May 14, 2005

Pickles. Yeah, they're that important.

That was a really long way to go for a jar of pickles, I tell you what. Seriously. One gallon Vlasic dills: 130 miles and a 5K run.

Okay, okay, so the jar of pickles wasn't part of the master plan when I got up this morning at 5. As the alarm went off, my eyes popped open: today was the day! Today was the FIRST day! First day of what? Why, my second round of training, of course!

It's been two weeks since the Cincinatti marathon, which I completed in 5:25, and consequently two weeks since my last run - or excercise of any sort. So this first run to get back in the game was important and I'd planned to go for a couple of months.

The run was the Sgt. Nutter (memorial) 5K. It was organized by the National Guard unit at Sea Girt, NJ and this was the first time they'd organized a run. (They did a wicked good job, too!) One of my riding buddies had emailed the East Coast crew about the run some months ago, and I marginally committed to it. I didn't REALLY commit 'til last night, when I printed off driving directions and checked the weather forecast. The NWS promised no rain until at least one o'clock, so I figured I'd be good to go.

I drove my motorcycle down to Sea Girt, about 65 miles away, through Staten Island and down the Garden State Parkway. Lovely drive at 6 in the morning! I arrived way early at the site and was greeted by brightly attired, cheerfully smiling National Guardsmen. I asked where I could change and stash my bag and another Guardsman was called over to the registration table. It was my friend Inch! I didn't recognize him outside of a leather jacket. We spent a pleasant 15 minutes chatting about his recent service in Iraq and he introduced me to his girlfriend.

We chatted some and he introduced me to another motorcyclist who showed. That guy brought his girlfriend and dog, Ellis - ultimately, they ran the course, too! Inch disappeared (official photographer for the event) and my new friends and I compared notes - this was his second race and second 5K. He didn't seem interested in the longer runs, but was curious about what it takes to run a marathon.

Finally, we all lined up and were led in a Guardsmen-style stretching routine pre-race, then ambled over to the starting line. They fired a canon - a REAL canon - and the pack took off! There were about 100 runners total, maybe not even that many, so it was easy to keep track of the runners as we ran the course. The course doubled back on itself a couple times, so we kept passing as the leaders zipped by us going the other way. As usual, a lot of the pack took off at a near sprint and - after a mile and a half -- I was beginning to pick them off one by one as my "slow and steady" strategy began to pay off. I was running faster than for my previous training runs, and my legs were very aware of their recent abuse and un-use, but it felt good to be getting some excercise on what had turned out to be a fine sunny day.

One of the runners, a Sgt Carroll, was a powerfully built Army man who ran in full fatigues with a 45 pound pack. Turns out he's a champion boxer, too. I passed him after a mile, but was pleased to see him cross the finish line not long after me. The friend of Inch I'd been talking to turned in a swift 25-minute 5K, and his girlfriend and dog, who had started a couple minutes after the race began - and who I'd passed once or twice after they passed me - came in a few minutes after me.

My time was 31 minutes even. Not bad for 3.1 miles! I think, per mile, this was my best time ever. It makes me very curious about doing some speed training. I do, however, need to figure out why my nose was bleeding after the run. And I also need to get online and order a new pair of shoes! My left knee is back to hurting and I believe it's in part due to running in worn shoes. Damn I'm stupid.

So...where do the pickles come in? Right after driving back across the Verazanno Narrows Bridge, I noticed a small sign pointing out an exit for Fort Hamilton. Okay, I thought, I could use some groceries. Quick-crossing three lanes of traffic, I took the exit. I went into the comissary and started picking up the usual supplies - and then noticed the gallon jars of pickles. A gallon. For $2.99. I knew I could get the other groceries home, but I wasn't sure the gallon of pickles would fit on my motorcycle. What the hell. Purchased them anyway.

Got home a few minutes ago and will shortly take a shower and then a much-needed nap.

The pickles are delicious.

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