That's not dirty, is it?
And with that single utterance to the people of Athens, "We have won," Pheidippides collapsed and died from exhaustion.
Or so the story goes.
Ol' Pheidippides and I; we're kindred spirits now. Sure, he ran his from the plains of Marathon to the city of Athens after fighting all day in full armor while I ran mine through the streets of Fargo (and Moorhead, don't forget Moorhead) after sleeping in the back of my truck. But basically it's pretty much the same deal. And it's kind of a big deal.
I'm a "marathon runner" now. I love that I can say that. And I love that I'll always be able to say that, even if I never choose to do this again.
Races like these are trouble. But without logistical support, they'd be even more trouble. And no one is more supportive than Corinne. She's awesome.
There were 23,000 people signed up to run in Fargo this weekend (bunch of different races) and it seemed like every one of them except me remembered to book a hotel room. Fortunately my wife was able to find a space at what was either a former KOA or a former beet farm (or both).
So Friday night I wedged my Expedition between a rusty fire ring and an anemic maple sapling and we were home for the night.
My training was, again, less than it should have been. (I've got to stop doing that.) I did the Earth Day Half Marathon last month. I did a 10-mile run a couple weeks ago and an 8-miler the week after that. This past Monday I ran to work, so there's 9. Beyond that, I woke up and did 10k a couple of mornings here and there. Last year at Earth Day I ran the 20-miler. That's the longest I'd ever run. So once I reached that point in the race I knew I'd be in uncharted territory. And I was.
On Friday night, after we got into town and picked up my packet, we figured we'd better get something to eat. We stopped at an unassuming little sports bar called Labby's. If you're ever in Fargo I suggest you do your best to avoid it. Since it took approximately an hour to get my cowboy burger, I was logistically forced to have a second beer.
In the morning I was better. I had a banana and a Clif bar to go along with my can of Diet Coke.
I've heard it said that a marathon is really two races. There's a 20 mile race…and then there's that last 6.2. Believe that. It's absolutely true.
The race had pace runners (which is a totally fantastic concept). I found the 4-hour goal time guy (that's 9:10 minute miles, in case you're wondering) and just hung with him.
Six miles? Feeling really good and almost exactly on pace. The halfway point? Still feeling pretty good, all things considered. After that came the 14-, 15- and 16-mile marks. Joints starting to get a little worn down – primarily my hips. By the time I hit 17 miles, I was beginning to realize that I wasn't going to make it the whole way with my pace runner. But realizing that and giving in to it are two different things. So I hung on gamely. He'd start getting some separation from me…and I'd reel him back in.
We went on that way until the 20-mile mark. After that, as the yards between us started to grow, I knew there was no comeback left in me. At that point it became a game of goal revision.
My 4-hour goal was bounding up the street, out of my reach. I needed to come up with a new goal quickly because, if I didn't, my brain was going to start playing with the idea that maybe "finishing a marathon" is a noble goal.
The problem with that is that "finishing a marathon" was never in doubt. I was absolutely going to cross that finish line. No question. So, out on that course, that meant that accepting "finishing a marathon" as my goal was the same as "giving up." I had tried my damndest for my 4-hour goal – and, for 20 miles, I'd been right there. But that wasn't going to happen. So what was going to happen?
I started with "RUN an entire marathon."
That sounded good, but I knew that still left me with a lot of wiggle room. So I eventually modified it to, "run the whole thing, and finish without getting caught by the 4:15 group."
That worked. I did it. I know it wasn't pretty. I could tell by some of the poignantly sympathetic looks I started getting from spectators along those last couple of miles. A few hundred yards from the finish, they had a camera that played video on a big screen alongside the road and also on the jumbo screen inside the Fargodome (so spectators could watch and prepare for when their special someones were about to come in) and I saw myself onscreen there. So I know it was ugly at the end.
But I did it.
I was pretty worried about chafing. For that reason, I diligently lubed up my crotch and my nipples. Mission accomplished there. No problem. I forgot, however, to lube up my armpits. I'd never really had any problem with armpit chafing. That was a mistake. I'm pretty raw.
Other than that, not too much to report. Most of my toes are a little blistered, but nothing painful or traumatic. My right pinky toe is fairly bruised up, but no biggie. My wrist was a little bloody from my watch rubbing on it. Whatever.
I've never felt closer to passing out after a race than I did in Fargo. It didn't help that the finishing chute went on forever and then, when you did get out of the chute, you had to fight your way through the crowd and up two flights of stairs to get out of the building. So Corinne took me by the hand and guided me as I wobbled along the trek toward a door and a soft patch of grass right outside that door. I collapsed in a heap there and waited while Corinne ran to get the truck and pick me up so we could leave. I didn't even wait around to get my official time.
It didn't seem to matter at the time. I'd done what I came to do. I had the shirt. I had the medal… And I had my wife to do the driving on the way home. I was a happy, tired guy.
Last week at church they showed a video clip of the guy from whom I ripped off the title of my blog. His name's Mark Gungor. And his premise is basically that men's and women's brains are just constructed differently.
Funny and accurate. We're constructed differently. It's not good or bad. It just is.
Don't believe it? Try planning a bike ride.
Eric: We should do that Tuesday Night Time Trial next week.
Me: Next Tuesday I'm supposed to go out to dinner with Erin. But the chances are really good that she's going to blow me off. If she does, let's do it!
Eric: When do they start? 5:30 or 6?
Me: Corinne and Paulette were going to go for a ride tonight, but Corinne wasn't feeling well, so they bagged it.
Eric: Yeah, I heard about that. I made the mistake of asking Gina if she was going along.
Me: What happened?
Eric: She said, "I wasn't invited." She's a little bit hurt.
Me: Corinne was just the opposite. She kept asking me, "Why is Paulette asking ME to go for a ride?"
Eric: What did you tell her?
Me: I said, "For starters, there's the distinct possibility that she enjoys your company, since you two are FRIENDS. But, beyond that, didn't you just tell me two days ago about the conversation you and Paulette had about how great it would be if there was a women's group ride that just went out to ride at a nice, slow, casual pace?"
Eric: Oh, THAT's why they didn't invite Gina.
Me: Right. So Corinne says, "So is Paulette saying I'm slow?" I said, "No, she's saying perhaps you might like to go for a no-pressure, slow ride." And she says, "That means she thinks I'm slow." I said, "But you DO want to go for a nice, no-pressure, slow ride." She says, "I know that. But she didn't have to call me slow. I think she just called me fat, too. And why didn't she invite Gina or Rebecca?" And here's where I made my big mistake.
Eric: Uh oh.
Me: I said, "Because they ride faster. There's nothing good or bad about it – they just do it more often." And she says, "You just called me slow and fat, too."
Me: And I said, "No I didn't. Look, you like to go out and just pedal around casually. Rebecca is more driven to ride races."
Eric: You dumb shit.
Me: So she says, "What? I'm not driven? I do X, Y and Z at work…" And I tried to correct myself…
Eric: But it was too late.
Me: I said, "Of course you're driven at work. You're amazing. You're a rock star. But I'm talking about riding bikes here," And she says, "No we're not, we're talking about whether or not I'm driven." And I tried to point out that you can't be driven in all possible directions simultaneously. There's no such thing as universal drive.
Eric: How'd that go?
Me: We ended up discussing the definition for the word "driven" and I admitted that I was completely and profoundly wrong and had chosen the absolute wrong word.
Eric: Nice try. So are they going to go for a ride or what?
Me: I think so. Someday. They haven't set a date yet.
In fact, I'm going to have a beer tonight. (No special occasion. I just happen to like beer.) But I won't be drinking it out of a Twins pint glass.
That's right. I'm announcing right here – for all the interweb to see – that I am hereby taking my Twins pint glasses out of the freezer and putting them up on the highest shelf. I'm removing them from the starting rotation.
They shall not touch another hoppy drop until the Twins go on a winning streak. I'm not asking for much here. I'm realistic about this team's short-term prospects even if I can't get excited about two games. (Two games does NOT count as a "win streak".) Just give me a three-game win streak. One little win on Thursday at Fenway and I'll fill you back full of foamy happiness, Twins glasses.
See what kind of influence you have with the boys. Rally cap and I are about shot.
My good friend Gina is funny, charming, creative, and one of the most talented advertising professionals I've met in 20 years in the business.
I don't give a shit.
She needs to not travel with my wife. When the two of them leave town together, the moles of craziness start popping up all over my world and I can't beat them all down.
You know, stuff like bloody deer hides showing up on the front step.
A couple weeks ago (it's taken me this long to get the wording on this post to be sufficiently diplomatic) the two of them were heading down to Dallas to sit in on some focus group research. One day. Two nights. No big deal.
Monday. 2:00 p.m. Car leaves Creative Memories parking lot.
Monday. 2:30 p.m. School nurse calls. [unnamed child] is in the process of receiving the first of many monthly gifts.
Monday. 2:35 p.m. I call my sister in hopes that she's available to swing by after school and offer some…coaching. (Because she may or may not have very recent experience in just such…coaching. I'm not sayin' anything. But even if she doesn't, she's got to be a damn sight more qualified than me. Right?)
Monday. 3:00 p.m. I ditch work in order to get home before [unnamed child] because I'm not at all sure how much trauma is involved in this process. Do I need to be there for hugs? Ibuprofin? Emergency laundry?
Monday. 3:30 p.m. Arrive home to find [unnamed child] and her friends already home, running around the house with vanilla scented air freshener and screaming. Evidently, one of the dogs is sick. Evidently, it's the big one. Mr. Whipple, Mr. Clean and I manage to remove, dispose of, and scrub up all trace of four enormous piles of runny dog crap.
Monday. 4:00 p.m. Evict [unnamed child]'s friends and check in to see how she's doing. I suggest a phone call to my wife (who hasn't even boarded a plane to leave Minneapolis yet). To my disappointment, I notice that my sister's not going to be coming by to help with…coaching. She did stop by and leave a grocery bag filled with…paraphernalia…hanging from the front door. Lovely gesture. Very grateful. But stuff I can buy. I know how to insert a credit card.
Monday. 4:15 p.m. [unnamed child] talks on the phone with my wife and with my mother-in-law. Child opts to stay with the pad (whew) and take a shower.
Monday. 4:20 p.m. [a different unnamed child] bursts through the door in tears. The track practice we're almost-but-not-quite-forcing him to go to was too hard today. "They made us run all the way around the fenceline. And my legs just got really tired!"
Monday. 4:45 p.m. Finish reassuring [a different unnamed child] that running all the way around the fenceline is supposed to make your legs feel really tired. And the fact that he had to walk part of the way doesn't mean that's too far for him. It means he needs to do it a few more times in order to build up his muscles and endurance.
Monday. 5:00 p.m. Discover medium dog yacking all over entryway rug.
Monday. 5:15 p.m. Discover medium dog dragging litter-encrusted chunks of cat crap out to deposit all over the laundry room.
Monday. 6:15 p.m. Go outside to clean the car after a long winter.
Monday. 7:00 p.m. Return to the house to discover – based on two steaming, runny clues – that the small dog is also afflicted with some sort of intestinal malady. It's at this point that it begins to dawn on me that this could be a long night.
Monday. 11:00 p.m. Optimistically send all three dogs out for, "one last time before bed."
Monday. 11:50 p.m. Small dog needs to go out.
Tuesday. 12:40 a.m. Small dog needs to go out.
Tuesday. 1:30 a.m. Small dog needs to go out.
Tuesday. 1:55 a.m. Text wife.
Tuesday. 2:20 a.m. Big dog and small dog need to go out. Big dog doesn't want to come in.
Tuesday. 2:55 a.m. Big dog wants to come in.
Tuesday. 3:10 a.m. Small dog needs to go out. What? Oh. I guess small dog must have needed to go out a few minutes ago.
Tuesday. 3:15 a.m. Scrub carpet.
Tuesday. 4:00 a.m. Big dog and small dog need to go out.
Tuesday. 4:50 a.m. Small dog needs to go out.
Tuesday. 5:40 a.m. Small dog needs to go out. What? Oh. I guess small dog must have needed to go out a few minutes ago.
Tuesday. 5:45 a.m. Scrub carpet.
Tuesday. 6:00 a.m. Alarm goes off.
Tuesday. 6:01 a.m. Alarm reset for 6:45.
Tuesday. 6:45 a.m. Alarm goes off. (What? Over an hour? The small dog must be getting tired.)
Tuesday. 7:00 a.m. Come to the realization that I'm working from home this Tuesday. At home, no one makes fun of me when I fall asleep on my notebook.
So, with shaky hands and bleary eyes, I type this humble request: Gina, stay home.
Divorce is awkward.
(What the hell? He goes a month between posts and that's the best insight he can come back with?)
I mean it though. The family stuff is painful. The financial stuff is infuriating. The legal stuff is emasculating. But it's the friend stuff I want to talk about.
When I went through my divorce a few years ago I was scared, confused, a little bit hurt and a whole lot of sad.
And in the process, I did a lot pulling back and insulating myself. I leaned heavily on family and on a few key friendships, but I pulled back from just about everything that could have been considered a "joint" friendship.
I always told myself it was out of respect for them. I didn't want to place anyone in the awkward position of having to choose sides. I'm pretty good at that – convincing myself I'm a pretty noble and honorable guy. Truth be told, I was pretty much just worried they wouldn't choose me.
So, about a year ago, when Erin started asking, "How come we don't hang out with X and Y anymore? I miss them," I was a little uncomfortable. And when I finally worked up the stones to contact X and Y, I was a little uncomfortable. Actually, I was pretty uncomfortable right up until the point where it dawned on me – I wasn't asking them to choose sides. I was just asking to sit down for a beer.
And we did. And it was great. Corinne and I had a great time. I think X and Y had an okay time too. I'm not saying we're planning on renting a condo in Vail or anything, but we are planning on getting together again soon.
You know – normal stuff.
The illegal third dog (Honest, she's not ours – we're just holding her for a friend.) is a stone-cold outlaw. And she can't be caged.
When she sets her mind on escape (most frequently between 5 and 6 p.m., when she's hungry and the chicken's rotissing down at the deli), she's going to slip through the door no matter how quickly it's slammed. (Last week I actually caught her with the door, slamming it down and catching her halfway out. But, even though I pulled harder and tried to keep her constrained till I could reach down and grab her, she was having none of that. She twisted and wiggled and squirmed her way out and was gone.)
And when we do manage to maintain door integrity, she just sets her sights on other escape routes. Since we haven't built a fence yet and I'm not optimistic about invisible fencing with this dog, we've been letting her out on a chain to go to the bathroom. When she decides she really wants to leave, she just positions herself near the anchor for her chain. Then she has her full 25 feet to build up a full, frantic head of steam before she hits her leash limit.
Remember the old Foghorn Leghorn cartoons where he used to have the dog's leash limit painted in an arc? He'd sneak up on the sleeping dog, whale on him with a 2×4 and sprint to the leash-limit arc. The dog would hit that line, the chain would jerk, his collar would hold, and he'd come to an abrupt and painful stop. His tongue would shoot out and Foghorn would be there to grab it and paint it green.
Key thing in that cartoon scenario though was the collar holding. Evidently they don't make 'em like that anymore.
She's broken two of these things with the little plastic buckle clasps. So this time we've upgraded to what's essentially a small-sized car seatbelt.
Wish us luck.
Coborn's has our number on speed dial. So far we've been lucky. They still think she's adorable. But honestly, how long are they going to fall for that?