Saturday, June 30, 2012

Training for the ING NYCM Raising Funds for Covenant House

So, I finally felt that switch go off inside my legs.  Yep, I heard it click. It was the switch where I knew I could move from recovery runs to training runs. No way am I fully recovered from the Ann Arbor Marathon, but I am feeling the insatiable burn to run.  So, yep, I"m going to declare July 1 as the beginning of my Ing NYCM training. (Yeah, I know, it's only June 30th.)

I've been foam rolling every day, eating healthy protein, and I've also started taking Liquid Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM.  When I first started taking Glucosamine, I did notice a difference, and word is that the liquid is more effective so, even if it is a shot of Placebo, I'm all for it.  I'm also taking 200 mg of CoQ10.

My first real run after the marathon felt great but resulted in a near collapse from the heat.  I was feeling pretty studly to run in the 95 degree weather where most folks stay inside. Despite plenty of water breaks at the high school track, after a couple of miles, my head got woozy and it felt as if I was running on a small boat instead of steady land.  I closed one eye while I ran to help me focus, and I imagined what a collapse would do to my head should it smash the pavement, and wondered how long I would lay there before I was found. Nobody was in sight.

So, I took a break in the shade, and then ran back home to finish my run on the basement treadmill.  My ten miler today will begin and end there.

I am running the New York City Marathon to raise funds for Covenant House, and thanks to some very generous folks,  I've raised nearly $4,000 of my $6,000 goal. The importance of raising funds for Covenant house struck home after I read the search words used to reach my blog.  The phrase "I am 17 and I ran away can I go to covenant house" lead straight to my blog.

 I immediately did a backstory in my brain and imagined the person who wrote this, and can only suspect they found the contact numbers needed to help them.  Yes, they can go to Covenant House, and in fact, often times Covenant House can come get them.

My training and actual marathon will be easy compared to what life has now thrown their way, and it's great to know there's agencies out there who can help. I can't wait to go to New York and meet the rest of the fund raising team.

As for my running of the NYCM, I do know I want to run faster than Ann Arbor, but I have no idea what time goal to go for. If  I understand Bostons qualifying process right, the times are good for 2 years, so that I could run a 3:25 and qualify for the 2014 Boston Marathon.  Problem there is, the event takes place the Monday after Easter, and I can't see sacrificing an easter weekend with 2 young kids for Boston. Well, actually, I could see it, I just don't they they could see it.

So, I am going to ballpark 3:30 and let my legs and training decide, but I do know that I don't  want to have one of those races where success depends on a certain time.

I've had too many of those events where I've set myself up by making a time goal the only important thing, mostly driven by a desire for a Boston Qualifier.  They can be so triumphant but also a set up for disappointment.  I'm feeling lately like my new goals are as much as the level of high I can feel during an event as much as what the clock says when I finish. Sure, pushing myself is part of what I enjoy, but not at the risk of letting the results spoil the process. And to be motivated by facing hardships, such as those whose lives have lead them to the doors or Covenant house, will be part of my yardstick to measure success.  I will be writing thank you letters to those who supported me with donations in my head along the way.

And darn it,  I had fully expected New York to be flat and fast like Chicago, but after looking, I see this is not the case.

I just discovered the site, The Daily Mile, so hope to track my training program here.  If you see it, don't expect to be impressed. It's nothing like those running beasts you see if you travel the blogosphere. But I do believe that training logs are great to look back at and see how far you've come, what changes may have helped, may have hurt, and I love to look at them before a race to remind me how many kick ass workouts I have done.

So, taking into account a three week taper, I'm looking at July 1 to October 14 to train myself into something worthy of what I expect will be a magnificent running event for an essential cause.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It Was 20 Years Ago Today

“They flutter behind you your possible pasts
some bright-eyed and crazy, some frightened and lost
a warning to anyone still in command
of their possible future to take care.
”   Your Possible Pasts, Pink Floyd

 It was twenty years ago today that I took my last drink.  It was rum, of all things, and I had probably 4 or 5 shots before feeling it gurgle right back up, burn my throat, and I hurled the battery acid into a sink.  Then it was off to detox, where the sobriety, this time, stuck, and I’m 20 years sober as of about 9:17 a.m:. 

I want  to try and avoid too much sentimentality, (I've already written lots here) and it would be impossible to sum up the myriad of thoughts and significance of this, but not to post on it would just seem wrong.

 Yes, it is both the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but really, it’s also the easiest. You just have to get out of the way and let it happen. It wanted to happen, needed to happen, and all it took was reducing the self-pity, resentment, selfishness, insane ways of thinking, self-will run riot, and all those things that make us alcoholics so annoying. I say reduce not eliminate, since to think they are gone is to forget the humility upon which the doors of sobriety swings, but now my life is sprinkled with kindness and joys and rich treasures that, ironically, I was seeking in my substance use but never found.

Sobriety comes natural to me now, and I have a quiet unwavering confidence it will persist, but Yes, I still want to drink, still can taste beer when I see it, still wait for the sting of Gilbeys Gin or cheap vodka when I drink a squirt, my body still reacts to witnessing drug use on the movie screen, and I still think people who walk away from a half-empty drink are crazy. And as I write this, I can still feel my addiction in my gut. Or any time at all, I can summon up the feeling. Easy as being conscious of your left elbow, I can turn my consciousness to the addiction inside me. I can make my mouth water in seconds thinking of a drink.

This thought scares some people but comforts me. I know who I am and what I am, so don’t’ have to pretend I can drink like normal people.  When I have nightmares of a substance using dream and a relapse (which I still do) I wake up grateful, since, nope, I’m still sober, and Yep, I know I wouldn’t enjoy that.

The hardest part about sobriety is living in reality all the time.  All the time.  Most folks, when faced with the need for stress relief or to relax, have the option of a drink. Not me, I lost that option. So, I’m stuck in the realm of reality and having to find alternate ways to to escape. One of the cliché’s is that SOBER is an acronym for “ Son Of a Bitch Everything’s Real”

So now I lean hard on my diversions, or my ‘supplements’ which I prefer, and fortunately, I now have a ton of different options to get me high.   My diversions haven’t always been healthy, and my life in sobriety has been stranger than addiction, but I now cling to my running highs, my imagination, writing and reading and watching things that still give me a sense of wonder, make me go “damn” “awwwww”, or “wow” and fulfill me with a spiritual and emotional high. .

Yep, I’m getting high all the time now.  If they could bundle up a pack of  my runner’s high,  I’m sure it would be a top seller at the local dope house. Twenty years ago it was my hands that were getting me high, grabbing whatever substance they could and putting them into my body, but now it is my legs, carrying me through miles of runs at different speeds and through all sorts of different states.

That’s part of why it was soooo cool to run the Ann Arbor Marathon last week, to go back to the city where I learned so much about life.  The school work was easy compared to what I put myself through.

And despite not getting stoned anymore, I certainly still think “stoned” thoughts.  I remember fearing that I would lose my edge if I got sober, that I would become like everybody else, who I was convinced were boring and cliché and faked being happy. When I opened my eyes and looked closer, I realized that it was me, the sad, pathetic drunk, who was the stupid cliché, and that to live stone cold sober is to have a sharper edge than ever.

There are so many things that deserve the credit. For one, the Big Book of AA that proves people from the 1930’s really can understand me.  So many counselors, recovery folks, and even obscure things like songs and snippets that I turned to.  Yes, a cold pop that replaced the beer in my crotch, which seemed to be needed for that car to go forward, I send my thanks your way. Ten cents extra at a time.

Without my wife I would have never tapped into my sense of adventure.  No way do I finish 1 marathon, much less 13, without her. When I met her, she had already  been swimming deep into the pool of endorphins, and I dove in head first. And no way do my children have the same joy in their lives without her that I hope will prevent them from turning to substances the way I did.

So, I sit here today waiting for an angel to visit me, like Clarence from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but instead of answering the question “what would it be like if I never lived?” I’m going to ask “what would have happened had I never gotten sober? I had been hospitalized a handful of times, bleeding internally, pancreatitis, shitting blood, and always on the verge of a seizure or DT’s.  I am always curious about that death that would have happened had I continued.  It was a very possible past.

Instead, I’ve got miles to go before I sleep.

  (I turned comments off for this post and not pimping my book as usual here. Not fully sure why. Well, I do know why, it's just too difficult to explain.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Reverse Taper In Progress

Six days post-Ann Arbor Marathon, and I’m “Repating”.  What is ‘Repating’?  Well, it’s a backwards taper, or a Reverse Taper, as it’s more commonly known.

The Reverse Taper: slowly building up mileage for 3 weeks or more as you recover from a marathon, mirroring the pattern pre-marathon of dwindling your miles for 3 weeks to rest up and recover. Taper, but in reverse. 

 It’s never meant so much for me to do this right since I need to nail it and get back to running strong to prep for the ING New York City Marathon in November, where I just very well may be in contention for a top 10,900th place finish.

I know there are some beings out there who run a day or two after the marathon, and I get that. The need to get some blood flowing, to loosen up their legs and aid in recovery.  But I simply can not do that and am not one of those specimens. My legs are so stiff and sore, (esp on day 2 and 3) and the ligaments and tendons so taxed and stretched that I know they would just snap and I’d be injured. Some weird upper body injury also aways appears which confuses me. "How is it my shoulders and forearms even hurt?" It's like waking up from a blackout with unexplained bumps and bruises. "What Happened?"

 In fact, since my whole body is sore from top to bottom, it takes a few days for this all over pain to go away for me to feel the extent of my tendinitis and other damage. When your whole body’s flesh is on fire, you have to wait until it goes out and starts to smoke before your can feel the bones underneath.

I have to get through this... order to feel this.
There’s a difference between muscle soreness and inflamed tendons. Much like the difference between running through pain vs running thru injury. I can run thru muscle pain, partially because I know a soft run will actually help recovery, but to run thru injury is to make a broken piece of my body even “broker”

The period following a marathon is unique. For days I feel my nerves still firing away all spastic and electric. Nights are restless and strange.  My sleep is deep, seemingly-opium driven with dreams that dive into deeper levels of my psychic sea, but then I bob right up to the conscious level top, and my eyes jump open every hour. Usually thirsty and having to pee.

This has finally started to calm down, and the muscle pain is gone and nearly faded although I have not yet tested them in a run. My guess is they will be fine for a mile or more, but anything over 4-6 will fire up the portions that are still a bit shredded and I’m sure sore points will rekindle and demand to be iced.

I’ve been icing plenty. I have been rolling like a fiend on my new love, The Foam Roller. I have been taking supplements, eating lots of protein like eggs every morning, and talking walks up to 5 miles.

My gut tells me that my impatience to get back to running will overwhelm common sense, and that, based on how I am, it will be nearly impossible to try to wait too long to jump back into it, but so so easy to get back too soon. When I project forward and wonder what my future self will think of my current self’s decision making, I’m quite sure I will call myself an impatient immature SOB, as with most things, so I’m trying to resist the urge.

My brain’s pondering my next marathon training plan, which for me is just figuring out the Long Runs and then working from there.  I am thinking of doing a 16 miler, two 18’s milers, two 20’s and a 22.  All of this two weeks apart. Then again, I am also wondering about trying something different. I’d love to jump into the NYCM starting chute with five 20 milers on my legs, and yes, plenty of more speedwork than I did this spring.  (Click here for my Top Secret Marathon Training Program)

Pete Pfitzinger is one of my favorite marathon writers, and Advanced Marathoning one of my favorite books. I think what I like about him is that he’s not all full of gimmicks and slogans. And while I would never be able to follow one of his elite focused plans, he offers more than just something to print on a pillow.

Here’s what the usually very scientific fellow says about the reverse taper:

“Get a massage. Go swimming. Ride a bike. Take a walk. But don't run until the soreness in your muscles subsides. Why? Because their resiliency is at an all-time low, and your risk of injury is high. These other forms of gentle exercise, however, will pump blood to your muscles and help you to recover more quickly.

There's another reason to skip running for a few days after the race. Sooner or later your warped judgment will lead you to start training for another race. You will be getting up at 5:30, running in the dark, through snow, rain, and hail. Your mind needs a break too.

During this recess, indulge yourself. Eat kahlua mocha fudge brownie ice cream. Sleep in. Get thrown out of the local hot tub. Go dancing with Mick Jagger. In short, give your brain a rest from the mental routine of training. "

So, as I write this, it is the seventh day with no running.  I promised my legs a month off during the Ann Arbor marathon, I lied of course, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll make it today and can at least fulfill 25% of my deal. But soon, I’m slowly jumping back into it, and very excited and impatient for the ride.

The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Author Interview: Cami Checketts, Author of 'Dead Running'

Wednesday, I posted a review of the Marathon based novel, Dead Running.  As promised, here is a short author interview.

-Tell us a few random things about yourself and the evolution of Dead Running?
Up until a few years ago I'd never ran over five miles. My sister-in-law talked me into running a half-marathon. I started to really enjoy the training and ran a twelve one day without realizing I'd gone that far (that's a rare day, most of the time I swear I've gone farther than I have!). I decided I should just run a marathon. I've been addicted to running ever since. When I won an entry into the St. George Marathon at a local race I thought it would be a fun start to a book about a non-runner converting and that's how Dead Running was born.
-I believe you said your publisher wasn't sure how to market this novel (same thing I heard about The Jade Rabbit)  
Who do you think would connect with this novel?
 I think a lot more people are active and enjoy exercise, giving a novel about a runner a broader appeal. It was also fun to work with fitness and running blogs to promote the book.
-Do you think about writing as you run? Is there any connection there?
I love brainstorming while I run. I have complete scenes come to me sometimes. My biggest problem is remembering exactly what each character said when I go to write everything down. I think running opens up your mind to process any kind of problem or kick up the creative juices.
-Proceeds from sale of the novel are donated to a The Child & Family Support Center. What is your connection to this agency?
Currently it's just monetary donations. I'd love to volunteer at our local crisis nursery but I have four young boys. I will get more involved when they are older.
-Were you training for a marathon when you wrote Dead Running?
When I originally wrote Dead Running I was training for the St. George Marathon.
-Do you envision more for Cassidy, the main character of Dead Running?
Definitely. She cracks me up. I'm planning to write the sequel this summer and have it available in the fall. We'll see if my boys agree with that schedule!
-Tell us about some of your other novels?
 My third published novel, The Sister Pact, features an exercise scientist who is battling some food disorder issues and some terrifying family drama. Here's a short blurb:
Savannah Compton finds her sister, Allison, unconscious. Blood is spurting from Allison’s head and her toddler is screeching for Mommy. The handsome detective at the door believes Savannah is to blame.

-It's mile 21 in a marathon, you are on pace to run your best time ever. You can feel it in your legs. You are going to finish strong and have that PR you've always dreamed about.  But then you notice what seems to be a (maybe) dead body in the bushes behind the crowd that nobody else can see?  What do you do? (okay, that's a weird but fun one)
I'd start screaming like a madwoman but I know I'd also run for the bushes to see if there's any hope that the person is alive. I'd just be praying that someone hears my screaming and comes to help because I don't react well. I once glued my 2 yo's eyelashes to his eyelid trying to superglue a cut and then I screamed until my husband came to fix it. I'm probably not the person you want coming to your aid!

Check it out: Dead Running on Amazon  

Read "The Jade Rabbit" - A story of a miraculous marathon run 
Read "STRAY", Now only $2.99

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dead Running, by Cami Checketts

First, two quick updates about my novel  STRAY.
One of Stray's Editors is a book review blogger, and she is doing a free giveaway this week.  3 Winners will be picked. Check it out here --> "Now Is Gone" Stray Giveaway

Also, as I discussed in this post about having your dog on the cover of STRAY, one reader sent in the picture to the right.   Casey is an Australian Sheperd and was rescued by Susan Manna. (Thanks Susan!)  If you would like your dog on the cover of STRAY, just send it to my email and we'll go from there.

As for other books, if you've been surfing the Blogosphere, you have probably noticed the novel Dead Running, by Cami Checketts. I picked up Dead Running  after connecting with the very cool and marathon runner Cami Checketts on Goodreads.  

Dead Running, the novel: In Review

I love the idea of a novel where the conflicts in a protagonist's life increase as they are training for a marathon, and all of it coming to a head during the final run.  This is a great reflection of how marathoning works, and the best parts of Dead Running, for me, were when the character's training and her life circumstances matched.  The novel is actually told in chapters labeled like training weeks.

The novel begins with the main character, Cassidy witnessing and trying to save her father being victimized by a violent attack, and the danger for Cassidy continues based on her father's legacy.  She is thrown into a violent situation sort of by random, same as she is also thrown into training for a marathon when she wins a free entry to the St. George Marathon.

Cassidy is a great character, who many woman will be able to relate to. There is lots of ooing and ahhing over two hunky type of dudes, one the bad-ass doctor with tattoos, the other the more clean cut runner who all the woman fawn over.  Who should she trust? Who should she date?

Cassidy runs hard enough to shake her bowels loose, and as I read, I admired her efforts, and her fragile yet formidable strength.

The great moments are when Cassidy’s life mirrors her training. At times she is doubting herself, questioning her own strength, running abilities, and listening to others doubt her ability to finish the marathon – while at the same time she is questioning the  motives of all those around her, wondering who she can trust.  Every time she seems to gain bits of confidence, something happens to make her have doubt the next day, and this, it seems is how the mental part of marathon training works, except for with Cassidy, she is worried about her life not just her running life.  People come in and out of her life as she is training, and she's never sure who to trust, and it is only until the end that true characters are revealed, same way a marathon squeezes true character out of all of us.

The book did demand some suspension of disbelief moments that stretched my limits, and the ending required extra concentration as all the secrets were revealed, but I read it wanting to know how it would end, eager for each scene, and like the main character, I was never sure who to trust, who was on her side, what where their agendas, and was excited to see what surprises marathon day would bring. 

In order to find these answers, the main character had to face her fears, pound the pavement, and show up on race day, and that, to me, is what marathoning and the novel Dead Running is all about.

The author is an incredibly humble and approachable person (which is kind of rare for an author published by a major house these days) Click here for an interview with Cami.

Check it out: Dead Running on Amazon  

Read "The Jade Rabbit" - A story of a miraculous marathon run 
Read "STRAY", Now only $2.99

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Ann Arbor Marathon: In Review

Ann Arbor Marathon.
Marathon Number 13 done.  It was a great success, I thought, but then again, I had some major buy-in before it started and wasn’t hard to please. Here are my hungover thoughts.
Marathon Expo:
Don’t have an expo in a mall.  There’s usually something a bit inspiring about picking up your bib, feeing the nervous energy and excitement of those around you. You don’t get this from a mall.  And…. An expo without body glide? I needed some and planned to get it there, but there was none, so I had to dip into a Running Fit on my way home.

 I had five free paperback copies of The Jade Rabbit to hand out at the marathon. I gave one to the Girls On The Run, booth, since it seemed like a perfect fit.  Others I gave to folks I started conversations with. Funny thing giving someone something for free. They don’t’ know how to take it and looked at the book as if it was ticking and about to explode.

 Marathon Morning;
4 am, and I woke to coffee and the weather report.
A huge glob of green storms with some more powerful orange and yellow pockets was coming our way per lovely map in motion. We were going to get drenched. The temp in the mid to high 70’s was not nearly as bad as thought but the humidity hovered close to 90%

The site of the start of The Ann Arbor Marathon
 Marathon Start:
Walking up to the big house, I arrived just as the announcements were being made, and yes, it felt like a football Saturday. Hail to The Victors still echoed.  Good thing I had taken a pit stop at a Starbucks, because the line for port a potties was astronomical. Still, I always want one last bladder empty. During fall marathons, it’s still dark at this time, so I could duck behind a tree. In this case, I got in line and accepted a port-a-potty stop along the route.

 National Anthem played, and as always I made the sign of the cross.  I’m not especially religious, was raised catholic yet am more of a metaphysical Christian, still, a sign of the cross seems to me a humble, spiritual way to begin, offering respect for the feat yet invoking inspiration.  Yes, I’m like that at these moments.

Marathon Course: And we’re off! Ahhhh, that feels so so sweet to move. And downhill for a half mile. Yet the humidity was such that big monstrous sweat beads formed quick on my face, the kind that stick to your skin and don’t even roll down, since it was so humid they were just part of this big, vast warm ocean we were swimming through.

The jaunts through the city were wonderful, it felt like I was running through an Ann Arbor replica on some movie set, since this couldn’t be the real thing.  Running past old bars, through beautifully updated campus sites that looked, for lack of a better word, ‘Oxford-dy’.  Pizza Bobs, Pinball Petes, Hill auditorium Yost arena, and memories poured into me as I hoped they would.

 I ran by an old house where I lived on Geddes, and reflected . I lived there for just a short period, but had to leave after we nearly burnt the place down during a party one night. Yes, the whole basement burned from some pretty darn unhealthy and crazy circumstances from my past life.  If my old self could have seen my new self run by, he would be shocked.   

But the thing was, he did see me, and I him, and that’s why I was here.

 While running by another house I had rented on State Street, I saw a student sitting on the porch in a sunken couch, drinking coffee.  I couldn’t help but yell to him “Hey, I lived there 20 years ago…”  I couldn’t tell if he gave two shits. Or even one.  But off I went.

 There were some boring out and backs, one long haul that’s started around mile 4 and included miles of hills. If you looked at the pavement closely here, it said “you are running this because we needed the course to measure 26.2 and had to get in the miles somehow, not because there’s anything special to look at.”  My guess is the rain has washed this away by now, but really, it was there.

 The parks were nice. Gallup park, where I used to go and park my car,  skip class, read the paper, and listen to tiger games, and the Arb, a Tree park with huge, green hills and dirt trails,  where the course went on a mountain bike type path. This was a nice change, and helped feature the natural side of Ann Arbor.

 Even before the event, I heard complaints about the lame bit of running around Briarwood mall, almost a 2 mile loop in the malls’ circular drive.  I actually enjoyed this part, since it was probably the only flat part of the whole course. As I ran the circle, I imagined myself a spacecraft, circling the moon to use its gravity to slingshot to the finish.

 The last bit of the run along main street as folks ate their breakfast on sidewalk diners was surreal.

 Marathon Finish:
And yes, the ending was on a Michigan football practice field, not the real field, and I imagine there were reasons that the actual football field couldn’t be used. In fact, blogger Detroit Runner, (who gives the most thorough and timely race reviews) who completed the half and very gratiously waited for me and got me through a hill at mile 25, blogged on this.  He took this picture:

 Still, a practice field finish is a cut below. It is a nice metaphor, though, because this whole event was kind of a practice. First it was a practice to perfect an important and needed marathon, and, for me, a practice marathon before I run New York in November. I came so close to hugging the woman who had a metal in her outstretched hand, but I’m sure we would have both collapsed and she would never be the same from the salty sweat on my body, traces of gu on my goatee, Vaseline and body glide and all that marathon Gube you can’t find anywhere else.

 As always, I found a  place to lay nearby and let the catharsis hit me. It was right alongside a fence and on the other side  a couple sat with a bulldog who kept yapping to get through to my  sweaty and fumed soaked body. Yes, I’m sure I smelled of something, all my atoms had disintegrated, melted away, and I'd sweated them out of every pore.  I wondered what his extra-sensory olfactory powers smelled, because I’m sure it was all of my spirit oozing all over the place, and that dog now understands the essence of me deeper than anything has ever.

 Slowly my atoms got themselves together, and I enjoyed Pizza and muffins and camaraderie afterwards, and walked back to my car with some fellow from Notre Dame who was here to knock off one of his 50 marathons in 50 states.

 The carnage:
The heat in the high 70’s was bad but not terrible, and the rain completely stayed away somehow, but I swear the humidity decreased as we ran.  Still, I took every chance to get sprayed by a sprinkler and walked through many of the aid stations to make sure to grab two cups of water and take an S-cap every 30 minutes.  The body count did come, but not from the heat. Heat carnage is when bodies just drop, meaning fall flat and faint, as I’ve seen many times before. The carnage was from the hills and was evident in walkers everywhere. The pace of so many were shattered, which was noticeable since my pace had slowed incredibly yet still I passed more runners than passed me at the end.
Ann Arbor Marathon Elevation Chart

Another sure sign of carnage: at the start of the marathon, there were very cheerful, happy, and glowing Pacer groups of all times with about 20 runners surrounding the leaders. At the end, the leaders seemed to be running by themselves, any kind of measureable pace of their followers were shattered, as they held up signs of 3:15, 3:30, 3:45, while they ran alone.

And My Race?
 I went to bed with images of the event still imprinted on my eyelids, and still feel the moments from yesterday more than I am in the present. As with every marathon, I am different because of it, and as with every marathon run, each has its own unique features.

 My self –talk was pretty nasty since I kept reminding myself I am doing another marathon in 4 months, which for some folks is normal but for me it is quite soon. This didn’t help my legs which were already sore at mile ten.  Usually I lie to myself while running and promise months off just to get me through. This time, there could be none such lie..

Here’s another odd but I’m wondering if maybe common thing: This is my first full marathon since I started bloging, and I found myself writing a blog post while I was running, which I kind of hated. It pulled me out of the event a bit, away from the present, and it felt like the tail wagging the dog. Gotta stop that.

 As for my time?  Well, I had no idea what to shoot for. I hoped my training had created a 3:30 at best, but with the conditions, went out at a 3:40 ish pace.  I was under this at the start, but soon was pushed back by forces and the dreaded ‘you just may not be able to finish this thing today’ preyed on my mind.   I’ve been there before, and  I knew to pace myself right, and finished in a 3:50. Or a 2 hours and 110 minutes. Or, a 6th place in my age group of 53. (initially 8th, changed to 6th for some reason) Those last two sound better. It was a slow course. Fastest men’s time was a 2:48. Only 4 runners broke 3 hours. And the womans winning time was 3:11.

My goal at one point became simply “ no hill will make me walk”, and thus not letting any hill break my gait completely was the new goal. I accomplished this by never looking at the top, but just 3 feet in front of me, when faced with a nice 4% grade over a quarter mile or more at the end.

 The run confirmed my suspicions (fears?) that I am in ‘just able to finish a marathon’ shape, and now the test is if I can recover enough to build on this or do I have to recover longer, and semi-start over.  It was one of those marathons where I had actually felt better at mile 22 on my last training run than I did in the event. Why is this? Who knows? Poor decisions, minimal weekly mileage, too much time hanging with my new foam roller, or bad karma for the centipede I killed the day before.

In Summary:
This marathon is going to need a catch to keep going, since most folks simply won’t have the same desire to run as I had, but I have nothing but kind words for the director, and, in fact, went to the expo looking to find him and send my gratitude. Run The City is a great catchphrase, the parks and streets full of history and life, and as runners hear from other runners  they may jump in. The challenge of the hills, and the inevitable cry for a Big House finish are some things that can make it a growing success in the future.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Roll Me Away And Other Songs On My Ipod

Just 2 days away before the Ann Arbor Marathon, and if I cross the finish, I will be in the 'Baker's Dozen' Marathon group.  Yep, we are the group who have finished 13 marathons.  

Never try anything new before a marathon. The night before, the morning of, maybe even 3 days out, but I think I just blew it, because I got me a Foam Roller at Dicks Sporting Goods.  How Sweet! So, that's how y'all roll!  I've been rolling all over it and finding all sorts of delightfully painful spots to roll over.  Never done this before.  Nope.  In fact, I am not a stretcher. Hardly ever.  Once in a while I'll come across an article that debunks the benefits of stretching and justify my insanity, but overall I'm pretty sure that it's harmed my running, caused injuries, and has taken years off my life or at least minutes off my miles.

I once had physical therapy for an IT band issue, and the physical therapist was so amazed by my lack of flexibility that he called in all the other interns in the office to see.

But never more. Cause now I roll. I roll away.. And I'm thinking I like to roll. I'm all in.  Love to hear some rolling stories or tips. Anyone roll before a marathon?  Anyone roll in groups? Anyone roll away the dew?  (first one to get that reference wins a prize)

One of the coolest things about marathon anticipation is, as much as you think you know, you never do know what will happen race day. I could gain cosmic energy at mile 16, which has happened more than once, and then shoot to the end with delight. Or, the gates of hell could open and I could be taking walking breaks by mile 22, shufflin in pain, which has happened more than once.

Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug, but run enough, and you're gonna go Splat!

One thing I know for sure is what I will be listening to. Yes, I run events with my ipod on (see here if you’re curious).  Below is my playlist. And yes, I'm feeling pretty vulnerable revealing it. I figure it is the closest thing to letting you use my bathroom and having you sneak a peek into my medicine cabinet at all sorts of viral creams and strange powders and ointments and expired prescription bottles.

 Current Playlist:
Runnin Down A Dream, Tom Petty  Get Out The Map, Indigo Girls, I Dreamed A Dream, Les Miserables, Chariots of Fire, Movie Soundtrack  Wanted Dead or Alive, Bon Jovi,  Flagpole Sitta, Harvey Danger, Rebellion, Neighborhood #1 Tunnels, Arcade Fire, No New Tale to Tell, Love and Rockets, Beauty Queen Sister, Love of Our lives, Indigo Girls,  Nail Em Up, Red Shag, Current Swell, Without A Trace, Soul Asylum  I Wanna be Your Dog, Search & Destroy, The Stooges,  Get Out Of Denver, Roll Me Away, Bob Seger

Icky Thump, Rag And Bone, Seven Nation Army, White Stripes
The Imperial March, Star Wars Soundtrack, Ride the White Lightening, Metallica  Rolling In The Deep, Adele, Hallelujah, St. Ralph Soundtrack,  If the Brakemen Turns My Way, Bright Eyes Nothing But Flowers, Talking Heads   One, Johnny Cash (U2 cover)  Rearview Mirror, Go, Pearl Jam  Defying Gravity, Wicked Soundtrack  Philippino Box Spring Hog, Tom Waits, Long Day,3 AM, Matchbox Twenty  St. Stephen, The Other One, Grateful Dead  Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen,  Don’t Rain On My Parade, Glee cast,  Radar Love, Golden Earring  Escape, Journey,  Gonna fly Now, Going the Distance, Rocky Soundtrack

Spectrum, Howl, Dog Days Are Over, Florence + The Machine  Magic Power, Triumph  Bawitdada, Kid Rock  Rabbit Run, Till I Collapse, Lose Yourself, Eminem  Now Or Never, High School Musical Cast  The Cave, Mumford & Sons  Under A Raging Moon, Roger Daltrey  You’re Going Down, Sick Puppies, Fighter, Christina Aguilera  I Don’t Live Today, Voodoo Chile, Jimi Hendrix.

*If all goes well, I won’t be listening to many of these last songs, since there are 4 hours of music here. Then again, I could be listening to them on repeat You just never know.

(Weather now shows as 70 degrees at the start, heading up to the high 80's, with a 10% chance of rain, 10 MPH winds)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Marathon Heat and Survivor Horror

So, tracking the weather for the Inaugural Ann Arbor marathon on Sunday, which has gone from the 10 day forecast to the 5 day forecast and now the weekend forecast, I’m kinda delighted to see the temperature for Sunday is a pleasant high of 88 degrees and low of 68.  Sure, the event starts at 6:45 am, but I got to believe it will be mid-80’s at the finish.

Sun Jun 17 

High: 88°  Low: 68°

Isolated T-Storms
Chance of rain: 30%
Wind: SSW at 9 mph 

This morning, Champions for Charity sent out the following information: 
We've been monitoring the heat index and will continue to make provisions to be sure you will have a safe, fun race!  There will be plenty of water on the course, and be sure to hydrate well this week leading up to the marathon.  And...  Medical on the course will be comprehensive on race day.  We have a huge medical team comprised of the head of ER for SW Michigan as lead physician, a full medical staff, Red Cross and HVA (Huron Valley Ambulance).  Medical tents will be fully staffed and well supplied.  HVA has created an emergency plan that will cover the entire route.  If you need help, let someone know to call 911 for any problem.  We also will have Gators, medics and bike teams circulating the course.  If you need a Sag Wagon to pick you up, please let someone at any water stop know that and we will dispatch the Sag Wagon.

In a way, the heat is a bit of a relief since it will be easy to turn the event into a “just finish and enjoy it”, survivalist adventure. I hadn’t been able to pin down any target time goals anyways. I have put in the long runs, but my training was scattered,  and I didn’t want to go all-out since the more important marathon for me is New York in November. I am running this for a charity, and certainly don't want to get injured.

But, with 525 feet of elevation and temp in the mid 80’s at finish, the strategy will all change. It will be some fun, survivalist running. And, in my always sentimental and melodramatic self regarding marathons, it should be even deeper. 

 I am hoping it turns into real survivalist, survivor-horror

 I’m hoping the heat boils all of our childhood fears out of us, and they appear behind us as killer clowns running at our heels and laughing. 

 I am hoping that the Gatorade is poisoned by terrorists trying to spread a zombie virus and destroy Ann Abor, and during the marathon a league of  zombie runners is created who then try to chase and eat runners such as myself who drank only water and used S-Caps for electrolytes. This will make for some full SAG wagons.
Ann Arbor Marathon

I am hoping that the course is lined with snipers, looking for runners to pluck off who don’t keep a steady pace, and after a few warnings, plug them with one shot, and then bodies start falling all around me. Of course, this is made worse by a new course rule which allows only 3 gus and one water bottle to survive the Long 26.2 mile run.

Okay, I’m  joking, badly, but joking.  I want all of us to finish healthy with plenty of smiles and lots of sweat and tears  -  and I am also plagiarizing one of my favorite novels by Stephen King, called, The Long Walk. The Long Walk was the first novel King ever wrote, and is about an endurance event where there is only one winner, the rest are killed.   

In the marathon-like event known as the Long Walk, each Walker must maintain a speed of at least four miles per hour. If you drop below that speed for 30 seconds, you receive a verbal warning. Once you have three warnings and you slow down once again, you are shot dead by solders riding along the roadside. You are also shot immediately for certain serious violations, (and, of course, this happens in the novel) such as trying to leave the road or attacking the soldiers. Electronic Garmin-like equipment  is used to precisely determine your  speed. Contestants are even known to crawl at 4 hours an hour since their legs have totally failed them.

The book was written well before The Hunger Games, and is a similar, fascist society where the ‘games’ are made as a distraction and to have those in poverty fight with each other rather than against the government.  

Compared to all of that, survivalist running this Sunday will be easy. Just need to add 15 to 30 seconds to my miles, walk through some aid stations to get multiple cups of water as needed, suck down some s-caps since I will certainly be dripping with salty sweat (and, you know, just in case the Gatorade is tainted) and run in any bits of shade that buildings and trees may provide on the street.

In related news, I heard that About 2,200 runners were on the original list for deferment at Boston due to the heat.  This number was trimmed down when  45 of these were identified in photographs as running the race after all.   

What ever happened to the marathon-bandit code of ethics?

**I hope to bring a handful of free paperback copies of The Jade Rabbit to the Ann Arbor expo on Saturday. So, if you see me, tap me on the shoulder, check me into the boards, or just say "Hey, aren't you that really famous cool author dude adored by millions?"  Anyone of the three and I'll gladly give you a free copy. While supplies last.**

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

Read "STRAY", by Mark Matthews, now just $2.99

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tale of The Taper-Worm

"Burnt toast and a rotten egg? Whatta ya want that for?"
"I got a tapeworm and that's good enough for him!"   ~The 3 Stooges

I've blabbed on and on about the taper in this blog.  I called them taper-gremlins, I’ve referred to them as creatures that look like dobby, the house elf, who visit your room to poison your mind.  All of this to speak on the way a taper mentally attacks your brain, tells you about all these phantom injuries you have, or blows up every minor ache into something way more menacing. During the delusions of a taper, every single tweak is a rip in your tendons, a tear in your muscle, a crack in your armor that will expose you once the miles of the marathon hit.  

Your taper either tells you haven’t trained enough, (as if there’s anything you can do about that now) or, that you are more rested than you need to be and can afford a nice 15 mile run just ten days from race day.

This is all part of the crazy self-examination of your training while you rest up for your marathon, made worse by less running to work off the anxiety, and the ticking seconds until you will line up in the starting chute. These thoughts infect your brain like a mental tapeworm, and all your thoughts get deciphered only after they have gone through the digestive track of this ‘tapering-tape worm’, so in fact, you aren't thinking for yourself anymore, but, you are just processing left over fecal remains of what the taper-worm defecates.

Unlike a regular tapeworm, which is in your esophagus and eats what you eat, a mental taperworm is stuck in your brainstem and sucks at all those thoughts you put into it.  Everything in your head gets processed through the esophageal track of the tapering-worm who feeds off the nutrients of self-doubt, anxiety, and worry.

Okay, that is twisted and gross, but, the other thing I was thinking is about is this: All these unfounded fears that occur during your taper are half-truths and lies.  The devil tells all sorts of lies, the problem is, within those lies, there are things that could very well be real. My knees may be damaged just a crack, and that crack will rip open at mile 23 after the hills have bounced me for 3 hours.  I may not have trained enough (30 miles a week tops.) My legs may not have time to recover, since, I have never run a marathon at this age before (then again, this is true every year, but don’t’ tell that to my taper.) 

Yes, bad guys and the boogey man do exist.  Here There be Tygers, and The Tigers Come at night, with their voices soft as thunder, As they tear your hope apart, and they turn your dream to shame.

(I just made a Glee Mash-up of Stephen King/Ray Bradbury and Les Miserables. I should edit that, and had I been sane right now I certainly would, but I’m letting it ride.)

Fortunately, my upcoming Ann Arbor marathon is more of a warm up, run for the experience type marathon. Still, my tapering-worm is saying “maybe you shouldn’t’ have gone out and ran those fairly fast ten miles 5 days after your 22 miler.” And, of course, my few miles this week feel like they are being run on very dead legs. (Are they really dead though? Can my perception be trusted right now? I think not.)
(AKA the TaperWorm Whisperer)

I suppose the biggest trick a taper-demon ever pulled is to make you think it didn’t exist.

A great weapon to attack the tapering worm and suck it right out of your head is a training log. A written training log, with your kickass workouts circled, to wave in front, and he will come right out, take the bait, and be banished.  It usually comes out through your left nostril, and you summon it like s snake charmer. Of course, I haven't kept a training log as of late, and it's good thing, because my kick ass workouts were few and far between.

By the way, I should warn you that since I am in the middle of a taper with a friendly yet quite attached TaperWorm stuck in my brain stem, all I’ve been spouting out is basically tapering-worm fecal matter.  So, that is what you have been reading. You may want to wash your eyes out after you leave this post, just to be sanitary.   This may hold true until race day, the only known instant cure, when the creature is finally fully excised from my body.

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

Read "STRAY", by Mark Matthews, now just $2.99

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Your Dog On The Cover Of A Novel

Your Dog's Picture On The Cover Of Stray, The Novel

One of the joys of being independently published is you can make your own cover, change your own cover, and pretty much scribble whatever you want all over. 

The initial cover of my novel STRAY was a strung out heroin addict, fixing up with a needle. This seemed a bit too alarming, and even made some label it occult horror.  Lots of suggestions came in to switch the cover, and since this period, a steady stream of dogs have graced the cover.

When I changed it recently a friend whimsically suggested I put her rescue dog on the cover, a dog who had actually spent some time wandering around 8 mile.  So, what a cool promo.

Your dog on the cover of STRAY .  Stray traces the harrowing paths of addicts at the West Oaks treatment center, the stray pets at the next door animal shelter, and the caregivers who serve them both.  And, if you are interested, the the kindle Version is free  today and tomorrow on amazon as part of the Amazon Prime promo. (June 7th and 8th only).  Interested in a mish-mash of reviews? Click here.

First, you should know that the novel does contain some dark scenes of drug addiction (yet not nearly as dark as the real thing). There is also one scene where a dog is hit by a car, and it deals with euthanasia that happens in many shelters. However, ultimately, the novel is about the power of redemption, salvation, and yes, many animals are rescued in a unique and freeing way for both the rescuers' and the pet rescue-es.  (but no spoilers).

Feedback from those who work with rescue dogs has been tremendous. I  spent 100 hours in a Detroit area humane society and did hours of research into the subject matter.  

By the way, it is based on a true setting.  As for the rest of the events?  Well, they are also true, even if they didn't happen.

So, If you are interested, email me a picture of your dog, include the dog's name if you want that included, and any background story (such as if they were a rescue or shelter dog.)  Maybe include more than one photo.  By sending the photo, you are allowing me to use it on the cover for both the print and paperback version, for 2 -4 weeks, depending on the response.

Thanks so much!    Email to xmark(AT)yahoo or @matthews_mark



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