August 24, 2008

Today, I am an Olympian

Been a while since I posted. Quick catch up: Tuesday, I set out to do 11 miles, from work to home and a little extra, but cut the run short at 4 miles (watch says 4.5). It was a hot and humid run, but I think I was just worn out from the weekend. See, I spent last weekend attending a friend's wedding - in North Carolina. 1300 miles on the bike is a little much when you're not trained up for it. My friend Wayne, who went with me, agreed.

Thursday's run was also difficult, but I got in the distance I had in mind for the day, heading up first to the Boat Basin, then all the way down to Chambers street. I was getting pretty tight at the end of that. I stopped in a convenience store and picked up a Heineken to drink on the subway ride home. Hey, it's a recovery drink, right? And if you're drinking it on the subway, then you're not drinking alone, right? Actually, I could make it a real habit ending my once or twice a week after-work runs that way.

So it all came down to today's long run. I had to get in a good workout or risk falling behind in marathon training. I planned for 14 miles. Or 13. Or 12. Or whatever the distance is from my house to Toys R Us and back, which involves going to, and a ways past, the Verazzano Narrows Bridge.

On the outward bound leg, I ran into Jerry Cahill, who was out for a training ride on his bike. He's doing the cycling leg of the Westchester Toughman half-Ironman on September 21st. For a 50-year-old cystic who just got off of IVs, he's looking pretty good. I hope I am as well-preserved at that age.

The run was pretty hard. Getting out to the turn-around was no problem, but coming back was a slog. My legs were not functioning well, it was hot and humid, and I, stupidly, didn't bring enough fluid or any salt tablets. I think it's the latter that really sunk the ship. Still, I got in long stretches walk, some very long walk periods in the second half, and I made it home without having to shorten the run. My legs hurt like hell, and I immediately drew a cold-water bath and dumped all of my ice into it. This was a true ice-bath and I think it drove my heart-rate up higher than any part of the actual run. But I needed it. My legs took a brutal beating today.

But that's what training is all about, right? Train the legs to keep going; train the mind to keep going when all either wants to do is quit. I admit it was extremely difficult to get running again after the last few walks. In fact, I was having flashbacks to the Flying Pig Marathon from a couple years ago, things were getting that bad.

Next time, I'll stretch more earlier in the run. I will also be sure to take Endurolytes with me, as well as start carrying extra fluids. The one bottle wasn't enough. Rationing it was stupid and my urine after the run was dark yellow - not a good sign.

Now, my watch. I can't seem to get the right calibration. My watch claims this was a 15 mile run, but g-maps shows 13.3, which is about what I thought it was.

I should probably explain the post title. You see, Saturday, as I was watching Tropic Thunder in the theatre, the men's marathon was taking place in Beijing. I arrived home in time to see the last fifteen minutes - and to see the US team unable to medal. I'm not surprised - the runners that did well (and a new Olympic Record was set, btw) were from hot climates. The Americans, not so much. But even the medalists were struggling to reach the end, with the silver medalist breaking down to a walk a few feet before the finish line and needing immediate help. Watching the Americans enter the stadium and trot to the finish, I couldn't help but feel rather a lot of empathy. I've been there, where only sheer momentum and the fact your legs don't have a brain of their own are keeping you going. The US Team just didn't have what it takes to haul down some nuggets at the global level - this time. Give Ryan Hall four more years, especially, and we're going to see him shake the world.

So today, as I was struggling along determined to just finish and not cut the run short, I felt fairly connected to theses struggling Olympians. Sure, they're faster, better trained, and gifted by natural ability; but set that aside and they are no different than I when push comes to shove.

I hope I can remember the Olympians' run and this long run today on November 2, when I get to, oh, about the 20 mile mark and start looking at subway stations thinking maybe it's not a bad idea to call it a day.

And finally, though there was a lot of walking in the second half, I did finish running and I finished running at a strong pace.

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