Thursday, September 27, 2012

Working Out on the Road

So I was away from home on business and I HATE being away from home because it always wreaks havoc with my workouts. 

You see, I CAN NOT work out in the morning. I have tried and tried to run in the morning  and I have crappy work outs and just hate it. Ok, I LOVE the quietness of the morning and running when things are cool and there is no one else out there except a couple other runners. But other than that, I HATE it. 

Ok, back to my business trip. Even though my knee isn’t 100% rehabbed yet, recent life events drive me to get back to running or crumble into deep depths of depression. I hate depression worse than running in the morning. So I started half-marathon training this week, the week I leave for a business trip. 

The problem with business trips is that, as previously established, I do not work out in the morning. Which only leaves after work to work out. However, my travel companions always want to go out to dinner soon after returning from work. Further, the dinner place is usually a sit-down that has big food. After drinks, dinner and conversation, we don’t get back from the hotel until late and we’re stuffed to the gills. No way I’m running after that. 

I could skip the dinner with the crew. But then you get tagged as “anti-social”. Besides, you miss the really important work ‘updates’ if you don’t go to those outings. And, trying local restaurants is a happy perk of business travel. Really, do I want to miss that? 

This week, I was traveling with our finance guy Chuck. I love traveling with Chuck. He’s a great travel companion. Thank goodness because the trips we’ve been on together usually involve a car ride lasting, at minimum, six hours! That’s a long time to be in a car with someone. 

But Chuck is easy going, plays old rock on the radio and sings to it sometimes. Carefree happy guy. Even after driving for seven hours with me in the car he’s still happy-go-lucky. Which proves he’s a good guy. Or on really good meds. Whatever. 

So as we left our meeting today I asked Chuck, “What’s the plan for dinner? Did you want to go early?” (I was hoping to get back to the hotel early and settle in for the night). 
He replied, “Well, I’d like to get a workout in first.” 


Now everyone who’s stayed in a hotel even once knows most hotel gyms are pitiful! You’re lucky if there is one treadmill and a stationary bike. So I worried we’d both be in the gym staring at one treadmill wondering which method of combat to use to decide who gets to use it. 

Hotel Gym Pictures, Images and Photos

I would just run outside except it was 101 degrees at 4pm and there were three wildfires in full force nearby making the air quality unhealthy. So I asked Chuck what kind of workout he wanted. “Do you need the treadmill?” 

“No. I’ll jump on the elliptical.” 


So I changed into my workout clothes as fast as possible and hoped no one else was in the gym. I’d be bummed if someone else was on the treadmill because I wasn’t about to bogart the elliptical from Chuck and if a treadmill wasn’t available I wasn’t going to get a workout. 

When I made it to the gym, Chuck was already on the elliptical. No one was on the treadmill. Sweet! But it was being maintenanced. Damn! But then I saw there was a second treadmill. Sweet!

So I jumped on the empty treadmill and I did a good warm up. Just as I started picking up speed, the maintenance guy walked up to me and said, “Um excuse me. I need to check this next. It’ll just take a few minutes.” 

“Is that one up and running?” I asked looking at the one he was just working on.

“No. Sorry. It needs some more work. But it’ll just take a few minutes for me to look at this machine.”

My mother told me not to judge a book by its cover and I should have listened. The maintenance guy looked fit like he worked out regularly. And because he maintenances workout machines I assumed he used them too. I thought he’d understand endorphin addicted athlete humor.

“You’re a brave man. Interrupting a person mid-workout. We get cranky when our endorphins are interrupted.”

“Yeah well, my kids get cranky when I get home late.”

Oops! My funny joke wasn’t so funny was it? 

So I jumped off the treadmill and said, “No problem. I’ll just run the stairs for a bit.”

“Thanks. It’ll only be about 10 minutes.”

I quickly realized the stairwells were not air conditioned! OMG! It was like a sauna in there! The gym was on the first floor. So I ran up the four flights of stairs then power walked through the top floor to the stair well on the other side of the building. At least the hallways were cool. I only managed two sweeps before I couldn’t take the heat any more. I hoped ten minutes had passed already and headed back to the gym to finish my date with the treadmill. 

I had a terrible thought on my way back to the gym; what if someone else came in while I was gone and jumped on the treadmill before me!? I’d have to wait longer! Chuck would be done with his work out before me too. OH! So help me, if someone bogarts my machine there will be hell to pay! ARGH!

I burst into the gym and there is a NEW GUY standing there! The maintenance guy was still bent over one of the machines working on it. I looked at the new guy. I looked at the machines. One was not being used and the maintenance guy was working on the other. Were they both down now??

I looked at the new guy again. He looked at me. 

“He won’t let me get on the machine.”


The new guy pointed at the maintenance guy, “He told me you were coming back and he wouldn’t let me get on the machine.”

I looked at the maintenance guy bent over a machine. He looked up, “Oh. You’re back.” He gestured to the other machine. “It’s ready to go. I told him not to get on it because you’d be right back.” 

“Oh thank you so much!” I said to the maintenance guy. I looked at the new guy, “Thank you. I only have 15 minutes left.”

I jumped on MY machine that the maintenance guy SAVED for me. Thanks to the maintenance guy, I had a great workout and road a great endorphin high for the rest of the night. 

I hope he got home on time and had a lovely night with his kids. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mayor's Half Marathon FINISH - Part 8

Once I get to the last 5k in any race, I know I’ll make it in. I always say, “You can suffer through 5 kilometers of anything.”

I was hot and tired and sore. But not 24 miles into  a marathon sore. I knew I’d make it in. But I was ready to be done and I knew we had ‘the last nasty hill’ between me and the finish. 

In the last  mile of the half and full courses, there is a very steep, long hill. It’s mean actually. It’s the steepest hill I remember on any of my races. That includes San Francisco! I always knew I would walk it. Especially injured. I kept thinking about the full marathoners and how tired they would be when they hit that hill. It made feel better about the job ahead of me. 

I hit the hill and wow! It was a serious butt burner! The half and full courses merged right at the base of the hill. So both groups intermingled on the way up. Many of the full marathoners continued to run up the hill. More power to them! They looked whipped! I call the last 10k of a marathon the “Zombie Zone”. Most of us look like the walking dead at that point. 

I tried to keep a good pace on the hill knowing this was the last big push I had to do. Unless of course the girl in blue has been gaining on me. I hadn’t seen her behind me. But you just don’t know. You have to stay alert. 

I was delighted when, near the top, I saw a kind neighbor had tied the end of their garden hose to the top of a ladder with the nozzle pointed down like a street side shower. There was no one manning it, no energetic kids running around. But it was nice of them to do for the runners just the same. 

I stepped right under the spray and stood there until I was once again soaked. It felt great!!! An on-course coach was nearby and asked how I was doing. I seemed to be one of the few who were partaking of the water. And I bet she hadn’t seen someone actually stand under it for several seconds like I was. 

“Doing good coach! I’m lovin’ this shower! A few more seconds here and I think I’ll make it in!”

I always try sound especially chipper when talking to the on-course coaches. I have this idea that they worry more about us heavy athletes and I want to be sure they don’t try to pull me off the course. I think my fear is totally unfounded and kind of silly. But it got in my head during my first marathon season and it stuck. 

I know a lot of people are surprised that I do marathons. I’m short, fat and old. But I’m sure the coaches have seen people of all shapes and sizes finish all sorts of distances. Further more, I’m sure they’ve seen heavy well-trained athletes fare better on long course than some skinny athletes. I know the hang up about being pulled is only in my head. And that’s the thing with marathoning, you win or lose (finish or not) mostly because of your mental rather than physical make up. 

Ok, back to the race. That hill kept going! I moved over to the side because I was really slowing down! I kept looking behind me for the girl in blue. I figured if she hasn’t caught up to me yet, this hill would be as hard on her as it was on me. So I felt confident I was going to beat her in for sure now. 

The spectators were wonderful at this point in the race. They knew we were on reserves and clawing our way to the high school where we would come onto the track and run to the finish. So they were cheering their hearts out! 

I kept looking for the track. But I saw the high school campus first. I prayed, “Please let the track be close. Please don’t let it be on the other side of the campus!” I was SO ready to be done! 

I saw the track at least a quarter mile away. But I noticed you didn’t have to run a whole lap on the track to get to the finish. Which meant I had less than half a mile to make it in! Yeah!!! I could do that! 

But I walked most of it. I was pretty much out of juice. (If the girl in blue showed up, I’d be done for!) I have  a ‘thing’ where I HAVE to run across the finish. It’s just a tradition for me. So I made a deal with myself. I’d walk until I hit the track. But once on the track, I’d run, no matter how slow I had to go. 

I hit the track and stepped it up. I love the sound of the crowd! It’s so great to be coming in off a long course and have all these strangers cheering you on! You know you have worked hard and aren’t quite done yet. Then you hear the roar of the crowd and hear them yelling, “GO! GO” “You can do this!” “Good job!!” “You’re there!” 

I just can’t tell you how buoyed my spirit gets sharing that experience with perfect strangers who care enough about what you are doing to encourage you like that! It boosts my faith in humanity and we all need that from time to time. The cheers of the crowd always carries me into the finish like I am being delivered on downy wings! That’s a tough feat after running so many miles!! :) 

I looked for Kris as I headed to the finish. I crossed the finishing mats and turned to look behind me. I expected to see the girl in blue. I was sure she couldn’t be too far behind. But I didn’t see her anywhere. I had beat her to the finish with time to spare! I may have had more time in front of her than I realized and I could have taken it a little easier. But endurance running isn’t about taking it easy. I’ll forever be grateful to the girl in blue for pushing me and keeping me striding! 

Below is video proof of my finish. Start looking for me after you see the half naked man running by! :) 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Race to the Finish Line: Mayor’s Marathon Part 7

I much prefer to follow a target and pass in the last half mile of a race. The pressure is so much greater being in front and hoping they aren't going to pass you. But that’s what so fun about racing. You don’t know what’s going to happen and you have to continually think on the fly and adjust as you go. 

So I knew the girl in blue was behind me and I suspected she has targeted me as I had targeted her and would be pushing to pass me at some point also. So I had to keep my lead over her or else I was going to have a very hard time over coming her in the last stretch. I was getting tired and I was afraid I would start slowing too and she’d get the jump on me. And I may not have enough 'juice' left in the last half mile to over take her again. And it was getting hot!

I knew Kris was going to try to meet me at around mile 10 and I was looking forward to seeing him. I was getting tired and the day was getting hot! I knew heat slows me down. I hope it had the same effect on the girl in blue. 

At least we were now running on a multi-purpose trail through a nice wooden area. The scenery was great! Up ahead a saw a couple little kids running around on the trail squealing and throwing water. Then I noticed the trail was wet up ahead. As I drew closer, I saw that it was ‘raining’. 

There was a man sitting in a lawn chair holding a hose. He had it pointing toward the runners but aimed over their heads and such that the water would only fall on half the trail so runners had plenty of room to move over and avoid the spray. His kids had little dixie cups in their hands and were filling the cups and throwing the water on runners as they came by. 

The little boy was especially excited and was actually chasing down the runners and throwing water on them. I could hear his dad as I approached, 

“Hey! Don’t throw water on anyone unless they say it’s ok. Ask first and if they say, “Ok” then you can get them wet. Not everyone wants that.”

What a good dad. But I definitely wanted the water!! In fact I ran straight into the spray of the hose and headed right for him! I was trying to get where the water pressure was strongest. I was hot and the water felt great! But I think I scared the guy as I must have looked like I was going to run him over the way I was headed straight for him. 

I was also worried he would turn the hose away from me thinking no one would want to get that drenched! So I yelled, “Thank you so much!! That is awesome! Oh this feels great!” As I ran toward him so he would keep the water coming on strong!

He did. By the time I ran past him and his hose, water was dripping from my clothes and hair and skin. I couldn’t get any wetter. But his son threw a dixie cup worth on me anyway. Just for good measure! I said, "Thanks Man!"
Planes flew over our heads at around mile 9 as the trail was next to the runway where they took off. 

The water evaporated way too fast and I felt myself heating up again. But my attention to my discomfort was diverted when rounding a bend I saw a group of people bent at the waist and peering into the brush across a little bog. WILDLIFE!!!

“What is it?” I whispered to one of the group. 

“There’s a baby moose.”

‘Oooo!!!’ I thought, ‘a BABY moose! Even better!’ and looked in the direction everyone was looking. I saw nothing. 

“Where?” I whispered again.

“Right there,” my new friend was pointing, “See the big bushy bush on the other side of the bog and then there is that little open space in the branches? When the baby flicks its ear, you can see the ear. But you can’t really see it unless it moves.”

So I watched and waited for an ear flick. I saw it! I think. It did look like there was a flash of movement in the opening of the branches. But what it was I couldn’t be sure. So if any one asks, it was a baby moose. 

Off I went up the trail. I was hoping the girl in blue would also stop to see the moose yet hang out there longer than I did. I’m sure she was right behind me. 

Mile nine mile marker and I thought, “Only one more mile until I see Kris.” Then I started climbing a hill. 

It wasn’t a bad hill. But a hill none the less. I was hot. I was tired. I was sore. But I was also determined. I powered up that hill remembering the girl in blue had been strong on the earlier hills. So I needed to be sure not to loose ground here. As I rounded a corner I heard shutters clicking and looked up to see Kris shooting pictures of me. 

“Why are the photographers ALWAYS at the top of a hill???? No fair! You want to get us looking are worst don’t you!”

Kris stood up grinning. That’s when I saw right behind him was one of the course’s official photographers. See! I told you! It never fails! Any photographers out there reading this; can you please tell me why you insist on lying in wait at the tops of hills for us? It can’t be a flattering picture. So why do it? Is the light that much better shooting downhill? Let me know. 

I couldn’t help but feel a little smug knowing I had my own personal on-course photographer! :) He followed me to the next water stop. It was a cute Polynesian themed stopped.  I love Polynesia. Pineapples, coconuts, palm trees, pristine beaches... But my favorite thing was that they were handing out wet sponges! Yeah!! 

Did I mention it was hot? I grabbed a sponge and decided just to put it under my hat and let it sit there until it dried out. It felt sooooo good! The initial coolness of the sponge touching my head was invigorating! Then when I put my hat back on, it squished a bunch of water out of the sponge that ran down my sweaty back. It was so cold it was shocking! Oh! Heaven! It gave me a nice boost which I needed as I still had another 5k to go!