Almost a year ago, I was having a conversation with one of my best friends, John Chaney, and we decided to run a marathon together. He suggested a half marathon, I mocked his masculinity, and we agreed to run the full marathon in Austin. And about a week ago, on February 20th, we ran the full marathon, 26.2 miles, around the relatively hilly streets of Austin, Texas. Even though it was days ago, I’m still trying to digest the experience. I think it might help to parse things out a bit.
Despite my dreams, there was no “Heart’s on Fire” montage or any other heroics. And, despite my hopes, it was tough. Originally, my plans were for a sustained training program (here come the excuses). I had a hard time in the Lubbock heat (especially given the city’s apparent hatred for functioning water fountains), and my schedule really got thrown off when I had gall bladder surgery, got married, and went on my honeymoon in the span of a few weeks. When I finally got back on schedule, it was early in the fall, and I had to use an abbreviated schedule.
It was tough. I know that sounds obvious, but I feel like it deserves to be mentioned. I’m a runner, and I figured gradually running further once a week wouldn’t make that big of a deal. I was wrong. I kind of hit my threshold early on around 8 miles. That lasted until a run where I accidentally went further than what I was supposed to do–the GPS on my iMapMyRun app wasn’t working and when I threw my route onto GoogleEarth after the workout it revealed I had run about 9.5 miles. I was good to go until about 16 miles, when I plateaued out again. This lasted a few weeks, until I was finally able to push through it under optimum conditions (good weather, no deadlines, and my hydration belt finally arrived). I maxed out at 20 about three weeks before the race, and stepped down the training until I reached Austin.
I jogged about 1.5 miles the day before the race, during which I remembered just how much I missed running in Austin. The night before John and I (accompanied by our wives) went out for pasta at the Tree House Italian Grill (John’s meal was apparently great, mine was definitely awful). We went to bed at a decent hour, woke up at 5:45 a.m., and made our way to the starting line. At 7:00 a.m., the race started.
Well, sort of. About 20,000 runners actually participated in the Austin marathon (~13,000 half-marathoners, ~6,000 full marathoners, and ~? 5K runners), and so it took us about 16 minutes to actually cross the start line. John-John and I were aiming for about 11 minute miles, and we stayed pretty close to that for the first 16 miles or so. It was rough. I thought the toughest part would be the point in the race where the half-marathoners broke off to finish (and we kept on going), but the real tough part was around mile 16 or 17, where you realized that you still had over two hours of running left to go. Ouch. Anyway, at that point, I had to slow down a bit (some miles more so than others), but I owe my time to John. He was a true friend, doubling back a little bit and jogging alongside me. I think he probably could have ran it about 30 minutes faster (and I could have run it about 30 minutes slower), but he took one for the team. I tried to get him to run ahead, but he (obviously) refused. I owe a great deal of the enjoyment of the race to John.
The rest I owe to the crowds. I’ve run races before (5K, 5 mile, 10K), and while the crowd was great (esp. in that last kick), I never thought it would be so essential. In Austin, people lined the streets, bands randomly played, people had speakers blasting music (the runners absolutely lost it around mile 7 when some guy was playing Thriller), and in general just being really supportive. I almost punched some guy who said we were currently on “the last hill” (it was not) and the few people who said we were “almost done” (we were not), but the thousands of other people were giving out free high fives, cheering us on, holding up signs (my favorites were “Because 26.3 miles would be insane” and “If this marathon course was easy, it would be called your mom!”), handing out bananas and candies and orange slices, and just generally being awesome. I never thought cheering could mean so much, but between miles 17 and 22, it meant everything.
26.2 miles later, we crossed the finish line.
Overall, it was a great experience to have, but honestly, as of right now, I just don’t see me doing another one. On the one hand, I think it would be really cool to become a marathoner, traveling around, working on improving my time, and finding other cool marathons to run (my colleague John ran the Minneapolis marathon and said it was excellent–I’ve also always dreamed of running the San Diego marathon, which is supposed to be gorgeous). Then again, I really love to run (I really do). And during the training process, I really started to dread going running. It was great for the extra motivation during the middle of the week (on the 4 – 6 mile runs), but Sunday just loomed in the distance. It was depressing waiting for the run, especially right before I left (“I’m going to run 18 miles…I’ll be back around 3:30”). It would absorb the entire day and, while Lubbock has its moments, the city was just not made for long runs (flat and boring).
Whether I run another race or not is irrelevant. What I can say is that I finished a marathon. The time was not great. The experience was rough. The training wasn’t pretty. But dammit, I finished. I consider it one of my greatest accomplishments, and I’m honestly proud of what I did.
Red Nightmare is a short propaganda film about Jerry, a man who takes living in the United States for granted (he even lied about his wife’s parents coming to town so that he wouldn’t have to go to a union meeting!!1!!one!!!). Dragnet superstar (and Red-hater extraordinaire) Jack Webb has decided to teach Jerry a lesson, and so Webb decided to give Jerry a Red nightmare (just like the title!). Jerry wakes up in an alternate reality where the U.S. is run by Commies. There is no such thing as church, the State comes and takes his daughter off to a Commie work farm, and (what finally pushes Jerry over the edge) the Reds have even claimed that they invented the telephone. Bastards! Watch this film in its entirety here, if only for the beginning (the Commie training camp) and the end (when Jerry loses it).
When Mr. Ken Conaway showed this to my high school history class, I became fascinated by anti-communist propaganda from the 1950s and 1960s. I immediately decided to start collecting anti-communist propaganda. I’ve bought a few movies (including shorts and instructional films) from the era, and a number of my monster movies feature creatures who represent clear warnings about the dangers of communism (I’m looking at you Them! and The Blob). Alas, that’s about it, mostly due to the TA salary the past six years.
That said, when I do start my collection in earnest, I want my first item to be a board game called “Victory Over Communism.” Listen to this description from boardgamegeek.com:
“Players are given cards containing questions and answers about communism. Every correct answer gets a player a Slave Country card, which frees that country from Communism. Every wrong answer brings the players one year closer to 1973, the year the rules quote as when the Communists will meet their goal of world domination.”
The questions the players have to answer are far from unbiased. Here are a couple from the playing cards (with answers):
QUESTION: Is the “cold” war a real war? ANSWER: Yes, the “cold” war is a very real war. It has enslaved more people than any “hot” war in history.
QUESTION: How much less per bushel did the United States government sell wheat to our enemy, the Communists, than to the baker who bakes your bread here in America? ANSWER: The enemy, the Communists, bought wheat from the United States for 62 cents less per bushel than your baker pays for it right here in America.
QUESTION: What would have happened to anyone who suggested sending food or military goods to Nazi Germany during World War II? ANSWER: Anyone who suggested sending food or other goods to an enemy would have been tried for “treason” or carted off to a mental institution.
Here are a few more images:
I can’t find this anywhere online for sale, but someday I’ll track it down and I will rescue the enslaved Communist countries, Jack Webb-style! BAM!
While in Austin, I really developed a taste for TexMex, warm weather, and margaritas. Thanks to bartending school, I’m always on the lookout for a good margarita recipe. And, courtesy of Claire, I found a great one…from Chili’s of all places. Who knew?
Anyway, if you’re interested:
1.25 oz. tequila (Sauza)
.5 oz. Cointreau liquor
.5 oz. brandy
4 oz. sweet and sour mix
.25 oz. lime juice
Shake well and pour over ice. It’s smooth but you definitely start to feel the alcohol after awhile. I add a little extra tequila in mine (because I heart tequila), so play around a little with the amounts. I realize the Cointreau and Sauza are a little more top-shelf than most people like, but it absolutely pays off.
Let’s face it: Valentine’s Day sucks. It’s just like so many other over-hyped holidays with expectations so ridiculously high that they can never be met (I’m looking at you, New Year’s Eve). To couples, it signals the day of the year when you’re supposed to prove your love, though that does call into question what you’re doing the other 364 days of the year. To singles, it’s the end of a long winter drive of dealing with other couples, a journey that begins on Thanksgiving (or T-Give, as the kids are calling it these days), has a layover on the 25th of December, and then culminates on Valentine’s Day. After that, it’s smooth sailing (apart from some choppy waters on warm summer nights). That metaphor kind of got away from me there (is the single person driving? Flying? Boating?), but you get the idea.
Well, this year was the first year in a long time when I actually involved in an official relationship on Valentine’s Day (nothing is quite as awkward as unofficial relationships on Valentine’s Day). To celebrate, my girlfriend flew into the Quad Cities International (really?) Airport, where I picked her up and stole her back to Iowa City with me.
It was a fantastic weekend. For reals. I couldn’t believe it. Normally, when I organize these types of special occasions, it turns into an impromptu seminar on Murphy’s Law. It becomes a cascading avalanche of fail, with each plan failing in perfect concert with the others; occasionally, even jumping the gun to get a head start. But this time, it worked. Oh, sure, I had to drive out in a blizzard to get a wine key and the garbage disposal backed up (for the first time since moving in four years ago), but compared to most plans by Joshua T. that’s an incredible success rate.
We just had a blast, lounging around watching movies, exploring Iowa City, and even stepping out for a meal or two (when I wasn’t whipping up a gourmet meal of brocolli cheese and chicken soup or macaroni and cheese for lunch). Claire (the aforementioned girlfriend) had a great time as well (or so she says) and I was just really pleased with how it all worked out.
Part of me wishes I had some kind of crazy story about how the weekend collapsed in on itself like a dying star so I could fill some extra Web pages, but for the most part I’m glad it all worked out so well. I have high hopes about this girl, and this weekend was definitely a step in the right direction.