Thursday, July 30, 2009

The hills are alive...

I only started running again for the first time in 10 years, a few months back. The last time I did any running was the year I lived in Boise, which is FLAT. I now live in Phoenix, FLAT! I literally have not run on a hill of ANY size, up or down, since 1995. Well, today that all changed.

I am in Austin Texas for work, and went out for a 5:30 am run this morning with two of my workmates. To protect their identity, I will call them Nick and Kristen, now I just call them Bastards! I know they walk around the office and play all nice to people. I know they have gotten every single person they know snowed to think they are friendly caring people. It is all a ruse. I think it has been a plan hatched out of a lifetime of pretending to be nice to everyone they have ever met, with just one goal in mind, to kill me in the hills of Austin Texas.

Holy crap!

We went to the front desk of the hotel this morning to get some input on where to run. The gentleman at the front desk was very helpful (Bastard), and pulled out a local map and gave us a few options. One of those options was to turn out of the parking lot and go left, to a relatively flat course around this spectacular countryside. The other option was to go out of the parking lot and take a right, through the depths of Hell.

I made a friendly comment about it having been about 14 years since I have run on a hill. That is when these two reportedly “very nice” people I work with headed out of the parking lot... and took a right.

It started off o.k., uphill. I then made another joke (not really a joke people, you are supposed to be able to catch on to that…) that running this little hill might kill me.

It was the shortest, easiest slope, and best lit, of the next six (I had no idea) hills. As we got to the top of the hill and took a right, it was so dark that I could not see the ground in front of me. And since I never run in the dark, I have never taken the time to learn how to use the light on my Garmin. We started down a slope that was getting steeper, and longer, with every step. We finally reached what I thought was the bottom, only to have a car pass us going the same direction as us and watch it's headlights disappear over the next downward hill in front of us.

Now you might be saying, “Adam, why in the hell are you griping? Running down hill is not that bad." People, the only thing going through my frantic little mind at this point is “Are you fu%&*n kidding me? We have to run UP this hill on the way back. What the hell am I doing? What did I ever do to the two of you to make you do such a horrible dastardly thing to me? I thought we were friends.”

Apparently not.

As we started to get close to what I thought was the bottom of the hill, things started to smell. Now granted, I was SO worried about the return trip back up this hill, that I wasn't sure that the smell wasn't coming from me... Then Kristen exclaimed, "Adam!" I looked down just in time to jump to the right as I was about to take a trip over a dead skunk. Nice... At least it wasn't me :)

We were approaching the bridge that I assumed was our destination. So as I finally figured out the damn light on my watch, I checked our distance and time. Now in hindsight, I should have just lied my a$$ off. "We are at 1.4 miles guys". Maybe they just didn't hear me. Maybe they thought that all the heavy breathing they were hearing from behind them was a joke. Maybe they wanted to watch me die...

Nick (bastard): "Awesome. Why don't we run up to the road at the top of the hill and turn around there?"...

If you have ever been in the military or in a marching band, you know what a half step is. It's where you take a half step, or maybe a few half steps in a row, to help you get back in line with everyone else who is marching in unison. Well, when Nick said that ("Awesome. Why don't we run up to the road at the top of the hill and turn around there?"...), I took a half step. Not because I was trying to get back in step with Kristen and Nick, but because for half a second, or half of a step, I almost quit.

Then I remembered, literally in the time of that half step, that I had already made a public declaration that I will not EVER let myself stop in the middle of a run. In that same half of a step I also remembered that we do not have a car back at the hotel. So, no matter what, I am going back on my own power. I cannot do what I want, which is to lay down on the grass and cry until they come back and get me.

When we hit the beginning of the last hill that would take us up to the main road, and our turn around point, they both took off up the hill leaving me behind. This is when I changed my strategy from trying to keep up, to hoping like hell I would be able to finish.

One goal. Don't stop.

We started up, and Nick was already 20 or 30 yards ahead of me. I kept going, and tried not to think about the people I used to call friends. Maybe we are just workmates. Maybe they really do resent the loud guy that has an office between them. This might be their way of paying me back for all the times they had to plug one ear while having a phone in the other. Maybe this is their "paybacks are a bitch."

About the time that Nick reached the top of the hill and Kristen was about to leave me in her dust, I started to pay attention to the sound of my breathing. It was so loud in my own ears, and my own head, that I started thinking about how distracting it must have been for their run. It was right about then that Kristen turned around to check on me. It was immediately obvious that she had finally pulled far away enough that she could no longer hear my breathing, and was checking to make sure I was o.k.

They were not going to leave me to die.

Nick reached the turnaround and started running back down the hill toward us. He passed Kristen and started to slow down as he approached me. When we were about to cross paths, he turned a 180, and started back up the hill. Maybe they really are my friends. Maybe they aren't going to leave me. And we ran up the rest of the hill together side by side.

After a few minutes rest at the top, we ran back to the hotel together. They left me behind at the bottom of each hill, but made sure I didn't run the last 20 yards up alone. As we came to the end of the run at the hotel, I turned left to go back to my room. We are still friends. They kept on running, past the hotel, leaving me to return to my room.


That was the last morning I was invited to go running. (not really, that is just my excuse, until I get a few more hills under my belt).

Thanks to my friends for not leaving me behind. Thanks for giving me just enough, to make sure I finished. Thanks for getting me beyond flat. Never Quit.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Inspired Runner and the guy in the wheel chair

Do you have someone in your life the inspires you? Do you know someone that you want to be like? Do you envy someone who is better than you. It can be a parent, a pro athlete, a business mentor, your big brother, or the guy across the street for that matter. Does thinking about the success, the dedication, or the work ethic of a specific person in your life, help push you to higher limits?

This week I had three different people ask me about my inspiration to run. My answer to one of them was about posting pictures on FB. You notice that all the pictures of me from my beach vacations are either in a shirt, or from the neck up. I want to be able to post pictures that show me laying around the pool, and not be embarrassed about looking pregnant. My other answer was Haagen-Dazs carmel cone... Really. Have you ever tried the stuff. Two full pints so far this week. It's only Tuesday!

I was trying to be funny. Maybe because I was not sure about the real answer.

But then, I thought, they deserved a better answer. What is it that gets someone off the couch after two decades of laziness, and motivates them to run? Since I happen to be putting alot of time into this subject, I should try to find out for myself, the real answer.

Well, I can tell you that my practice of keeping track of how many people say hello back to me when I give them a smile and a hello is sometimes part of it. Tonight was one of those nights. I was running along in 101' temperature and feeling pretty good. I was four out of four when I ran by a homeless man pushing a shopping cart. I said hello as I ran buy... Instant disappointment... he ignored me... until I was past him by about 15 feet, and then a polite, not to strong, "hello." I gotta admit, that made me smile. Then when I came into a group of guys on their way to US Airway Center for a game, I got a thumbs up and a giant smile from a guy who turned and watched me go buy. He followed it up with a "Dude. You gotta be crazy". I smiled again.

I picked a role model for myself a while back. What do you do next? Well, I am a pretty smart guy, I need to do stuff more like he does. And one of the things he does is get his ass off the couch and run. 5k, 10k, half marathons, and marathons. Nice job Adam. Why couldn't I pick someone who played pool, or bowled. I had to pick a guy who runs marathons. He eats healthy. He makes more than twice as much money as I do, and he has been married to his wife longer than I have been married to mine. Nuff said.

So I am running along in this crazy heat and I am thinking about what inspires me. I am already in just a great mood, and actually thinking that the soreness in my tight calf muscles feels good. I am looking up ahead and see a guy in a wheelchair pushing himself down the sidewalk towards me. Remember, it's over 100' out here. As I approach the guy, he has a beaming grin from ear to ear, and he says "Hello, great way to get your exercises, and it's the perfect time of night for it", and he wheels on by. Seriously, what in the hell do you say to that? All I could come up with was "Thank you, and to you as well." When I got to the next light and had a lady tell me "good-by" in response to my hello, I was still smiling from ear to ear.

Sometimes I am inspired by the fact that I am outside earning the right to sweat. Sometimes I motivate myself just by thinking about what I might come across on my run that and can write about. I was going by a vacant lot on the edge of downtown tonight, and in the middle of it sat a busted up computer monitor. Somebody beat the living crap out of this thing. All I could think of was that scene in "Office Space" when they went all gangster on the copy machine in the middle of an overgrown lot... and I smiled some more. It is weird what motivates people to exercise.

I bought a domain name a while ago. I hope to use it as a blog, but with a specific purpose. It will have stories and quotes, and video's. I hope to be able to produce a newsletter that goes out to a difined group of people. I am currently practicing for this web-site. Can I convey my idea's in a way that gets people to take action? The guy that inspires me to be out taking action doesn't even know he is involved. What does that type of influence require? I like the blog you're reading right now because I get to rant and tell stories about not much, and try to relate it to something I really enjoy. My other site will be for inspiring other people to take action, and see if they can feel what I feel.

Sometimes the person that motivates me to run are my friends, always challenging me. Sometimes I am inspired by the fact that my buddy is out there doing it, so I have no excuses. Sometimes I am inspired by my big brother. I am always inspired by my wife Jane. She makes me want to be a better man. And if I am able to become one, she deserves to have me around longer.

So there you are. You may have gotten a little more than you bargained for when you asked me what inspires me to run. My other website is Don't look it up. It's not even under construction. I need to earn the right from my mentors and role models, my friends and my wife. I need to earn the right from runners. Get inspired. Get out on the road. Until then, if you see me run by, please say hello. Or good-by.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hot weather running tips I learned from my dog...

If you go running at 9:30 in the morning in July here in Phoenix, it's hot. It was 100' when I walked out the front door this morning for my run. The sun was literally straight up over the city, which means very little shadows to be found. Now, my guess is there is about a 20' difference in temperature between being in the sun and getting under some shade when it's this hot out. That makes shade kind of important.

If you know much about me, you know I have two little Miniature Schnauzers, and I live in a high rise condo in the middle of downtown Phoenix. The point of me telling you this is that it means we have to walk our dogs in the middle of the city, even when it's 115' outside, multiple times per day. When you weigh 13 pounds, and you're covered in black hair, it doesn't take long for your core temperature to shoot through the roof. That being said, my dog Diamond doesn't like phoenix a whole lot during the summer.

When we take her for a walk on hot days, she will stop where she is without any notice and just turn her head and look back over her shoulders at our building. I always assume that she is thinking "Hey dumba$$, the building with the A/C is back there, why in the hell are you going this way?" She will do this some 10 or 15 times on a walk. When we go around the block, she will stick to the shadows the entire way. If there is no shadows, she will run from bush, to overhang, to doorway, to parked car, to shadow.

Well, today I figured out what the heck that is all about. Since I just started running after four weeks off because of my frikken toe, I have not spent much time out in this heat. I guess I have become a real Arizonian. You don't go outside if you can help it this time of year. Unless you are training for a marathon...

Today was a fantastic run, for about the first mile and a half. I looked down at my GPS Watch, and realized I was running about a 9 1/2 minute pace. Then out of no where, the heat reached up and kicked me right in the face. I hadn't even reached the turn yet, so I wasn't half way done. The next time I looked at my watch I was up to almost a 12 minute pace. That was when I decided to quit looking at my watch. My sleeves were caked in white from the salt stain of me wiping my face of sweat as I ran. I was starting to understand how Diamond feels. I realized (as I was scraping my elbow along the wall because I was trying to stay in the 14 inches of shade next to the building I was running next to) I was wearing black shirt and shorts and looking over my shoulder back in the direction of my building and A/C.

As I turned the corner and headed the two miles home, I started to think about whether I was going to make it back without stopping for a rest in the shade or some water. I don't know if I'm gonna make another 20 minutes in this stuff. But then I started thinking about my pal back home who just ran the Rock n Roll Marathon in Seattle and set a PR of 3:30:06. How the Eff am I going to finish a marathon if I can't keep going these last 20 minutes of a 40 minute run because it's a little warm outside. I have already set an internal rule that I never get to rest while I'm training. Take a shorter run if I have to, but I never stop running till I am back at Chase Field.

I needed to get my mind on something else. I started thinking about what I had read in a running blog from the D. C. area. She keeps track of how many people she says hello to until someone says hi back. I do it a little differently, but it's fun just the same. I keep a running tally of how many people say Hi back. Today I was 12 for 12, although one of them just gave me a wave. I think people must be friendlier here in Phoenix than out in D.C. I actually had a security guard waving to get my attention from his booth as I ran by, so he could say hello :). I am up to 68 out of 77 people saying hi back.

This is why you can't find a 5k fun run after April. It's cleanses the sole to run out here. This must be why people in Phoenix join gyms. So they're not out here counting hello's... But on the other hand, this is what it takes to get where I want to go. 26.2 is sill a very long way's away. I did not look at my watch as I was coming back down the stretch towards the ballpark. There was nothing left in the tank today. There would be no sprint towards the finish line. If I run past you, or you pass me, give me a shout, say hello, and try and get your a$$ into some shade.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Asking For The Sale" and my other random thoughts while running

You just opened the doors of your new business. You spent $14,538.96 on advertising for your grand opening. You have a woman in your lobby who just experienced your product and service, and she is impressed as hell. You spend about 7 minutes talking about your business, and how it seems to be perfectly suited for what she needs. She is getting ready to walk out the door, what do you say?

"Let's go ahead and get you signed up?" Nope.

"It looks to me like this is perfect for you. Does this time slot work, or would Monday at 9:00 be better?" I wish.

"We have a couple of different options for payment, which one is going to work for you today?" Sure (not).

How about... "Thanks for coming in, let me know if we can answer any more questions. Hope to see you back soon."

Holy Crap! Talk about going for the jugular! That's just the sort of Take No Prisoners attitude I like to see when you are going for the close (no effin way)... C'mon people, ask them to buy! Haysoos M. Christopolis! Aren't you here to make money???!!!

Why do we all feel like it is dirty to ask someone to buy the product they came here to test out? It's called customer service. It is the final step in helping the customer. It is your obligation to help them make a choice. Yes or No. There is no place for Charlie brown wishy washy B.S. Remember, they called you to ask about your product or service. They ARE interested in spending money. That's why they are here. HELP THEM!

This is my mind works when I run.

Ooops, this is a running blog... What do you think about when you are running? Bills? The brown stains on the sidewalk where the water from the sprinklers has been baked in by the 114' temperatures? Do you lose yourself in the music from your ipod?

I actually catch myself sometimes while I'm running and say, "Do normal people think about this kinda stuff when they run? Do normal people think "Man, that would make an awesome bar" as they run by every cool vacant building? Or as they sprint by a Corvette, do all normal people think to themselves, "Someday... I can't wait." How often do normal people think "If that car lost control and came barrelling at me, what way would I jump? I wonder what page my horrific accident would make in the paper? I hope the traffic doesn't make people I like to be late for dinner."

It would be great to be normal. Then I could just think about things like, "Cool, my toe doesn't hurt as much as I thought it was going to." or "Can I make my Garmin have sound an alarm after every mile, or quarter mile?" But then I would get into things like "Why in the hell did I buy a frikken Garmin Forerunner 405 GPS-Enables Sports Watch? I don't run with an ipod because I am the most electronically illiterate person on the planet. I have to ask my wife how to use hers every single time, just to turn up the sound or change songs. What makes me think I will ever figure out how in the hell to work this thing?" (Hey wait, is that a butterfly?)

Do normal people actually wait for the light to turn green before they continue across the street when they are running? Do they wonder if other people do?

But then I start to think about what I am doing. Do normal people get up and run six miles at 5:30 am when it's already 90" outside. Do they get such pleasure out of it that they feel the need to write about it? Do normal people plan their packing for a trip around "Do I need to take a bigger suitcase so I can take my running shoes?" Is the first thing they think about when they get up in the morning "I can't wait to get to the point in my run where I have to turn right and make it four miles, or go strait, and make it 6.2 miles. I can't wait to go strait. Do normal people hit themselves in the forehead when the alarm goes off in the morning as a way to remind them to get the hell out of bed, and not hit the snooze button?

I signed up for a Marathon. Normal people do not run 26.2 miles. I am not normal. Eff normal. Get your ass outta bed and get some exercise. It doesn't have to be 26.2. It can be 2.6. I can take you a month of Sunday's to reach 2.6 miles. Get outta bed. Smack yourself in the forehead.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"Swept Out To Sea While Running"... or "Rio Shane"

O.K. So I am still not running because of this toe thing. I am not sure what to do, I have never had an injured toe before. I just got back from vacation in Puerto Vallarta, and I didn't even take my shoes with me. If I had, the following story would be strangely different...

We are all staying in a four bedroom timeshare on the beach, so when I got up from bed and went out to the living room for my morning coffee with tequila (hey! I am on vacation in Mexico. Don't judge!), Shane was already up as usual. "Yo Man, I want to go for a run on the beach" say's Shane. Shit, I really want to go as well, but I didn't bring my shoes for a reason. I want this thing to heal so I can continue training for my marathon.

Me: "Give me a second to finish my coffee and think about it".
Shane: "K"

Now I sit down on the lounge chair and look out over the beach at the beautiful ocean and start to enjoy my coffee. It really is a perfect morning. There was heavy rain last night, but the only reason you can tell at this point is that the mosaic stone decking around the pool 8 floors below is still wet. There is not a cloud in the sky, a beautiful morning for a run... I'm not going.

Me: "Shane, I'm not gonna go, I didn't bring my shoes for a reason. And as much as I would love to go running barefoot on the beach, I want my frikken toe to get better. I don't want to risk another three or four weeks with an effed up toe".

Shane: "All right, you stay here in the condo, while I go out for a run on the beach all by myself".
Me: "Go to hell. Have fun".

And Shane walked out the door barefooted with his Ipod strapped on, while I finished my drink (I mean coffee). A minute later Shane appeared from below and walked out past the pool and onto the beach. He took a left and started running down the sand along the gentle waves of the waters edge. As close to a dream moment for a runner as there comes. He disappeared behind the neighboring scyscraper, and I went on with my morning, and a second cup of coffee (yes, with tequila).

We start a game of cribbage and forget all about Shane for a little while. I was counting my crib as Shane walks in the front door of our unit, dripping from head to toe.

Shane: "Well. That was a nice swim".
Me: "Was it on purpose"?
Shane: "Not so Much."
Me: "What the hell did you do?"

Now you need to know Shane to really appreciate the rest of this story. Shane is pretty, and he is a good dancer. So when he tells a story, his whole body moves to try to help you understand what's going on. When he starts by telling us that he was just running along the beach, jamming out to the music on his Ipod, not having a care in the world, we are already laughing our asses of at the way he is exaggerating his arm swings and bobbing his head to the music. He is mimicking himself, running more like a dancer prancing across a stage.

Shane: "So I'm running along the beach, and it's frikken fantastic! The sand is hard along the water, so it was easy running, and it's the perfect temperature outside. I was running along, got about three quarters of a mile down the beach, and there was a washout from last nights rain in front of me. I looked up, there was a couple walking towards me from the wash, and there was another couple on the other side of it walking away from me. I just assumed that they had just walked across it."

"I took my first step in, and its about 6 inches deep. i took my second step in, and its about 6 inches deep. I took my third step in, and it's Shane deep." And as he says this, he holds his hand about six inched over his head, showing us the water was over his head. "it's like I was just shaken awake from a runners coma! I am under water, trying like hell to figure out what in the eff just happened as I'm trying to get myself to the surface so I can breath." I finally get my head above water, and "what the eff", I'm 20 feet out to sea, looking back at the beach, dog paddling in water way over my head!"

Me: "Holy Shi+, what did you do?"

Shane: "The first thing that goes through my head is Eff, my Ipod! But then I realized it was still playing music in my ear... and then...just like that the music stopped." And now he shows us his Ipod and ear buds hanging from his hand, knowing they are ruined.

Me: "Damn dude, are you o.k.?"

Shane: "All I was thinking was ""I wish Adam was here with me, because he either would have been ahead of me, and it would be his ass out here swimming off shore, or at least I wouldn't be out here alone!!!""

I was crying I was laughing so hard. I tell you., as he is describing the size of the washout "It was real small, It never entered my mind that it might be over my head". I was laying on the floor curled up in the fetal position sucking my thumb. This is some funny shi+. "The guy behind me had been keeping pace right along with me. When I came up for air, he was just continuing his run back the other way. He didn't even stick around to see if I was gonna come back to the surface". Now that is one cold hearted American tourist...

We let him finish the story, and have a good laugh at Shane's expense. We are good friends, so it's o.k. to laugh at each others misfortunes, when you end up alive. The next morning Jane and I went for a walk along the beach in the same direction Shane had run the day before. When we came to the edge of the "Washout" Shane had described, we both lost it laughing. In front of us was a full on river. I'm talking about a 30 to 40 foot across river with waves 2'-3' high, that was no more mistakable for a washout then seeing a California Redwood and thinking it was a toothpick.

Shane, even though sometimes I think you might be a god, your not Jesus. Not even you, or anyone else for that matter, are gonna run a cross a full size effing river! And we learned on our last vacation.....there are crocodiles in the rivers in Mexico!

I know I did not do this story justice. You may have to close your eyes and give it a try.....Still sorry my toe hurts but sure am glad I didn't go for that run.