Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sausage Update

Just a quick update on the “Sausage” post:

I've just returned from a 6 mile tempo run and am rather ecstatic to report that nothing of note happened aside from feeling a bit dehydrated along the way. Golly, I wonder why...

I think I'll live. Phew!

Sidelined by Sausage

I ran a solid PR at the Brooklyn Half Marathon last Saturday followed by a sensible recovery run Sunday. Monday night was a rigorous (and chilly) hill work session. Good training practices might suggest that Tuesday be a rest day – and it was.

Wednesday would have been speed work had the demands of my employer and the need for income not interfered (Drat, those pesky realities are always getting in the way!). Good worker-bee that I am, I went in early and stayed late hoping to get a jump on a weekly report I compile and deliver on Fridays. Turns out my efforts went unnoticed and were all for naught as my entire day was devoted to troubleshooting, crisis management, and solving other peoples issues.

Arriving home after a long day I settled into a lovely Syrah and decided on a plate of leftover pasta. I opted to enhance the already delicious penne ala vodka with some sausage I’d picked up from the local grocery store.

The meal came together perfectly. Sausage thoroughly cooked, pasta al dente, vodka sauce rich and spicy, a bit of grated Parmesan cheese. Bon appetit!

It was around 11 o’clock that I began to feel something funky going on – gastrointestinally speaking that is. It was around 1 o'clock in the morning when things began to get ugly.

****I would recommend that readers with weak stomachs skip ahead****

I hastily made my way to the bathroom and uncomfortably waited for what felt like an eternity. Feeling nauseous and disoriented, my mouth flooding with pre-vomit saliva I cursed my meal. Why? Why? Why? Then my stomach clenched, adrenaline pumped and in a moment of clarity I lunged for the bowl. On my knees, my body convulsed in an attempt to purge that which upset it so, but the effort was in vain. As the dry heaves subsided I found myself shaking, sweating and cold; my stomach still full of evil.

I cleaned myself off, found a blanket and pillow and set up base camp on the futon. Clearly this was going to be a long night and there is no need for my wife to suffer through it with me.

For hours my stomach flopped, gurgled and rolled like a storm churned sea. I lay wide-awake anxiously awaiting my fate. Sometime after 4 o’clock in the morning it was time to do war with my demons. It was an epic battle.

My body has never, ever, rejected anything with such force. My abdomen would contract forcing my mouth open. The sound of a visceral, barbaric and guttural yawp could momentarily be heard before being drowned out by rushing bile and the partially digested death that had been my dinner hours before. My head throbbed, my eyes watered and still my stomach emptied itself until there was nothing left.

Feeling loathsome and foul I picked myself off the floor and cleaned up as best I could in my battle-fatigued state before heading back to curl up and die.

****It’s safe to start reading again****

Needless to say, I did not go to work on Thursday nor did I get a run of any distance in. Instead I moaned, groaned and generally felt miserable. Friday was the same with one exception – my weekly report was due.

I had my laptop with me and was fortunately able to work from home. Saturday was much better; I could walk, talk, and even keep down food. But still, running seemed a bit too much to ask of my beleaguered body.

So here we are on Sunday afternoon. I’ve not run for almost a week, my stomach still feels somewhat queasy and I have (most likely) a few pieces of sausage to blame. It seems unjust that something so small and tasty can wreak such severe damage.

If there’s an upside, it’s that I’ve lost a few pounds and did a killer ab workout.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Trash Talk

I offer up friendly competition at the Queens Half Marathon and she drops the "Gauntlet.” I offer up a compliment and she responds by stating that I am the “Joker to (her) Batman!”

Being as juvenile and immature as I am I simply cannot turn the other cheek. Every fiber of my being demands that I must not only respond in kind, but raise the bar. Therefore Kate, you are:
  • The Khrushchev to my JFK
  • The hanging chad to my Gore
  • The Lex Luthor to my Superman
  • The Sammy Hagar to my David Lee Roth
  • Dirty Red Sox to my Pinstriped Yankees
  • Death Row to my Bad Boy Records
  • A mouse to my cat
  • A cat to my dog
  • Alzheimer's to my Reagan (ok maybe this is going a little too far)
But wait, what’s this? You’ve strained your hammy? Sounds to me like you’re chicken. Simply afraid that I’ll be a few steps, meters, or minutes ahead when the real gauntlet gets dropped in Queens?

In all seriousness, I am sorry to hear about your hamstring. Setbacks like that can be tremendously frustrating. My honest and only bit of advice is to rest. You’ll probably come back stronger for having taken the break. Which is what happened to me while training for Chicago. I lost two weeks of peak milage due to an extremely painful heel spur, but when I came back, I came back stronger.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Brooklyn Half Marathon or How I Bonked on Ocean Parkway

Today I ran the New York Road Runners Club’s Brooklyn Half Marathon. The race began at 8:00AM on the Boardwalk in Coney Island. It’s a great race and I believe one of the oldest continuously run half marathons in the country.

Some context before I dive into the details of the race… I’ve run about eight half marathons including last year’s Brooklyn Half and I’ve never been able to break 1 hour 46 minutes (just over an 8 minute per mile pace). The closest was the 2005 Bronx Half Marathon where I finished with a net time of 1:46:03, just 3 seconds shy of a preferred start for the Chicago Marathon. As you can imagine I was considerably annoyed. Of late however, actually since Chicago, I have been running strongly and have bested several personal records for shorter distances (5k, 4 miler, 10k & 15k), but I digress.

I arrived at the start of the race in plenty of time (thanks to Jared and LuAnn for organizing transportation) to use the facilities, stretch, and warm up a bit. I use the word “warm” somewhat loosely as it was a nippy 33 degrees and a chilly wind was coming off the beach. Moments later I found myself lined up with some teammates near the start and we were off.

And we were really off… At the first mile marker Kate, a fellow Hellgate Road Runner and friendly competitor said something to the effect of “Uh Oh, look at the time!” We had just run the first of 13.1 miles in 6:30. Now, starting out too fast on longer distance races is a lesson I’ve learned before (2004 NYC Marathon) but I guess not nearly well enough. Knowing I couldn’t keep that pace up for another 12.1 miles I backed off. Some anyways. Kate was running strong and though she had slowed a bit she was still pushing herself, and subsequently me, pretty hard. Pride is a funny thing.

At the second mile marker she had opened up a lead of 10-15 meters. A couple of times I toyed with the idea of catching her but figured I’d play it conservative – we were after all only 5 kilometers into the race. All the time in the world to hang back and when the time is right close the gap...“Surprise! How you doing?”

But then Ocean Parkway happened. Ocean Parkway is long and straight and flat and Kate was edging away. Somewhere around mile 8 I lost her. No “Surprise!” No “How you doing?” Just me, my pride, my spent legs and another 4 miles of Brooklyn to cover.

Finally the course turned off Ocean Parkway into fabulous Prospect Park. Knowing the finish was within reach and encouraged by the words of teammates along the course (Thanks Guys! I needed that!) I pushed on strong, churning up the devilishly long hill at mile 10 and around the rest of the course.

And there it was… The finish. Regardless of the distance or how tired I am something happens to me when I see the finish line – I sprint full out. There’s my big old ego again.

I crossed the finish line in a net time of 1:36:59 – a personal record by about 9 minutes and 12 minutes better than my time for the same course last year. To say that I’m jazzed by this would be about right. But like most other runners I am already looking ahead to a 10k in early April and the Queens Half Marathon on April 29th. Look out Kate.

Ha! Just kidding… sorta!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Getting To Florida

I woke last Friday morning first at 4:44AM to my whining dog. Harry sleeps in his crate every night, but has gotten into the habit of rising before the sun and whimpering until we wake up and let him out so that he can relieve his little doggy bladder. Fortunately, this is a task Salena typically attends to. This crucial and pressing moment behind us, I restlessly tossed and turned in bed. Harry, now relieved, rested comfortably.

In theory I am to fly to Tampa Florida where I will connect with my brother, who's arriving from Detroit, for a visit with our uncle and grandfather. This all sounds great, as I had been looking forward to a little break for weeks.

6:00AM the alarm went off and the day began (again) officially. Three hours until my 9:00AM departure - plenty of time especially considering that I packed the night before. All I’ve got to do is shower, get dressed, call a car service and get to the nearby airport.

6:53AM – OH NO! My stomach flops, my heart sinks and my blood boils all at the same instant. The flight departs at 8 o’clock not 9 o’clock. What was I thinking! How did I miss that small, yet, hugely significant detail? Am I an idiot? Clearly, I am. Quickly I shower, call the car service and throw the last few items into my bags and head out to the street to await the arrival of the car service.

7:23AM John, a pleasant driver from New Enrico’s - (718) 728-5599 if you’re in Queens New York and need a good pet friendly car service - arrived a few moments later. I explained my situation and my new friend stomped on the pedal of his minivan. The good news is that traffic wasn’t too bad on the Grand Central Parkway. The bad news is that John’s effort was in vain.

7:48AM I arrive at the Delta Song terminal at JFK, but it is all for naught. The plane had already begun boarding and my seat – along with those of several other slightly tardy travelers - was reassigned to a standby passenger. Damn you, cruel world!

Well, what’s one to do but find a cozy spot at the airport and read a good book for six hours…? Yup, the next available flight doesn’t depart until 1:40PM and I may, or may not, be able to get a ticket. Delta can’t confirm me until 3 hours before departure.

Fortunately for me, I had recently begun “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, which incidentally is an amazing book. I highly recommend it.

Now ticketed and confirmed for the 1:40 flight I am able to relax and stroll through the shops at the airport. I must confess my impression of airports has always been that of a very busy place - lots of hustle and bustle with people rushing hither and thither. Then again I don’t typically spend 6 hours at airports with nothing to do but quietly observe all morning. I can now say with the utmost confidence that JFK International airport is an exceedingly dull place on Friday mornings.

My flight is on time and this time so am I. Eureka! I board and find my seat. Ironically, I find that my assigned seat (and entire row) is occupied. Sitting in my assigned isle seat is an annoying little man who, like me, missed the earlier flight. WHAT!!!??? This cannot be! Once more I am filled with rage, but rather than make a scene, I take the isle seat directly in font of him, which has three consecutive unoccupied seats and cross my fingers.

More and more passengers board and make their way to their seats. As people stumble and squeeze down the isle I dread that awkward moment of “excuse me, I think you’re in my seat.” I make eye contact with a fat Greek lady with hair growing from a mole on her face and am absolutely positive she’s heading for me. Then she pauses and waddles into a seat a few rows in front of me. Phew, dodged a bullet!

“The cabin door is now closed and all passengers are aboard the plane. Please find your seat as quickly as possible so the captain taxi to the runway.” Could it be? Will fate pay me back with a flight to Tampa with an entire row of seats to myself?

Then it happens. One of the last people to board the plane, and I am in his seat. “Pardon, but I think you’re in my seat.”

“Of course I am you moron! I’m in your seat because the jackass sitting directly behind is in my seat canoodling with his wife.”

Now I didn’t actually say this. Instead, I pretended to look at my ticket, acted like it was an honest mistake and slid over to the window seat hoping not to have to go through this charade again in 5 minutes.

Only a few passengers remain and I am in the clear. I’ve a window seat; the seat adjacent is empty (thank the Good Lord!), and the polite man with good hygiene has settled into his rightful isle seat. This will be a good flight after all.

For the next few hours I’m engrossed in Mr. Hosseini’s tale of modern Afghanistan. Did I mention that this is a great book? Well, it is. Buy and read it.

Upon arrival in Tampa the thought dawns on me that perhaps my luggage didn’t make it. Happily that was not to be the case as my bag was one of the first to make it’s way around the serpentine baggage claim.

Fetching my bag I head to the exit and phoned Uncle Gary. “Well, I’ve made it. I’m heading to the baggage claim exit” I exclaim. “OK Bub, but you’re gonna have a wait a few minutes more. I’m stuck in traffic” he replies. Well that just fits perfectly.

I find a nice bench in the warm Florida sun, strip off the layers of winter clothes, stuff my jacket and sweater into my suitcase and dive back into my book which I am now just pages from finishing.

As I turn to the last page my phone rings again. Gary’s arrived at the airport and my mini-weekend trip can begin. Yes, it will be a nice break, damn it.