Are You Properly Trained ?
Article by: Dick MichenerReproduced with permission of the author
"Are you properly trained?" I'm thinking to myself as I approach the two-mile turn of my ten mile loop through my neighborhood. That question applies to two areas of my life. Let me know what you think.
One aspect of proper training refers to my physical conditioning. I'm a still fat, and hardly young, but also serious runner who is moving at 11:30 a.m. on a hot and cloudless day, perfect for tourists sweating on beaches and in amusement parks, but challenging for runners. A witty friend has informed me that "only mad dogs and Michener go out in the mid-day sun". My doctors and my coaches, my wife and my friends, they all are supportive, simply cautioning me to take it easy and to stop and come inside at the first hint of heat exhaustion or other problems. I follow their advice.
Now considered a recovered heart patient, I do some relaxation and visualization techniques and press on. Sweat is pouring off my nearly shaved head, saturating my headband and stinging my eyes. My clothes are already drenched. This aspect of proper training is fun.
The other part, however, the other side of proper training, is not fun at all, and it's definitely my fault. My wife Sandy, bless her heart, she is my best friend and one true love after nearly 35 years of marriage. However, she is a farm girl, and so she bounces out of bed before dawn, cheerfully heads out the front door for her long run in the cool and quiet, and wonders, in a chipper voice, why I don't come with her. By the time she heads out, I have stumbled out of bed, walked stiffly to the kitchen, prepared my caffeine IV, and maneuvered safely through the patio door onto the back deck without tripping over our Shar-Pei's as I let them out. If by some future miracle I qualify for Boston, and the starting time is changed to 7 a.m., I will still be swaddled in my hotel bed and miss the race.
This other aspect of training, this story which I am about to relate, I have not admitted previously to anyone, even and especially to Sandy, and there may be some hell to pay when she reads it. As a retired R.N. who was a blessing to her elderly patients, she does subscribe to the theory that, if cleanliness is not directly next to godliness, it surely is in the same section of the same ball park.
As I said, it's my fault, no doubt about it. I have constructed a repeat loop course around our venerable city neighborhood, a rectangle a mile long and half a mile wide, with two small lakes. My idea is to promote safety and security, because weather in this part of the world can suddenly and unexpectedly turn violent, wild winds, blinding sheets of rain, and lightning. Experts consider this area to be the lightning capital of the planet. My idea is that, if a problem arises, I can scoot back to the shelter of my home, no more than half a mile away from any point on my course.
As I said, it's my fault, because I had more than one cup of coffee before heading out the door this morning. Actually, I had three cups of coffee. Bad for my blood pressure; worse for my bladder. A few years ago, I was standing in a long line to reach one of the urinals during a morning bathroom break at a business conference in a local hotel. Few of us were young, and someone got us talking about which we would prefer, if a genie in a light beer bottle allowed us to choose one of the following: a 21 year old hair line; a 21 year old waist line; or a 21 year old bladder. The reincarnated bladder won - hands down.
As I said, it's my fault, because I always walk half a mile to warm up and, instead of proceeding non-stop to the starting line of my run, I chat this morning for half an hour with an elderly neighbor whom I have not seen in a while. Both he and his wife are having health problems now. Not only is he one of the nicest people ever created, he is also the early-warning radar of our neighborhood, knowing and relating everything about everybody. If some truly delusional dictator decided to conquer the USA by firing off a bevy of missles, and one was targeted for some inexplicable reason at our neighborhood, my elderly neighbor would have spotted that missle and notified the Pentagon before they were even aware of it.
As I said, it's my fault, because I can feel the caffeine churning and burning inside of me, so to speak, but I do not choose to walk a short distance back to my house before I start to run. If I had not stopped to talk, my ten mile run would be nearly half over. If I return to my house and relieve myself, I fear I will lack the resolve to go back out into the heat, and this is my ten mile day.
That's why I'm practicing Kegel exercises as I come upon the two mile turn. I recall the sage advice of an elderly member of my running club, an authentic age group ace, who offered me an extra strong cup of coffee as I registered for a waterside 5K race which she was working. I told her about my bladder situation. She replied that she had a similar problem but she always was able to keep it under control, so long as she kept running. When she started walking, she added, then the problem erupted. I kept her advice in mind and, a quarter mile from the finish line during an out and back course, I could hear her shouting: "Hold it in, pit stop! Keep it going!" Only I knew which runner she was encouraging.
As I come around the two mile turn, I'm thinking about heroic runners who have completed their prescribed distances in spite of problems with bodily functions. Greta Waitz! Uta Pippig! All the different runners in Addidas ads! Me?
Something finally has to give, and there is no sequestered place in which to give it. Fortunately, I have just read an article about ways in which one can discretely relieve oneself while running in public, if nature calls and there is no other alternative. As I look around, there are only nice middle-class houses set on nicely manicured lawns, void of humans or aliens.
As I turn the corner, a yappy little dog charges from his front porch, nipping at my heels until his little legs (but not his mouth) are exhausted. Understand me. I love all of God's creations, and especially dogs. However, I decide to relieve myself a tiny bit, discretely under my shorts. Splash! Nobody notices, the little dog jumps back, and he never bothers me again.
My breathing eases a little and there is a slight spring in my step. Gazing around, I realize that there are few people who will notice anything which I am doing as I run. It is hot, and it is shortly before noon. Cars and pedestrians are equally rare along my route.
As I near the five mile mark, however, a nemesis stalks out of his house to confront me. "Still out running, huh; still out looking for a heart attack; huh?" The same question always phrased in the same way. The only time he has run in twenty years is dashing to the bathroom between commercial breaks on his beloved big-screen television. "Thank you for asking," I reply as usual, "but I've already found one." He stalks back into his house and I turn the corner by the far side of his yard, shaded by a large oak. Splash. Splash. I feel pleased to have honored him, rather than to have argued with him, as I zip on by.
I'm feeling so much better that I could swear I'm flying, so to speak. The elusive ten minute mile seems not only possible but probable. Then, as I pass the seven mile mark, I feel another burning, and it's not the soles of my shoes speeding along hot asphalt. Luckily, I am nearing the only commercial buidling in the neighborhood, a support building, mostly a place for technicians to get their assignments before heading out on their daily rounds. Only one car is in the parking lot. No one is in sight, anywhere. I lower my head. Splash. Splash. Splash. I keep running, but I don't know how discrete that was.
Suddenly, I spy a young female who perhaps works in the commercial building and has just begun her luncheon run.. She comes around the corner and signals me to stop. I slow down to an idle jog, anxious and apprehensive.
She smiles. "I've just started running. I wish I could run like you. I wish my dad would run like you. I want him be around as long as you. How do you do it?"
"One day at a time, one step at a time," I reply, truthfully. "You can absolutely do it. So can your dad. I'm halfway through my eighth mile out of ten today. I'm a recovered heart patient." I resume running.
"Oh, I needed to hear that. God bless you." Her shoulders relax and her step livens as she moves in the opposite direction. "Because of you, I know I can do two miles today," she shouts back over her shoulder.
My burden lifted, and also lightened, I sprint the last two miles, cross the finish line, and stare in amazement at my watch. An unintentional PR on this route today, 2 minutes and 18 seconds faster than I have ever run this ten miles before.
As I stride into my home, Sandy emerges from the kitchen and asks, "How was it? You look better."
"Considering the conditions," I reply, "it was great. I'm relieved."
Dick Michener is a runner, a writer, and an internet entrepreneur in St. Petersburg, Florida, USA. One of his running goals is to keep pace for 5K with several of the seventy-something ladies in his running club.