How Marathon Santa keeps me humble

By Christopher Cudworth

"There could be anything in there! It could be a major award!"

“There could be anything in there! It could be a major award!”

Having been known to brag a little in this blog, it is time for me to reveal the method that keeps me humble in the long term. The story is true, and it lives on in our family lore, hanging by a thread every December on my father’s artificial Christmas tree.

Back when I was racing competitively and winning more than a few 10ks, I showed up at a race in Wheaton, Illinois knowing I had a very good chance of coming in first place. The race went very well with one notable exception. The course was extremely long. I’d been finishing 10Ks under 32:00 on a regular basis and this race dragged on well into the low 34:00 range before I gratefully but angrily crossed the finish line.

As you may know, it hurts to run or ride or swim a lot longer than you’d anticipated. We base our efforts on our training and the ability to maintain a given pace for a particular distance or time.

Lessons learned

The examples are manifold. No cyclist can sprint forever. In fact it is rather astounding that so many stage races in major cycling events such as the Tour de France come down to a sprint of just over 400 meters or less. It’s insane, if you think about it, to race more than 100 miles only to have a bunch of meatheads crash it out in a mighty sprint at the end. What’s the point, really?

Same goes with running. The current marathon world record is 2:02:57, an average pace of 4:41 per mile. So why isn’t it possible now to just dial it up to 4:35 and be done with it, go under the 2:00 hour barrier? What’s wrong with these wimps? Can’t they just go faster a little farther?

Social contracts

Well, it takes time to get faster, and lots of training. But when a race breaks that social contract by failing to measure the course properly, competitors can get rather upset.

So I was fuming the entire time between finishing the race and waiting through the race raffle for the actual awards ceremony. My late wife sat with me trying to keep me calm. Even though I’d won the race it did not feel like it. I was angry and disgusted.

Prize packages

My son Evan and daughter Emily pose with a real Red Ryder BB gun.

My son Evan and daughter Emily pose with a real Red Ryder BB gun.

The race officials started the raffle and all kinds of great prizes were being given out. Trips and vacation stays. The sponsors had gone all out for this race.

“Relax,” she told me. “You’re probably going to get something nice for winning.”

Finally the moment came. I walked fiercely to the podium when my name was called as the race winner. Then I walked proudly back to the table where my wife was sitting with a smile on her face. The award was in a small white box that had no markings on it. “It’s probably a watch!” she said.

Then I opened the box and what do you think was inside? A Christmas ornament. A Marathon Santa. It was worth perhaps $4.50. I sat there with my mouth open. Again amazed and disgusted.

Humble pie

My father still thinks this is a hilarious story. He hangs that Marathon Santa Christmas ornament on the tree each year with a flourish. Then he points to me and laughs. He mostly lost his speech due to a stroke years ago but he waves his hand in a grandiose way and says “Yeahhhh…. yeahhhh!” and he laughs some more.

At the time I opened that box during the awards ceremony even my wife could not hold back the combination of amazement and disbelief. “There must be some mistake,” she told me. “Take it back up there.” But I didn’t. I couldn’t. My own arrogance and pride had already turned the entire day into a farce. It was only suiting that I received an award that was a farce as well.

Major awards

leglampIn fact I never really worried about what I won as an award from that point on. There are trophies gathering dust on the shelves of my basement, but the Marathon Santa hangs proudly on the tree each year. Every time I watch A Christmas Story with Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun, I revisit the moment when my hunger for a Major Award felt just like that moment when the father in the movie opens that big crate to find a Leg Lamp hiding in the stuffing.

As it says in 2 Timothy,” I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  Well, a strong faith always comes packaged with a strong dose of humility. I am reminded of that each year at Christmas when the Marathon Santa shines brightly next to the holiday lights on my father’s fake tree.

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Preacher Pat Robertson runs the world’s first sub-2 hour marathon after leg pressing 2000 pounds

By Christopher Cudworth

Preacher Pat Robertson claims he can leg press 2000 pounds. With that level of athletic ability, it was only a matter or time before he ran the world's first sub-2:00 marathon.

Preacher Pat Robertson claims he can leg press 2000 pounds. With that level of athletic ability, it was only a matter or time before he ran the world’s first sub-2:00 marathon.

Preacher Pat Robertson, host of the epochal television show The 700 Club, recently ran the world’s first sub-2:00 marathon in a privately held race on the confines of a park near the 700 Club studios. The 76-year old preacher with a heart of gold for anything to do with God averaged less than 4:35 per mile for the 26.2 mile distance.

Robertson’s effort came on the heels of the recent world record marathon by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto at this year’s Berlin Marathon. His time was 2:02:57, which works out to 4:41.5 per mile. Robertson’s amazing sub-two hour marathon was completed at a pace of less than 4:35 per mile.

“I was thinking about that line from 2 Timothy 7,” Robertson relates, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. If you have faith in this life, you can do anything with God. I haven’t felt this good since running for President 26 years ago. You know, back when I went on record as opposing the end of apartheid. and radically predicting the end of the world in 1982. That didn’t come true. But nothing much else Robertson has ever said and done has ever stood up to much scrutiny.

Despite these horrific gaps in credibility, Robertson credits his most recent accomplishment and world record marathon to the age-defying protein shake that reportedly also helped him leg press 2000 pounds. This despite the fact that the recognized world record for leg presses by men much younger than preacher Robertson is 650 pounds less than the weight he claims to have lifted.

One athletic trainer had this to say about Pat Robertson’s claims to amazing claims of athletic strength and fitness. “It’s amazing how much bullshit one man really can push if there are enough people stupid enough to believe it.”

Of course Robertson’s worldview has also led him to otherworldly claims including the idea that major weather events have been caused America’s tolerance for sin, and that a boy’s stomach problems might have been caused by witches.

It’s hard to imagine that a man whose time is taken up by keeping up with such an active imagination has time to do the training that would enable him to lift 2000 pounds with his legs and run history’s first sub 2:00 marathon.

But according to Pat Robertson, anything’s possible with God, especially miracle healings cast out like a Bingo game at large group gatherings. So please send your money to CBN so that pathological liar Pat Robertson can afford his amazing personal trainer and plenty of protein shakes. It takes a lot of effort to pump out his brand of shit.

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10 things sure to get your ass out of bed when it’s time to train

Ass In Bed In ColorLet’s face it, when it comes to getting in shape there’s nothing harder than getting your ass out of bed in the morning. Even the best intentions and pledges of fidelity to a fitness regimen fade to black when it is 5:16 in the morning and the alarm went off fifteen minutes ago.

It happens to all of us. It’s just plain hard to get your ass out of bed in the morning.

So you need strategy. Remind me why I do this again?

#10. Your actual ass really is fat. 

It’s not a pretty sight for any of us. And if your jeans don’t fit or your running shorts are see through because your ass is stretching the material too thin, that’s plenty of reason to get your fat ass out of bed.

#9. Your best friend is counting on you. 

Getting your ass out of bed is much easier if you know your best friend or training partner is standing out in the cold or dark somewhere waiting for you. Or perhaps they’re already one cup of coffee into the morning and glancing out the window of the health club wondering when your fat ass is going to roll up and work out. Oaahhh yeah, that’s what they’re actually thinking.

#8. You need an excuse to walk past the scale 

So you slept in a couple times last week and didn’t get up to run, ride, swim or lift all week. You’re three pounds up in weight and last night you had Tostitos and dip for a 9:00 snack and don’t want to think about getting on the scale. So it’s far easier to walk right past that scale and go work out.

#7. You’re out of excuses altogether 

There comes a point in every fitness routine when what you’re doing, or not doing, no longer even qualifies as a routine. You’ve used every excuse imaginable to humankind to avoid doing your workouts. So you get out of bed and stand there looking at yourself in the full length mirror with that dumb look on your face and it dawns on you: “I can’t think of a reason NOT to work out.”

IMG_8591#6. You got up yesterday. You can do it again today. 

If you’ve been in a state of fitness depression because the fall marathon and summer triathlon season is over, and you can’t muster any real reasons to get of bed when it’s dark outside, concentrate on “small streaks” to get back into some sort of fitness groove. Start with one day in a row. Work up to two. Don’t tax yourself. You can do this.

#5. You want to share your ass in bed with someone else, but being fit makes it more possible. 

Hey, getting laid is important business. That’s true whether you’re single and on the make or married and trying to keep sane. Guys and gals can both relate, a fitter ass can help you date. It doesn’t need to be a skinny ass or a perfect shape. But if you build some strength in those glutes you’ll be happy for it in a thousand ways.

#4. You actually like working out. 

Sooner or later you knew we’d get to the positive aspects of getting out of bed. One of those is found in people who actually enjoy the feeling of working out. It calls you out of bed like one of those sirens in the story of Ulysses. If so, congratulations. You’re as dedicated as a Greek hero when it comes to your fitness routine.

IMG_0242#3. There is this event or series of events you’re doing next year…

Sure it’s getting dark and cold and did we mention dark in the morning and at night? That can push your right back under the covers. But then you start to think: If I don’t work out now, come March and April I’ll be struggling to gain cardio and core fitness and those training runs, rides and swims will be massively painful and un-fun. And that’s a damn good reason to get your ass out of bed.

#2. Life is short. 

That’s right. You can sleep the rest of your life or you can do something a bit more active with your days by raising your heart rate enough to stimulate brain cells, keep your blood from stagnating or letting your body devolve in a salamander lacking cartilage, among other things. Carpe diem! Get your ass out of bed or you’ll get old too young!

Guardians Playlist#1. You just made the most awesome playlist ever. 

We all learned from the movie Guardians of the Galaxy that a great playlist of your favorite tunes can make you into something of an awesome superhero. The Chris Pratt character danced his way through difficulty and danger to some of the most worm-ear tunes of all time. Here’s a link to those tunes. Good luck getting these out of your head. But at least they’ll get your ass out of bed.

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Closing gaps in a race with some history

In peak racing fitness circa 1983 at the Sycamore Pumpkinfest 10K. Floating along.

In peak racing fitness circa 1983 at the Sycamore Pumpkinfest 10K. Floating along.

The last time I ran the Sycamore Pumpkinfest, I was newly married and had no children as yet. That was 1985. It was the year after my peak racing period of 1984, with 24 races in twelve months and a second place in the Pumpkinfest at 31:30.

I’d still had some success in ’85 racing ten or twelve times and dipping below 32:00 on occasion in the 10k. But there was something missing that morning in 1985. That was the deep resolve to win.

So finishing at 33:00 or so felt like some sort of message. That it was indeed time to move on to other things like raising a family. My wife would become pregnant that winter and my son Evan was born on October 30, 1986.

Obviously the Sycamore Pumpkinfest run was the last thing on my mind by October 1986. In the ensuing 28 years since that last running I have visited the race once or twice with friends but had not run it again until yesterday.

Just a year ago I stood on the sidelines nursing a strangely bent and swollen middle finger on the left hand. A tiny sliver had produced a major infection requiring surgery. It was a nasty twist of fate that seemed to have no reason other than that’s the way the world operates.

A bit of happy fate

ShoesSo it was with some mixed joy that the runup to this year’s race was marked by a fun little encounter with the Saucony rep on the downtown streets of Geneva, Illinois that resulted in a pair of free new Triumph running shoes.

As I have perhaps described, I’m a person of liberal faith. I believe in God but not in the manner in which some people might abide. For example, science is a very real and factual aspect of existence to me. I believe evolution explains the origins of living things, and that the earth is billions of years old, and that human beings are pretty much stuck on this planet unless we figure out a nifty system for time travel. And frankly, that ain’t going to happen.

Cause and effect 

Hills of MississippiThat last bit is my seemingly pessimistic addition to the whole liberal cosmology thing. I think it’s pretty important (and about time) that the human race gets their shit together to prevent a massive meltdown of population and living conditions on this planet. That means I love people as much as I love the planet, if you can’t gather that from what seems like a downer of a worldview.

My belief in the spiritual dimension of this world is based on some consistently enlightening experiences in which there are both causal and responsive actions that determine our circumstances. During eight years of cancer treatment with my wife our family endured some trying circumstances. Yet when we opened ourselves up to trust in the idea that the world will provide if we have faith it happened again and again that we were able to sustain and survive.

Achilles heel

So my encounter with the Saucony rep was both a happenstance joy and a bit of symbolism for me. I’ve been struggling with some achilles problems and working through yoga and weights and PT exercises to make things better. It has been slow going at times. So my running has been limited to perhaps 15 miles a week at most.

Yet earlier last week I ran a fairly effortless 7:00 mile on the track and decided that it would be worthwhile shooting for 7:00 pace in the Sycamore Pumpkinfest 10k.

Granted, I knew 7:00 pace would not earn me any age group awards. There are too many good runners out there to think that 3:00 marathon pace would win a prize in a 10k. So I counted the fellow gray-hairs moving past at the start and quietly resolved to stick by my pace. With the leaders still in sight at a mile passed in exactly 6:59 I smiled and turned to the business of having a good experience.

Cool business

The weather was perfect. Just under 50 degrees at the start, and no wind. It was fun to watch the rippling line of runners ahead of me on the course. At each turn the race participants flowed like water around the bend. But there weren’t many turns on the big square block, so it was left to focus on tempo.

The two mile split read 14:14. So I’d slowed a little. Yet three miles was 21:14, which meant the pace had been earned back. Four miles was 28:30 up a set of little hills and 5 miles, well I decided not to look.

What actually was more important was the feeling in my lower legs. There was no achilles pain whatsoever after three miles. I said a little prayer of thanks for that, and allowed myself a glance down at the Neutral structured shoes on my 58-year-old feet. The response to the new shoes seemed counterintuitive. You’d almost think that a set of tight achilles would require more lift in the heel, not less. Yet here I was running with no tightness of pain. Which goes to show you that even our most rigid intuitions (and institutions) are often not correct.

When the spirit moves you

God expects a little pliability from all of us. If the world seems to be shifting on you, perhaps it’s time to go with the flow a little bit. See what happens. See what life brings you. Yes, it can bring difficulty to change. Yet that’s the way evolution works, and just by chance, that’s how God works sometimes too. But it is human awareness that drives us all to act, to respond, to trust.

Every race is full of hard little lessons like that. So the last mile for me was not exception. My lack of volume training caught up with me, yet the tempo I held was carrying me through to a 45:17 10k. Not world-beating, for sure. But I’d already done that at the Sycamore Pumpkinfest 10k. My second place in the mid-31:00s brought back memories as I raced that course.

So I’d lost 14:00 of time over the years? That’s a couple miles at my current pace, or about 30 seconds a year if my math skills serve. There were moments when I looked up ahead at the race leaders and thought about that feeling of being the race leader again. It was an anxious endeavor so many times. Yet there were also confident, hard-fought efforts as well.

Running 32:54 at 60 years of age. Martin Rees.

Running 32:54 at 60 years of age. Martin Rees.

It’s a strange function of self-perception to run in the wake of your own experiences. One wonders why it was possible then to lead the race and not now? The answers are obvious. As we age, we slow. Yet there are people still running that fast at my age. The world record for 10K by a 60-year-old man is 32:54 by Martin Rees. The retired steelworker started running at 37 years old and he’s likely capable of running even faster.

So you see we’re all on different journeys. We’re all closing gaps in a race with some history. That is constituted by both our personal races, but also the human race as a whole. It really doesn’t make sense to participate in one without thinking about the other. That’s our calling as runners, and as human beings.

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On Halloween and Until Death Do Us Parts

I used a cadaver part for my replacement ACL. I called him Jake.

I used a cadaver part for my replacement ACL. I called him Jake.

A few years back I tore my ACL playing soccer. The orthopedic surgeon discussed the options and told me I could either take out a slice of my patellar tendon and use that the replace my ACL or else use a cadaver part.

Of course I shrieked and jumped up and down and said “Cadaver part! Cadaver part!”

Then I bent over into a slumped up posture and said in a hushed, husky voice, “Yes, Master. What else can we replace? I am your willing slave…”

I called my cadaver part Jake in honor of whoever it was that donated his body to help others. It was the least I could do. But then Jake gave up the ghost a couple years later. I had gone through extensive rehabilitation work to strengthen my left knee and returned to running, cycling and playing soccer. That last part was the bad choice.

On a hot summer day and a greasy, wet field in Schaumburg, Illinois where the ground was muddy because of a hard rain following a period of drought, I tired out playing forward on a team that had only eight players that day. Just before halftime a player from the opposite team slid into my leg when it was planted to attempt a shot on goal, and Jake the cadaver part died all over again.

WalkingdeadThat’s right, I killed what remained of a dead man. I had been told that the cadaver ACL might grow back into living tissue somehow. I think that was a lie. Pretty much that’s asking my body to act like a zombie. I don’t think dead tissue can be magically transformed back into living tissue no matter what you do.

But if it’s still living tissue, that might be another matter. Which is why the organ donation industry is such a going business. There are all sorts of useful body parts floating around in all us living beings.

It rather surprises me there are not volunteers at most major marathons and triathlons where people are at risk of dying from pushing their bodies to the limit. If they had cooperation from an area hospital it would not be difficult to scoop up the remains of competitors who DNF, or better yet, dropped dead from the effort. Then they could mine body parts and sell them to raise even more money for the charities the race is designed to benefit.

human liverThe black market for certain body parts like livers and hearts and eyeballs and large genitals is pretty lucrative. Billions could be raised for charity if runners and cyclists and triathletes all signed waivers allowing their body parts to be mined in the event of a life-ending crash.

Of course this could turn things into something of a free-for-all if race organizers actually calculated the profits of taking out a few competitors rather than letting everyone finish. And after all, who’s really going to miss a few graceless strivers when all is said and done? With 40,000 people in the Chicago Marathon this month, that’s like an entire city of people moving through a major city. And Lord knows, a few people die every day in a city that size. So who’s to say it’s immoral to harvest a few souls in the name of a good cause.

You could spike the Gatorade in a couple cups and then wait a few blocks down. Just drag them off into an alley, take out the parts you need and wave the ambulance in.

There might be a little sorrow on the part of family members, but none of us gets out of this life alive. And if it turns out that Uncle Hank was a bit of a dick in life, the race might be doing everyone a big favor.

Everyone else who dies and gives up their body parts will be hailed as a hero! “They died doing what they loved!” the obituaries will trumpet.

Ride In CloseupWe all know runners and cyclists and triathletes are healthier than the general population. But then again, we might have to consider some of the wear and tear we put on our bodies before donating some of the more valuable body parts. So here is a list of what to consider when harvesting body parts from endurance athletes:

Liver: There’s good news and bad news here. While the typical liver of an endurance athlete will be rich with blood (and possibly good eating, but we digress) it will also often have processed a fair amount of post-race alcohol. So it’s a tradeoff.

Lungs: The pink, vibrant lungs of an endurance athlete would be great for organ donation. But if they were transplanted into a lifelong smoker those pink, fresh lungs might rebel at the thought of cigarette smoke and literally crawl right out of the smoker’s body. So there’s that.

Heart: The thumpity thump thump of an endurance athlete’s heart is the envy of many an average citizen. But then you think about it, and it could be that an athlete’s heart could exceed the terms of its warranty. We all know how car leases work, and if you put too much mileage on the vehicle, you have to pay for the right of turning it in. The same rules might apply on a heart used by an Ironman, for example. They could be cutting it out of your chest and say, “Hey, this thing shows some wear. We’re going to have to charge you for this. Thanks for donating, but your estate owes us $160,000. Thanks for giving.”

Skin: Yes, your skin is an organ. Get over it. We’ll simply say that skin has many purposes, including use on drum kits. There are rumors that Mick Fleetwood plays drums fitted with human skin, hence the longevity of his career, and his rather macabre appearance. He looks like a character from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

wreckingballGenitals: With all the focus on genitalia (the Internet is almost completely devoted to this topic) one cannot deny that major “organ” transplants would be a hot item. The Scrum Bus could follow men with major bulges in their shorts during races and accept online bids for their major cranks through online video feeds. It would all work rather like Fantasy Football or the NFL Draft, which both trade in body parts anyway. Don’t pretend it isn’t true. Pro sports is like a slave trade for human beings exchanged for major body parts.

Boobs: Now that we’ve covered the men’s side of body part envy, we can address the fact that there are many women who would do just about anything for a nice set of boobs. If Angelina Jolie had put hers up for auction when she had them removed, she could have generated a billion dollars or more just from fans of those adventure movies in which she starred. Serious athletes don’t want major boobs. They just get in the way. Which means that athletes with bigger boobs could use a marathon like a body part catwalk. Show how they bounce for 26 miles and then auction them off at the finish. There would be hundreds of bidders. You know it’s true.

So there you have it. Halloween brings out all kinds of happy thoughts about us walking piles of human meat. Next time you watch a race you’ll have a whole new perspective on what’s really happening out there. It’s a Parade of Body Parts. Just ask any zombie. They’ll tell you.

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Recurring dreams. I’m only sleeping.

Many of our experiences feel as if they were just a dream.

Many of our experiences feel as if they were just a dream.

So this is my blog and if I want to digress once in a blue moon I shall choose to do so. Hence the following blog about a recurring dream.

It starts with my late wife Linda and I traveling in a car toward Mexico. First we have a rough time getting from place to place through California. There are strange hotels and all kinds of other random dreamy experiences to distract from the main purpose. Which is somehow unknown other than we’re trying to get somewhere.

Then we cross the border and fill out a sheet of notebook paper that somehow serves as proof we’ve come from America.

Once across the border, my kids want to get to the ocean, which is conveniently lolling up on a beach in the middle of some unnamed northern Mexico town. You can hear the waves and see some people rolling around in the surf. It makes no sense.

Now I’ve never actually been to Mexico. It exists as this “other” place in my head where “other” people go on vacation and hide out in all-inclusive resorts. That may explain why I actually lose my family in the dream. They cross back over the border without me and I’m left without a “passport” (that piece of notebook paper). The border guards in that cheesy little dream booth want nothing to do with my excuses.

Then, suddenly I’m something of a George Clooney-looking character in my dream. Now, knowing that I have to make it somehow in Mexico I apply to this weird little business where they give me some nicely tailored but tight-fitting clothes. The two guys working there are sympathetic to my situation, but they warn me not to get too close to the business owner who apparently is a shady character.

Thinking that I might be better off finding “other” employment I wind up working for this paper company where the manager is quite Dwight Shrutelike. I get in his face and try to convince him they’re marketing their product all wrong. I try to conceive a system for the salespeople to incentivize people to buy paper more frequently. But then I learn that the entire company is operating on a less than 1% profit margin and the entire outfit has barely enough money to buy the punchcards I propose to use as “sales passports” for customers to earn a “trip” to additional discounts. Or whatever. It’s a bad idea.

Even as we wake to the realization that something really happened, we clamor to keep it real in our minds as time goes by.

Even as we wake to the realization that something really happened, we clamor to keep it real in our minds as time goes by.

The whole thing devolves into sort of a hazing session where the suddenly big and quite cynical sales staff gathers on overstuffed chairs to chortle and laugh at the sales manager trying to motivate his crew. I get caught in the verbal crossfire as well.

Then, in the distance, we hear the start of a series of explosions. Things are blowing up along the border and I sense it might be my time to escape. So I keep my eye on what’s exploding but realize that I might be caught if I show up wandering around some American town just across the border with my cheesily tight Mexican clothes on my body.

And then I wake up. 

So there’s lots of shit to analyze in that dream.

Instead, I would much prefer to dream the dream I once dreamt in which I ran effortlessly to a 2:26 marathon. The feeling of joyful movement in that dream was just like flying. And given that flying in a dream is supposed to be connected with sex, perhaps my sexual desire was running my head in that marathon dream and it all came out good in the end. Because I woke up happy and satisfied the race went so well and I really didn’t care if it had happened for real or not.

That’s sort of how life works.

It was forty years ago last weekend that I raced one of the best races of my life at the Frank Lloyd Wright 10K in Oak Park, Illinois. I ran 32:00 to win the thing in 1983 and repeated in 1984. Both times they gave me a big silver cup for winning. I still have that award in the basement. It’s all tarnished and dark like the visions you have in dreams. It’s hard to clean those up because you don’t exactly control your mind when you’re asleep.

I'm Only Sleeping.

I’m Only Sleeping.

It all makes me wonder what’s real and what is more realistic, the land of dreams or the memories of what we once did in our lives. It’s one of the tarsnakes of existence that we must dream our reality into being. Then our dreams choose to ignore those rules.

Recurring dreams. They really make you wonder what’s up inside your head. They put you on the run even when you’re asleep. When you awake the dream world sometimes feels more real than the world you’re now forced to encounter.

As John Lennon once wrote in the song, “I’m only sleeping…”

Everybody seems to think I’m lazy
I don’t mind, I think they’re crazy
Running everywhere at such a speed
Till they find, there’s no need

Please don’t spoil my day
I’m miles away
And after all
I’m only sleeping

Read more: Beatles – I’m Only Sleeping Lyrics | MetroLyrics

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You’re darn right I’m going to Triumph in these shoes

By Christopher Cudworth

My newfound friend, the Saucony rep named Jeremy who bequeathed a pair of Saucony Triumph test shoes to We Run and Ride. Thanks, dude! My daughter says he gave them to me because they matched my top.

My newfound friend, the Saucony rep named Jeremy who bequeathed a pair of Saucony Triumph test shoes to We Run and Ride. Thanks, dude! My daughter says he gave them to me because they matched my top.

You’ll notice a considerable absence of commercial influence on We Run and Ride. I have not written much about products or advocated many other than people who’ve sent a few things to try out.

In fact I still owe a trial run with a running measurement device that a manufacturer sent me. We’ll get to those in a few days.

This afternoon however, I was sitting outside the Starbucks in Geneva, Illinois, enjoying some sunshine with a family whose son had played for the soccer team I coached years ago.

Out of the Geneva Running Company half a block down there walked a young man carrying a pair of brightly colored Saucony shoes. I smiled and opened my arms as he approached, asking “For me?”

He held them out and let me try them on. I’ve been running in two consecutive pairs of Saucony Ride shoes. The first pair I paid full boat. The second turned out to be only $80 at Dick Pond Athletics. They were “last year’s model” and I was only too happy to get them on discount. They are stable, smooth and fit my feet really well.

Yet I’d seen a set of Saucony Triumph shoes in either an advertisement or a shoe preview and said to my companion, “I wonder how these would feel compared to my Rides?”

Sorry, you can't buy them from me even if they don't turn out to fit. Not For Resale.

Sorry, you can’t buy them from me even if they don’t turn out to fit. Not For Resale.

They felt great of course. All new shoes feel great. It’s like that scene in the movie The Big Chill in which the William Hurt character tries on a pair of running shoes and says, “These feel great. I’m never taking these off.”

It turned out Jeremy is the Saucony rep for the area and had been visiting the Geneva Running Outfitters on a sales and tech basis. He’d run in the shoes he was carrying a few times, but they looked brand new. “They’re not on the market until November 1st,” he smiled.

As I’ve written in this blog, I’m a shoe slut. Trying to add up all the pairs I’ve worn over the years, and all those different brands would take quite a bit of math to figure out. I got married in Nikes. Trained in Reeboks, Asics (formerly Tiger) Brooks, New Balance, Osaga (now defunct) Converse (never a good running shoe) and have spent thousands of dollars on running

The gifts for the groomsman at our wedding were Nike Pegasus because they matched our tuxes.

The gifts for the groomsman at our wedding were Nike Pegasus because they matched our tuxes.

shoes of all shapes and sizes. Training shoes. Racing flats. Spikes.

Even if I only averaged three pairs a year since I was 14, that adds up to 40 years of running, or 120 pairs of shoes. But in fact I have used probably twice that many. If it adds up to 250 pairs at an average cost of $60 per pair, that’s $15,000. More likely that figure is $25,000 over the lifetime of my running career. There were years when I alternated three pairs at a time and purchased nine or ten pairs a year.

Obviously I love the sport. Admittedly age and all those miles has made it more difficult to train and race as I once did. Those 100 miles weeks in college and just beyond are a long lost memory. Getting 25 miles in per week would be great.

Yet I tested my legs on the track yesterday and ran a 7:04 mile without much effort. My goal or plan is to run the first three miles of the Sycamore Pumpkinfest 10K this weekend at 7:10 pace and see what the body will give me from there.

In peak racing fitness circa 1983 at the Sycamore Pumpkinfest 10K. Floating along.

In peak racing fitness circa 1983 at the Sycamore Pumpkinfest 10K. Floating along.

Sure, I once ran the same course in 31:30. One of my favorite running photos is from that race, perhaps the only picture I ever purchased from one of those professional running photography companies. I’m wearing a mostly white New Balance kit and a pair of Nike Elite racing shoes. It was a crisp fall day and I raced well enough to be proud of that moment, taking second to a runner that actually shortened the course for the rest of us by cutting across a park that we were supposed to go around.

So it will be fun to head out this weekend in a snappy new pair of shoes. I promise to let the Saucony rep know how they feel. They’re super light and I feel bad that I have to put a pair of orthotics inside to make them heavier.

Those are compromises that some of us must accept in order to keep moving. But I’d love to flash across the finish line in a PR for the age of 50 and above. The last 10K I ran was more than 10 years ago, so any PR is a PR for me. Ha ha.

lasse-viren-onitsuka-tigerI’ve stuck to 5Ks and a few duathlon type races. Tricky achilles tendons. Fixing that with physical therapy, yoga and chocolate milk. Whatever works, baybeee.

But thanks to Jeremy the Saucony rep. I’ll promise to talk these up and if I win my age group (not holding my breath on that one) I’ll hold up the shoes like Lasse Viren in the Olympics. And we all know that if Craig Virgin had been allowed to run in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, he might have gotten to hold up a pair of adidas too. In fact if some publisher were smart, he’d give Craig a call and ask about the book that’s been written about him. His story is amazing.

If you’re too young to remember any of that stuff, then you’re too young to worry about how long your running career will actually be. So you still have to go out and buy your own shoes. (so do I…)

But those of us who’ve been guinea pigs all these years deserve at least one pair of free shoes. So I’m not apologizing. For nothing.

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Rethinking the bike and a few other things

By Christopher Cudworth

Bike rethinkingAt the time I purchased a real road bike nearly 10 years ago, bicycle frames had gone under a revolution in thinking that changed how most people even looked at the machines we use to get around, race and have fun.

Instead of the rigid fixed triangles that used to define bicycles, frame engineers compressed and bent frame parts into sexy shapes that returned more power, absorbed more shock and prevented your nuts or other body parts from suffering damage on the downhills.

As a terminally poor mechanical type, these inventions impressed and challenged my perceptions of what bikes were all about. The 10-speed Columbia bike I’d purchased after college was so heavy it nearly dented the road. Same with the Schwinn Paramount my wife had owned. Those have all long since been exported from our household.

Bikes hangingOur cycling experience is inextricably tied to the types of bikes we ride. That means the bikes are forming us even as we choose to form them. We dream them into place and then fit ourselves onto those frames with tweaks and twitches. Then we ride as hard as we can go. Sometimes we forget how we got there.

So our adaptations need to change with time. I had a bike fitting done a couple years ago and thought that was a radical change to take. Now I’m thinking, “Not so much.”

It’s time to go back to square one with the bike fit. It’s time to think a bit more radically about it all if I truly want to keep enjoying the sport.

For all the riding I’ve done, and some racing too, I’ve never, ever felt truly one with the More bikesbike. Not in the sense that I am perfectly comfortable and getting back 100% of the energy invested in the bike. That’s what I want. That’s what I’m going to strive for this coming year.

When my shoulders tire from a poor bike position it takes away the focus and the attentiveness of the ride. There have also been more than a few moments when I recognize the efficiency of other riders and don’t feel that trait in myself.

All this dawned on me while riding that fat tire bike a couple weekends ago. The wheels have to figuratively come off at times to truly see the bike for what it is. A tool, not just a plaything. But also, never forget that the bike is also a tool of play.

So let’s make it that way. Tear it down to build it back up. The mountain bike calls for winter riding, and then we’ll see you in the spring on a reconfigured road bike. Whatever that means.

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There are times when it is actually acceptable to give up or give in a little

Riding GroupThis past Sunday morning a group of 10 cyclists took off on a 50-mile ride from Aurora out to Big Rock and back. The course was nicely crafted by an engineer in our group for an enjoyable route of quiet country roads. There weren’t many hills, but that’s a product of glaciation 10,000 years ago. You can’t fault even an engineer for that.

It was down close to 30 degrees fahrenheit as we set out on the ride. We jokingly complained about numb fingers but I took precautions to protect the middle finger on my left hand that had been operated on last fall due to infection from a sliver. The finger now has poor circulation and turns white in cold weather. You have to know where your limitations lie at times.

Group dynamics

The group mostly stuck together but soon enough the fittest riders rolled ahead and the group split up a bit. At those moments every rider has to determine for him or herself what they want from the day’s effort. You can bust your thighs into hamburger trying to keep up or accept that due to circumstance and choice you’ve ridden only three or four times in the last few weeks. Weather and darkness and business obligations all combine in autumn to reduce the cycling miles.

So I watched the group advance ahead of me after 20 or so miles and settled in at 18 mph in a crosswind that wasn’t too bad. I wasn’t speeding along but neither was I crawling. The tagalong yo-yo effect happened a couple more times during our 50 mile ride and it would have been easy to get upset over the inability to keep up. Even when I was protected in the pace line my thighs were tired and on the edge of dodginess.

Not alone

Finally I had some company off the back of the group with a woman that in September completed her first Ironman in Wisconsin. I’d been there to watch her cross the line and had been on training rides and runs with her. “This is the first time on the bike since Madison,” she chuckled. I’ve been tired since we started out.”

There is still a bit of racing to be done this fall, likely winding up with Turkey Trots around the Thanksgiving Holiday here in America. After that it’s a time for rebuilding.

But it sure felt good to give in and give up a little and let the legs find their own pace. There’s no sin in that, just as there is no sin in rocking your partner’s world when the occasion comes around.

It’s all good. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Who is she?

She doesn’t mind the shape of my legs,

Or that I might shave them.

She cares not that I devote a little time out on the road.

In fact she’s always with me in one way or another.

She knows that I need to work out.

That it’s good for my head.

In truth she is part of my head. Like a beautiful thought,

that is also sometimes difficult, complex

and challenging.

That is why she cannot be trifled with.

Love doesn’t work that way.

And when I come round the last turn on a track workout,

or a long ride with hills, wind or even rain,

her memory rolls along with me.

She likes my body the way it is, sometimes,

but isn’t afraid to encourage a little more work

on the weaknesses, and the strengths,

and everything in between.

And there is lovemaking in there too. It builds the spirit.

She has a few friends and I always pay attention to them

even if a few days of the week is all that can be managed.

She travels along with me, saying,

“this is how it’s done.”

And forgive yourself

if you’re not perfect. But never quit trying.

In other words she is manifold, not just one soul

but many, built through seconds, minutes, hours,

days, months, years, a lifetime.

Through all this there are recollections she brings about

but she cannot be too sentimental.

That gets you nowhere, she says.

And she is right about that.

Yet we can learn from our sentiments

and our hopes, just how much we can take

and still survive. That which does not kill us

makes us yearn for answers to all those questions

that begin with, “How” and “why” and “when” and “who” and “what?”

For she always asks many questions.

Because guess what, there are also many answers

and they have to come from somewhere.

Which you find out with every footfall

and every revolution of the tires.

A stroke in swimming or a push of the weights.

Through yoga she whispers and at first

it is hard to listen. Through all things

you’ve been listening, now it is time to actually hear

what she is saying, and who is she?

She is running and riding and swimming.

She is that being within yourself

that knows no gender, only

weak or strong, tough or vulnerable.

Made from the carbon of the universe

yet distilled into muscle, bone and brain.

She is you, and all the things you do. And thensome.

She doesn’t mind the shape of my legs,

Or that I might shave them. 

She cares not that I devote a little time out on the road. 

In fact she’s always with me in one way or another. 

She knows that I need to work out. 

That it’s good for my head. 

In truth she is part of my head. Like a beautiful thought,

that is also sometimes difficult, complex

and challenging. 

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