#runstreak Day 420: That Was the Week That Was

I’ve had to endure some tough weeks on the #runstreak. But they haven’t been much tougher than this one.

Monday I faced snow, the traditional Northeast runners’ winter adversary. Sure, it was only four inches, and I was armed with my cleats and my usual winter wardrobe. But as always, it limited my route and slowed my pace. I managed a measly 3.3 miles at a sluggish 9:45 min/mile.

“Oh well,” I said to myself. “There’s always tomorrow.”

Tuesday, the foe was within me. Tessa and I were hosting her daughter and two adorable granddaughters, one of whom had brought with her a nasty little downstate norovirus, which had attacked everyone in the house one by one.

I was the last to be picked off. Diarrhea. Light fever. A brief episode of vomiting. Not the worse thing I’ve ever endured, but enough to wipe me out for a day and leave me with just enough energy for the bare minimum #runstreak mileage of 1.1 miles, again at a glacial 9:49 min/mile.

“There’s always tomorrow,” I said again.

Wednesday, I felt much better and challenged myself to seven miles with hills. The norovirus had other ideas. On the fourth and last hill, my body went on strike and all thought of finishing the run died right there. The net mileage for the run, 4.5, and the pace, 10 min/miles, weren’t horrible. But my mind was full of dread on the long last mile home. With the New York Half Marathon now just three-and-a-half weeks away, 25 days to finish training for it just didn’t seem enough.

“There’s always tomorrow,” I said once more.

On Thursday, for once, that mantra seemed to hold true. Five miles at an 8:45 pace restored a little faith. Better still, the left glute/hamstring problems seemed to now be a thing of the past — all the core work I am now doing on a regular basis seems to be paying off. Now, I thought, a longish eight/ten mile run would end the week on a positive note.

But tomorrow never came.

Friday bought the start of another energy-draining illness in the form of a virulent head cold that stretched into Saturday. I suspect the same granddaughter that had the norovirus had generously given it to me as well, but I’ll be a good grandpa and won’t say anything.

2.5 on Friday. 3.6 on Saturday. Both at an exhausting 9:11 pace.

A healthy tomorrow couldn’t come soon enough.

Sunday, it almost did, but not quite. Mother Nature had one last trick up her sleeve in the guise of 40 mph wind gusts that arrived with the ferocity of a runaway train four miles into a proposed seven miler. Every time I turned into the wind, it was like I was running in place. Maybe on another day when I was in full health, the energy might have been there to fight the conditions and finish what I had set out to accomplish. But after six, I just did not have the energy to struggle any more, though I could take some small comfort in the fact that I had at least managed to finish the hills that had defeated me on Wednesday.

Just 26 lousy miles for the week.

This time last year, I was up to 45, with an 11-miler at 8:45 under my belt.

I was well on the way to what turned out to be my third fastest half marathon ever.

There’s still still enough time. There’s still some very realistic hope that I can do as well this year.  But I can’t afford any more weeks like this one.

Tomorrow better come. And soon.

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#runstreak recap: Boilermaker or Bust (Days 148-189)

This part of the #runstreak story began at the moment I crossed the 10K timing mat at the Boilermaker.

It’s usually a great moment. Two-thirds of the race is over, the really hard parts of the course are done, and all that’s left is to negotiate the gradual incline to Utica College. Then it’s literally all downhill for the next two miles and the finish line.

To mark the runners’ progress, the Utica Fire Department stations a ladder truck there every year. They drape a giant American flag from the top of the ladder, then cheer on the runners as they cross the split mat.

So, it’s a good place to high-five some of Utica’s finest and take a quick breather before soaking in the cheers from the crowds that are waiting at the corner of Burrstone Road and Champlin Avenue and beginning the final push.

At least, that’s how it had been for me every year since 2010. But this year turned out to be very different. And not in a good way. Continue reading

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#runstreak Day 366

I celebrated the New Year this morning with a quick two-mile run around the neighborhood. I was slow, bloated by bad food and one-too-many glasses of champagne, but I got out there on a dank, windy day and kept the streak alive into its second year under a depressingly gray Rochester sky.

But the real milestone occurred just 24 hours earlier. On a similar route around Sea Breeze, not only did I hit the one year #runstreak mark, but I hit the altogether separate and unexpected goal of 3,000 km (1,864 miles) for the year.

To put that into perspective, my total mileage for 2015 — my annus mirabilis when I recorded my fastest and second fastest full and half marathons and PRed the Boilermaker — I ran 2618.4 km (1,627 miles), 237 miles less than I ran in 2018.

I may have worked harder in 2018 and not achieved as much, but for all my troubles, I had  still run two sub-four marathons, my fourth and sixth fastest respectively, my third fastest half marathon, and my third fastest Boilermaker.

For that, and for the #runstreak, I gave thanks on my run today, but truthfully I didn’t feel like celebrating.

Because from the beginning of July, just  a week before the Boilermaker, through to about the beginning of October, everything was a struggle. I was recovering from an injury, which I’ll describe in more detail in other upcoming posts, and that along with some general life struggles that I’ll keep to myself led to some pretty tough days.

That’s why the Flat-Footed Fox has been silent for almost five months. Quite honestly, I haven’t felt inspired enough to write — not depressed exactly, but still in that general spiritual malaise I described less than a year ago. Only now, the injury was adding insult to my existential funk.

But the discipline, the laser-beam focus and deep commitment of the #runstreak, had kept me going through the rough patches. My commitment to it meant I was out there (and I mean “out there” — not one kilometer of the streak was run indoors or on a treadmill) in every meteorological condition possible, from miserable Western New York snow and wind chills to the sticky heat and humidity of Florida and Maryland and back again.

Because of that, it has begun to develop in me a mental and physical toughness and resilience that extends beyond the streets and trails and into the inner reaches of my being. The streak also serves as a huge reminder that big changes are not accomplished overnight but through a consistent accumulation of small, repetitive steps.

And that, more than sub-four marathon finishes and thousands of kilometers run, means more to me going into the New Year than any resolution I could dream up.

 

 

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#runstreak Day 147: Bringing it to Burlington

You learn to expect the unexpected in a marathon.

From bonking at mile 18 on your first attempt to searching for a portapotty at mile 25 to avoiding spectators who leap out in front of you without warning, after a while you learn to … ahem … take it all in stride.

Except nothing prepared me for the moment when I crossed the start line in Burlington. After weeks of training and tapering, of doing everything by the book and exactly the same way as ten previous times, my legs felt like concrete. From the second I crossed the timing mat, lifting each foot off the ground required what seemed like a superhuman effort.

Instead of feeling that adrenaline surge and fighting the urge to go off like a sprinter, I felt dead from the hips down. Instead of enjoying those carefree early moments and soaking in the energy of the crowd, I immediately went into the kind of survival mode that I usually reserve for the last ten miles.

Continue reading

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#runstreak Days 104-146: The Great Experiment

Last year, before running the Flower City Half and abandoning the idea of running a spring marathon completely, I had narrowed my choices for a May 26.2 to three possibilities: Ottawa if there was extra money in the budget, Buffalo if there was no money at all, or Burlington if there was just a fistful of dollars left over after paying the man his monthly dues.

This year, the financial situation being what it was, I was down to the same three choices. But when RunVermont announced in January that Meb Keflezighi was going to be the guest of honor at the 30th Annual 2018 Vermont City Marathon, I knew there was really only going to be one place I was going to be on May 27.

Continue reading

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Review: Steven Wilson (PlayStation Theater, New York NY. April 28, 2018)

You can always expect a number of things from a Steven Wilson show: complex, artfully composed music, of course, but virtuosic musicianship, pristine sound, and stunning visuals are also a given.

But on his latest To the Bone tour, you can add one more thing. Depending on your perspective on Mr. Wilson, it is either completely horrifying or truly adventurous.

Yes, proggers. We’re talking about dancing. To a three-minute pop song. Continue reading

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Review: The Musical Box (Riviera Theater, Tonawanda NY. March 31, 2018)

I never quite got the appeal of tribute bands.

Maybe it’s because, with a few exceptions, I’ve had the good fortune to see most of the bands I’ve wanted to see within my lifetime. Or maybe it’s because I am perfectly OK with forgoing the experience and not accepting pale imitations.

Whatever the reason, no one was more surprised than me when I ended up buying tickets to see The Musical Box. After all, having seen the real thing 45 years earlier, I really didn’t need to make the trip out to Buffalo to see them.

But after a glowing report from my son, who had seen them a few weeks before, and after a little due diligence, curiosity rather than nostalgia got the better of me.

Continue reading

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