All good things must end. Until they begin again.

With less than a day under the belt to ponder what went down yesterday at long last, I’m smiling. The only grimaces come from striding slowly but comfortably on some sore toes (damn you, oh long second toes of alleged royal birth!). And already I’ve got my narrative recap zingers ready to go. Because it’s all about the story, and what I take from it. That, dear reader, is always the point.

Training for a marathon is a process. Judging from those all around yesterday, the best runners are the ones that do it and do it and just keep on doing it. Which for a ridiculously large number of people means that your body breaks down. Most of my running was back a hearty number of years, essentially ending as I entered my 30s and began to bulk up like a bear heading toward his winter cave. When I came back to the process of training a year ago this past summer, I had some major work to do. A few miles without stops was tough. But it got easier. And back around the time I started this blog, I was thinking I could get ready for a marathon length. In comparison with all the strength I saw bounding by me yesterday (especially as I struggled through mile 22), I’m a mere pup. The oldest pup you’ll ever see, reborn after years out in the wilderness spinning away from the path of my own self-determined life story. But a still a galdang pup.

Yesterday was the test of my process. Everyone parses and itemizes what went right, wrong and otherwise after the fact. Myself included. But the executive summary-length recap I’ve boiled it down to goes a little something like this. I couldn’t have been happier with the way I got to the starting corral. Weeks – months, really – of final prep and obsession had me ready to just do the damn thing. I got in line with the professional pacesetter I knew to look for from Clif Bars – he of the “3:20” signage and surrounded by a like-minded group of hopeful Boston qualifiers. The early stage went well. But around 10 miles I made the mistake of thinking I could move up a bit and give myself some leeway. By 17, the group made it’s way up as I made my way back. As we crossed the Franklin Avenue bridge and approached 20, I knew I was in trouble. My slight fade became a cramped up disaster at 22. After close to a mile of walking, I fought through and started moving for real again. The last 5K chunk wasn’t pretty. But I finished as a runner.

There’s only one stage that really matters to a marathon runner worth a snot sandwich. That stage is what you do today – the day after however much you ran yesterday. In other words, the process of training is ongoing. And this stage for me looks far brighter and far more sensible than it did just a few weeks ago. Because I’d set up this internal narrative where I would qualify for the Boston Marathon and then just casually get ready for that race while trying to renew my focus on the other writing projects that should take precedence in my life. That narrative was a self-indulgent whim, unbounded by reality. I couldn’t have just casually trained for Boston. And I might not have seen how incredibly lucky I am to have rediscovered the competitive “me” in this process, while realizing it’s just not that easy to erase over a decade of misdirected time and unhealthy actions. So my current stage is that of short-term recovery. A few days off. Then…well, I want to run again. Not as a stunt. Not to act as if my own past bad choices didn’t actually occur. I want to run again because I just plain love to do so.

So a morning spent back in my old college haunts (starting with an early breakfast at the delightfully timeless counter of Al’s Breakfast in Dinkytown). After a night out with friends at the also timeless Nye’s Polonaise Room. And then back to Seattle. Where all my blessings and plans for the future reside. Along with some running loops that I’ve come to adore in the process of training for the Twin Cities Marathon. I look forward to getting back out there. Maybe someday I’ll come back to this to this race. And then, as surely as I see the sun rising and all the young Gophers walking to campus for early classes, I’ll kick the bloody snot out of the full 26.2. Until then, thanks for checking out what I’ve had to say along the way. Get yourself out there. We all should do it while we can.

Today’s run – at least in terms of this blog – comes to an end.
Skoal Piviskin.

How often do you throw up in the shower and call it a good day?

If I’d run 20 miles, it would have looked durn good. As it was, mile 22 was a bit of a pip. And I fell off the table timewise thereafter. Surely looked a bit ragged at the finish. Came in around 3:35 – I needed a 3:20 to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Yet I can’t be disappointed by that. In fact, I’m feeling fantastic. After a few rough hours getting straightened out in my hotel room, of course. I’ll give it the full once over tomorrow. Tonight I’m meeting some college friends out to try and explain who the hell I am these days. Should also be a pip. But of the very, very good kind.

Today’s run – 26.2 miles around Minneapolis and St. Paul
You know, I didn’t even look at the temp. But it was gorgeous all day. Still is.
Days until the next Twin Cities Marathon – 364. Not that I’m planning anything…
Once more – see you tomorrow.

A day made for poses, the backdrop is set

It’s the sort of day in Minneapolis when families are posing in Loring Park, dressed identically for holiday pictures. It’s the sort of day when an October wedding in Minnesota sounds brilliantly conceived. A touch of wind. An early chill. With sun you forever pray to capture on film, even though you’re better off just experiencing it firsthand. The drive over from Wisconsin this morning came after one last before dawn walk. Around noon, I picked up my packet in downtown St. Paul, marveling at how quiet the streets are from the Fitzgerald Theatre past Mickey’s dining car all the way over to the River Center and back. Oh, sure there are plenty of people milling about. It’s Gopher Homecoming weekend, to boot (a loss is a loss is another loss, as far as that goes). But everyone has space enough to give the impression of limitless margins. I’m now prepping to go have a casual dinner with my parents, who came over to watch the race. Then I’ll hopefully just settle in for the evening. Early. Tomorrow will be here soon enough.

Today’s exercise – a few walks, some stretching, not many yawns
34-degrees in Sconnie, not cool enough for frost
The Twin Cities Marathon is tomorrow.

All the way there. Well, except for one little thing.

My training runs are done, as of before dawn this morning. All that’s left are a few longish walks along the dirt and gravel roads near my childhood home. Where I’ll just move and stretch and breathe in the shockingly clean country air that should be immediately bottled and sent off under armed guard to Woody Harrelson. Then, all that remains is the marathon Sunday morning. Yawn. The fact that there’s been next to no drama as this whole cycle winds down is a victory for which there will never be a parade. And very soon I’ll walk away from this self-improvement project just as easily as I say goodbye to this blog on Monday (expect a race recap then the full Marcel Marceau). Maybe someday I’ll cycle back around and reflect on what I’ve thrown down in the process. Or maybe I’ll just focus on putting this energy into the other endeavors that demand attention. I won’t crumple up and toss the moments of reflection I’ve already been afforded. Like this morning when I chatted up a few of my high school coaches when I stopped by school to use the weight room one last time. I know, I know – if you do that sort of thing a handful of years after graduation, you’re a total Wooderson. But if you do it at my advanced age, you’re enthusiastic. Or something to that effect. Whatever the diagnosis, we’re just about ready to stick a fork in this thing. If you care or want to take our stalker/stalkee relationship to the next level, you can track my progress via the Twin Cities Marathon’s “Athlete Tracker” – standard texting rates may apply. Or just check back. I’ll have to put the final car on this train of thought. Here’s hoping it’s a purdy red caboose and not a big ol’ dirty coal car. Either way or anywhere in between, that train’s soon leaving the station.

Today’s run – 5 miles in and around Rib Lake, Wisconsin
36-degrees, red sky morning
Days until the Twin Cities Marathon – 2
See you tomorrow.

Retracing routes ’round Rib Lake

A new shoe endorsement normally would be enough of a hook for a daily post. Such as my first test of the Brooks “Ghost 3” lightweight trainers that I love like a newborn child (translation: no flaws seen…yet). But grading those puffy kicks got lost for me in the grander consideration of running around the little town I’d not seen on foot in 20 years. Rib Lake, Wisconsin. I’m not only a graduate from the school system. I also ran the bloody blisters out of the town’s streets way back yonder high school way. So this morning I simply had to do something of a cloverleaf run around town, focusing time and again on the pre-dawn light spilling over the horizon and off the glassy-topped lake of the same name. After that enjoyable jaunt, I stopped in at the high school knowing that they open up the weight room/gym for the community in the mornings before school starts. My old gym teacher/basketball coach was even there, working the night prior’s kinks out on the treadmill to the accompaniment of FOX News (FYI – I’m so with you, Michelle Malkin – Stephen Colbert HAS been outed as a dirty little something something thanks to his snarky testimony before Congress and we should all not be a guest on his show if he ever asks at long last). I couldn’t imagine a better way to start this particular morning. Well, possibly aside from cozying up in the freaking adorable cafe I’m now surfing in another town, Tomahawk – What’s Brewin’? (free WiFi, adequate digital espresso pour, INSANELY good fudgey treats). I don’t have long left in Sconnie before I head over to the Twin Cities. Thoughts of that marathon should actually be at the forefront of my thoughts. Or at least that’s what I expected. Still, I hope getting my spirit ready for the race is just as important as what I’ve done for my body over the last many months. And days like this do so so much for the spirit.

Today’s run – 6 miles in and around Rib Lake, Wisconsin
44-degrees, as clear and crisp as a slap from your prom date
Days until the Twin Cities Marathon – 3
See you tomorrow.

Few places feel worth more than a “Hill of Beans” this time of year

I’d have a hard time fully itemizing the heart and breadth of Wisconsin I’ve seen in the last 48 hours. With good intentions of giving a daily blow-by-blow, I was nonetheless stymied at day’s end yesterday (universally uninteresting computer issues). But you can turn back a page in your calendar to note that I got in a run along the Fox River Trail once more, which I can’t recommend more highly to runners out there looking to do a there and back loop when they’re in Green Bay. Then savored few hours of hang time with my brother (Kavarna Coffee earns my respect for pulling a decent shot of espresso…and for being a bunch of vegetarians amidst the most bratwurst crazy burg in the country). I thoroughly enjoyed a handful of hours spent in downtown Appleton hanging with an old flame in town from New York (Facebook stalker reunion success story – yes, they do happen, America). Then some obligatory family time in Wausau with the udder brudder, before the after dark drive back up to Ogema. Too much highway time, even though all the roads are increasingly lined by the seasonal color everyone waits for anxiously. Much better in that regard was this morning, spent in the only coffeehouse in my childhood neighborhood. Hill of Beans is steeped in charm, with the most outrageous views in all of Sconnie this time of year (they’re nestled into the lake shoreline with an unobstructed sightline of the highest point in Wisconsin, Timm’s Hill). There we had breakfast, chatted up everyone who ambled by and got full-on tour of the property from the owner (a family friend from way back). Stellar day. But I still need to run. Focus. Eyes on the prize. And not just the stunning Wisconsin landscape.

Yesterday’s loop – 6 miles along the Fox River Trail
Today’s plan – 4 miles
49-degrees, fall the way advertisers dream might be for real
Days until the Twin Cities Marathon – 5
See you tomorrow.

“Can I get that carrot zinger with sauerkraut?”

Downtown Green Bay. Two concepts that don’t sound especially natural together. Kind of like monkey tuxedo. But after a sweet run along the Fox River Park trail to get the morning started, I’ve now moved onto the surprisingly sweet combination that is downtown Green Bay. Confused concept businesses in constant transition, ridiculous amounts of available parking, overly friendly locals, tons of gameday Packer garb. Oddly enough, we’ve ended up in the most awesomely out-of-place joint. If you’re headed to Green Bay before the end of the week (I’m looking at you, America), definitely stop in here – the Urban Frog. Juice bar and truly delicious salads. Zero customers aside from us. Which is probably why they’re closing on Friday. After this, an obligatory pilgrimage to the Packer Hall of Fame. Game tonight viewed from barstools at my younger brother’s favorite hole in the wall. Now THIS is marathon training.

Today’s run – 5 miles along the Fox River Park Trail in Green Bay
40-degrees, crisp clear and fantastic fall
Days until the Twin Cities Marathon – 6
See you tomorrow.