Monday, October 5, 2009

I will not be running today.

And, thank Jehovah, it is a relief. My hip flexors and iliotibial bands are ready to abandon the tour altogether, and leave me in a slump here at the house. I've run 31 out of the last 34 days, in some vague attempt at peak performance, or, at least, fitness, discipline, and consistency. I succeeded! Well, okay, somewhat.

I read Half-Fast from time to time, and it is the most honest blog on running that I've seen. The guy is good at conveying what all of us runners go through, and in his often-funny posts, he dares answer the unanswerable questions: How come I don't have the running bug? Why was I so stupid to sign up for that race? and How come I miss it so much when I don't run? A few months back he got it in his head to go on a 30-day running streak, for no very good reason. (Here.) He didn't report on it too much during the 30 days, but here's his first post, and here's his wrap-up.

So I decided to try it. Why? Because it sounded like a good challenge. Because I wanted to see how my body would react to all that running. Because I'm an undisciplined bastard and I didn't learn my lesson on over-training from last May. Like Half-Fast, I set up a few parameters of my own that I would abide by:

-It has to be every day, sometime between when I wake in the morning and when I go to sleep at night.
-It must be at least a 5K.
-Walking is fine, if you're too tired or have some pain or an injury, since it's about just doing it, and not having to do it well.
-Time and distance must be logged every day so the data can be properly analyzed.

I missed 3 days. The first day I missed I was sleeping over at my sister's place and had been up all night smoking cigars and sucking down mojitos, and let me tell you: this does not inspire exercise the following morning. It was 6 days into it, and I just felt like a failure, but I got back out the next day and just kept at it, thinking, So you missed a day. BFD. 2 weeks later I missed another day. I blame work. It was a Home Show weekend, and the time just did not manifest for a quick run. Oh sure, I could have got out there at 11PM and jammed 3 miles in, but after a long day of work, I'm sure I would have gotten hit by a car since I would have been flailing wildly about in the middle of the road, in the dark. I have two kids and a wife. It would not be considered responsible risk-taking, if there is such a thing.

The 3rd day I missed, I have no good excuse for. It was a long week. I was tired. So in the end I added 3 days onto my month, and just pounded the pavement to make up for the 3 lost. And then I added one more, to punish myself, which makes 31 out of 34. And now... I rest.

BECAUSE I HAVE A MARATHON SCHEDULED NEXT WEEK! Which seems so dumb, alongside it all. I am angling for a 5 hour finish time, and, if I survive, I'll tell you all about it next Monday. But for now I am resting on all my laurels and healing a bit. This past month has been really satisfying, and I have Mrs. Ditchman to thank for putting up with me disappearing for a half hour or so every day. I didn't tell her I was trying for a full month because I wasn't sure I could do it, plus: it was extraordinarily selfish of me. But she knows me better than anyone, and it was clear to her that I was up to something after the first couple weeks, and so, like a good wife, she let her husband be. She's the greatest.

All told, I ran about 138 miles. Last Saturday I put in a 20-miler where I ran down to the end of the Oceanside Pier and back. It took me more than a few hours, and in that time you consider the wildest things, like how 3 miles a day for a week is about the same distance, and here you are knocking it all out in a single morning. Somehow, none of it computes, because it seems so much more difficult to get out there and go at it every day for a week, instead of one long morning, but that's running.

Some days I didn't want to, and ran anyway. Some days I had pain, and ran anyway. And some days I built patio covers, and ran anyway. This was probably the hardest thing, and then it felt like some sort of bizarre, dispirited, one-man biathlon. And some days I felt I was running slow, only to find that I'd made a monthly PR. And then there were the days where I felt like I was flying, only to discover that I was merely gliding. 3 miles a day, every day, really gets you concentrated on the effort, and makes you consider every little thing, like which tiny pains are serious, which are to be ignored, and how when all parts of the body are pitted against your spirit, they rain down lies.

Because you can do it. I don't think I disliked doing it as much as Half-Fast seemed to, at times. I found that after a month that it had just become part of my daily routine, and when I was tired and sore I just ran a bit slower. It's true that my aged body would have benefited from some recovery time, but one thing was clear: every time I thought I was too tired to run, I found that I really wasn't. I could do it every day for 25 minutes, and after a week or so, it wasn't difficult to run at all. The body is made to run, and doesn't seem to have to use those aluminum patio cover-building muscles to do it. Really, the hardest part was always just finding the time and then physically getting the shoes on and getting out the door -and the difficulty of this should not be understated. But if the mind can get out the door, the body will follow. The body is amazing that way. It obeys. (Well, most of the time it obeys.)

I don't use any fancy computer thingy to keep track of all my runs, even though my iPhone has that Nike running ap built right in, and I just write them on a little calendar that I post next to my desk. Mrs. Ditchman started this house trend a few years back, and it's fun to see how many more days a month than me she works out -but this month I finally got her beat! The hand-written calendar is an Old School method, but this way I can see, at all times, how much effort I've been putting into it. It's never really been about quality for me, but my confidence is boosted by the quantity, which is probably why I run marathons. I just feel that if I get the quantity in, the quality, and desire for it, will follow somehow, eventually. And it does. For me.

So, hooray for me. I, more or less, did it, as Nike has been campaigning for, for years. And I did it with no injuries, save for that vague shoulder-to-ankle smartness from Saturday's 20-miler. Ooof. And then a 5K yesterday on top of it all the next day, just to see if I could.