The Ghost In The Shell, And The Aramco Half Marathon

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The night before the race I could not sleep. I never can. I always get pre race jitters. This particular race was different. Oh, this race carried weight and a serious level of accountability. I was chasing a PR. The record I was chasing I set back in 2013. I ran the Morgan Hill Half Marathon, 1:49:19. A complete anomaly.

I had something to prove today. I was racing. My competitor wasn’t the thousands of others running today. Oh no. It was much more personal. It was me. I was racing that ghost of my 2013 self. If I was going to do it properly, I would have went back to Morgan Hill. This was the best I could do right now. I was going to beat that damn PR. The vision of that PR mocked me. Daring me to beat it. I had also promoted my challenge on social media for all to see. There was no turning back. There was no failure.

The stakes were high. I couldn’t sleep. Tossed and turned all night. Thoughts of running this damn race haunted me all night. Could I beat this stupid record? Had I trained enough? Had I trained right? I had spent the last few months building an aerobic engine. No speed work. No strength work. Compared to last year I had lost 30 pounds.

I woke up before my alarm. Once up, I ate my ‘overnight oats.’ Packed my gear and left for the race. It was 32 degrees Fahrenheit out. Listening to David Goggins’ Book Can’t Hurt Me Inspired me as I drove downtown. Once I parked, I walked quickly to the hotel, the unofficial staging point for all runners escaping the cold before the race. Starbucks. Warm, clean bathrooms welcomed me. I got a small cup of coffee (airport prices.) Took my ritualistic morning dump. After I adjusted my shoelaces I made my way over to corral B.

Walking over to the corral I realized I had not lubed up in the normal chafing areas. I was hoping that being so cold I wouldn’t have to worry about it. (And, I wouldn’t, well, until afterwards.) That’s another story.

Standing in the corral I waited for our turn to approach the line. The horn sounded. We were off. A slow walk, I set me Nike+ app, Strava app, continued to a stroll, a jog, and then a run. I was off. At mile one I was running an 8:05 pace. Wow. I was feeling good. I was zipping past people. Focused a few feet ahead of my my special playlist, hold fast and run like you own it played on Spotify. A special blend of fast music. Each song inspirational to me to drive me forward.

As the miles ticked by I kept my pace. I was shocked. “I can’t believe I’m holding this.” I thought. This effort wasn’t too bad. It didn’t hurt. But was challenging. “Could I sustain this?” I relaxed my body and dug in. I was running faster than normal. Too fast to breathe exclusively through my nose. So I inhaled through my nose (Darth Vader technique referenced in John Douillard’s Body, Mind Sport,) exhaling through my mouth. I had been practicing breathing exclusively through my nose on my long runs.Last year when I ran this race I weighed 233 pounds., an emotional mess. This time around I weighed 205 pounds, eating a proper diet, and trained, well, kind of. No speed training, only aerobic, distance training.

I knew where my wall was on this route. For the five years I’ve run this route The last two miles which included the final stretch on Memorial Park Drive was an emotional killer killer for me. I was running, fast, smooth, focused, and efficient. I would slow down occasionally to conserve energy in the bank for later when I hit that wall. I had started out fast. I could afford to do this. The miles kept ticking by. Holding the 8 mile per hour pace I paid no attention to anyone around me. Eyes down, hold fast, run. This felt good, yet challenging. This PR was mine. My 2013 ghost taunted me. Mocked me. “You can’t do this. You’re weak.” I ignored the voice. This was my day. No one was going to taking this from me. My feet were fine. The stupid foot wart was fine. Legs solid. My lungs? Good but challenged by the pace.

I approached ‘the wall.’ The last two miles. I ran down Memorial Park Drive leading us back into the city. I moved through it, focused. I was working. The final mile. The crowds became more dense. The cheering louder as the world silenced around me. I could see the end. I crossed the line. My Nike+ app said “Congratulations! You reached your goal of 13.1 miles, time 1:45:02.

Fuck ya! I knew I was going to do this! My official chip time was 1:47:12. I beat my record by one minute and some change. I was practically in tears of joy and accomplishment. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I claimed my medal. There was no soreness, no pain. I didn’t hurt. I felt fucking good. My training was paying dividends, as my brother would say. I got food, sat down and cried tears of happiness silently to myself. I had accomplished something I didn’t think I would ever do.

No Run. Foot troubles. And Other Crap.

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I haven’t run for the last few days. Have any of you had weeks like that? Ya, I bet. I was planning to run tonight. I drank too much. One IPA tall boy, and nearly a whole bottle of wine. I could not bring myself to run. I felt really tired. I went to sleep early. I’ve been battling with plantar warts for some time now. Where and how did I get them? Who the fuck knows. But my right foot has five of them in various locations. Sucks. These fucking things are the one issue that could put a wrench in my long distance running. Blisters come and go. But warts. Yuck. They create pressure points that just don’t go away. And after you’ve been sweating for some time, they become raw and tender. I treated them today. I used a combo treatment kit of freezing and topical acid. I did not treat them all. My focus was on the biggest one on the ball of my foot. The most horrible place to have one. I froze it following the kit directions. I was actually taking a risk fucking with it at all. The Houston marathon is this weekend. I am running the Aramco half. I’m chasing down my fastest time, PR, 1:48. I set that time back in 2013 running the Morgan Hill Half marathon in Morgan Hill, California. I have spent the last 4 years chasing that PR. Anyways. By treating this stupid wart I could be creating a train wreck of a painful mess on my foot, making the run unbearable.

Once I froze it the wart became a painful lump. Think pebble or rock stuck in your shoe. Tender to walk on. Oh shit. I hope this damn things clears up. I considered cutting off the dead skin. That usually relieves the pressure. I set my alarm for 4:30am. I f I wasn’t going to run tonight I would run tomorrow morning.

Buzz! Buzz! Buzz! I woke up at 4:30am. to tackle ten miles I missed the day before. It hurt. But as I lay there in bed my body and mind adjusted, and came to understand what I was requesting. My right foot, the wart I had froze the previous night really hurt. I was told it would for 24-hours. That fucking frozen wart. I tried. I got out of bed. Walked to the kitchen. My foot was tender. Crawled back into bed. Defeated. It was a struggle. This did not come easy. I thought about running all day long. I thought about that stupid wart. This afternoon I decided to pull out a fresh exacto blade and cut-off the dead skin that was the frozen wart. I’ve done this before. and those previous times have proven relief. I sat done at the table and surgically removed the dead skin. Remember, I’ve performed this before. its not for everyone or the faint at heart. Even my 8-year old daughter asked what I was doing. Surprisingly she watched in amazement. I applied compound W to the fresh, tender, pink skin. Did it burn? Fuck yes it did. But I am use to this sort of thing. All I cared about was that it relieved the pressure. It was tender and sore. As would be expected. I have to run with this foot. In weird, sick way, this tenderness, will be foot pain training.

I only have a few days until the half marathon. I guess all of this resting is a good thing. I recently was dealing with shin splints due to a new pair of shoes that weren’t agreeing with me.

On another note, I did not win a lottery slot for the Leadville 100 race. I have one more chance to earn a spot at the Austin Rattler 66k in April. I’m not banking on it. I found another 100 mile to run. The Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stage Coach line 100. Lower elevation. No hassle to enter. Beautiful country. I’m signing up for that. Unfortunately, I did not win a spot in the NY Marathon either. I do have another chance. Not sure yet. All I know is that it will be an interesting year.

What I am really worried about is my drinking. I keep bouncing back-and-forth between quitting and finding a happy balance. This usually ends with me drinking my normal routine. Feeling like shit. A failure. Trying to convince myself late at night in bed to quit. I really do enjoy drinking. I’m on a brewery bike team for God’s sake. But unfortunately due to DNA, I struggle with the sauce.I can’t have a happy medium. That’s killing me. I either have to quit. Or, embrace it, and own it. Fuck.

Now I know Why Running Is A Love/Hate Relationship

I’ve been doing it wrong. All wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. My past nine short years of running have been a love/hate relationship, bordering more on the hate side. Why? Because I’ve been running the wrong way. Hating it. Promising after each race I would never do it again. Yet, signing up quickly for the early bird discounts so I could go back and do it again.

Late last year, fall 2018, I began to educate myself on the proper way to run and train while flirting with the idea of running a 100 mile race. Learning to slow down, pacing, breathing. Running became fun, addicting. Especially paired with a great audio book. Up to this point I had only run half marathons. I was not born a runner. Well, if I was no one ever helped me realize it, cultivate it. As a kid, yes, I ran all over the place. In the summers I would walk all over town, and run barefoot across the hot desert paths, and pavement to get to the public pool. I of course ran in school, because I had to. I sometimes ran in the elementary school cross country events. There were no runners in my family. No one pushed me, taught me, or inspired me to run. I ran to play, get away from people, and problems.

I never seriously considered running until I turned 19. After graduating high school my dad told me if I wanted to continue living under his roof I would have to pay rent. I moved in with me mom. She had recently been divorced from her second husband. The man she had cheated on my dad with. He had been verbally and mentally abusing her. I moved in with her and my youngest sister. Life was pretty good. I was attending community college. Not too long after, unexpectedly, my mom decided she was going back to this guy. I did not want anything to do with it. Without any other options, for the first time in my life, I ran away from a problem. I joined the Navy.

In preparation for the Navy I began running. For some dumb reason I thought it would help me through boot camp. Wrong. I did not have running shoes. No watch, heart rate monitor. Nothing. This was the early 90s. The internet was just a baby. I just went out and ran. The furthest distance I would cover was 1.5 miles down a path along an irrigation canal. It sucked. I had no game plan. No instruction. I simply went out and ran each day. Out and back. It was not a pleasant experience. Nor did it last long. After three days I quit. I would not run again until I entered boot camp in San Diego. I was 19.

Once in boot camp running was a daily evolution. Some of my most earliest, and fondest memories were of running the Naval Training Station grounds with my company on cool San Diego evenings in a group. Throughout my time in the navy I would run laps around the deck of my ship while deployed in the Gulf, and around the base when we were docked. Unfortunately, I would run less, and less as I adopted a smoking habit. Later, after I got out of the service I would run the hills behind my apartment in Newhaul, California. Those were some fun times running through the hills, exploring abandoned oils fields. Again, yes, I was running, but for no apparent reason. After the adventure became a chore, lost it’s luster, I quit. The problem was I had no goal to focus my efforts running.

Running would not seriously cross my mind again until years later, 2008, living in Alameda, California, my brother, who was and still is a naval aviator, announced, “hey dude, interested in running a half marathon with me?” Without a chance to respond he said, “Good. I signed us up for the Big Sur Half Marathon.” Note: this would later be changed to the Monterey Bay Half Marathon. I had no idea what it meant to run a half marathon. I didn’t even know what distance that was. It sounded far. It sounded like it was going to hurt. It sounded like an adventure. Since my fucking brother had paid my entry fee, I was now obligated. Little did I know how much this one single event would change my life. I wasn’t going to back out. I had nearly a year to train.

What did I do with that time? I did not run. Well, occasionally. What would follow was a train wreck of an adventure exploring different running shoes. Experimenting with different motivational running apps, routes and distances. It sucked. I hated it. Each day I went out to run I questioned what the hell I was doing. “Just get through this stupid run that your brother signed you up for then you never have to do it again.” I would think.

I began training with time based runs. Run for only 30 minutes. My brother suggested that. I did. This would evolved into 5k distance. At the time I was working in San Francisco. I walked everywhere. A lot of time spent on my feet as I walked all over the city making pictures, before work, after work and on lunch breaks. My cardio was good. But my legs weren’t having the continuous pounding. I spent a lot of time running that damn 5k route near my house. It felt like such a long distance. No matter whether I ran it one way or switched it up and ran the opposite direction. At least I had the beautiful weather on the San Francisco bay, and tree lined streets of Alameda.

The goal was to work up to a point where I could finish 13.1 miles. The problem was I kept tripping over this giant mental hurdle. “I hate running! Why in God’s name would I want to run this stupid distance ‘training?’ Save the effort for when I’d actually get a medal for doing it” Oh boy did I hated running. You catching on to this yet?

Each week my brother would check in with me to see how I was progressing. And each week I would tell him I was doing fine. He’d tell me to put my miles in. “Get use to running dude. You can and will hit a wall on race day.” A wall? What fuck does that mean? He told me that everyone faces a wall. He knew where his was. He had been running longer than I had. He somehow magically had an idea where I’d hit mine. Once I felt comfortable with 5K I increased my distance to 10k. This was a challenging distance for me. One that I would never quite get over in my first few years of running. I would occasionally hit seven. But never more. Most of my runs were never slow. They were fast. I felt that while training I always had to run at a swift, sustainable pace. There was no slow aerobic base building. No discussion about breathing. Nothing. Just get your miles in. I hated it. The one saving grace was running along the Alameda naval base and seeing San Francisco across the bay. I miss San Francisco. Anyhow, if it didn’t hurt, it wasn’t producing anything, was my mentality.

I was drinking large amounts of beer and wine. Consuming whatever food I wanted. There were many, many runs that were never finished. I would stop part way and walk the remainder. If I even felt a little uncomfortable I would find a convincing reason to stop. Ya, it was bad. I knew I had to run. But understand, I had no training. I had no idea what I was doing. I just ran. That damn half marathon creeping slowly closer each day. The only reason I was doing it was out of obligation. And, to see if I could actually do it. I wanted the challenge. Who cared about gait, shoes, pace, what I was eating and drinking. Fuck, just run. Yet I wasn’t seeing any progress.

It truly was a love/hate relationship. Occasionally I love how I felt, the weather, atmosphere, adventure. Otherwise, it hurt, felt awkward. If only I knew then what I knew now. I would have slowed down and adopted a plan. Built a base and worked my way into it.

As race day neared, my brother checked in as he usually did. I had not broke my 10k distance. Nor had I become efficient at it. My brother told me that this race was going to be awesome, a learning experience, and it would hurt. I’m glad someone felt fucking confident. I would do my best to embrace it. I would see this through. The thing I would not do is quit.

I did run the Big Sur Half Marathon that November, 2009 with my bro. And it was everything, I thought it would be, fun, exciting, adventurous, and painful. I hit my wall shortly past the 8 mile turn around. My calves cramped up, howling with pain the last five miles. Causing me to stop, stretch and walk more often than my brother wanted to. My legs were heavy. I felt like shit. I could barely walk. My brother’s response, “I knew it.” He knew it. He fucking knew it. Oh boy. Of course he did. He was in the best shape of his life with a few runs already under his belt. He stuck with me though. We finished together. I would finish the race in 2:24:57. hobbling across the finish line. I could barely walk afterwards. When I sat down to eat, I couldn’t get back up. I told myself I would never do that shit again. But I did. I would go on to run at least one half marathon each year. It sucked a little less each time. But I was now hooked.