Monday, April 29, 2013


in the long time between one step and the inevitable next, catastrophe and progress hang in stillness.

catastrophe is a relief, a death of a tragic hero who has already wrought so much demise that the only blessing left to end it all is to end it all. progress is going forward. and in the split second between one step and the next, we are confronted with both. stop. or continue...

i have spent the entirety of this new year, and the month before it, confronting catastrophe and progress in their staggeringly repetitive possibility. one step after another, i have taken the long run from 12 kilometers to 34. yesterday marked my last 'long' run, and it was back to 12. between me and race day, there are only 13 more kilometers to run, divided up between rest days and angst days. i do not know exactly what will happen.

i have most recently tried to describe my apprehension as something akin to baking. i've put in my mileage, like flour. i've put in my speedwork, like eggs. i've put in short runs and tempo runs and stretching and foam rolling like all the other things that bring the cake together. the mix is right. it looks right. it feels right. but i have no idea how it will all turn out until i put it into the oven on race day. the unknown is a bit of a torture device. its effectiveness is increased with the amount of risk and the volume of the investment. i have worked this steadily and this hard and with this discipline for very few things in my life. and then there's that small problem of not having a smidge of running talent.

spending the day with underachieving youth is one way to galvanize one's personal mottos regarding the notion of quitting. don't. and settling? don't. with these things in mind, i tend toward my usual modus operandi: aim much higher than even conceivable to achieve, and die trying. this said, my goal is simple.

i left work that day and pedaled quickly and safely to pick up the girls and clunk home in my dirty mountain bike shoes, yellow duct tape highlights and trails of mud. the lady whose desk faces mine had a son in boston, a son who was there to run the marathon. it wasn't until i had already picked up one girl and was on my way to the next that i got the text, and started checking in with twitter and online news. someone had bombed the finish of the boston marathon. 

my first reaction is usually anger. 

there have been times that i've frozen, not really knowing what to do or where to go, but there are many more times that my first reaction is to curse the idiot who caused the pain, and then start trying to figure out what i can do to be productive about it all. of course, there was nothing in either case. boston didn't know who did this heinous crime or why, and there was nothing some random guy in toronto could do about a bombing in a city a thousand miles away. (i need to become more important.)

it has been a couple of weeks since the main conflict of the boston marathon bombing has been mostly resolved, and much of the world, as it does, has gone on. i had running club the next night, but there was no moment of silence. i talked about it a lot with the youth at work, but it was mostly aimless ranting among people who don't even run or know where boston is. it was good, nevertheless, to engage in dialog about it all, because it was in that conversation that the goal became bigger, more solid, tempered, and sharp.

the goal is to qualify for boston. 

probably a whole lot of people want to qualify for boston. probably a whole lot of people can and will and have a lot more going for them than a few months of training, a young body cursed with a very fast qualifying cutoff, and a dream. but i think that the bombing, the audacious insanity of someone so overtly cowardly and hostile, calls up a little more inspiration to my fuel cell. i run better on emotion than any caffeinated gel or super-duper-e-load bottle. remember owen, the kid in the walker who covered 5k with a severe muscle disorder? i saw him in the last kilometer of my last half-marathon, and it was on sight of him alone that i managed to buck up and bring myself home, cheering and tearing that one brave kid. next year, boston will be nuts. chastened, perhaps, but nuts. i have a feeling it is a city not to be undone by one heartless tragedy, that it will come back even stronger, even louder, even bigger. 

and i can't wait to be there.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

we put air in our tires
and blood in our veins
we were trainers and
and we all wanted
the same
moment in the light
or two or seven
and for it we sold
every reserve in heaven


a lot of the long of it is about even more of the short of it, once around and once over and once around again, until the monotony becomes interesting again, but not too interesting because that would be pain, and there can only be so much of that before there is collapse.

and so it went, one foot (mostly) in front of the other a wind gusting like a strong palm into the middle of my back, headphone cord jostling wildly like an untethered lust song, whipping truths about with maladies, from underneath my red raincoat. raincoat. i went for a 33k run in a raincoat.

17k is no longer a long way to run, just like 80k is no longer a long ride, just like the end of P2A surprised me entirely, as i had not yet surrendered to the inevitability that i was bad at the sport and should just quit it all, at only 58k out. but then the wind. at 17k, exactly, promptly, somewhere between a rushing blue minivan and its silver sedan counterpart in stupidly-close-driving-to-pedestrians on aviation parkway, i turned around, and faced the wind that had been molesting me for the past hour and a half.

first, it ripped out one headphone, and lashed my insolent face with the cord. then it spat snow shards into my eyes, whistled through my empty ear, and threatened to dismember me of the member i could no longer feel, chafing compression wear be damned. the final point was a full-body shove in the direction opposite to my intended course. i actually had to brace, and almost step backward. being a short person, i am used to ducking and bracing, so i tucked in, faced the wind like a damn boxing opponent, and stepped forward in a staggering defiance, shoulders hunched and fists poised.

the wind had become a wild thing.

this spring has been anything but smooth. there are barely flowers and buds out, and most of them lie damaged in each other's arms, seeking solace from the fickly sunshine and ever-present rain. the girls wear rain boots more than running shoes. and my riding kit is always wet. my lady just asked me about yet another load of laundry, as she's done one a day since a double day before the weekend. it's wet. we're training. it's wet.

long runs combined with long nights combined with the daily stressors and detractors from downtime combined with every weekend away racing and running and running support have left us all a bit bedraggled. sleep is deep and hard and very, always, short.

and then, last night, nick told me i was running well. he hadn't seen me out last week, and i don't think he was at workout the week before, but then we did hill repeats last night, and it went well. there's a marathon in two weeks. the forecast looks (mostly) not-quite-wet. the goal is audacious. and i've left my bike to gather dust while i focus every bit of training on putting one foot in front of the other, a few thousand times, in three hours. don't tell anyone, but this goal is ridiculous.