Wednesday, November 30, 2011

IF A TAPER COULD TALK


I wrote this silly story a while back, and then metaphorically crumbled it up and threw it in the garbage.  Somehow, the beast grew legs, it crept back out, and I found it snuggled by my side one night until I promised I would let it live and see the light of day.

IF A TAPER COULD TALK

September 18th, 2011

3 weeks to marathon day, and I just finished my last long run. I took my body to its limit, my face is beat red from blood rushing through my body, the mitochondria in each of my cells has expanded and is carrying more energy than ever. My legs are aching, thighs and calf's pounding and ligaments stretched begging for an ice bathe, some Ibuprofen, some pizza, some chocolate, and just when I think I am done, I throw in a Five Guys cheeseburger (and the obligatory handful of peanuts while I wait)  and than I go home to lay on my bed and watch some football.  My vision is fuzzy, my brain woozy, and it is then that I see this comfy looking fellow on my bed, waiting there for a hug. I am so happy to see him. He looks a bit like Dobby, the house elf from Harry Potter, only he's got a pair of red Saucony's on his feet.


“Hello there Mr. Taper. How are you?”

“Fine, fine,” he says, “oh it's you again.  Ha!”

“Whats so funny?”  

“Well, you always come to see me about this time, but you never fully stay.  I feel you don’t love me”.

“I do, I do love you! I’ve been working for weeks, months, a long time to get to this moment to be with you.  Taper!  I love Taper, I live for you taper…  "

“Then why don’t you ever follow my plans? Last year, you had promised to rest at my side, and then you took off for a 15 mile run a week later.”

“Oh yeah, there’s that,” I say, cursing this creature's memory “Well, you always turn all demon like, you start with such promise and then turn on me.”

The cozy guy turns sinister, his elf-like flesh starts to glow devil-red. 

“And you always fall for it,” he says, with a possessed laugh.  Smoke billows out of his ears and the room pulsates a bit. I gasp in horror as his head completely turns around on his neck, slowly, ticking like a clock, until he's looking at me eye to eye once again.  I wait for the pea-green soup.

But I won’t be afraid, I tell myself, the power of my marathon plan compels me… “this time will be different," I say with force, "I learned, and I can learn to taper and not falter. I am not afraid.”

“Oh you will be, you will be.” And he vomits.

September 25th, 2011 Two Weeks to Launch

My legs have been feeling better every day since my last long run, and the recovery runs have loosened me up and helped my blood flow deep into the muscle.  I’ve recovered from my last 3 hour Long Run much faster than expected. My body is a machine, an effective, lactic acid burning, heightened-aerobic capacity machine. I have molded it into something efficient and to take it for a run is blissful. My eyes are on the calendar, and I realize there’s only 14 more wake ups until I will find myself in the darkness of a marathon morning.

Behind, I hear the voice.

“See how fast you recovered?” you don’t need me.”  Says the taper guy. He looks a bit more fit than last time.

“Yes, yes… I do remember you.  I swore to God, to the almighty creator of the universe that I would follow you.  Last marathon, when I was beaten down and dragging legs of dead weight the last miles and saw all those runners passing me by. It was dreadful. Again and again, runners flew by me, my watch mocked me, it took effort just to stop from walking and collapsing and I wanted to scream, I wanted to cry,and so I pleaded to the heavens “God! I promise!  I will go to church and taper if you just help me finish this one.”

“So it goes,” said the creature, “you swore off any super tough runs, but you are in better shape than you ever have been, so this time you can do an extra twenty miler.  Come on, three weeks of tapering?  Way too much. You have a friggin marathon to do, it's dangerous for you to go out there and not train more. You want to embarrass yourself?  DNF? WTF? . You used to run right up until two weeks before the event, and now you’re getting lazy. You’ll lose so much fitness, … does your god know this?”

No,I tell myself, but I stop talking to him.  I swore I’d follow through with this. I flip him the finger and summon up memories of the pain and depression of sloggin in the last miles when I didn't taper enough.

But damn, maybe he’s right? Maybe I should be training more. Resting for 21 days? slow down?… I’m smarter and more fit now than before.  I can handle it. How about just a slow 20 miler, or at least 18, and then I still have a full two weeks to recover.

Just then, a tiny squeaky voice comes from somewhere below me. What? what is that?  I can’t see what it is or where it is coming from.  I look all around and it sounds like the voice of a bread crumb on the hardwood floor.

“Don’t do it! Please don’t do it!" cry my legs,  "You might feel okay, but not us. You ‘ve been abusing us for weeks, and maybe you can’t feel it, but there’s all sorts of rips and tears and inflammations and don’t’ get us started on how the muscles are still recovering.  A day of easy running or rest for every mile of your last long run.”

The voice of reason, the blessed voice of an angel reminding me. I reward them with a pack of ice to sooth them while I watch TV, making sure to put the comforting, cold squishy packs on rotating parts, and as I drift off to sleep that night, I am sure I hear them thanking me.
October 1st, 7 days to Marathon Launch

"8 miles, a measly 8 miles scheduled for today, chumps do that in their sleep. Don’t you realize you are running a marathon in a week?  Dang, you’re a sucker.  See that extra flesh around your gut? You’re going to be lugging that around for 26.2 miles.  Good luck chump."

The taper demon is at it again.  He's not a cute house elf any longer but an horrifying orc, bouncing around on my bed as I try to rest..  I try to sleep but I can't, he's evil and his voice is demonic, echoing around the room and then bouncing inside my skull....


"Your legs are done, your fitness is fading.  Your lungs lost all their aerobic capacity, and besides, your body is just itching to go fast and long? Why not take that sucker out for a ride? Come on, go see what it's got, test the engines, do some intervals and see how effortlessly marathon pace runs are. Like butter. It will feel so good. You know you want to, just for a bit and then stop once it gets too much….

Could this be true? Am I still fast?  Have I really lost my fitness?  How can my legs go 26.2?

'Just a little,' I decide, 'just a little,' so, I go ahead, I gear up and run the first mile at what seems like a slow pace but look at my watch and it makes me gasp.  An easy run and yet it's under my marathon pace! My training rocked!  Let me keep going and just see what happens.  Damn this feels so good, to finally scratch this itch. The air in lungs makes me feel more alive, blood is finally pumping through my body and my whole brain and spirit is being detoxed from this torturing rest period.

The miles fly by me in fast forward, I knock them down one by one and gain strength with each stride.

I'm at mile 11 and it feels silly not to run an even number, so I hit 12 and then realize it would be neat to put in an even half marathon time so I do so, ready to stop at 13.1, until I look at my watch and realize if I kept up the same pace, I would have set my PR.  'ROAR!!!' I think, get out there, get out there and do the loop over once again.  The crazy orc cheers at my side, lightening bolts crash in the sky affirming my decision, somewhere the Red Sea parts and I know it is my destiny to put in another 13.1 on this very day and my calling, my destiny, can not and will not be denied.

Something rings....
Maybe the sound of the gun?  The race is over.  I have won, I have won, but my eyes open, and an image of reality strikes me.  It's my wife... starring over me, waking me gently but with a sense of urgency,  "Wake up, wake up..."

There was something I am supposed to do today. I try to move but see that my arms and legs have been restrained, not by chains but by soft, cotton restraints. She tenderly unties me, like a kind nurse over her favorite patient.

"It's five am and you need to get out the door in an hour to get to the start line. Come on.  And it's a damn good thing we had these restraints, because if not, I know you would have gone for a long run and wasted all those hours I spend supporting you.  I wasn't watching the kids during your 3 hour long runs for nothing. Now get out there and qualify for Boston, I need a trip."



"The Jade Rabbit" - A story of a miraculous marathon run

Read a Sample Chapter of "The Jade Rabbit" or read Reviews

Read "STRAY", by Mark Matthews or Reviews of "STRAY"

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"LMNOP" - The Versatile Blogger Award - 7 Unique Things About Me



I was tagged by uber-fast runner Leah @ Chasing Atalanta  for The Versatile Blogger Award.  The mission: Seven unique things about me.  Here's best I can do.

1.  I brush my teeth in the shower. (Works Great, You should try it.)

2.  It’s no secret that I have two novels available on Amazon, but what is perhaps unique is that both the settings of  STRAY and  The Jade Rabbit are 100% true places. I worked in a substance abuse treatment center that shared a parking lot with an animal shelter, and I worked at a runaway shelter that used to be a nunnery.  And yes, do expect post-humous tours of these places as well as "M.Matthews Slept Here" somewhere on the worksites. 


3.  I have seen about 12 Grateful Dead shows and probably twice as many offshoot bands,    Ratdog, The Other Ones, etc… I was five feet from Bob when he forgot the words to ‘St.    Stephen’, and I swear he read my lips in order to go on with the song.  (probably not true, but a harmless delusion for me to hold onto.)


4. I can burb the alphabet.  Well, I used to be able to when I was younger, but now I can only make it just past the “LMNOP” section.  I still figure I can win some age group awards in that category.

5. My wife and I adopted a girl from China, which was a wonderful experience.  Ten months later we were ready to adopt again and “Bamn” got pregnant.  We were never told we couldn’t have kids and there was no medical reasons, we just always wanted to adopt. Now we have a wonderful family of four.



6. I ran the 2010 Boston Marathon, and it only took me ten tries and just as many years to finally qualify.  The unique part is that I ran the event with a Diamond Anniversary ring in my pocket, and presented it to my wife near the finish line to celebrate our tenth anniversary.  I had big plans to give it to her right on the Blue and Gold finish line stripe at the finish, but instead it was within ear and nose-shot of the finish line Port-A-Potties. Still pretty sweet.

7.  I am in recovery from alcoholism/addiction, and have been so since 1992.  If I wasn’t sober now, I certainly would have been dead.  Now it’s just a part of me, same way some people are allergic to peanut butter or have one foot that’s bigger than the other. And the resiliency I once had to get my next drink has carried over into all areas of my life. 


Now, if I understand correct, I am to 'Tag" someone else.  Where, here goes  Jeff @ Detroit Runner you are it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ten Random Things I Am Thankful For....

1. Sunny, no-wind winter days where the streets are clear but the sun shines bright off the snowy tops of lawns  and a blinding light of heaven makes you squint. You return home with smiling red cheeks.

2. Late night runs through Christmas-lighted neighborhoods.

3. Thanksgiving morning runs, getting home with a calorie deficit in time for football and eating and lounging and multiple trips to the dessert table.

4. My family.

5.  I can eat pop-tarts cold, straight out of the silver sleeve.  (Yes, there are folks who can only eat them heated.)

6.  Goodreads.com, My Kindle, Amazon KDP, and Barnes & Noble Pubit.

7.  The smell of coffee beans when I first open a bag of coffee. mmmm.... And coffee timers that have a hot, fresh cup ready for me in the morning.   AND... an 8 year old daughter who sometimes hand-delivers a cup to my beside.

8.  All the things I don't have to do anymore just to get by that I used to.  All the things I plan to do on a bucket list that is never ending.

9. Pavel Datsyuk and Darren Helm

10. I have way more than most, probably more than I deserve, a solid set of knees, I can burb the alphabet, I have an ipod with music and a new pair of shoes and a cool set of wireless headphones, I'm graced with many safety nets that I may never need, all of which let me jump with confidence into the universe, and, no matter what has ever happened, In the end, it's all good, because if it's not good, it's not the end.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hills Are Barriers Dropped On Earth From God

The movie "The Hills Have Eyes" was scary, and then they made a wicked remake that was actually even better.  The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Music is a song lyric that can't help but make you smile and twirl in Joy. Such is the plight of runners, Hills can terrify or make you sing.  I guess it's just perspective and experience.


Hills are barriers God dropped on the earth to see if we really want something. Mountains are put there to make sure we earn it.  If the world were flat, everyone could roll a marble forever and do other miracles.  The reason Gurus are on mountain tops, is because the answer we seek is found during the struggle to get there. Try going helicopter to one instead of climbing, you will come home empty.  The yellow brick road has to have flying scary monkeys and other child-terrifying things else it wouldn’t force the answers out of you.

(Yes, I'm waxing the candle poetic and burning on both ends.)


All this to say  I ran my first hill workout this week in a long long while. Doesn’t mean I didn’t run hills in a long while, it was just my first one dedicated to hills. Every time I reached the top of an incline, tiny little invisible guru's popped into my soul by Osmosis.  I returned home a wiser man.

During my quest to finally qualify for Boston, I had a track coach suggest I do leg weights.  It’s the strength at the end I needed to carry me through as much as anything.  Not heavy, bulk building weights, but simply greater muscle fortitude. I took every bit of advice I could get, and did some leg weights.  The problem was it seemed to test my ligaments and joints a bit too much, and it seemed to get in the way of my training schedule. 

As most of you obsessed runners, I wanted to gather all the info and try all the tests I could find and do anything that would work.  Once I stood on my head and whistled yankee doodle dandee, only because I had a vision one night that it would lead to a more effective running stride. I finally stopped when my face turned so red my eyes started to bleed.

The results of standing on my head in preparation for the marathon were inconclusive.

But, the results after doing hills were clearly incredible.  Stronger legs from the Hill resistance proved to be the best weights nature could provide, and the differences were clear.  I started with a 4 mile loop with some nice, varying hills. Some long, ½ mile inclines, a couple steeper ¼ miles, and with a bit of rest to recuperate.  The problem I had with hills, as well as speedwork, is that it wrenched my legs so much that it ruined the runs for the rest of the week. They have to be sprinkled in effectively for a 40+ year old like me.
I threw this loop into part of some longs runs as well.

I’m a believer, and thus I’m starting to throw in some hill runs in anticipation for a spring marathon.  That along with some speed work and bumping my longest runs up slowly from their current max at eleven miles.

I hope to run 12 on Thanksgiving, and then impress the in-laws by out-eating everyone at the table. 

  
The Myth of Hills At Boston.


This training was done both to qualify for Boston, which was done at a fairly flat course, as well as  preparation for Boston.   As a first time runner, I researched all the nuances of the historic Boston course.  What I found was that the much heralded varying neighborhoods along the course as you ran to the city lived up to its hype.  There are distinct and fun areas to run through.  And seeing the Citgo sign in the distance was as spiritual as any gas station marketing can have upon a person.


However, after hearing about the hills, what I found was there are no hills.  The course IS hills.  When I hear Hill  I hear a flatland approaching a hill and then getting flat again.  The whole course is always on an incline or decline, which is what suprised me despite seeing the elevation chart many times.  And the neat thing is you can thus see forever in front of you, and the whole mass of runners makes you feel that much more a part of the community.


But, none of the hills is that daunting in terms of its steepness, but a few are strategically placed by some marathon guru to test if you really want to finish. 


One last take about Boston; The crowds at Chicago cheer for its marathoners, but Boston is in fact cheering for itself at the marathon.  They don't just want you to hear, they want the hold world to hear that they are Boston, and hear them roar.

In other news The Jade Rabbit has been priced at .99 cents for ebook for a few days at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  The Jade Rabbit On Amazon, The Jade Rabbit for Nook 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Real Horror of "American Horror Story"

I have to post about two of my favorite TV series right now.  American Horror Story and The Walking Dead.  If you haven't seen these, I apologize for what may not make sense.

With these choices, you might think I"m a horror junky, but not so. I only enjoy it when it's 'smart' horror, and used to portray or display some sort of deeper truths, some inner-psyche turmoil. Godzilla wasn't a monster, he was Japan's atom bomb.


Jessica Lange wouldn't star in no crap.
(At first glance, I didn't notice the burning man in the hallway.)

Let's start with American Horror Story. Wow.  It has not yet failed to keep me thrilled and has made me gasp more than once.  The relationship stress between the family, the neighbors, and of course the surrounding ghosts (and I'm thinking that many, if not all of the characters who frequent the house are ghosts) has been so well acted and written.  After the first episode, I was fearful that the relationship tension couldn't be sustained, and that the series would fall into a bunch of cliche, glock-filled cheap scares, but the opposite has been true. The more the characters invest in each other, and the more I invest in their well being, it just gets heightened. It does well not to become some cheesey soap opera plot (see Brothers and Sisters) while also having incredible dramatic turns every episode.

The real horror is the fragmented characters, and how all of them are in search for wholeness, connection, love, trust, and instead are isolated, fearful, hurt, and broken.  A husband who desperately wants to have his family, yet is unable to shake his past and fully shed himself of his scandalous behavior.  A wife who wants to trust her husband and put the trauma of her past miscarriage behind her.

And the cool thing is, the 'ghosts' or monsters in the story are just as fragmented as the real people.   Is the husband and wife relationship much different from the same-sex male characters who used to live in the house, but who can never trust each other and are therefore in a perpetual fight driven by anger, even into their afterlife? Is the wife not the same as the woman from years ago who have lost a child through the abortion in the basement?  The maid who is a ghost and appears to be stuck in the house is the same as the people who are stuck, unable to find true connections to others, so instead she watches as her mom goes off to heaven and she stays stuck, going about her daily mundane routine, living a life of quiet desperation, screaming on the inside.  The high school girl and the Downs syndrome neighbor are both looking for the same thing, love and acceptance, but their caretakers are too wrapped up in their own flaws and drama to give any.

The mistress is just as horrifying and fatal attraction-like needy while she's alive as when she gets killed but then appears again at the front door.  You can't just kill the past, you have to deal with it, otherwise, the ghosts in your basement remain, still there in your psychological dark spots, always ready to fragment your spirit, destroy your dreams, and yes hurt your children.

Like all great series, questions linger:

Did the wife, Viv, know that the man in the rubber suit wasn't her husband? I mean, if you have some years of sexual relations with someone,  you begin to know real quick exactly their shape and size.

Who's the father? and what are the origins of the man in the plastic suit?

And why did the ultrasound tech faint?

The teenage boy never seems to leave the house - Is he Jessica Lange's son, also a ghost trapped there?

And there are so many more.

On a less inspiring but still incredibly interesting series is The Walking Dead.  The series is about zombies, sure, but its' really about bravery, moral relativism, and what makes one human.  On one end is the zombies, and the other end of the spectrum is the potential nobility of humans, but most of the characters fall in between. The best episodes are those that portray moral ambiguity. Do you owe an obligation and risk your own life for a character who just tried to kill you? Do you let him die or do you simply throw him the keys, see if he can rescue himself?

Could you take the life of  a middle-aged man  if it could save the life of an innocent ten year old boy? What if the man is the one who (accidentally) shot the boy causing his predicament in the first place?

And, of course, would you sleep with your husbands best friend if you thought your husband dead? And where is the 12 year old girl, and what would you risk to save her? (Personally, I could never leave the forest until she was found.) I suspect she's safe or at least alive in some new community of survivors.

Poor Merl. But I hear he's coming back and boy is he angry.


With all the supernatural situations in both of these shows, I have some odd complaints.  I can handle zombies and ghosts, but... Why the heck would the sheriff in The Walking Dead still wear his sheriff's hat?  that, I can't handle.  And, the man with the burnt face, why does he have to always wear that black suit?  I mean, we get it, but man, that's stuff unbelievable. Keep coming back to life and keep the ghosts in the basement, but fix that stuff.

TV, in general, I believe, is in a sort of golden age. The series and drama and intelligence have gotten so much more detailed, characters and storylines have depth that (dare I say it) borders on Shakespearean. It seems to me that it started with HBO's Sopranos, and then excelled from there.  It's very non-artsy for me to compliment TV like this, so I'll have to go read some classics are some other culturally elitist uppity-thing pretty darn quick. 
Okay, that's all I got for now. American Horror Story is on tonight.  It's a show that everytime I watch, I think "why couldn't I write that?"

"Because you're just not that good," the ghosts from the basement answer.

 (For a follow up to this post, click here.))

Stray, the novel on Amazon
Stray addicts and stray dogs, wandering the streets looking for salvation.
The Jade Rabbit on Amazon
A Chinese adoptee and her miraculous marathon run.

GARDEN OF FIENDS: TALES OF ADDICTION HORROR - NOW AVAILABLE

Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror IS ALIVE!! $4.99 for Kindle $12.99 for paperback  (buy the paperback, and you can get t...