Wednesday, June 1, 2016

40th Birthday Celebration Run

Wow. I'm 40. How did that happen?

Let me cut short any comments about how I am still young or that this is the best decade of my life or anything else. I am not lamenting that I am 40 years of age. I am just surprised that it is here. Being 40 just doesn't seem possible. I am as old as the 40 Year-Old Virgin. Or Mike Gundy. That said, I am close to, if not in, the best shape of my life. Aside from some grey hairs, I look far better than I did when I was 20. (That is a fact I need to really start letting people see. You know, the ones who think that my fitness has come easily. When they see 230ish-lb Dane they might think differently about how what I have accomplished is a tad more impressive. But I digress.)

A few years ago I thought it would be neat to run my age in miles on my birthday. I did that for a few years and then on my 35th birthday rode my age in miles as I prepped for my first Ironman 70.3. A bike crash meant no miles on my 36th birthday. Going to watch the Pre Classic in Eugene, Oregon on my 37th birthday took the place of any long run that year (I still did 7 miles on Pre's Trail). In 2014, I ran not a single mile as I had a marathon the next day in Spokane. Last year I celebrated my last birthday in my 30s by running the length of Forest Park in Oregon. Twas only 31 miles but a hilly 50 km nonetheless.

It was only a few weeks ago I decided to run 40 km (24.85 miles) on my 40th birthday. I had flirted with the idea of 40 miles but with a half marathon on the next Sunday I thought that might not be the best preparation. Then the forecast for my birthday run called for 90 degrees. That's a smidgen uncommon in Portland in May. Also, the forecast high for my race on Sunday was 99 degrees. Oy. Looks like I made the right decision to go with the "short" distance.

I created a Facebook event for people to come and run a few laps with me. Naturally, as I have 10,000 acquaintances and about 5 friends, I expected none to show. Only one random local runner, Jan, showed up. (Thanks for running, Jan!) Of course, that doesn't count my best friend and crew-member extraordinaire, Shannon. With the temperature soaring I decided that a 4 pm start would be best. Of course, contrary to what my East Coast upbringing taught me, that time of day is usually the hottest over here on the best coast. But at least it would be getting cooler, rather than hotter from then on out.

Setting up our little encampment, we used a light pole as a source of shade. As we put down some chairs and some drinks, the Cleveland High School Marching Band showed up to practice on the track. Of course, they did. I have worked out here numerous times with all kinds of distractions but never was a marching band on the track. I only hoped we could co-exist.

At promptly 4 pm, I started my watch and away I went. I figured a nice 2 minutes per lap would have me finishing in a respectable time around three and a half hours. While it was indeed hot (89 degrees is what the weather report says) it was extremely dry. That I like. A few miles went by before I even thought about a drink.  However, as I have done these multiple loop courses many times, I knew that one must be careful to hydrate. The readiness of liquids makes one tend not to drink it until it is too late. I tried not to make that error.

For the first hour and change, I ran along next to the marching band who were kind enough to leave Lane One open. Every once in a while I had to dodge a fella who didn't seem to grasp the notion that track is run counter-clockwise, in spite of the fact that we were all, save him, going that way.  The band was actually quite entertaining even if I did get sick of Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine" and the Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get it Started"- both of which I heard probably ten times at least. But the snap of the snare drum kept me in check.

Shannon would pop in for a few laps here and there (and eventually totaled 7 plus miles of her own) but mostly was just supporting me. Handing me drinks, playing the Rocky Theme on her phone and waving an inflatable "Happy Birthday!" balloon around.  Next thing I knew I was half way done and it was time to towel off and get some fluid. 12.5 miles in 1:40 and I felt really good.

As I started the second half, I still had a bounce in my step.  In fact, the last few miles of the first half had gone smashingly. The next two miles were more of the same as I was averaging 2 seconds per 400 meters faster than I planned.  I decided I would take a small break after 5 miles of running and then have just 7.5 to go broken into three 2.5 mile runs with small breaks as well. By now the band had dispersed and the lacrosse team was on the infield. I was a bit more aware of my surroundings than I had been earlier when it was just the football team. Errant footballs are far less frequent and far less painful than errant lacrosse balls.

The break at 17.5 came and in hindsight I should have stopped a mile sooner. It was still blisteringly hot and both the weather and my DNA had taken their toll. Why my DNA? Because I was blessed with Gilbert's Syndrome which basically means I can't do any of the things I have actually done or continue to try to do, to some extent. In layman's terms, my body says no when I push it hard. But if I focus inward, I can often ignore it and push on. All I needed to do was zone out.

Unfortunately, that was when the asshat and his sons appeared.

As I began these last few miles, a man and two sons decided to set up camp in lane one. They sauntered along at a snail's pace, randomly meandering into another lane. At one point, as I ran close to them in lane two, the father swerved in front of me and I cut inside to avoid a collision. This sat none to well with the man complete devoid of any sense of common courtesy or situational awareness. The next few laps consisted of him purposefully walking in lane one, arms outstretched and saying "If you touch me, I sue!" If this is your first time reading my writing, let's just say I am not exactly a shrinking violet. Furthermore, let's also say that I am happy I was 20 miles into a run and needing to conserve energy for the last five miles. Unfortunately, dealing with this moron and his offspring who were just as rude and contentious (seriously, believe me on this one) took up way too much energy. Finally, with three miles to go they left the track.

By this time, however, I was shot. I could run half of a mile no problem, right on pace. Then the next half mile would have me near death.  I ran the last four miles, one mile at a time with a small break after each mile. I should have called it quits with that last 5kms to go but I had it in my head to finish. It wasn't a race. There was no reason. I just wanted to get those 40 km. Stopping every mile allowed me to do that while also using my head not to push myself to the point of exhaustion and then onto stupidity. But man were those last few miles very tough.  Cramping was setting in, as was the dizziness. Shannon joined me for the last half of a mile and I leaned on her emotionally if not physically. I am still a large sweaty man and that wouldn't have gone over well if it had been the latter.

Finally, 3:25:56 later, I finished the 24.85 miles or 40 km.  My GPS, which almost always under
estimates my runs, especially when I do them in one of my favorite parks, somehow gave me more miles than I ran. This coming when it is quite evident that it still didn't measure exactly where I ran.  For those who complain to race directors that their GPS showed something different than the course, look how messed up me running around a defined measured track is. (And RDs, you are welcome that I did this for you to show the how wrong they are when they complain!)

I had a rough night ahead as the cramping got far worse. It was hard to take in what I needed to take in, given the salt loss and the upset stomach. However, after a delicious birthday lasagna baked by Shannon, and some sack time on the couch, I woke this morning feeling amazingly good after just a few hours of sleep.

While it is National Running Day and I would like to do a small jog, I am listening to my own advice. Rest and recovery are as important and integral to running well as any workout. So, today I will take it easy. I will put together a new desk chair that I got as a present and drink tons of ASEA. I will also reflect a little bit on what got me to this 14,610th day of my life.

I still have so many things I wish to accomplish both in and out of the running world. I am not saying 40 is the next 30 or anything else so trite.  I am saying that 40 is fantastic if you treat yourself well. If you do what you are supposed to do, the miles on the life odometer mean very little. I am, however, trying to make those miles as interesting as possible until the wheels do fall off. 

Hopefully, in another 40 years or so.

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