Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Wall - Better When Done By Pink Floyd

'Soul' - My favorite graffiti along one of my running routes. This picture does not do it justice.

44. 44. 56*. No those aren't the first few digits in call to the EU. They are the number of miles I've put in over the last 3 weeks respectively. 12x12 will get you there as well, but no run I did actually involved the #12. The anomaly, the 56, is not something I set about doing , it just happened (and I kind of wish that it hadn't). I'll explain the asterisk later.

I saw on the Hawks yahoo message board, that Gary planned to do a 23 mile long run at Clinton on Sat. I have been almost exclusively running on either the River Trails or back roads near my house. So I thought, why not? My mileage is up. I haven't found to outer distance I can run yet this year. I'd like to find an easy (relative term) 50k at some point in the next few months and knock it out. So the 23 mile run sounded good.

I met Gary at the Corps of Engineers trail head. We were quickly joined by Alex and Micah. We set off at a comfortable pace. The plan was to do the white trail out and back - 11.5 each way. I would describe the run out as uneventful. It was a very pretty day. We saw some deer. No copperheads (which actually surprised me). No trips or falls on the rocky terrain. Micah peeled off somewhere on the way out and headed back. I ran third and listened to Gary and Alex chat as we ran along.

At the turnaround point, we stopped for a couple of minutes to reload our packs and bottles with water and suck down some gels. Then we set out for the retrace of steps back toward our cars. Around mile 17 Alex and Gary stopped to pop up to campground 1 to grad some more water. I, uncharacteristically, wasn't feeling very good, so I told Gary that I planned to forge ahead, and that he and Alex would quickly catch up. I couldn't put my finger on why I started to feel bad, but I knew something wasn't right. My legs started to feel tired. I forced through mile 18, then 19. Gary and Alex caught me somewhere in the 19-20 mile range. I told them to go ahead, I was fine, but just going to run slower than they would want to go.

Alone again, I started to feel pain in my knees, back, and ankles. My muscles hurt a bit, but mainly felt tired. I ate more and sucked down more fluids. But things went from bad to worse. Somewhere just shy of 21 miles, I finally learned what it is like to 'hit the wall.' Everything just stopped. I wanted to lie down and take a nap. I actually considered doing so. But I had just enough sense left to put one shaky foot in from of the other and start walking. The final two miles may have been the slowest walk I ever took in my life. But, I told myself that I had nowhere else to be, and that I should just try to take some time and enjoy nature.

Enjoying nature, by the way, is a bit difficult when your mind, body, and spirit have been chewed on and spit out by the gods of running. But, between agonizing steps, I did see some more deer (the run included more than I had ever seen on the Clinton Trails). Upon entering a clearing, I was confronted by a carpet of butterflies. Each step I took caused hundreds (thousands?) to fly up. There were so many, that as they took off, I was pelted by them. It was a very surreal and wonderful. I felt like crap, but I was aware that this was an experience I should try to savor.

I trudged along, tripping every now and then, because I couldn't concentrate or lift my feet much. It was a little scary, to be honest. With about .5 miles left, Gary, who I'm sure had grown concerned with my absence, came back down the trail to find me. He joined me on the slow finish back to the parking lot.

It took me the rest of the day to recover from the run. I have never had that type of failure on a long run. And I've gone longer many times. The Clinton Trails are quite a bit harder than the river ones, so that may be the reason. I hope to get out and do them again soon in order to address the issue.

So, the reason for the asterisk after the #56 at the beginning of this post is that, while I covered 56 miles last week, I technically ran only 53 or 54 of them. So I'll let history (because I'm sure we can all agree that this is epic;-) judge the miles covered.


Emil Zatopek. Wow, he was a great runner and a pretty humble, nice guy. He had alternately a hard and charmed life spent mainly behind the Iron Curtain. The book, Running, is not well written or translated (I can't be sure which). But it does convey a lot of information about the life of this amazing athlete. You could probably find a better source of material. But there was something charming about the no-frills nature of the book, and the matter-of-fact way Zatopek's life is portrayed.

Billy Mills. Wow, he was a great runner and a pretty humble guy, nice guy. I saw the movie, Running Brave, and learned a bit more about our hometown hero. The film, embarrassingly stars the non-native American, Robby Benson, in the role of Mills. KU is also so obviously not KU, that it is also a bit uncomfortable to watch. My favorite line came when one of the characters made reference to 'the Quad.' If anyone at the real KU knows where this 'Quad' may be, please let me know. Because having lived in Lawrence, for over 30 years, I've never come across it. But I do the the movie props for telling a really good story that needs to be heard and remembered. Billy Mills went through a lot in order to achieve what he did. I hope people do learn his, and Zatopek's stories. Since they happened in another time,I worry that their histories will be, well,for want of a better word, history.

Finally - on Friday evening, I popped over to Free State High to watch some of the 6A regional track meet. The top few (3-4) winners of each event would advance to state. The long runs were impressive. SM West has a girl named Alli (and I apologize for not knowing partial or full names) who crushed the competition in everything she entered. She ran seemingly effortlessly, and she pulled 100+ yards away from the other girls in the field, and then proceeded to lap a few of the runners. Amazing. On the boys' side, there was also a guy from SM West who could bring it. He pulled away in his races, though not by quite as much as Alli. The top boys also were lap-happy with the slower runners, who gamely hung in there and finished to generous applause from the crowd. Another neat event was the pole vault. I normally hate HS pole vaulting, because no one is very good. But again, there was one kid (from Lawrence HS?, maybe), who was seriously talented. The crowd loved him for his attempts, both made and failed. Even I, who cares very little about the event, was a bit taken by the combo of guts and grace required to do the event. I wish all of the qualifiers the best of luck at state.

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