queen was Under Pressure all in less than 30 seconds. I was annoyed.

We were heading up a bridge and over a beautiful waterway. I moved my sweaty and uncoordinated right hand over to my sweaty, slipping arm band on my left and attempted to extract the demonic iPhone from it's wobbly case. What happened next still wakes me the middle of the night. The iPhone slid from the case, dangled briefly by the headphone cord, and launched itself towards the hot, hard pavement. It hit, bounced, and slid. I screamed. Runners nearby let out a collective, "That sucks."

I've dropped my phone plenty of times and for a milli-second I had hope it survived. And then I picked it up. Shattered. The screen looked like a spider web and only the control button was left on the bottom. I'm pretty sure I heard the crunching of an iPhone pieces underneather hundreds of sneakers as I surveyed the damage. A friendly runner said, "That sucks. Some phones can't handle it." I joked back, "Right! It just didn't train enough for a half. I told it drink more water yesterday."

The iPod part was still working. Despite having been dropped and jarred, the voice control option was still reaking havoc on my playlist. Miley to Beyonce to Dispatch to Mary J, it was dying a slow death.  I wrapped the headphone cord around the phone as a symbol of it's downfall and silently bitched that I had six more miles to go with no music. The only strategy I had had for the race was to listen to Pink's Raise Your Glass and F*()^&ng Perfect on repeat.

I handed the demolished shell of a once fantastic piece of technology off to Scott around mile 9. I saw him on the side and ran up with phone held out like a little kid would do when they break a toy. "Look what happened!" I shoved it at him and kept moving. I heard him holler back, "I'll fix it." Yeah, ok.

The phone and text part worked throughout the following week. The friendly nerds at the Apple Store gave me a replacement and thanks to joys or iTunes, all of my data and apps are back. I learned that 'voice control' is a byproduct of Satan and Steve Jobs that is activated when you hit or hold the middle button for a few second. Good to know.