Tuesday, May 15, 2012

i never meta analysis i didn't like

"Stay on pace & don't try to keep up with the youngsters." ~ derek s.

that's good advice, generally.

it's particularly good when you're running your first half marathon.

it's advice i had no trouble taking this past weekend, mostly because i felt like i had no choice. i mean, i had never run a half marathon before, distance-wise, let alone race-wise. the farthest i'd gone previously was a 10.5-mile training run the weekend before...so, i didn't know what to expect, how 13.1 miles would feel, or if i'd even be able to finish.

i thought i could...but (this will shock you, i know): there's often a significant difference between thinking about something and actually doing it.

the good news: the weather was perfect. not a cloud in the sky, start-time temperature about 55 degrees. this is seattle, after all...the chance of cold, dreary and wet any given day is about 90%.

also, mrs. spaceneedl got out of bed at 5:45 a.m. to drive to kirkland with me. on mother's day! crazy. and incredibly endearing.

the bad news? there was no bad news.

lining up in the starting corral (why do they call it a corral? are we animals? moo.), i relegated myself to the section marked, "8-12 minutes/mile expected time." there were a lot of very fit-looking people congregating around me, so however fast or slow i ended up running, i felt like i was in pretty good company. but my goal was to stay closer to the 8 than the 12, and...hey, we're moving!

mile 1: the start was slow. and crowded. there were runners ahead of me as far as i could see...which wasn't far, because there was a hill and a right turn not too far ahead. passing people was not really an option, because the was nowhere to pass to. the upside: not many people were passing me. ha!

mile 2: more hills, heading up. i thought this was going to be kind of a flat course. this is not flat. at all. where's the flatness? or some downness to go along with all the upness? the good news: the pack was thinning, stringing out, as people slowed on the hills. conveniently, i did a lot of hill training over the past few months. the bad news: still no bad news.

mile 3: i don't remember much about mile 3, other than it seemed a lot like miles 1 and 2. with slightly less upness, maybe, and a little more downness.

mile 4: took a first look at my watch. whoa. about five minutes behind my target pace. not entirely good news. but in the big scheme of things, not really bad, either. the better news: the pack stretching out significantly. plus, some flatness.

mile 5: took another look at my watch. still behind, but making up time. an even distribution of upness and downness. interesting self-diagnostic: i'm actually better on the uphills than the downhills. i pass a lot more people on the up. and the down...hurts. wtf?

mile 6: i have no memory of mile 6. or mile 7, for that matter. i know i ran them, because i never left the course. aside from that? i got nothin'.

mile 8: i remember the mile 8 marker. i remember thinking, "eight miles already? huh. that went by quick." and then, "holy sh*t, there's still five miles to go..."

mile 9: i remember very little about mile 9.

mile 10: it was here i began to worry, a little. as mentioned earlier, my longest run previously was 10.5 miles. we would soon be entering tiger country. (note: no actual tigers in kirkland, as far as i know. then again, maybe they're eating the people who would report on such things. it's possible.)

mile 11: i remember mile 11. the highlight was a steep hill complete with a doubling-back hairpin turn. this was followed by a long, gradual ascent on a stretch of severely crowned road. which meant one foot was constantly, uncomfortably landing lower than the other. or higher than the other, as the case may be. either way, it sucked. additionally, the cones were set up to herd people into a narrow band on the side of the road, where the slope was even more pronounced. most people ignored the cones, getting as close to the middle flatness as possible. yeah, mile 11. not my favorite mile. except when compared to...

mile 12: remember the extreme uphill of mile 11? it was followed immediately and not coincidently by a comparable downhill stretch in mile 12. as unpleasant as mile 11 may have been, mile 12 was more so. my quads are feeling mile 12 today, every time i walk down the stairs. ow ow ow.

mile 13.1: as noted in mile 5, i had considerable time to make up if i was going to hew to derek's advice. and so, the last eight point one miles were an exercise in time management (not to mention an exercise in exercise). the good news: i was feeling surprisingly strong. my pace was quickening, my form felt sound, and there were some youngsters just ahead of me to keep up with. or (raising an eyebrow) ...to pass.

another look at my watch told me i had a good chance of making my target time, if i didn't fall down or otherwise handicap myself. some kind of strong emotion subroutine was running in the background of my brain, but i ignored it. "stay on pace and don't pay attention to subroutines," i didn't really say to myself.

i passed a couple of young women who had been ahead of me for the last two miles or so, leaving one thirty-ish guy to catch.

he seemed stubbornly disinclined to be caught, staying about ten yards in front of me. suddenly, a vision of derek s. appeared. "you don't need to pass this youngster," his voice echoed in my brain. "stick to your plan." 

"i don't need to pass this youngster," i agreed, hypnotically. "i just need to stick to my plan."

plans are good. passing the thirty-something youngster with about a hundred yards to go was better. finishing a minute and a half ahead of my goal? better still.

i left the course, looking for the missus in the crowd. there she was, walking toward me, saying something about not getting the photo when i crossed the finish line. i was oblivious, mostly, because i was busy hugging her and crying.

"what's wrong?" she asked.
"i don't know," i snorfled.
"are you okay?"
"yes...i feel great."

the good news: the crying thing lasted just a few moments. and then i smiled.

a lot.

the bad news: there was no bad news.


# 794
Michael Miller
division: M 50-59
overall finish: 157/946
division place: 8/43
time: 1:48:30
pace: 8:18

Sunday, May 06, 2012

the end of the weekend

calm down. i'm not saying they're doing away with weekends. i'm just saying this one is nearly over. and i'm getting irritable. does this happen to everybody? i could certainly understand and empathize, if that were the case. as long as your little end-of-weekend fit of pique doesn't get anywhere near me. because, you know, fuck you. (see? that's what i'm talking about.) the fact is, i've had a great weekend. the mariners won both days, and we attended saturday's win. felix hernandez threw 8 innings of one-hit ball, and it didn't rain. moreover, kate and i ran 5.5 miles through discovery park, which never fails to rejuvenate. plus i did a bunch of chores that had to be done. still on saturday. then, today happened. and it was even better than saturday. crazy, right? the mariners won again, and i did more chores. i mowed, shopped for groceries, did laundry, and ran 10.5 miles. all in one day! it should be noted that i've never before run 10.5 miles all at once. but i did it today. that alone would have made today exceptional. but as noted above, that was but one part of the larger story! crazy. plus, the weather was tolerable. not great, especially saturday, but not awful, either. it was chilly, particularly at the game. multiple layers and more than one beer were unable to fend off the cold. but at least the mariners won. did i mention that? today was warmer, though still not what i'd call "warm." warm, see, involves more degrees farenheit than 62. still, it was tolerable, and fairly ideal for running ten and a half miles. all at once. now, after an amazing dinner prepared by mrs. spaceneedl, i'm eating a chocolate chip cookie and drinking some decent red wine. and the denver nuggets are beating the hated los angeles lakers. all in all, a truly fabulous weekend day. which will inevitably end with a thoroughly unwelcome and annoying monday morning. which is why i'm irritable. i mean, obviously.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

vital signs

i washed my hands afterward half a dozen times.

it still didn't seem like enough.

i dislike cadaver lab.

don't get me wrong...i understand the value of the research. i respect the people who contribute their earthly remains to the cause of science. and i appreciate the opportunity to participate in the work.

i just wish i didn't have to be there for it.

most of the time, i'm fine. as long as i keep my eyes on the instruments and the monitors and the activities of the physicians. but that's not possible 100% of the time. and if i get even a little distracted from those things, i notice the person on the table in front of us. and for just a few moments, my imagination kicks on.

i conjure up a life for him. a smiling, bright-eyed wife. a son he taught to throw a baseball. a daughter he taught to ride a bicycle. a mother who held him when he was a boy.

sometimes a vivid imagination is less an asset than it is a curse.

the unwelcome images flash past me in half a second. their effect on my heart lasts longer. none of it is reconcilable with what's happening on the table. or with the cardboard box, lined with black plastic, on the gurney nearby.

near as i can tell, no one else is similarly distracted. the physicians chatter away with a detached, clinical demeanor. the engineers are professional, moving with purpose from one task to the next. i circle the table, taking pictures, tracking the conversations. i hover over the subject, within inches, as the work goes on.

my iphone contains dozens of images i would like to simply delete. instead, i will have to download and archive them for others to review. much as i'd rather, i can't imagine assigning such a task to somebody else.

the lab lasted two-plus hours that went by in the blink of an eye. toward the end, i was offered, and accepted, one of the devices, and used successfully it on the subject.

by "successfully," i mean "my eyes never left the monitor."


this morning the missus and i walked the dogs down to the village, like we do every weekend. we went to the bakery, as we usually do, ordered coffee and a piece of quiche and a walnut raisin roll.

after a while, a frail, elderly man with a cane hobbled through the door and eased himself onto the bench a couple tables away. he looked over at me looking at him, and gave me a little smile. i smiled a little and nodded back.

but i will tell you, what i really wanted to do at that moment was get up and run out the door.