I was initially planning to hold the Second Annual Inaugural Irma Gerd 8 Mile Classic on Monday, seeing as how I had 8 miles on the schedule and the first running of the event had also been a Monday. Seemed symmetrically preordained. But, as is ever the case, life intervened. I found out I had to spend all day Tuesday in Florida with a client who likes to be wined and dined and always insists on closing the bar of whatever restaurant they make us buy them dinner at. So I knew I wasn’t going to get my Tuesday workout in on schedule. I decided to move the workout to Monday, Wednesday’s off day to Tuesday, and Monday’s easy 8 (and the Irma Gerd Classic) to Wednesday. Roll with the punches, amIright? All went well, until I was boarding my plane home Wednesday morning with the usual client hangover. My phone buzzed. I read the text, turned off my phone, and pulled out a book.
My grandfather had passed away, arrangements would be forthcoming, and I had to be up in Jersey by Friday morning. Before anyone offers condolences or feels bad, let me be clear, my grandfather was 92 and kind of a prick. This wasn’t a surprise to anyone, and his children argued for two days about who would give the eulogy because no one could think of anything positive to say. The only topic he was able to hold a civil conversation with anyone on was baseball, and in my 36 years he probably said 150 non-baseball words to me. 144 of which were “Happy Birthday” and “Merry Christmas”. Is this oversimplifying a sad situation? Sure. But the point is this was, at the time, more an inconvenience than an emotionally trying episode. I was more broken up when The Wife made me throw out my favorite pair of running shorts because the holes they had grown left nothing to the imagination.
After a few moments of reflection while we taxied and climbed through the clouds I started scrolling the Delta app to make my travel plans. Hurricane Florence, fittingly enough for the occasion, was forecast to be over South Carolina and North Georgia right as I was looking to fly home. The Wife and I both had meetings and hectic work schedules the following week and couldn’t afford days of flight cancellations and delays, which I knew was inevitable since flights were already disappearing as I was looking at them. I knew this meant I’d end up having to drive, which meant the tempo scheduled for Thursday was in jeopardy. Who wants to do a 12 miles tempo run after sitting in a car for 13 hours? Or who wants to sit in a car for 13 hours after a 12 mile tempo run?
So I got home, discussed plans with The Wife, and decided Irma’s 8 (ish) would have to be the tempo. I quickly got dressed and not so quickly went through my shoe tying routine, which has been exacerbated lately. I’ve always been very particular about my shoes when I run. You see, the toes of my right foot tend to bump up against the end of my shoe if I don’t tie that one tight enough. And I like my shoes to be tied equally tightly so they feel the same as I run. But if I tie my left shoe too tightly I get pain and bruising on the top of THAT foot. Apparently my right foot is longer and my left is fatter. This results in a shoe tying routine that looks to the casual observer like a severe case of OCD as I tie and retie my shoes roughly 4,387 times before each run. This routine and over tightening of my shoes is (I’m pretty sure) what caused the tendonitis that has been hampering me lately. It’s not so bad really, as long as nothing is touching the tops of my feet. So as long as I avoid wearing socks or shoes I’m good to go. Motherfu*^*!^@$*^&#@!%&. I’ve had to skip runs, shorten workouts, tape bags of ice to my feet at the office and come up with all kinds of weird lacing patterns to be able to limp through runs. I’ve even had to cut half the tongues out of my shoes to avoid them brushing the fragile connective tissue. I can run without the pain becoming unmanageable, but my shoes are so loose my feet are now covered in blisters and I’m losing 2 toenails. But I can run.
I got to the gym, claimed my treadmill, and started doing my leg swings and little warmup routine. As I was doing this a wannabe gym bro came up to me. I’d seen him before, he’s one of those guys who wears a hoodie with the sleeves cut off, capri tights under knee length shorts, and unlaced basketball shoes to the gym. But he weighs about as much as I do, so not sure he’s getting his money’s worth from his trainer. Oh yeah, he has a personal trainer come and yell at him in the gym every week. I saw the giant hulking trainer, who looks like Tommy Lister, glaring at me over his shoulder as he asked me “hey, uuhh… can I do my 3 minute warmup before you do your run?” Now, normally I’d growl and ignore this. But the other treadmills were in use and I know this guy has seen me spend over an hour on the ‘mill before. “3 minutes?” I asked. He sheepishly nodded and I waved him up and decided to do some more leg swings. He even wiped down the treadmill when he was done.
I got through my mile and a half warmup without incident, and got started on my GMP miles. Deebo was screaming at the Little Bro and was scaring the crap out of everyone else in the gym, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying. Anxious for anything to distract myself from how hard the pace was already, I tried to eavesdrop. He was yelling something about not wanting it bad enough or some other tired cliche, but Little Bro was sipping from his water bottle. I assumed he was trying to motivate him for the next set, or excoriate him for quitting on the set before, but as soon as he started the next set he got quiet and just started counting reps. Once that set was finished, he yelled again while Little Bro rested. This strange pattern repeated from lat pulldowns to curls to inclined bench, and Little Bro never flinched. Maybe this was why he still had the arms of a marathoner. I had made it through the first two GMP miles, but was working too hard.
My misshapen troll feet were sliding around in my too-loose shoes and I could feel the hotspots getting moist, so I again looked for a distraction. By now the other treadmills had changed over, and next to me was a girl walking while on the phone. I eavesdropped hoped for an interesting conversation, and I was not disappointed. This is, as close to verbatim as my memory allows, what I heard:
“Yeah, so get this. I was talking to my mom, and she told me she was using her eyelash curler… yeah I know, right?? Anyway, so she’s using her eyelash curler, and she said she sneezed!! I was like OH EM GEE, did you like, rip your eyelashes out or something?!? And guess what… yup, SHE. RIPPED. OUT. HER. EYELASHES!! ...I KNOW, right?? So anyway, she wore fakes for a while, and they looked whatever. But then I saw her yesterday and they had finally grown back and LET. ME. TELL. YOU. Her eyelashes… looked… AMAZING. They were SOOOOO thick! ...I know right, who would have know? I tell you, they looked so good, I’m SERIOUSLY thinking about plucking all mine out so they grow back all thick like that.”
I have nothing to add to that. I could not make that up if I tried, even though I wish I did because the thought that this person is out there in the wild every day scares the hell out of me. Imagining this person driving a car, using a stove, handling sharp objects and doing whatever it is they do for a living occupied my mind for another 2 miles. I was halfway through, and the pain in my feet had gotten to the point I needed to stop and readjust my shoes. At least, this was my excuse, I may have just needed to catch my breath.
As I struggled and wheezed my way through my last few GMP miles, I saw someone waving out of the corner of my eye. It was Little Bro again. “Hey, uuhh… can I do a cooldown?” I laughed, shook my head, and went back to my run. He waved again. “Please?” I grunted something about being in the middle of a workout and pressed on. I worried for a minute the trainer was going to bash my skull in for refusing, but figured that would be a suitable excuse for stopping the workout and ending the pain, so I took the chance. Alas, he let me finish, and the only brief respite I had the rest of the way was the 15 seconds or so when the treadmill auto-stopped and I had to restart it.
I jogged through my own cooldown as the gym crowd thinned. By the time I was done the only guy left was Mr. Tssst. He got this name because all I’ve ever seen him do is curls, and “tssst” is the sound he makes with each of the 9,436 reps he does. He was working away on his watermelon biceps as I wiped down and hobbled back to my apartment. I was afraid to take off my shoes because they had started squishing and I knew what that meant, so I sat on the bench by my front door and dripped sweat on the floor, which The Dog kept licking up before I could stop her. Everything hurt, I knew I had a half hour of bandaging and icing my feet ahead of me, and I still had to pack and get up at the ass crack of dawn to spend all day in the car. And, you know, the funeral thing. But I got through the workout. And I still had my eyelashes. Silver linings my friends, silver linings.