Tag Archives: Holiday Hustle

Of Cats and Ornaments

“Do you mind if we don’t put up the Christmas tree this year?” my wife asked recently.

That was surprising. She’s the sentimental one about the holidays, while I quietly grouse about lugging the dang thing up from the basement, followed by the boxes of ornaments and sundry decorations. But our kids won’t be visiting us over the holidays, and we’re hosting just one small family gathering. So I assured her I had no objections.

Then I ran the Holiday Hustle 5K and took second in my age group. The award is an ornament, which a) I wouldn’t be using, and b) I have several of already. But I took it anyway. Well, who says it has to hang on a tree? And perhaps I took it because of this memory:

What, climb that tree and play with those delicate ornaments? Never crossed my mind!

Gabby was a wee kitten when I brought home my first Holiday Hustle ornament in 2011. I kept the fragile blue ball in its protective packaging right until I brought it to the tree. As I gently placed it on the coffee table to ready a hook for it, Gabby poked her little head up. Her face was easy to read: “Ooooh, what’s that? Is it fun to play with?”

“No, you don’t!” I said, quickly picking it up and out of her reach. Relieved to have rescued it, I slipped the hook on – and missed – and dropped it. So I ended up going to Running Fit and spending ten dollars for another one, because, dammit, there was going to be a Holiday Hustle ornament on that tree.

And so there was!

The memory is bittersweet because we had to say goodbye to Gabby during the holidays last year. By the time we discovered her abdominal cancer, it was too late to treat it. The family and vet agreed it was kinder to put her down then, rather than have her suffer through a busy holiday with the house full of people and dogs. We’ll always miss her.

This year our two newest cats, Buster and Ruby, will celebrate their first Christmas with us.

Mousie on a stick is irresistible!

We adopted them in January, and they’ve provided the energy and playfulness we hoped for. (Our older cats may have a different opinion.) Perhaps it’s unfair that they won’t get the chance to bat the ornaments and climb the tree, but there are plenty of other things to play with in the house. On the other hand, this year’s ornament is unbreakable, so maybe I’ll let them have a go at it.

So our house won’t have the controlled chaos that reigned here during the holidays for so many years. And we won’t have a tree, or even any decorations on the house. The holiday week for us is setting up to be a low-key, quiet affair.

I’m looking forward to it.

Ten Years of Racing!: A Celebration, and a Lesson Learned

Last Saturday’s Holiday Hustle in Dexter – a fun and otherwise ordinary end-of-season 5K – was memorable for me. Ten years ago, the 2008 Holiday Hustle was my first-ever official race.

That’s right! A dedicated non-runner until my mid-forties, I’d begun with just a few short runs here and there to supplement bike rides and Aikido training. Then, finding out about the Holiday Hustle just a few miles from my house, I said what the hell and signed up.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Last Saturday I joined the crowd in the starting queue with over a hundred races to my name, from 5Ks to marathons and beyond, including two 100-milers and my (current) longest distance of 150 miles, accomplished last June at the Veterans Memorial. Had anyone predicted this back then, I’d have laughed and said they definitely had the wrong guy. Well, you know what they say about truth and fiction.

So there was definitely something to celebrate and enjoy about this year’s race, and I did, although like any 5K I run, it was a sufferfest for all 3.1 miles. I finished in just under 21 minutes, and claimed second in my age group. On paper, a good solid result, especially because I went right back to work heading up the event’s Zero Waste team. No sense going all out and killing myself over this race, right?

“Santa, I want a worm composting bin for Christmas!”

Except that’s not how I felt.

I wasn’t expecting a PR (personal record) because I’ve trained this year mostly for ultramarathons, and not for short races. And given I set a PR for the 50-mile distance, and got two podium finishes, including a win, I have zero complaints about that.

Third at the Dogwood 12-Hour race in March

1st at the Veterans Memorial 150 in June.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But at any race, competitive runners (at any level) should give themselves the best chance to do well, whatever that means that day. And I didn’t do that at the Holiday Hustle.

How so? First, I didn’t warm up thoroughly, contenting myself with a quick half-mile jog followed by a few strides. To best prepare my body to run hard on a cold day, I should have run at least a mile easy, coupled with dynamic stretches to get fully loose. And I should have lined up much closer to the start than I did, because I knew I’d be weaving around other runners for the first half mile otherwise.

Why did I sabotage my chance at my best effort? I’m really not sure. Perhaps subconsciously I wanted to give myself an “out” if I didn’t run up to my expectations. Which, as I well know after all these races, doesn’t work anyway. Compounding a poor run with poor preparation, or lackadaisical attitude,  doesn’t help. So much better to think, “I didn’t meet my goal, but I gave it my best shot. And that’s all I can ask!”

I can’t do anything to change the result, of course. All I can do is change my attitude going forward. Even a fun holiday race is still a race, and there’s part of me that wants to do it well. So – chalk up a lesson learned. And, Lord willing, there will be plenty more chances to apply it. Ten years is just the start of what I hope are many, many more years of running adventures. And I’ll be sure to share them with you right here. Thanks, as always, for reading!

 

Chilling Out, But Still Running

BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE.

Winter has Michigan firmly in its grip. The snow is falling, the wind is blowing, and we have below-zero wind chills. So my non-runner friends have begun asking (with tone assuming Yes), “So you’re done running for the winter,” and “I suppose you’re doing your running inside now?”

Nope.

First Snow Run 2015-2016

I admit it’s harder to get motivated to run outside than in the non-winter months. Here I rely upon sheer habit, and having others to run with. So far it’s worked, even with my new 6:00 a.m. midweek run. The only thing crazier than my friend Hirak and I running together last Wednesday in the frigid dark was that we saw a few people running solo. Sorry, but that’s just dumb – slip and sprain your ankle at that hour, and you could be a statue by the time the ambulance arrives.

I run year-round but I consider this the “off season” when it comes to racing. This means the workouts at Body Specs are pretty brutal, but they’re meant to build strength for the spring and summer. So I cut back a bit on distances and don’t race as much.

It's as much fun as it looks.

Yes, that’s a tension strap around my shoulders. It’s as much fun as it looks.

I did sneak in the Holiday Hustle 5K on December 10. Since I was also managing our Zero Waste team for the race, I was there from setup through teardown. So my afternoon went something like this:

– Freeze my tail off for four hours
– Get warm for 20 minutes running the 5K
– Freeze my tail off for two more hours.

I think he brought the weather with him.

I think he brought the weather with him.

So you might think I would be looking forward to a nice warm interlude until the Bigfoot Snowshoe 5K in late January. Do a little training on the treadmill, or just curl up by the fireplace with hot chocolate for a few weeks. Seems only fair.

So what did I do?

Signed up for a 50K trail ultra. On January 7. In Michigan.

And I’m looking forward to it.

The Yankee Springs Winter Challenge in Middleville, MI.

The Yankee Springs Winter Challenge in Middleville, MI (photo from their page).

To the inevitable question I can offer two reasons: because 2017 is my “off the wall” year for athletic events (more to follow there) and because I’ve never done a winter ultra before. So why not?

And you know what? Yesterday morning’s run with the PR Run Club started out pretty chilly and bleak, but we had a good turnout anyway. And halfway through, the sun came out in a bright blue sky, and the snow around us lit up in brilliant white. And boy, did hot coffee taste good afterward.

That’s why I run outside in the winter.

I really must run!

     (But baby, it’s cold outside.)

Go gotta have fun!

     (But baby, it’s cold outside.)

From Couch Potato to Hustler

POP QUIZ: What’s the hardest thing for a runner to do?

(Hint: It isn’t running fast, or running long.)

sledge-dog-300x250

ANSWER: Nothing.

That is, the hardest thing an active guy like me can do is be inactive. And just how hard it is manifested itself today.

Now, the term “active” can mean more than lacing up and going out for a run or bike ride. For me, the term includes useful work at the office, doing needed upkeep on the house, financial and life planning, and creative writing. “Inactive” to me is sitting or lying around watching TV, reading, or taking a nap.

You have no idea how hard this is.

You have no idea how hard this is.

I woke up Saturday morning feeling listless and a bit rundown. (I’m sure it had nothing to do with being up until 2:00 a.m. playing Dungeons & Dragons.) Even so, I slept in until 9:00, on a day when I usually get up at 7:00 to go running. But this day was my final race of the year – the Holiday Hustle in Dexter – and it didn’t start until 4:30, so I had the entire day to rest up before hitting the bricks for a hard and fast 5K.

As the day wore on, I was not feeling better. So I lay down to take a nap and read. And all the time I was doing that, my mind was nagging me: Hey there, slug – why don’t you haul your lazy butt out of bed and do something useful. You’ve got several hours before the race and stuff you could be doing. Like reassembling the treadmill, for instance.

It didn’t help that this was the book I was reading;

Living With a SEAL book

So I’m lying there like the proverbial rug, reading about how this guy is running six miles followed by 200 pushups at any hour of day or night, basically whenever the SEAL tells him it’s time to train. And he’s doing it, much to his surprise. (Hint: If you don’t want to feel guilty about sitting around doing nothing, read a different book.)

Bonus: Learn more here about Jesse Itzler, an entrepreneur and ultrarunner who decided his life was “drifting on autopilot” and wanted to shake things up a bit. Good Lord.

Finally, about two hours before race start, I got up, changed into running gear, and had a bite to eat. With the temperature around 60 degrees (in December!) I would wear short sleeves and shorts. Usually at this race, there’s ice on the roads and it’s a battle to keep warm until the race starts.

Santa's alternative mode of transportation.

No snow? No problem. Santa has alternative modes of transportation.

In a form of penance for all that idle time, I rode my bike the four miles from my house to the race, with the added benefit of not having to park a half mile away. By the time I arrived, I was warmed up and my energy was back.

As for the race, it was typical of my Holiday Hustle experience. In the first half mile, I convince myself I don’t have it today and will probably keel over. At one mile I’m feeling a little better, which allows me to slog out the second mile. I get a second wind for mile 3, which is mainly downhill, and go hard to the finish.

This year wasn’t a PR, but I was again able to sneak under 20:00, and just a couple of seconds behind last year’s result. Not bad for wondering earlier if I shouldn’t just jog it.

Remember when you didn't need any motivation to run?

Remember when you didn’t need any motivation to run?

After some recovery and the awards ceremony (3rd in my age group), I biked back home, feeling surprisingly good. Legs weren’t even sore or stiff. Maybe this occasional inactivity thing has its advantages. On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if a bit more training intensity would also benefit me.

“I hope you’re not planning to have a SEAL live with you for a month,” my wife said.

I assured her I wasn’t. I figure I need at least three months.