I ran a half-marathon Monday night. It was 13.1-mile training run that almost threatened to leave me laying face down in the parking lot of a Honey Baked Ham store with a bad hamstring (the irony!) about a mile from the finish line. Instead, I limped across Sierra Madre Boulevard, yelling "motherfucker" to no one in particular, avoiding arrest (we're very civil here in Pasadena) and ending my little jog.
The good news: I ran my course through the mean streets of Pasadena, San Marino, South Pasadena and back to East Pasadena in 2 hours, 6 minutes and 36 seconds. And I did it without losing control of any bodily functions or having my nipples bleed. Nor did I get hit by a car -- a major accomplishment in an area that boasts some of the most untalented and assholic drivers on the planet.
I mean, really, what kind of spacehead drives with their brights on at 7:30 p.m. on a street with street lights? The kind, apparently, that wants to blind joggers trying not to fall on uneven, unlit sidewalks. This is what happens when you populate an entire city with 110 year old people and send them to Denny's for the early-bird special dinner at the same time. By 7:30, they're nearly comatose and I resemble Big Pussy in 'The Sopranos' -- a big, fat target.
What does any of this have to do with hockey?
Well, about the same time that I decided it was imperative that I learn to play hockey, a friend of mine and I signed up for a 5K race in late March in Pasadena. I barely trained and went on a ski trip the week before the race. And then I ran a terrible race. I'm not going to publish the time it's so embarrassing. Mothers pushing two-ton strollers filled with quintuplets were beating me.
My friend, on the other hand, came in three minutes ahead of me and I swear she was showered, changed and reading an issue of 'Modern Heels' by the time I staggered across the finish line and began gagging. I seriously thought I was going to have to turn in my membership card to the Male Species right then and there.
Naturally, my friend and I quickly signed up for a half-marathon. I can't recall why. I believe it may have been a decision made in the presence of alcohol. I do kind of remember thinking that running would help me get in shape for hockey. All this was happening the same time that my Siberian skating instructor was conducting some fascinating experiments that involved seeing how much I could sweat over the course of an hour.
To make a long story short, I began running in earnest in April and have slowly increased the workload since then. It has actually helped the hockey -- as tired as I get during scrimmages, I don't appear to be quite as close to a fatal heart attack as some of my friends also learning to play.
But, let me be very clear about something: running is boring. Really fucking boring. If I had to break it down mathematically, I'd say running is about two percent as interesting as playing hockey. And the only thing that keeps it interesting is the prospect of collapsing in a strange part of town and perhaps being lucky enough to score a "sponge bath" -- wink, wink -- from Nurse Jenny* in the hospital.
Assuming, that is, I survive long enough to be admitted to the hospital and am not removed from said hospital because of my shitty health insurance courtesy of the Newspaper Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken.
In any event, it's now 12 days until my half-marathon in Long Beach. To say I have a major case of the yips is putting it lightly. I'm waking up every night going over my race strategy. I'm reviewing my friend's race strategy. Shit, I'm reviewing the pacing of all 7,000-plus entrants.
I suppose there are some positive things to dwell upon. My times have been dropping -- I'm faster and can run longer and the horrible breathing sounds I make have eased. I've dropped a few pounds (four of them on Monday night alone). On the other hand, as I write this it's about 5 p.m. and I've had five meals already today. I can't stop eating. I wake up sometimes in the middle of the night and wander downstairs for a snack because sleeping is, you know, so exhausting.
All this is my way of saying you can expect some serious obsessing on this blog for the next week-and-a-half until race day.
Of course, the race is a prelude to a big decision: now that I've spent $25 on a water bottle with special runner's nipple and invested a lot of time running, what do I do? Keep running? Or retire my running shoes and spend even more time trying to hockey stop to my right.
Big decisions loom.
*In this particular fantasy sequence, Nurse Jenny looks a lot like Cate Blanchett and wears one of those old-timey nurse hats and has the ability to commit unspeakable acts of pleasure with her lime green sponge. Yeah, I know -- the lime green part is weird. But fuck you -- it's my fantasy!