Ruminations on the Prime of My Life (The Marathon Chronicles, Part III)

A Final “Vote for Me” Note from Fatty: This is the last time I’m gonna ask (mainly because voting closes this Sunday): Go vote for me for the 2010 Bloggies. I’m nominated in the Best Sports Blog, the Best Writing, and the Blog of the Year categories, but I’ll let you in on a secret: I don’t have even the hope of a wish of the notion of a prayer in any category but the Best Sports Blog.

Why?

Well, because in the Best Writing and Blog of the Year categories, I’m up against blogs which have crossed what I call The Professional Threshold — blogs where people either do or could make a living with their blogs (I, on the other hand, make just enough money with my blog to be a nuisance at tax time). For Blog of the Year, I’m against Pioneer Woman — which gets my monthly traffic, cubed, every single day. I’m also against The Huffington Post, which has an actual staff. Please vote for Pioneer Woman, because, honestly, she really does have the blog of the year. If not decade.

For the Best Writing category, I’m pitched against Pioneer Woman (again!), as well as Bike Snob NYC. I’d like you to vote for Bike Snob for this one, for a couple of reasons. First, he’s a genuinely good writer. Second, because it will make me feel better about myself when I ask you to vote for me (instead of him) for the Best Sports Blog category.

For the Best Sports category, I’m up against two friends: Bike Snob and Jill. Instead of being all humble and aw-shucks about it, I’m going to be honest: I really want you to vote for me. And so does my hero, Johan Bruyneel. That should be enough reason for anyone (Thanks, Johan!).

Click here to go to the Bloggies site, select your choices, do the ridonkulus captcha verification thingy, and then don’t forget to validate your vote when the email comes.

Sheesh.

One Week From Tomorrow

Next Saturday — February 6 — I will attempt the Death Valley Trail Marathon, after training for it just six weeks.

To my surprise, I feel pretty good about my chances.

Part of my optimism comes from the fact that last weekend, The Runner and I did a 15-mile run, from my house to about half a mile past the four-way stop at the top of Suncrest, and then back home. For those of you who aren’t locals, that means that after a three mile mostly-flat warmup, we climbed 1500 feet in 4.5 miles, then turned around and ran home. I had to walk for a minute during the last three miles, but only once, and only for a minute (during which The Runner peeled off to the side of the road and scooped a bunch of snow into her mouth).

Even with that big climb, we averaged almost exactly ten-minute miles. And the next day, though tired, I was not sore. Anywhere.

Tomorrow (Saturday) — a week from the marathon itself — we will run 18 miles, but this time it will be on mostly flat pavement.

I know, I know. The runners among you all know this is not advisable. That we’re not tapering here. But it will accomplish something much more important than a taper for me: running 18 miles on pavement, at high altitude, will give me confidence that I can run a trail marathon at low altitude.

The next part of my optimism comes from a pretty serious incentive I’ve rashly given myself: I have made $3902 worth of bets that I will beat my previous time (4:39, seven years ago) at this race.

Basically, if I run a good race, a bunch of you will have to donate around $3900 to my LiveStrong Challenge. If I fail or bail, then I need to come up with that $3900 myself.

I should point out here that when The Runner read about the bet I had just made in The Marathon Chronicles, Part II, she was not super-thrilled. “You know,” she said, “We had agreed that we were just going to cruise this thing. Run when we feel like it, walk when we feel like it. And now you’ve gone and made a hundred or so bets that you’re going to be fast.”

I shrugged and gave her a charming, apologetic smile. It was all I had to offer, defense-wise.

Ladies, please take a moment to sympathize for and pity The Runner. It cannot be easy to be in a relationship with a guy who makes pretty much everything he does into a public bet, a spectacle, or a farce.

My Ace in the Hole

The real reason I think I’ll do fine in the marathon next week is: I’m middle-aged.

Seriously, being middle-aged is a huge bonus in endurance events, whether you’re on a bike or on foot.

There are some important reasons why.

  • You’ve accepted pain and repetitive drudgery as an aspect of your life. Probably, you’ve even embraced it as an indicator that you are in fact still alive. And if you’re really messed up, you even start seeking out pain and repetitive drudgery because you somehow have gotten it confused with feeling more alive. And by “you,” I of course actually mean “me.”
  • It temporarily makes you feel less old. When I was a kid, I would — on impulse — sometimes run or ride my bike around the block, over and over, just for fun. Just because it felt great to be in motion. In general, I no longer have that impulse. I am quite content to sit for hours on end. However, once I get myself in motion, I find that I still like it, and that while it doesn’t make me feel like a kid, it at least makes me feel like less of an old fart.
  • It’s the only way you’re going to beat the kids. A couple days ago, one of my daughters, knowing that I have been running lately, brought over one of her friends — a tiny, wiry little girl. And told me I had to race her. To the house across the street and back. OK, fine. I found, right there and then, that I am not able to run an impromptu sprint — by the end of the run my back hurt, and the kid beat me by about twenty feet. But I promise you that if we had made the run ten miles, I would have demolished that seven-year-old.
  • You’re happy to discover you can still do something. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: when I said that, after my big crash at Leadville last year, I came away uninjured, I think I was probably wrong. As it turns out, six months later my left sitbone still hurts if I sit in a chair for more than half an hour. And when I run, my left foot lands flat, with a “slap” sound. And of course, I have other aches and pains. But when I do the repetitive motion of running or riding, I’m able to circumvent these aches and pains by using careful, pre-planned motions. Kind of like walking a minefield you’ve walked a hundred times before.

In short, endurance sports let me simulate athleticism in spite of being a creaky and achy old man. And that is why I will totally kick butt at the marathon next week.

Except I’m not entirely certain my list did much in the way of convincing myself.

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