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Dismount the High Horse

Stephen Paddock did not “snap”. He meticulously planned to do evil. It is my suspicion that he did this to prove that he could do it – to prove that those idiot amateurs were incompetent and anyone with half a brain could do tremendously more damage. But that’s irrelevant. Stephen Paddock is depraved. So are we.

You see it all the time; someone else’s kid grows up to be a drug addict and you tut-tut-tut at their parents and you look at your angelic kids. I’m better than those parents, a silent, hidden commentary says. But then your kids do the same. The families of mass murderers are always mystified and stunned. Don’t think they are just naive. YOU are naive. That could be your brother or father or son. The drug addled woman that leaves her kids in a hot car at Wal-Mart could be your sister or daughter. The jilted lover that takes out revenge, the loving father with a penchant for prostitutes, the trusted accountant with the off shore shell corporation, the kind housewife with an urge to steal things she doesn’t even want, the police officer whose mind goes blank for just the minute around the time when he shoots an unarmed perpetrator, the guy in the pickup who rams the distracted teenager off the road, the mom who drives home after one too many drinks and kills a toddler. These people are not remarkable. They are not outliers. They are representatives of the human condition, guilty of the corruption that infects all of mankind.

You included. Me included.

Thinks you’re better because you don’t murder? Jesus has news for you. The same infection is in your soul. Think maybe this is for one class of people, but not your class of people? You go to church! You are a police man! You are in the military! You are kind to animals! You donate time and money! You help the helpless! No, you are a whitewashed tomb. And no, you’re not exempt. No one is righteous, not even one.

This condition is not new, it’s as old as there are people. It’s restrained by the rule of law and the societal norms of morality. Both of those are crumbling around us. During the Enlightenment, humankind felt that it was getting better, smarter, more compassionate, more illuminated. Then we killed 100 million of our fellow men and women in a decade’s worth of World Wars. We will not heal ourselves. We will not evolve out of this. Evil, as a general trend, increases proportionally to the population. Sure, for a decade or two things might look better. Sure, specific societal ills may decrease. But our true nature will break through in the end, and we will, sometimes, shoot 600 people. Stephen Paddock was not an Other. He was an archetype of the depravity of all of us. Don’t think yourself immune, lest you too lose focus and expose the evil of your soul.

For all that it has been abused over the centuries, this is one of the key draws of Christianity. Biblical Christianity does not make believe that we are perfect. It acknowledges our universal brokenness. It points to a second archetype, a new Adam, in the form of Jesus. It doesn’t make believe that we become Jesus, it surrenders to that fact that we can’t, and instead falls upon its knees to humbly beg Jesus to save us. From ourselves.

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House of Cards

Every few years, a deck of playing cards is generated immortalizing the “most wanted” within some band of miscreants. There was one for Iraq, one for Al Qaeda, one for ISIS, and more I’m sure. I don’t mind Trump’s choices for several roles. For instance, McMasters and Mattis seem to be perfectly acceptable picks. Others I really don’t know enough about to have an opinion. For the remainder, here’s my list of Trump Cabinet and Adviser playing cards. They are in order of Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, sorted by how much I’d like to see them removed from their position. I’ve left the originals and included their replacements if they are likewise deplorable (though such an organizational scheme is not really extensible).

Ace: Trump, Bannon, Pruitt, Kushner
King: Miller, Sessions, Pence, Ivanka Trump
Queen: Zinke, DeVos, Conway, Spicer
Jack: Priebus, Flynn, Price, Mnuchin
10: Tillerson, Huckabee Sanders, Scaramucci, Perry
9: Gorka, Ichan, McMahon, Pompeo

That’s about as deep as I can go. Now, if we were including Congresspeople, this would be a much harder list to make – lots of tough decisions near the top for the spineless collaborators.

Frozen Moments

This last Saturday, Abby and I flew to Charlotte. Uncle Steve and Pop-Pop (who arrived the night before) drove down from Raleigh to pick us up and drive us to River’s Edge, a lovely Airbnb about 8 miles south of Brevard, NC and a couple miles from DuPont State Forest. The journey took a long time – with 3 hours in the car. I only supported one side of road pee stop, but there was maybe a little bit of whining. No more than an hour or two.

Saturday night, Abby and some combination of all of us waded down Little River (which ran through the backyard). Stephen grilled T-Bones, and heated up a huge tin of Mac and Cheese that he made. We ate out on the porch, as the temperatures were about 13 degrees cooler than in Charlotte. Soon, the weekly concert at the country store next door started. It was the America that people are trying to save. Wholesome. Wild. Country-rock, with some nice young men from this county and the next. Pleases, thank yous, all in long drawls. Some ice cream all around.

A tight game of spades, then bed.

On Sunday, Stephen and I got out early for a ~10 mile run on the South side of DuPont State Forest; gentle trails, forest access roads, long gradual hills. Then eggs from the gorgeous chicken coup down the dirt road, bacon, cheese. We finally made it out the door after 10 and went to DuPont to hike to Triple Falls and High Falls – over three miles of walking, which Abby handled well, alternately sprinting down the trail (whipping past dozens of amused but impressed fellow hikers) and dragging piteously. We went to the river a number of times.
She got bolder in her bouldering at each successive swimming hole, leaping barefoot from one rock to the next, daring the slime slicked rocks to crack her skull and pull her over the falls. But she was no worse for the wear. We got to feed the chickens, walk around the property, visit the huge field at the top of the hill (where many would try to watch the next day).

Another tight game of spades and bed.

Monday was the day of the eclipse, with totality coming around 2:38 PM.

We started slowly, with a late wake up and an easy breakfast. We visited the chickens a few times and got some gas. The older lady at the counter commented on what a handsome young man I was – something which only happens to me in the country. Steve went on a run while Abby and I slogged down the Little River to the rope swing by the Country Store. Pop-Pop chatted up one of the guys in the band, as they were prepping for their big eclipse party. We planned to stay at River’s Edge, our beautiful, homey spot. Our hosts had an extra pair of eclipse googles, bringing our stash to 4 ISO certified ones (and a bunch of rip-offs). There was a spirit about this place, the folks were friendly and kind, the house beautiful, the land amazing. Skies were clear, we ate some lunch, took baths and showers, packed the car, and waited…as the clouds built.

By 1:10 and the start of the partial eclipse, the clouds had just begun to lap up against the sun. We saw the wedge taken out of the top left of the sun. And this on the radar (us around the white dot, with the sun generally in the south):

A small storm on the ridgeline, typical of a warm summer day. That could linger for a while, especially the cloud cover. We watched it evolve for almost a half hour, then decided at 1:45 (less than an hour until totality) to roll the dice. We jumped in the car and ripped south, with Stephen slamming us into the corkscrew turns of Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area in South Carolina. 25 minutes or so later, we cleared the mountain and started seeing holes in the clouds. We picked a point a few miles south of Cleveland – close to our egress (to beat the traffic), but a bit below the cloud line.

Now, you can’t predict what an individual cloud will do. In hindsight, three more miles down the road might have been better. No matter. It was within 15 minutes of totality, Pop-Pop was getting antsy, the sun was a thin fingernail, and there was an abandoned gas station in a sunny hole. An extended family with welder’s glass was watching there – Abby dove right in and made friends. Clouds got closer, occasionally obscuring the view. It got dimmer, yellower, dimmer, the sun having lost its sting in the South Carolina summer afternoon. It was gone, almost gone, then the flash of the diamond ring (just a second), then totality. A gap in the clouds; you could see it. I only looked for a few seconds, primarily concerned that Abby see it. It was dark, dark enough for street lights, darker than a heavy thunderstorm dark (though the clouds weren’t right). It was about as dark as a half hour after sunset. Light enough to run on a road, but not in a trail. The clouds were vaguely illuminated in all directions. We saw Jupiter in a gap. It was…different. Amazing. Different. Your mind doesn’t exactly know what to do with it. It’s incongruous. 36 years of life told me that this doesn’t work, that something was awry. The sun, a dim glow outgassing from all sides of a black, black hole punched into its center. It wasn’t long, apparently under 90 seconds where we were, then a sliver, a diamond ring flash, this time shrouded by enough clouds to see without the glasses. Then the sun came back, brilliant, bright.

Totality
[Note: The camera adjusts for the light too much, not at all doing justice to the real lighting. I also just wanted the camera on for the time, I wasn’t paying much attention to it. I was generally overstimulated by the whole experience, as you can hear and now also read.]

They say that the difference between totality and almost totality is immense. It was. Almost totality was strange and characterized by an orangey yellow glow. Totality was from a different universe. Any sliver of the sun provides brilliant light, but during totality it was cool, it was eerie. It was awe inspiring.

Abby got some glow sticks from the family nearby. Pop-Pop chatted up some folks who had chased eclipses before. Folks who found the same abandoned gas station south of Cleveland. As we drove in, there were dozens of clusters of people, each waiting for the moon to blot out the sun. It was like being in Boston after the Red Sox won or in Chicago after the Cubs. Everyone was happy. Everyone was glad to see you. You were all part of something together.

The fingernail sun was lost hopelessly behind the clouds by 2:50. We had a potential traffic disaster in front of us and a flight to catch. We, as we had for the rest of the day, made good navigational decisions, riding the chest of the traffic and only losing 20 minutes from a normal drive to Charlotte. Abby fell asleep in the car and hardly whined at all, though Pop-Pop may have whined about her 30 minute long song about nothing. We got Chic Fil A. We said goodbye to Pop-Pop and Steve and Abby and I played in the airport for a while. She befriended a burly tough-guy father of young girls who was traveling alone and willing to entertain an energetic 4 year old. People were cheerful.

My big girl and I made it home shortly after 10. She said she wasn’t tired but slept until after 8. I was giddy, I just wanted to talk to someone who saw it, just to talk about anything. I don’t want to forget the feeling of it, the thrill of the chase, the camaraderie of a spectacular and unique experience. I shared it with my father, brother, and daughter. I might think of it on my deathbed, for all I know. It is of that caliber experience. We are already talking about doing it again in 2024, this time with everyone. Wow.

The Rest

Long ago, I inherited one of my father’s workouts. 8-20 times 400 with 100 meter jog recovery. 400 intervals are not, as a rule, particularly hard for me. But 100 jog recovery is brutal. You have just enough time to catch your breath, say 35 seconds, and then, crap, there’s the line again. It was one of my favorites, though probably not the best workout for me. I was always good at shorter intervals, really anything up to a mile. What I needed in my running life was more long tempos. As I’ve slowly gotten back into marginal shape, I’ve been focusing on longer intervals – 4 mile threshold runs, 2 mile intervals, 1 mile repeats. However, I’m having a hard time pushing those times down because they feel fast, as my top-end speed is so slow. My body does not understand what it means to be fast anymore. I’ve lost a TREMENDOUS amount of speed.

And so, this Saturday I went to the track to do some 400 meter repeats, in hopes of slowly re-establishing some speed. I will never regain my previous speed – or anything close to it – as I am now 36, and 36 is not as fast as 26 or even 16. I peaked on speed at 21, and have been going downhill since, falling off a cliff when I had to shut down competitive running back in 2007 (at age 26).

I was a little bit encouraged by this week’s workout – 8×400 with 100 rest, first 4 in 81.3 with 40 seconds rest, next 4 in 80.1 with 45 seconds rest, then a 3:20 jog, then a 9th 400 in 75.5. And so I decided to do a deep dive and locate all of my instances of this workout, with hopes of using the information to access my fitness. Unfortunately, I’m so far off the scale this will be impossible. I don’t think there has ever been a previous instance of my running this workout where I was not in 16:30 5K shape or better, and I have little chance of sniffing that time without a year of steady training.

Sputtering through the finish, staggering punch drunk, repeating over and over again 3 to go, 3 to go, 3 to go, just 3, just 3, ugh 10 more meters to the…damn…rolling start, one more meaningful breath, and GO. Don’t think, don’t think, one foot, one foot, 300 to go, at the next line just 2.5 more to go, 1000 meters, and with recovery, there it is halfway done, halfway, stay off the rail…at the next line, 100 to go, finish this one out, bring it through the line, bring it through – you’re slipping, going to mess up your average, bring it through and split. Oogh…gasping, just 2 to go, just 2 to go, 2 to go and rolling….

I remember everything.

Before Senior year in High School
7/20/98: 8×400, 74 with 47 jog average recovery – believe that I was told that I was doing the recovery wrong after this. Too much time.
7/27/98: 12×400, 77.6 with 35 second jog
8/3/98: 16×400 76.9 with 37 rest
Before Freshmen year in College (unsanctioned workout)
7/19/99: 8×400 75.6 with 36 jog
Completely different workout, but on an indoor track, meat and potatoes training period my Junior year in college, which was not as good as either my Sophomore or Senior years..
1/22/02: 9×400: 60, 60, 60, 60, 58, 58, 59, 59, 62 with 3:00 rest – “took pace from #5 on and dropped people”. I remember that one. Lane 5 of the indoor track. I loved that workout.
Post-Collegiate:
6/28/03: 20×400 74.4 with 38 rest; I didn’t remember running such a serious workout so soon after I graduated. This was at Mt Hebron, a 440y track! I didn’t realize that it was 440y for another year.
3/6/04: 12×400 73.0 with 42 rest and this is the day I discovered the 440y track size. This was very early in my spring speedwork cycle for that year.
3/26/05: 12×400 in 72.0 with 39 rest on the 440y track – I used this workout as a standard candle to judge my fitness against…until I started having more pain and finding it difficult for my achilles’ to handle the longer intervals.
12/31/05: 12×400 73.1 with 38 rest, on Catonsville’s track 38 degrees and sleet. I remember that workout. That night was also the night that I got sick on Southern Comfort. Next day was 9.3 miles with comment “regular run, hung over”.
3/4/06: 1 mile in 4:56, then 12×400 in 72.5 with 39 rest and 34 degrees. Followed a week later with a 15:23 5K in Baltimore, my fastest time over that distance.
3/3/07: 8×400 74.3 and windy (rest not listed). This was after shutting down my 2006 season with achilles problems. Still hadn’t lost the fitness.
4/28/07: 8×400 72.5 with 40 rest on Mt Hebron’s 440y
7/10/07: 8×400 69.5 with 45 rest. Last 4 averaged 66 seconds. Less than two weeks later I ran the Rockville 8K in 26:09, my last competitive race.
And then today, way off. 8×400 in 80.6 with 43 rest. 11 seconds per lap. That’s a TON.

By the way, a couple of those are at Long Reach’s track, including the one this week. I’ve never run a workout on Howard’s track. I’ll be honest, I don’t care too much about the redistricting into Long Reach. I have history there.

Mount Rainier

I tend to jot some down notes during my backpacking trips. I didn’t really feel like thinking too hard this time. Last trip was my first solo trip, and that led to all kinds of self-reflection, coupled with loneliness and repressed fear. This time, not too lonely, not particularly scared. Mostly just walked. Chatted with folks when able. Read some books. Walked around. Took some pictures. Nothing really earth shattering. But I did still write a few things down.

7/24/17: Came in at the White River around 0820. 12.3 miles and a few thousand feet to Mystic Lake at 1330. This trail is a highway – encountered on the order of two dozen people on my trip here, very different than last year in the Olympics.
My most interesting encounter was a family with 5 kids ranging from 3.5 to maybe 12 [actually 13]. They are doing the entire Wonderland Loop. Today’s chunk is no joke. It’s very impressive that they are even trying. Sounds like I’ll see them again tomorrow.

7/25/17: Left Mystic Lake at 0800 and arrived in Eagles Roost at 1400, 11.7 miles traveled. Climbed 500 ft, dropped 2500 ft, climbed 3000 ft, then dropped another 1500 ft. Going a bit slower than yesterday. I think I need new rules of thumb. I can do 2.5 mph over all terrain on day 1. 2.0 mph on day 2. 1.8 mph thereafter. Includes breaks. To me, I still think this implies that Wonderland – 93 miles – is a 6 night, 7 day thing. I thought be fine with 12-15 mpd.
Out here, doing the circuit is THE thing. Most folks that I run into are trying it. Some, like the experienced through hiker, are going to do it as fast as 6 nights without resupply. He’s got several long hikes under his belt, including the Long Trail and AT. Others, like some girls I met, are doing it over 13 nights. Some seem doomed to fail, most will make it work. All are very pleasant.
It has been a much more social hike. I have chatted with a half dozen or so folks. I saw the family with 5 kids again – Scott and Clarissa [or something like that] the parents. They were struggling. I did the hike from Mystic through Cataract Valley – about 7 miles – this morning. They left Mystic at 2-3 PM yesterday…got there [to Cataract Valley] at 9:30, in the dark. It was a no-joke hike for anyone, let alone 5 kids. I secretly hope they pop out at Mowich tomorrow (they stay here [at Eagles Roost] tonight); I fear their plan is too ambitious.
[They would, indeed, end their hike at Mowich. An epic journey nonetheless. But 93 miles was going to be too much.]
Meanwhile, I also met Eric and Therera and their 9 month old Zoe (or something). They too were doing the whole loop. Probably easier than the 5 kid family.
I’ve begun to encounter day hikers going from Mowich to Seattle [and Spray] Park. They are slow but more than that, they seem out of place here.
7/25/17 1943: My social skills are marginal in the best of times. Put me in a room with people I know, or in situations where idle chit chat is the norm, I typically do fine. But I can go from normal to awkward in a blink. I may be deftly leading a meeting one minute and mumbling a confused response to a co-worker in the hallway the next.
Add to that physical exertion [such as backpacking], a mixture of introverts and extroverts, and miles between people, and things get worse. I had several pleasant conversations on the trail today. I had just as many awkward encounters. Some people are happy to chat. Others, not so much. You can’t tell the difference. My social intuition declines in proportion to the space between human encounters. On the trail, you might have hours, or, as last year, days between conversations. End of story. Mosquitoes are eating me through my clothes.
7/26/17: At Mowich, waiting for my ride, about an hour and 15 minutes early. This might have been too easy. Only one day “out”, waking and sleeping on the trail. Plus everyone, experts and novices alike are doing the Wonderland. But…the family of 7 is cutting the trip short at Mowich. I’m relieved. That was going to be too much. So, some Wonderland thoughts:
I can do it in 6 nights, which would make me in the top few percent of fastest. I should:
1) Not bring camera – that’s like 4 lbs right there.
2) Not bring [bear keg]
3) Resupply – don’t do 7 days in one bag. Resupply has food, first aid (in case I need it), fresh clothes)
4) Need new, lighter, tent
I should have two tech [fast drying, odor resistant] t-shirts, 3 tech underwear, 2 tech shorts. Everything else pretty good. It would be nice to have clean clothes for bed, but that might be a bridge too far. Crocs are perfect. Bear spray is optional. Fresh fuel in resupply.
One trip would be:
In Mowich, resupply White River.
16.4 to North Puyallup
14 to Devil’s Dream
15.7 to Maple Creek
14.2 to Summerland
Resupply White River
10.3 to Sunrise
12.5 to Dick Creek
8.5 to Mowich and out.
I’d say 7/24 or later to avoid any possible snow.

Not So Fast

The primary goal for the race last week was to see if I could do it without aggravating my achilles tendons. As it turns out, I had to wait several days before I knew that answer – they felt lousy on Monday and Tuesday, to the point where I modified my normal running schedule to give them another day off. The whole thing was a big bizarre to me because…I ran so slow. So, 5 K, 3.1 miles, or about 40 seconds longer than 3 miles at 6:00 pace. I ran 19:01 for fourth and my tendons felt awful afterwards. Meanwhile, my fastest 3 miles on the treadmill was 17:40 and my tendons feel fine after that – this confused me. 19:00 was my absolute outside number on the slow end. I thought I would run at least 30 seconds faster. But more importantly, I had every reason to believe that that if I did run that kind of time, my tendons would be no worse for the wear. This was a bit discouraging.

I did have a feeling I haven’t had for a long while. It was a few moments before the race; I was walking to join the other runners at the line for the start. A flashback to 10 or 12 or 15 or 18 years ago…

I had picked out the top 5 or 8 runners during the warm up. Runners know their own, and even after 10 years of not competing, I knew who the decent ones were by eye. I had no idea of names or times, but if you know what you’re looking for, you can see the ones who are there for some reason other than to see if they can survive the distance. I knew that none of them were extremely fast (though it turns out that the eventual winner is national caliber in his age group, at 50 year old). I walked toward the line and felt a sort of wistful sadness. I felt the beginnings of a feeling I would also get in small races like these – the feeling that it didn’t matter what the other runners thought about how the race was going to go. The feeling that I was going to go out, do what I wanted, and, in so doing, grind them to dust.

Since I’ve been a more normal person, I’ve learned that when most people go to run a road race, they are not actually doing it to race. Most aren’t even racing against a clock or against themselves, let alone racing against the other runners. Most are going to participate, to be a part of communal exertion for a cause, to encourage friends, to be social while being fit and healthy. If I think about it, it is a noble pursuit. I am an elitist to even consider this a lesser form of existing; if I received a participation medal rather than one that I earned, I would throw it out. This is not what normal people do.

But as I walked toward the line, I felt what I used to feel. My purpose was to cover the distance faster than anyone else. My purpose was to control some aspect of my life, to validate my hours and hours of training, to prove myself in some way, to earn my own approval. I rarely did, incidentally. I was reading through some old race descriptions – I document all of these. It spoke of showing up at a smallish race like this one in Mt Airy back in 2006. There, I flagged another runner in my general category. Normally, you run 400-800 meters in a 100-200 person race, and the pretenders fade away, leaving you to battle your own demons by yourself. This was the week before the last time I ran Damien’s Run. I was in peak form, immediately before my fall, and this other runner was a few ticks above the normal chaff, though a tick or two below me (I’d later learn that his half marathon PR was faster than mine, which wasn’t surprising – I was lousy beyond 10 miles). Anyway, I went out in 4:58 for the first mile, the other guy went with me. The other guy commented that he thought the pace was a bit quick – speaking in a race is a classic tell of weakness. I commented in my description that I disagreed, and proceeded to run the 2nd mile in 5:02, breaking him before struggling home myself.

That is what I wanted to do last week, but alas, I knew full well that was no where near that. I had no delusions. Instead, I went out with the top group, assessed who was who, passed the guys I should have passed, got in line, and ran by myself in 4th for the last two miles. I didn’t give much ground to the people in front, but didn’t gain either.

Anyway, my achilles feels OK now. My next training segment goes until our vacation mid-July. It will nominally consist of:
Saturday alternating between long-ish run (up to 10 miles), 5-ish mile tempo run on weekends when my wife works and I have less time, and track interval workouts before the rest of my family wakes up
Sunday 6-7 easy miles
Tuesday 4 hard-ish miles on the treadmill, until it’s under 24:00, then re-evaluate
Thursday 3-4 easy miles (when possible)

This would peak me at 25 mpw with some intensity. I’ll try to find a low key race in early August (not too many that time of year), then re-evaluate, possibly converting the easy Thursday evening run into a longer Thursday lunch run (as I lose daylight), boosting the other runs in intensity, and getting more serious about the exercise bike in the evenings. It would be nice to show up at a race like the one last week, assess the field, smirk inside, and win. That remains unlikely. But it would be nice.

Eleven years ago, I ran a 5K called Damien’s Run. Let me back up a bit. For the entire first hald of 2006, my running career was teetering on a razor’s edge, held hostage by my slowly declining achilles tendons. I was receiving regular massage and stim, I was doing tons of auxiliary treatment, and this was keeping them just barely serviceable. I was running 80-90 mile weeks nonetheless. A month before Damien’s Run, I ran one of the best races of my life – 52:45 for 10 miles in Broad Street Run. A month or so before that I ran 15:23 in Shamrock in Baltimore. I was likely in near to the best shape of my post-collegiate period.

But four days before the race in question, I was running an easy-ish 12 miles after work with a running buddy of mine and I badly sprained my ankle on a tree root. I know the spot to this day. It was nearly 5 miles from the parking lot when this happened. I managed to hobble back, but I knew it was bad. I had already spent $30 on a pre-registration for the race. And one of my principle rivals, Carlos, was going to be running it. Never learning the lessons of sunk costs, I took off a day or two and ran the race anyway. I never could establish a good rhythm, finishing 6th in 16:01. The winner was way out of my league, 14:30 something – I should have run around 15:40. It was some podunk 5K, like all the races I ran on my minor league circuit. It wasn’t worth it.

That ankle sprain destabilized the entire joint. My achilles went from whimpering to screaming. I took time off, then tried to ratchet back up the miles in preparation for my seeded entry into the Chicago Marathon that fall, even getting to 90+ mile weeks a few times by mid summer. Then one day tried to run at marathon pace around a dirt track on the Eastern Shore…and could not. It felt like my foot was going to rip off my calf. While I did have a meaningful two or three months of high level racing in the spring of 2007, Damien’s Run was the beginning of the end of my running career.

After that, I went from boot to self-injected acupuncture to boot to shockwave therapy back to boot to debridement to boot to sort of moving on with my life by around 2009. In the spring of 2010 I stumbled upon decent shape (we’ll call it 17:00 5K shape), but never raced; the tendons flared back up and I shut it down for weeks. In the fall of 2012 I was able to run consistently for a couple of months and actually raced – a 4 mile in 23:20, not so bad. But then things tightened back up, and I had a kid a few months later.

I am now in the best shape that I’ve been in since summer/fall 2012. It is only because of consistency, I’ve been running regularly since the fall. After all these months, my mileage remains at around 15 miles per week on 3 runs a week. Nothing. But my body is accepting it greedily. My pace is steadily improving. I feel faster than I have in a while. Some days, I actually feel fast…I have decided to run a race so that I can put a line in the sand for the future…just in case. I looked at the calendar, and low and behold, there’s Damien’s Run, now held in my favorite place in Maryland (Patapsco State Park) and at a time when my girls will be up and ready to watch it. I decided to give it a shot. It happens next Sunday.

And so, a couple of weeks ago I transitioned from running haphazardly to training. I am still doing 15 mpw; I don’t want to risk it just yet. I have, for months now, been running faster on a treadmill at the YMCA every Tuesday night; low impact stuff. I cranked the pace down further, most recently running 3 miles in 17:40. But the treadmill isn’t real running (no wind resistance for one), so last weekend, I went to the track. It was a horror. I did 2×3200 with full (8 minute) recovery. Both splits were slower than 12:00, I’m embarrassed to even say them. To put it in perspective, I came through 20 miles of my first marathon faster than 6:00 pace. That Broad Street Run was 5:16 pace for 10 miles in a row. Not being able to run 2 miles in 12:00 was very humbling.

This weekend was a little better – 3×1600 all around 5:42 though still with 6:00 rest (aka, full recovery). Not as bad. But the times aren’t that important now. More important is re-acclimating my psyche to an intentional subjection to pain. Not having enough air in my lungs. Various places in my body going number. The voices in my head telling me to stop, telling me it’s not worth it, telling me I’m weak, telling me there is no point, telling me I’ll put forth all this effort and nonetheless look like a fool. Well, fine, I am weak. But I’m still finishing the intervals. These voices were there in every race I’ve ever run; hell, they’re there whenever I do something hard. I never listen to them. I needed those workouts not because they would improve my fitness substantially in three weeks, but because I could not expect to tolerate that pain in the race if I had zero exposure to it in five years, 10 if you’re talking about the real stuff. The whole trick to being a runner is convincing your body to hurt worse than it wants to for longer than it can. That’s what all that training is for.

The course is generally flat. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I am trying to decide if I should wear racing flats or stay with more supportive shoes (the achilles heel remains my Achilles heel after all). Either way, I will get a bump of adrenaline during the race. Something old, some old magic, will awaken. Though the race itself is greatly diminished in the last few years (the winners barely crack 17:00 these days), I nonetheless have no chance of winning. I do not expect a miracle. I don’t expect to not sniff 5:20 pace for 10 years, only to magically be able to string together 3 of them in a row to come away with the win. It’s not going to happen. But I’ll probably run around 18:30 give or take. 17:45 is probably the absolute fastest. 19:00 is the absolute slowest.

These days, I come home from a run and my two year old gets all perky and asks, “Good run, Daddy?” They may never know me as I really am, having amputated all four of my existential limbs from my body – Cross Country, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, and Road Racing – long before they were born. And they may never see me powerfully striding away from all opponents, dominating the hobby joggers and elderly while out-dueling the handful of semi-pros for a victory in any sort of real race. My tendons may fall apart again in a week. But please God, just one race for old time’s sake. I just need to make it until the 4th – my 36th birthday by the way.

(And, if that works, I’ll add another few miles on Thursdays, start alternating Saturday between an interval workout and a long run, and then target an early August race, 30-60 seconds faster than this time. But it never works. But it might. Then there’s another day, 30 mpw, and a crack at something respectable in October. Then train through the winter and see what happens in Shamrock in March. You know, I’m only a few years away from being in the Masters division. Yes, I always chain together this many low probably events into completely unrealistic scenarios.)

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