starting from zero

The Road to CAF 2012 began this week. Since I haven’t run in close to two months due to a variety of nagging injuries, I am effectively starting from zero. Here is the recap of Week 1, as I try to get my body in shape to run 10 consecutive miles by the end of October.

Day 1, Monday, July 2

I wake up and knock out two easy miles. In this context, “easy” refers to the pace – which could also be described as “languid”, “sloth-like”, or “glacial” – and not to how it feels. To distract myself from the horror of how out of shape I’ve gotten, I focus on form, which is a fancy way of saying that the only way I can justify running at speeds that a cow would find laughable (more on that later) is to convince myself that it allows me to focus on whether my toe is pointed up or down as my knee moves into extension and where my foot lands relative to my center of mass. As you can see, focusing on form does not make running more interesting.

Day 2, Tuesday, July 3

Day 2: recovery day. I love recovery days. Just using the phrase makes me feel like I’m part of some elite training team.

For real athletes, “recovery day” mean that they still work out, but they cut back on length of time and intensity. In my world, “recovery day” refers to the act of doing nothing. “Recovery day” has become part of my official training lexicon because it makes the feat of doing absolutely nothing sound like part of a formal regimen. July 4th may have been Independence Day, but July 3rd is Recovery Day. In honor of my first Recovery Day, banks and businesses decide to close a day later. And the 2012 Recovery Day fireworks – also set off a day later – are spectacular.

Day 3, Wednesday, July 4

I intend to run on Wednesday. If intent constituted part of my formal running program, I’d be marathon-ready right now. I so intend to run 10 miles.

Unfortunately, the following equation, known the world over as The Van Halen Theorem, describes the reality of the intent/follow-through gap:




(equals) 2012 VAN HALEN

(Explanation of the Van Halen Theorem: Band intended to tour. Band in fact started to tour. Band then postponed dates. Band then canceled entire tour. Intent minus follow-through therefore equals 2012 Van Halen. It’s a mathematically-confirmable law, like gravity.)

Having fallen victim to the Van Halen Theorem, I instead take my family to see The Amazing Spiderman. Just like I intend to run, Loews intends to show the movie. However, just as I fail to follow through by getting my ass out of bed, Loews also fails to follow through, canceling the movie because of a projector malfunction. I am in the middle of a once-in a lifetime event: a Van Halen Theorem Vortex.

As I struggle to comprehend the enormity of this potentially cataclysmic event, and while awaiting the inevitable cancellation announcement from the Theater Manager, who, I’m sure, has a staff of highly-trained technicians stripping down the projector and rebuilding it like a NASCAR pit crew, I swallow an alarming amount of popcorn, polish off a bag of watermelon Sour Patch, and down a diabetes-inducing-sized soda (also known at Loews theaters throughout the United States as a “large”). This hurts much less than running.

After standing on line and claiming my free movie passes for the inconvenience of undoing whatever good resulted from Day 1, I safely emerge from the Van Halen Theorem Vortex to attend a Fourth of July party. My exercise while there consists of playing two games of bocce. Bocce is not a high-activity sport. Compared to bocce, croquet is the equivalent of an ultramarathon.

While at the party I ramp up the Road to CAF 2012 diet program, inhaling a cheeseburger, hot dog, and pulled pork sandwich. Consecutively. I expect to see this trifecta listed as the optimal diet for out-of-shape runners training for a big race on short notice in an upcoming Runner’s World issue.

Day 4, Thursday, July 5

Fueled by the protein loading of the previous day, I complete another 2 miles. This run feels marginally better than Day 1’s effort. Stated differently, I don’t have visions of my imminent death flashing before my eyes more than two or three times during and immediately after the run.

Day 5, Friday, July 6

I wake up shortly before the plane I boarded the previous night lands in Iceland for a work-related event. While I don’t run in Day 5, I do walk around Reykjavic with 20 or so peers from work for 45 minutes while we wait for the restaurant serving us breakfast to open. Though not advertised as such, the restaurant appears to have a stranglehold on Reykjavic’s bread market. Based on what I see, I estimate that 94% of all bread in Iceland finds its way to Icelandic bread eaters through this establishment. If all the bread for this restaurant came from America, our agriculture industry would be exploding. The chocolate chip croissant is especially fantastic.

I’m not sure what the Icelandic name of the establishment means, but I think a loose translation is “The Carbohydrate Cornucopia”. When someone inquires if there are eggs available, they bring us more bread. When I ask what the phrase on our table mat (below) means, our Icelandic host bursts into laughter.

He then explains it means exactly what it says: the testicles of small farm animals. Surrounded by 200 plates of bread, this doesn’t sound so bad.

Day 6, Saturday, July 7

I arise early in the morning, don the running leg that I have lugged to Iceland with me, and hit the road. I don’t know where I am, nor do I have any sense of how far away landmarks are. The fact that there’s virtually nothing to gauge distance against doesn’t help. (See photos, below.)

So I entertain myself by running some undefined distance for some period of time while observing the following:

  1. Icelandic birds are pissed off. Apparently a one-legged jogger is seen as a likely predator of their young, and they spin around my head, dive-bombing me while uttering noises that can only be described as “horror movie caw”. (I fare better than a compatriot, who actually gets hit in the head by a bird while running.)
  2. Metal grates of death transect the highway just outside the place we’re staying, forcing me to inch my way across sideways to avoid plunging through and suffering grievous physical harm. I later learn from a friend that these grates prevent farm animals that escape their fenced-in fields from gaining permanent freedom by way of paved roads. Because their hooves are too small to cross the grates, they presumably recognize the danger and remain in the right area. Or, perhaps they don’t recognize the danger, try to cross, and plunge through the grates, breaking their legs and/or ribs, and remain stuck there until either (a) someone extracts them or (b) a fast-racing car clears the grate in a horrific, bloody, exercise that Icelanders probably have a cool-sounding name for, but that would leave suburban-dwelling Americans waking up, screaming, in sweat-soaked sheets for the next 10 years of their lives.
  3. Icelandic cows can run. I learn this because I spook them when pounding down the road. A group of roughly 12 bovines in an adjacent field takes off as I approach. I regard this with amazement, having never seen a cow do anything other than sit, stand, or excrete waste (or some combination thereof simultaneously). My amazement quickly turns to depression as I realize that I’m fading into the cows’ rearview mirrors. Quickly. It’s hard to accurately convey the psychological impact of watching 12 cows pull away from you like a Formula 1 race car. And no, Iceland does not breed mutant cheetah/cow hybrids. These are mooing, cud-chewing, I’m-waiting-to-be-tipped cows. If CAF puts cows on or near the course in October, I’m quitting now.

I complete the run in 56 minutes. When I later try and confirm the distance while in an ancient pick-up truck driven by a friendly Icelander, he shrugs helplessly and points to the vehicle’s broken odometer. Amazingly, this street sign doesn’t help me either.

Succumbing to the reality that distance is unimportant in Iceland, I log my entry for Day 6 as follows: “56 minutes”.

I then eat this. More Icelandic carbs.

Day 7, Sunday, July 8

It’s the Sabbath. I don’t do anything. It’s a recovery day. Recovery days that also happen to fall on Sundays are my High Holy Days. To avoid a never-ending afterlife that consists of running up a 35-degree incline, I refrain from running. It is the only spiritually responsible thing I can do. I sit in our lodge and take pictures of the sheep nearby.

They, by the way, are also considerably faster than me. I decide that I hate both cows and sheep.

Week 1 Conclusion: all of this is a very long way from 10 miles.

3 thoughts on “starting from zero

  1. Love your post. You’re an excellent writer. I’ll bet talking to you is a real hoot! And love those pictures from Iceland! I haven’t run since I lost my leg 23 years ago and I don’t miss it, except of course if someone’s chasing me, I’m kinda screwed. I seriously don’t have any idea how an amputee can tolerate the pressures inside the socket while running. Not to mention my absolute befuddlement as to how you keep your limb from sliding off from sweat. Just sayin.

  2. Cheryl – thanks for reading! I think most people who know me would agree that I’m actually much more interesting/funny on the written page than in person. 😉

    Running in a prosthesis obviously requires a really good socket fit, and even when everything’s perfect, you still generally have to deal with issues (breakdown, blisters, etc.) that a lot of amputee athletes just block out of their minds.

    As to the limb falling off from sweat, maybe I’ve just been lucky. I’ve been in both traditional suction (i.e., no liner, just my leg inside a plastic socket) and now a liner-based system and I’ve never had a problem with losing suction.

    The most annoying thing I’ve found about sweat is that it pools at the bottom of the socket or liner, and it feels like you’re walking with the end of your limb in an inch of water when you’re done. It’s always lovely to peel off my liner now in the heat of summer and have a small pool of sweat spill everywhere.


    • Yeah the pool of sweat that pours out of the liner cracks me up sometimes. I just can’t believe no one’s come up with a solution for that yet. I hate the gooshy feeling of it. Which liner are you using? I used to have the old suction socket years ago, but with volume changes from first thing in the morning to even late morning, after walking a while, I had a poor fit. Too many embarrassing fart noises. Even now with the suction liner (I only know of one with a single ring and one with several) I fear volume changes would still be a problem. I use the pin system because my prosthetist thinks I’m better off with it. Who knows. I never tried.

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