Sunday, August 28, 2011

Leaden Skies

The phone rang yesterday at 7 a.m. It was John who asked, "Do you still want to do it?"

I looked outside at gray skies and low light but no rain. "Let's do it," I said.

Thirty minutes later we were underway on a seven mile run from Bluemont Park to Shirlington and back on the W&OD Trail under ominous skies and moisture-laden air. Hurricane Irene was offshore to the south somewhere, working her way north.

We did 9:45s going down and ten-somethings on the way back which is slightly uphill. It was the furthest I've run since Army 2009, at which 10-mile race I suffered a debilitating over-use injury to the tendon in my left ankle.

It was a joy to be out there, knocking off the miles, talking with a friend, nodding to passing runners, knowing the whole weekend would be stretching out luxuriously before me when we finished well before 9 a.m.

We threw in a long exhilarating sprint at the end trying to overtake a runner in the distance pushing a running stroller. One of us passed her just before the end, one of us fell just short. Breathing hard, sweating profusely, we exchanged high-fives at the end of our perfect seventy-one minute run under leaden skies.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A once in a hundred years earthquake

This week I was in my 3d floor office in the District when the floor shook. I looked out the window to see if a heavy truck was passing by, or if there was a flash and a blast noise out there, or if the trees were whipping about.

Nope. Earthquake!

A minute later the floor rocked and rolled under me for 45 seconds. It felt like liquid jelly underfoot.

I got the hell out of the building before the upper six storeys had a chance to collapse on me. Wrong thing to do, say all my left coast friends.

What was wrong was that my work-force marshaled across the street, to take names and check them off, under a six storey building with a four foot overhang around its upper level. Those cascading chunks of concrete could have killed me for sure if there had been an aftershock of magnitude.

So I sit here today and consider my three lovely sons, Jimmy Rogers (he changed his name on his 21st birthday he loves his Mother so), Johnny Lamberton and Danny Lamberton, whom I haven't heard from since 2003 (they were minors then when they were enlisted by her for offensive use in the divorce proceeding, they're adults now).

I paid every cent of child support for all those years, and have paid or guaranteed their full college tuition and fees in Virginia state schools. I thought they might have called to see if I was alright after the historic earthquake.

Nope, and their Mother, Sharon Rogers Lightbourne of Fairfax City, a first grade schoolteacher (!) in Falls Church, refuses to give me their addresses (or indeed any information at all about them, even if they're well or, well, dead). There's a saying, Jimmy Johnny and Danny, see ya wouldn't want to be ya!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Speed Work?

I been running this summer, combating the other-worldly heat this summer ("feels like 117"), trying to build my base back up after a year and a half off due to injury. With my co-worker L, I have been running three times a week at noon on the Mall five miles each run, with a "long" run on Saturday morning with John on the W&OD Trail.

My bum left ankle feels tweaked from the twenty-mile weeks I have been putting on it, despite the cortisone shot it received awhile ago. But I dutifully pull on my ankle brace each run and make sure I get out four times a week. I used to run five times a week at 9:00 miles 35-40 miles each week, but times have changed. (L keeps me honest on our runs. Her husband is a hero who returned recently from deployment in Afghanistan.)

Now I trundle about at 17-21 miles each week at 10:00 miles and love its effect upon my out-of-shape conditioning, having dropped to 205 pounds in the last half-year, halfway yo the return to my former "ideal" weight. My running buddy L is coming back from C-section surgery while I am rebounding from hernia surgery. I keep my mouth shut, as this woman who used to be considerably slower than me now pulls me along. I satisfy myself with the thought that I have made her faster.

So this morning, I resisted running "long" as I lay in my bed, content that L was on vacation so I didn't have to look forward to five miles with her on the Mall. I decided to do a "speed"workout.

Without pulling on my brace, I went to the curb to run my neighborhood mile to see what my speed had become (or dropped to). I used to be able to pull these runs off in 6:50s. (Mein John.)

Off I went, running on feel. Although I set my watch, I determined not to look at it, even once, during the mile. I didn't want to hurry up my run to meet a goal or slow it down due to despair if I was fading badly midway.

I felt good running uphill the first part, feeling like I was moving with alacrity. My labored breathing didn't hinder me as I was able to manage my discomfort of being out of breath during my exertion. Half a year ago this would have been crippling.

Coming back on the out-and-back, I resisted several times checking my progress on my stop-watch and came into the zone of a placed radar-zone display for approaching traffic to dampen speeding in residential areas. I ran full on directly into its sweet zone and couldn't generate a reading for my speed. Huh!

At my driveway, the ending point, I hit my stopwatch and saw 8:01. If I had been monitoring my time I would have busted the eight minute mark. I am very happy with my current speed.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The 16 ouncer

I ran 10K on the C&O Canal Towpath yesterday in 60:54, jumping in with my friend Ashley while she did 14 miles getting ready for the MCM in October. For the first time in a long time the running came easy, just like in the olden days, abetted by the company of a good friend and the forgiving surface of the towpath.

When I let go of Ashley after five miles to return to my car while she finished her much longer run, I even practiced picking people off the last mile. Team in Training was out there ahead of me and the last quarter mile I ran hard to overtake three runners who were a hundred yards ahead of me. It was fun and I felt good.

Then I went to the Steak 'N Egg Kitchen on Wisconsin Avenue for an artery-clogging breakfast, ordering the Old South Sunday, a meal of biscuits & gravy, 2 eggs, hash browns, bacon and sausage (but I eschewed the extra cheese). While I ate I marveled at the clockwork-like efficiency of the eight persons working in the narrow space behind the counter, three cooking on the grill, three more waiting on the counter diners, and one worker each busing and dish washing. A ninth person handled the outside patio from the other side of the counter and she obviously knew everything that was going on with all the orders.

One patron ordered a T-bone steak with his eggs and seemed disappointed when the steaming meat slab with juices dripping off it was put in front of him. "Is this 16 ounces?" he asked. When assured that it was, he proceeded to eat it with relish. The place was packed and it never closes.

Friday, August 12, 2011

You know there's an Italy, right?

I have been running this summer, fighting the brutal heat of July while I go on 3-5 mile runs three times a week at noon with my co-worker running buddy L, the two of us egging each other on. It seems that every other run one or the other of us has to break our run down to a one-mile recuperation walk somewhere in the last half, but as our conditioning improves, those interludes are getting fewer. One day the air temperature reportedly "felt like" it was 117. The office dreadmill runners regard the two of us as crazy to be running outside but hey, we're only doing 10-minute miles, and we always bring water. I also "go long," run 6 miles, every Saturday.

Last week I ran 23 miles. I have shed half of the excess weight that I put on in my year and a half of inactivity while I nursed my ankle injury. Or should I say that I have only shed half of the excess weight I put on while inactive all that time?

Last month I took my summer vacation, flying to Minnesota to see my sister and attend the memorial service for my uncle who died in the spring. From there I drove across the Dakotas to Montana and back, visiting a number of Indian Wars (Sioux War) battlefields, drove around the Badlands and walked around the Devils Tower in Wyoming. The Sioux kicked the Americans' ass twice, at the Fetterman massacre in 1866 in Wyoming and the Custer massacre in 1876 in Montana. Not a single trooper with the engaged U.S. detachments survived either of those battles. (Right: Custer, two of his brothers, a nephew and about forty of his remaining men died on this hillside while trying to reach the Little Big Horn River marked by the green strip of cottonwood trees in the background so that they could assault an Indian encampment on the other bank that contained ten times as many well armed fighters as they had in their entire initial assaulting force.)

When I got back, a friend who had been following my trip thanks to my FB posts and who knows that I have never been outside of North America said it sounded like a great trip, especially since I was a history major in college and I read military accounts for relaxation. Then he asked if I had ever, uh, like, considered going to Europe or Asia or Africa? It's a big world out there he added, just in case I missed the point.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The day I almost died.

A friend of mine chastised me recently for having a "thin" profile pix on my blog, that comes from 2009. Since then I have been out of running b/c of an injury, and I have put on a lot of weight. So here is a 2010 pix for my blog, which I shall make my blog profile pix, taken the day I came w/in a few seconds of drowning under a wrapped boat in a rapids on the Dolores River in Utah. It changed my life; obviously I didn't die. I no longer fear death.