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Minor Miracles and Marathons

One week ago, I completed the Portland Marathon. Even as I started out, I truly did not expect to finish, because two weeks ago, I hurt my feet. Initially, I thought my feet would heal within the week and I would be able to do the marathon, but at the week wore on, my feet weren’t getting better. So, I slowly came to the realization that I would be watching my friends run the marathon, not participating myself.

Down in Portland, however, my mom suggested that I invest in some new shoes, since the ones I had were fairly battered. I thought it was a bad idea, because breaking in new shoes during a marathon didn’t seem that smart. But then my friend Scott, who run done a few marathons in his time, agreed with her, saying that good running shoes don’t actually need to be broken in. Thus I found myself in a Sports Authority on Saturday night buying new shoes.

Also on Saturday, I spent some quality time in a hot tub, which seems to have, in large part, miraculously healed the blistering and bruising on my right foot. Combined with the new shoes, I suddenly started believing again. Maybe I could complete the marathon. I really wanted to get this out of the way, because during training I discovered that I didn’t like long-distance running at all, and if I didn’t finish the marathon now, it would bother me until I finally did, so getting it out of the way was pretty important to me.

And thus, I found myself on the start line of the 2009 Portland Marathon, in new shoes, new shorts, new socks, and wondering how far I was going to go. I started out by walking. I found that by turning my left foot a little further out than normal, combined witht eh new shoes, I could eliminate the pain that I usually felt in that foot. The right foot, as discussed earlier, seemed to have spontaneously healed in a hot tub. Or maybe it just got better all week and I didn’t notice until after getting out of the hot tub, but that story isn’t as fun. And so I walked. And walked. And walked.

A few miles in, I was feeling alright, but I was still skeptical about my chances of finishing — after all, the previous week, I had felt pretty good until a popped blister suddenly halted my progress. When asked by my cheering family if I thought I would finish, I simply shrugged, and kept on walking. About 10 miles in, still walking, I noticed that my left knee was protesting a little to my left foot’s new outward position, so I started changing the position of my left foot around a little, which helped enough to keep going.

At the half way mark, I actually started to believe for real. I was slowly feeling worse, but I could tell that the rate at which I was feeling worse would get me well past the finish line. So I continued to walk, miles slowly ticking off as I continued to pound sports drink and occasional gummy bears from enthusiastic volunteers.

Walking gives one a lot of time to talk to people around you, since it certainly isn’t your respiratory system that is maxed out. I met a few nice ladies (I seemed to be in the pace preferred by 50-60 year old women), and generally had a good time, depsite the creeping pains.

Around mile 24, I started flirting with the idea of running the rest of the way, but I found that it was hard to get myself to change the motion that I had been doing for six hours already. At mile 25, however, I actaully did start running, albeit slowly. Even at the barely-running pace, I was quickly passing people, which helped me keep it up. But I promised to myself that I would actaully kick up my feet and really run after mile 26. Thus mentally preparing myself, I found that I actually could do it this time, and I came across the finish line considerably faster than anyone else around me.

Six hours, fifty-five minutes after I crossed the start line, I finished a marathon.

It was nice to be done.

Blistering

Today I went for my final “tune-up” walk/run before next week’s Portland Marathon. I know by now that there is no way I will survive actually running 26 miles, so I am planning on a hybrid walk/run (mostly walk), not unlike Theo, although I certainly won’t be keeping up 8 minute speed-walked miles.

Today’s adventure consisted of 14.3 miles in about 3.5 hours, which is around 4 mph. I walked the first 9 or so miles at a pretty good clip, then started running back on Middlefield. A few miles into the run back, I had a sharp pain in my heel, so I stopped to check it out and found a popped blister. I found it hard to even walk in my shoes immediately after that, so I actually went barefooted for about a half mile before deciding that shoes would be better in the long run.

So, I put my shoes back on, and adjusting my gait a bit, was able to stay mostly pain-free. I even got up to a pretty good clip with a modified gait and a good amount of ignoring the pain.  At Loma Verde, just over a half mile from my house, I ran into a friend from work, who was tooling around town in his brand new rally blue Subaru Imprezza WRX. He offered me a ride home, and it was a pretty good way to end an otherwise kinda crappy walk/run.

20090927-walk-run

I managed to listen to music the whole way, thanks to the iPhone and another not-as-advertised iTunes experience. But that may earn its own post.

Second Bay Ride — Page Mill Road

After watching the Huskies lay down the law against the USC Trojans, I took off on my second “Bay Area Ride” yesterday. I started out on my road bike and headed back to Big 5, where I returned the crappy pump I picked up last week. Then I headed up Page Mill Road, which true to its reputation, offers a difficult hill climb and some stunning views. Fifteen miles into my journey, the sun was getting low in the sky, and I was pretty whipped, so I turned around. No sooner did I start my descent then I head a twang, which sounded a little too familiar. I stopped and checked out the bike, and sure enough, I had lost another spoke on my rear wheel.

I had a long way to go down, with my rear wheel rubbing my brake pads (which I had already loosened) the whole way down. Also, I didn’t know how much lateral stress the wheels could take, so I took it pretty slow around all the curves. It was not as much fun as it otherwise would have been, but at least the bike survived all the way back.

Page Mill is definitely a ride that I’ll want to do again, hopefully to the top soon enough. It is certainly a good way to work on my (rather poor) hill climbing skills.

Bar Area Ride 2

Week in Review

I just ended a busy week. Highlights were pulling an all nighter Wednesday to Thursday grading Operating Systems projects, then running two OS sections on one hour of sleep right after that. Friday was more grading, this time of OS midterms, with the other TA and the teacher. After that, Theo and I went shooting. Wednesday my intramural Ultimate frisbee team lost for the first time this season — also our first playoff game, so we’re out that quickly, after going 4 for 4 in the regular season. It was my last shot at an intramural championship, so I was pretty bummed. This was the best team I had ever been on. Also this week, I ended up “finding” a place to live in Palo Alto. Actually, my friend Scott did all the finding, just keeping me informed via phone. The place is really nice, with a pool and sauna.  It is close enough to Facebook to bike. The downside is that it is expensive, but it’ll be alright for the first 9 months while I get settled in.

Also, I want the Rockets and Magic to win their game sevens in the NBA playoffs. It doesn’t really matter too much though, because Denver and Cleveland will meet in the finals.

Tennis

For the first time since I tore my ACL, I played tennis. My roommate Matt and I headed down to the local tennis courts for some court time. It has been a long time since either of us played, and we were both pretty rusty but after a while we got warmed up and it turned into a real game.

Matt ended up winning 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), and I realized that my wrist muscles are not what they used to be. On the other hand, I was playing a lot better in the second game, and if we make a habit out of this we may end up getting significantly better.

My knee felt great throughout and, just as with the frisbee I’ve been playing on Sundays, I’m not noticing any pain or swelling after vigorous activity. The sporting life is good again.

Super Bull

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a biased observer. After the armpittsburg stealers stole (with help from the referees) Super Bowl XL from the Seahawks, I have basically been anti-steeler. So I was unhappy that they made it to the Super Bowl again, but I held out hope that the Arizona Cardinals would be able to pull out a win. Nevertheless, I maintained a nagging doubt — the mighty, popular, league-favored, presidentally-blessed stealers versus a relatively small market, perennially crappy, barely-sold-out-playoffs NFC West team like Arizona — who would the league want to win? Would the referess try to throw the game again?

Unfortunately, the nagging doubt was right, and for the second time in four years, the stealers have an illegitimate Vince Lombardi Trophy.

This time, at least, the referees tried to hide their bias a little more. They overturned plays that they obviously had to instead of ignoring evidence (like the phantom quarterback sneak touchdown in XL). They even threw some flags against Pittsburg when it wouldn’t hurt them (the defensive holding against Fitzgerald) or when it was beyond blatantly obvious (the atrocious on-field assault by Harrison). They nevertheless conveniently ignored holding on Harrison’s runback, at least one blatant steelers block-in-the-back, and let us not forget the phantom roughing the passer and running into the holder penalties. Thirty yards given to the stealers right when there initial momentum was in question.

Then of course there were the two terrible calls against Arizona that required coach’s challenges. Unlike in tennis, however, in football you don’t get an infinite number of correct challenges — you only get three, maximum, so basically the officials tied the hands of the Cardinals by making sure that they couldn’t use a challenge on a play they weren’t absolutely sure was wrong.

The coup de grace, of course, was the failure to review Kurt Warner’s “fumble” at the end of the game. It sure looked to me like his arm was coming forward when the ball came out, but even it it really was a fumble, there is no excuse (other than wanting the stealers to win) for not reviewing the play.

The stealers may have six super bowl titles, but at least two of them came at the expense of teams that outplayed them and outcompeted them throughout both games, and deserved to win. Instead, in both cases, the league and its referees ensured a different outcome. This is modern American sports, I guess. Make the game exciting, but make sure the right team wins. It makes me sick. I just wonder if I’ll have the gumption to stay away.

Wonderful Game

Today I had the opportunity to attend the BYU vs UW football game at Husky Stadium. Having attended both universities, I was pretty excited to go out and be able to cheer no matter what happened. For the event, I wore my UW shorts, UW Class of 2008 Shirt, and my BYU hat. Given that I was in the general student seating (Dawg Pack), it was easier to cheer for the Huskies than the Cougars, but I found myself happy with pretty much every touchdown.

The game wound up being wonderfullly entertaining, ending on a blocked kick after a somewhat contoversial, but in my opinion correct (by the rules) unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Whether the rule is a good one or not, I would have to say no, but I cannot fault the referees for enforcing the rules. Overall, I thought the game was very fairly called, and its hard to get more exciting than a touchdown with two seconds left to (almost) tie the game.

Note: Bobby was unhappy with the ending.

I, however, thought that the Huskies made a number of improvements since last week, and I no longer think that the season is a lost cause. I think the game against Oklahoma next week will be competitive, and there is hope for a bowl this season. Time will tell.