Archive for October 2016
I did not feel like running when I woke up yesterday morning. I hadn’t had a good night sleep. It wasn’t exactly bad, but whatever it was contributed to me not feeling my race-morning mojo. Plus, I’m starting to get rundown from the school year. Plus, I’ve been running a lot lately and my back isn’t quite in it. Plus, too much candy watching the Cubs lose in the World Series. Blah blah blah… I know. Shut up. I soldiered on, because in the least the $30 registration fee is too much to flush. Besides, being a runner means you soldier on. Whatever reluctance I was feeling was only compounded by spotting Jason Rush warming up before the race. Here’s what you have to understand about Jason Rush beyond that link above (which you should totally check out!): He came out of the womb wearing a pair of running shoes. The last time I saw him, he busted out an age-division-winning 10K time in Wauconda (third overall) while I was plodding along in the 5K at a per mile pace 2:30 slower than him. Anyhow, dude is fast for 43 years old. Krikey… he’s fast for any age. Always has been. He can still beat most of his high school’s Cross Country team. Just last week he was the overall winner of a race, and he was wearing the dang shoes to prove it. I decided in the moment I spotted him that I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of totally killing my best time if I was went all-out. Because Jason Rush totally gets satisfaction out of that. A lot of mild-mannered, easy-going AP Physics teachers are sick like that. I don’t even know why I’m still friends with him, honestly, but it is what it is.
So I took my sweet-ass time yesterday running around Lake Bluff. Lake Michigan sat calm and blue well below the elevation of the course. The place is called Lake Bluff for a reason. Lots of gold and rust in the trees all the way around. A little bit of purple, too. Somehow, I still managed to finish in 26:07. That would have been a fast time for me six years ago. Hell, I would have been happy with that last summer. Now, not so much. There’s good reason for that, too. It’s called the Centre Club Pink Ribbon Run, which I ran at St. Mary’s of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein last weekend.
The Pink Ribbon Run has been my favorite for some time now, to the point that I’ve almost mythologized its many pleasures in my mind. What it comes down to is this: It’s the closest I can come to again running an actual high school Cross Country meet. It’s during CC season, the weather is pleasantly cool and damp, there are unbelievable colors emerging from the trees, and it takes place on an institution campus. For one Saturday each fall, it’s like I have a time machine. Last weekend, I killed it. I dashed my way to a 24:40, which is my fastest time in four years and my fastest time ever on that course. I shot off the start line and ran hard and on the edge of breathlessness the entire way. If there is such a thing as divine intervention, I guess I experienced it there. Seems apt, given the nature of the place.
I commented to the girlfriend that 24:40 was the fastest I’ve run for four years, and that I might never run that fast again. Seems like a downer, maybe, but it might be true. If so, I’m glad it happened where it did.
Did I get a medal? Hell no. Three women finished ahead of me, which made me the eighth male overall. Two of those males were in my age division, and I was nowhere close to them (ironically, those results replicate my high school CC experiences more so than the setting!). Still, I would have won or got at least second place in every other age division, so my complaint stands that my age division is the toughest. But I did reel in a 57-year old woman in the last quarter mile. She was killing it all the way through, too, and unknowingly provided me with a rabbit to chase. So I guess I’m hell at beating the 12-year old and 57-year old age divisions, just not my own.
For those keeping track at home, I finally broke into double-digits in this quest for thirty 5Ks. It’s still going to go on for a while, but maybe I can reach the halfway point before the new year. Right now, the next race isn’t even on the horizon. I’m too stiff and sore to think about it. My back is tired, and even yoga didn’t help as much as I thought or needed it to this morning. I’m not going to get any faster, and I’m sure as hell not going to get any younger.
Might as well keep running.
I’ve lamented for some time now that the hardest age division in every race I run seems to be my age division. Case in point: I raced on a flat, fast course in Zion last Friday evening, one I’ve raced on at least a dozen times, felt like I ran real hard-assed the whole way, finished with a decent time (my second best of the year), and still only managed to bring home the 3rd-place medal in my age division. Behold it in all its glory:
Anyhow, I felt like I ran so hard and so well that I surely cracked twenty-five minutes. Not so. I came across at 25:54. But I did manage to outlast a couple of twelve-year old kids who were out front of most runners as far as the second mile. So I’ve got that to brag about.
I’ll take the medal. They’re still few and far in between for me, so I still get a lot out of winning one. I was happy with myself, too, for lacing up the Asics and running so well on a freakin’ Friday night after a full week of school. That’s unheard of because I’m usually too tired. But I’m trying to knock off thirty of these races, so sometimes tired needs to take a back seat to keep pushing towards the goal. I’m holding out for a few more races these next few weeks while the yellows and reds are coming out on the trees, the air is crisp, and I’m not yet exhausted from the rigors of the school year.
Dear Joe Buck:
You came out this week and told the public that your vocal cord damage in 2011 was a result of multiple hair plug surgeries over the course of your broadcasting career. Your eighth procedure tipped the scales; the effects of the general anesthetic did the damage. I’m glad you have recognized your addiction and are aware of the problem. No doubt others who face cosmetic addictions will benefit from your awareness and your choice to go public with it. I respect, too, that you said the problem stemmed purely from your vanity. It takes a lot of emotional fortitude to be so public about your faults, to be vulnerable like that. If it helps, I’m a man your age who has twenty years experience with hair loss. The best thing you can do is get comfortable with it. My life hasn’t been altered in any way because of hair loss, except for the purchase of more hats than most men buy because it’s damn cold during Chicago winters (especially during a polar vortex), and sunburning your bald scalp hurts like a sonofabitch.
The ancient Greeks believed that when a man tries to avoid his fate, he ends up causing it to happen. I was thinking about that one day a few years ago when I wrote a poem about baldness, thinking that the opposite of avoiding a situation is owning it, and if it’s something personal like baldness, owning it means you can make fun of yourself about it. I had a lot of fun drafting the piece; maybe it will provide you with some reassurance.
When daily your brush grows thick like a wooly bear,
When more hairs than you can count twist in the swirl of your drain,
When your pipes clog with clumps of those who forsook their roots,
Own it when the summer sun blisters your naked scalp
and January winds whip across it.
You’ll have no choice but to own it when your child,
smug with the self- satisfaction of youth,
utters the cold straight truth to your wife:
Daddy’s going bald!
All this failing, there will come a day
when you comb through generations
of family photos and are presented
with the irrefutable evidence
that Fate braided into your DNA
has stuffed you into the lower
recesses of a Punnett Square
where now you elbow for room
with Curly and Uncle Fester
and every other bb—
so you might
I’ve said to myself for years now that somebody should organize a 5K race that starts in the parking lot of my condo complex and runs through one of my neighborhood courses so that all I would have to do is roll out of bed and walk downstairs to the start line. Seems most of the time when I do that before I go to work, I end up having a pretty good run. Yesterday, my wishes came true—mostly. Instead of walking downstairs, all I had to do was drive a mile and a half down the street to Rollins Savanna. If proximity wasn’t enough to get me off to a good start, the sun was choked out behind gray clouds that have stuck around since Thursday afternoon, there was on-and-off mist, and the temperatures were in the low sixties. Any current current, former, or still-wannabe cross country runners know that means one thing: Perfect running weather.
I can’t imagine a race going much better than yesterday’s, especially after my mediocre and floundering results the last few weeks. I got off to a fast start at the head of a small crowd of people who were more interested in walking and sipping coffee than they were in running. No matter; their registration fees went just as far as mine to support the cause. My breath was coming in an unbroken rhythm, and I felt like I was gliding along, even when I slopped around a bend into some mud and treaded up a shallow, soggy hill that I’ve biked up dozens of times in the past few years.
The usual self-doubt and second-guessing of my life decisions and re-examination of long-forgotten events were keeping their own pace in my mind as I strided past the two-mile mark, but I left them behind. I felt like I was killing it, and knew I was well into a great race. I was right. I came across in 25:24, which is the fastest I’ve run in probably two years.
A couple of things helped, the big ones being that I was well-rested after having not raced for two weeks, and I’ve fallen into a consistent exercise routine that tapers late in the week. A few rounds of yoga have helped, and a stellar practice run on the same course last week was worth the difference. But there’s something else, too: I haven’t drank in a month.
This was not a decision I made quickly or even out of necessity. I started thinking two years ago about breaking things off with Mr. Booze for some undecided amount of time merely out of curiosity. Cocktails and beers are a regular, even mundane part of my life, which got me thinking about h0w much and how frequently I consume something I hardly think about, and when I consume it. Since I’m on the quest to run thirty 5Ks just now and struggling to maintain some kind of decent form while I’m at it, I got the crazy idea to explore an alcohol-free life for at least a month and see how that affected the situation. I’m chalking yesterday up as much to clean living as I am perfect circumstances.
So what do you drink when you’re not having a drink? Lots of water, it turns out. And more soda than usual, which still doesn’t amount to much soda. I had a non-alcoholic beer when I went out for drinks with coworkers last week. They don’t offer much to recommend themselves. Since I started stopping, I’ve noticed that I’ve been sleeping a little bit better, and the skin on my face feels more supple. Plus I’ve moved away from the notion of lusting after a cocktail halfway through a difficult day at work. The downside is that I still need to deal with stress, and that dealing has meant more candy and other empty calories. Maybe what I really need is a new hobby.
I don’t know how long I’m going to keep at the alcohol fast. My official month ends in two days, but I’m not exactly counting the minutes. If I’m going to run better when I don’t fuel myself in part with alcohol, why not keep at it for a while?