Thursday, February 14, 2013

What 61 Year Old Men Should Not Do, Part 2

In part 1, I said that 61 year old men should not lift heavy objects. In part 2, I proclaim that they should not attempt to hang with younger runners during a long run.  (That being said, I have a 66 year old neighbor that recently ran a 3:15 marathon).

Picture this - you arrive, in pre-dawn light, at the park to run with some friends.  At 61, you are the oldest by 15-20 years - and in some cases by nearly 30 years.  You'll all be doing an ten miler together, and this time, by God, you're going to hang in there right with them.  You've been training hard by yourself so you can hope to keep up.  You set your Garmin to beep every mile, do some dynamic stretching together, and step out for the run.  It is cool but not cold - perfect weather for a run.

Your Garmin beeps - one mile down at an easy warm up pace.  It beeps again.  Two miles already?  This doesn't seem bad.  But the warm up is over, and the leader picks up the pace a bit.  When the Garmin beeps a third time, you are starting to struggle - just a bit.  Everyone else seems fine.  Ah, the joys of youth!

Just after the fourth beep, you start to climb a steep hill.  You labor, but everyone else also slows a step.  Your legs hurt even so.  Man, whoever talked about a runner's high?  What, was he some moron, or just a really sadistic SOB?  The only thing high is this hill you're climbing.  As you reach the top, your Garmin beeps for a fifth time, and the terrain levels off.  Despite gasping like a chain smoker who is trying to breathe through a straw, you feel proud.  You just climbed a one mile hill, and you kept up with the younger crowd.  And this ten miler is now just a five miler.

As your Garmin beeps for the sixth time, any feeling of pride or euphoria is long gone.  You are staggering a bit.  You are shuffling your feet.  Everything below the waist is hurting. Your lungs feel like a pod of great blue whales sucked most of the oxygen out of the air in this particular part of town.  Everyone else seems fine - running at a smooth pace, chatting happily, talking about what they did last night or what their plans are for Saturday night.  None of them are staggering.  None of them are shuffling.  None of them are gasping for air like a fish flopping around on shore.

At mile seven, you are dying.  You see a branch in the path ahead about the diameter of a large pencil, and attempt to jump over it.  Instead, you trip and nearly fall.  What the hell?  You can't jump over something that is an inch thick?  "I - can't - do - this!" you gasp to yourself through labored breaths.  Your heart sounds like a motorcycle with no muffler.  Your legs feel like you have just run a mile through thigh deep water.  Self doubt invades your brain.  Why, oh why, did you ever take up running?  Other 61 year old men are still in bed, and if they are not, they are moving 20 feet into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee.  What were you thinking?  You glance with envy at your younger friends, all moving as easily as deer along the path.

The Garmin beeps an eighth time.  Eight miles down, two miles to go.  Well, at least the miles are going by fast.  You glance at the timer for the first time.  20 minutes and 12 seconds have gone by.  Your oxygen starved and addled brain attempts some math.  "Let's see, 20 roughly divided by 8, let's see, that is like 2, carry the 4 (or is is a 5), so let's see, that is like a 2.5 or so minute mile pace.  That's pretty fast, isn't it?  Wait a minute!  Even Pre or Marty Liquori never could run a 2 or 3 minute mileNo wonder I'm exhausted."    You slow to a near-stop and study the Garmin for a few seconds.  With the same sense of horror you would have had you just discovered a worm crawling out of your nose, you realize that you inexplicably set the Garmin to beep every quarter mile, not every mile.  "So let's see, 8 times 1/4 is 2, carry the zero - no, wait, it's just two.  Two?  Two miles?  Just two stinking miles?  Oh, crap!" 

You deliberately step on your shoe lace, unraveling it.  You call out, "Hey guys! I have to tie my shoe and stretch a cramp.  Keep going - I'll catch up to your group, but not real soon."  At least that's what you try to say, but through your labored breaths, what they hear is: "Hey - tie - my - cramp - I'll catch up - your - but - soon."  Your friends turn, all with puzzled expressions.  You're doubled over, pretending to check something with your foot, but actually trying not to hurl.  You give them a thumbs up, and gasp "Keep going.  I'll catch up."  They shrug and resume the run, at a little slower pace.  Now, you know and they know that you could not catch them if they were going to give you a million dollars should that happen. There is a better chance that you will spot an abominable snow man while climbing Mount Everest in your underwear than the chances of you catching them. Maybe if you turn and start walking back now, you might get back to the starting point before they go the remaining eight miles.

And that's when you admit, if only to yourself, that 61 year old men should not attempt to run with younger runners!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

How Do You 10K?

"How do you 10K?  That is the question that the television keeps asking.  The goal is to get more people to sign up for the Monument Avenue 10K, a totally fun race with 40,000 of your closest friends.  My answer this year to that question, apparently, is "I don't!"  And that feels strange, and a bit sad.

I've participated in eight straight Monument Avenue 10K's.  Unless I have a change of heart, and even more importantly, a change of knee, my streak will end this year.  My left knee continues with its sore area and I am not running.  I could walk it, of course - I routinely walk 4 or 5 miles at a good clip, so 6.2 is not that big of a stretch.  But I don't want to pay $30 or $40 to walk 10K.  If I am going to do it, I want to go for a PR - which is totally out of the question, since I am not running and have hardly at all, actually, since last year's 10K the end of March.

I have decisions to make - do TNT in 2013, my sixth time?  If so, do I walk?  Run? Cycle? Tri?  If I run am I risking more injury?  Should I try another doctor and get a good look at the knee?  I've been more consistent with the PT exercises, but not religious about them.  If I were religious would it do the trick?  Or is something wrong that is just not going to get better?

I have more questions than answers right now.  But as to the question: "How do you 10K?", my answer, reluctantly, is "In the spring 2013, I don't."  But it feels sad to answer that way.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The "True" Confessions of Racn4acure!

I decided to bare my soul and come clean with what has really happened these past eight years with my marathon, half marathon, and 10K racing career.  For years, I've vehemently denied the use of performance enhancing drugs (PED's).  I've viciously attacked and threatened anyone who suggested I might be using PED's.  I felt invincible.  But it took a tough investigative journalist, the famous Opera "Bats" Belfry, to dig into the facts and expose my little charade.  She locked in on things like a dog after a bone, and backed me into a corner quicker than Lindsay Lohan reaching for another drink.  There was no way out other than to face the truth.  So after all this, I decided Opera had earned the right for an exclusive interview.  Here is is:

Opera: "Thank you for agreeing to do this, Racn4acure.  I know it is not easy to admit to the world that you are a lying, cheating weasel."
Racn: "Hey, I resemble that remark, Opera!  Don't you think it casts unfair aspersions on members of the Mustelid family?"
Opera: "Let's 'Lance' that boil and get right to it: have you used performance enhancing drugs?"
Racn: "Yes."
Opera: "For every race?"
Racn: "No, not for my first 10K, or the marathon in Anchorage in 2005.  And not for last year's races - I don't think the statute of limitations is over for them, yet, is it?  But for all of the rest, to some degree or another, yes, I did."
Opera: "What made you sink so low, Racn?"
Racn: "You know, it happened a little bit at a time, Opera.  In the Anchorage Marathon, I walked my buns off for 26 miles in the rain, and still finished in the bottom 15% of males, and pretty far down for females as well.  And when I analyzed the results, I realized that there was only one possible explanation why so many people beat me: they, every single one of them, were on PED's!  It was an epiphany for me."
Opera: "Every single one of them?"
Racn: "Yes, there is no other explanation."
Opera: "Some of them were not just naturally faster, or had more endurance, or had trained harder?"
Racn: "Okay, maybe a few.  I can see that.  A handful, perhaps.  But hundreds? Come on, Opera!  You didn't just fall off the turnip truck!"
Opera: "But some of them, most of them, actually, ran while you walked."
Racn: "You see?  If that isn't cheating, what is?  Running while someone else walks?  Talk about gaining an unfair advantage!  Why aren't you exposing some of them?"
Opera: "So, what happened next?"
Racn: "Well, after reaching that epiphany that I spoke of, I realized my only way to do better was to try some PED's.  I didn't know where to start, but I knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a gal who knew a guy, and leading up to the San Diego Marathon, I started using all kinds of things - but not a lot of any one thing.  Just to experiment.  And I knocked something like 20 or 25 minutes off my marathon time.  And I thought, how much better can I do if I ramp things up a bit more?"
Opera: "Then came your training for the Arizona Marathon in 2008, right?"
Racn: "Yep, and I went all out, Opera.  I started with caffeine.  Then I tried some goo's, lots of goo's.  I added PB and J - well, actually, first just the PB alone and then PB with the J - and LOL.  Then, I used stuff like ROFLOL.  I even did Cliff Shots during the race - giving myself Cliff Shots three times in porta-potties!"
Opera: "Cliff Shots in a porta potty?  Do you know how disgusting that sounds, Racn4acure?"
Racn: "Let's not get judgemental here, Opera.  But yes, oh, the stories I could tell you about what goes on in those porta potties on race day.  Why, in this one porta potty...."
Opera: "Let's not go there.  What else did you use?"
Racn: "I am so ashamed of this still that I can barely admit it, but I even used EVOO - lots of it, and often."
Opera: "EVOO? No, Racn, not that!  Really?  Extra-virgin olive oil?  That is just terrible."
Racn: "I became obsessed.  What can I say?"
Opera: "I can understand OO.  I can even understand how you might be tempted to try VOO. But extra-virgin?  That's about as low as it gets.  There may be a special place in Hell for you."
Racn (sobbing): "I know, Opera.  I know.  And it continued as I started to run the half marathons and 10K's.  Oh, the shame of it all!"
Opera: "Why did you do it?  Did you hope to win?"
Racn: "No, I knew I could never win a race, Opera.  There were too many people really cheating for me to accomplish that.  I just wanted to be sure I was never the last man over the finish line.  I was actually OK finishing in the bottom 20%.  But I already knew that everyone who finished ahead of me - all but a handful of them, anyway - were on this stuff.  What if the people behind me started doing PED's, too?  I could, without warning, finish last.  That could not happen, Opera.  I could not let that happen.  Then, I broke the six hour barrier in the Arizona Marathon, and I thought, 'Whoa, this stuff really works!'  And I just kept going with it, even the EVOO."
Opera: "You left plenty of clues for me along the way, but it was the Arizona Marathon that really put me on to you.  It was such an improvement in your best times that I knew something was going on under the covers (or in the porta potties).  I talked to some of the world class marathons, the two hours and change guys, about your time.  You know what they told me?  'Six hours!  I didn't know that it was humanly possible to complete a marathon in six hours!'  So I started digging.  And I found a lot of dirt."
Racn: "Clues?  What kind of clues did I leave?  I thought I was being very careful, plus I threatened - uh, that is - I suggested to anyone who was going to expose me that it might not be the best of ideas."
Opera: "Well, for starters, the miles 19-22 in San Diego when you felt so sick and said that it was because you tried some 'new energy candy.'  Energy candy?  Pul-ease!  Pathetic, Racn4acure!  Pa - thet - tic!"
Racn: "I made a mistake."
Opera: "Then, there was that 'vertigo' the day before the Arizona Marathon.  You'd never had vertigo before, and breaking the six hour barrier the next day confirmed what really happened.  Too much caffeine and EVOO - although at the time I was thinking maybe VOO, never believing that even you would stoop to EVOO - had made you dizzy."
Racn: "You're good!"
Opera: "I have to be.  It's my job.  Then, there was the 'purple hair dye' in Seattle in 2010.  That was diabolically clever, Racn.  You almost got away with it.  And you would have, had it been a nice deep shade of purple.  But there were even more early clues that made me suspicious."
Racn: "Like what?"
Opera: "That training run in 2006 when you caught that snail down the stretch and left him gasping in his own slime trail.  The octogenarian with the walker that you lapped on the track.  The weight room workouts where your ability to pump iron increased three fold - why, you even bench pressed 30 or 35 pounds that one time with those arms strong of yours.  And you thought no one would notice?"
Racn: "But everyone else was doing it, Opera.  I just didn't want to finish last some day.  Hey, I have flaw, just like every other human being."
Opera: "Flaw?  Don't you mean 'flaws'?"
Racn: "Nope, flaw."
Opera: "Wow, not only are you as honest as the day is long at the North Pole on the day of the winter solstice, but you're humble, too!"
Racn: "Why, thank you, Opera!"
Opera: "Are you familiar with sarcasm?"
Racn: "Sarcasm? Sure, that's like the place where the baby eels are born, right?"
Opera: "American eels, a catadromous species of fish, return from fresh water to breed and lay eggs in the Sargasso Sea, not the Sarcasm Sea.  The word 'sarcasm' means.... Oh, never mind!"

(at this point, Opera Belfry mutters something under breath.  It is barely audible, but the powerful mics on her sound stage make it clear that she is saying "So, not only is he doping, but he is a dope as well."

Opera: "So, okay, let's get back on track, then.  This so-called 'fact' that everyone else was doing it - that justified your cheating?"
Racn: "You know, I had to look up the word 'cheat' in"
Opera: "Yeah, I saw where they got two hits for that word last month.  I wondered if one of them was you.  You could have saved yourself the trouble and just asked a five year old kid.  They could tell you what cheating is."
Racn: "Yeah, that was me, Opera!  Anyhow, it said something like 'to break the rules and regulations in an attempt to gain an unfair advantage.' And I didn't do that.  No, siree!  I was just trying to level the playing field.  So I am not a cheater.  I am a playing field leveler.  And, actually, I think that is good thing."
Opera: "A good thing?  How?"
Racn: "Well, there is nothing America likes more than a level playing field.  And I did that.  I made that happen. I saw what had to be done, a problem that had to be solved, and I solved it.  I leveled the playing field.  So, you're welcome, America.  You've welcome!"
Opera: "Wow, you're quite the hero, then.  You know, with a perspective like that, you could have a great career in Congress, say in the House.  Or maybe even as a Senator."
Racn: "Thanks, Opera!  That's a great compliment."
Opera: "It wasn't - really."
Racn: "Ah-ha!"
Opera: "Well, Racn4acure, our time is about up.  Anything you would like to add to our conversation?"
Racn: "Put yourself in my running shoes, Opera.  Everyone else in the whole world is cheating.  They have to be.  Hell, even that octogenarian with the walker that I lapped was chain smoking to try to give himself some nicotine stimulation.  What would you do?"
Opera: "What would I do?  I would remember what I was taught in elementary school: that he or she who cheats, cheats only themselves.  This is Opera Belfry, wishing you a good day.  Thank you for watching!"

Friday, February 1, 2013

Say There's No Chance, Lance!

Say there's no chance, Lance!  Actually, Lance Armstrong recently did just that: he said that there is no chance that he had been telling the truth these last years about not cheating.  It is tremendously disappointing to this former admirer.  I tend to believe people when they tell me about something, especially if they are adamant.  And Lance sure was adamant, again and again and again.

I wasn't sure that I was going to post about Lance, but obviously decided to.  I didn't watch the interviews on Oprah.  I saw a few highlights, and read a little.  I loved the part about having to look up "cheating" in the dictionary! How does someone who was that convincing for so long just be able to finally admit the truth - and maybe not the whole truth - and expect that to be that?  It would be like if one's spouse denied cheating for years, and then finally said "Oh, about that?  Actually, I did sleep with your best friend four days a week for 10 straight years.  I threatened everyone I knew to not come forward, and bullied them into lying for me.  I did have to look up 'sexual relations' in the dictionary, though, just to be sure.  But I haven't done it in the last few years, trust me, so don't worry.  And, hey, everyone was doing it, and I just wanted to level the playing field so I could keep up with what my friends were doing.  Let's just put it behind us, okay?"

I don't like cheaters.  Every kid five years old and up knows what cheating is - they don't have to look it up in the dictionary.  I don't like liars.  I especially don't like it when liars attack people who point out their lies, as if it is those who are the liars, and not them.  Lance was right when he said that he was a flawed individual.  But we all have flaws.  What he did was so monumentally wrong on so many levels that it goes far beyond "flawed", and frankly, his word has less value than a cup of warm spit - something which I have no use for.

That being said, Lance Armstrong did a lot of good with Livestrong.  And I hope that organization continues strong without him.  He was an inspiration to many, including me.  When I had cancer nearly 11 years ago, his book "It's Not About the Bike" was one of the first that I read.  I am deeply disappointed in Lance now, but am grateful to him for the work that he did with his organization.

So here's a question for you: what if Lance had been clean?  What if what he says is true - that virtually every other elite cyclist dopes?  What if he had not doped and and finished no better than 20th in any given Tour de France?  Do you think that that he ever would have had the fame and fortune to start the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which became Livestrong?  Given society's priority on winning at any cost, I kind of doubt it, actually.  It would truly be ironic if Livestrong, and all the good it has done and will hopefully continue to do, would never had existed had Lance Armstrong been an honest man who played by the rules.  What do you think?