cups of water. and high fives.


It feels a little different this year.

I’m not worried in any fashion about volunteering to sling water during Sunday’s Pittsburgh Marathon, but it feels like it’s more important than usual for me to be there this year.

This will be the third time in four years we’ve volunteered to work the race. It’s one of the most fun days of the year for me; I get to support friends and strangers, all of whom are, without fail, appreciative of the volunteers, and I, without fail, yell myself hoarse cheering for people I don’t even know.

Regardless of the circumstances, I would be out there Sunday morning.


But it feels a little different this year.

I am part of this community. I don’t know what it’s like to cross the finish line after 26.2 or 13.1 — yet — but I know what it’s like to put in many slow miles to reach a goal. I’m running — sort of — in the marathon’s 5K on Saturday morning, as part of a new — and so far, successful — push to get back into the sport.

It’s been a while since I’ve done this regularly, but on April 15, I felt for the people who had to suddenly deal with death. With injuries. And — in a way, the most personal aspect of the bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line — those who had their moment, the one they had worked towards for weeks or months, taken away by those explosions.

I took it personally for them. I took it personally for the friends who have run Boston. I took it personally for friends who could run there someday.

And I took it personally for me.

I don’t feel like working on Sunday morning is making any kind of grand statement on my part. But maybe what we all do on Sunday — whether we’re running, as many of you guys are, or if we’re slinging water — we can all speak pretty loudly, in support of each other and in support of those whose lives and goals were interrupted in Boston two weeks ago.

If you’re running, look for me at the Mile 6 water station, on Western Avenue near the humane society; I’ll be wearing a bright red bucket hat, so I’ll be easy to find for a hug, a high five and a cup of the best water on the course.

And if you want to join Mrs. Crappy and me, there’s still time. Go to the volunteers section of the marathon’s website, click the General Volunteers button and scroll down the list to the jobs that start at 5:30 a.m. (yeah, there’s some personal sacrifice involved here); sign yourself up for the Mile Mark 6 fluid station — they still need about 25 people just for that station — and come on out on Sunday morning. You’ll work hard, you’ll have a good time, and you’ll be saying something louder than the report of a couple bombs.

I hope I see you there.

on your mark.

Not yet.

I know a ton of people who ran in the Pittsburgh Marathon last weekend — full, half, veterans and first-timers. And I’m proud of each and every single one of you. No matter what the time, you all killed it last week.

And let’s be honest: I’m also jealous as hell.

I was supposed to be among you last week, and it’s still irritating that I wasn’t. I think I made the right decision, vis-a-vis my ailing groin; but feeling smart didn’t help me much as I watched all of you running by my spot on the Seventh Street Bridge Sunday morning.

No worries, though. I’m coming back.

I’m approaching a week without pain in my pesky groin; I promised myself that as soon as I got through two weeks without so much as a twinge, I’d start running again. I’m not quite there yet, but I may bow to impatience and take a brisk walk in the next day or two, just to see how things are feeling. And if that goes well, I’ll start a walking/running mix.

And if we’re good with that, I have something else in mind.

As we’ve discussed before, I need a goal in order for the running thing to work. I had good schedule — with decent results, at least until I hurt myself — as I worked toward the Pittsburgh half; before I decided to run that one, I was kind of drifting — my runs were sporadic, and it was way too easy to talk myself out of getting out of bed in the morning and putting on my running shoes.

So how do I keep my motivation going? Easy — I run once race every month for the rest of the year.

I’ll take it easy to start, and give myself some time to get back into shape; I’m thinking a July start will be perfect. I even have a schedule in mind, although just a couple months are carved in stone at this point:

  • July: TBD, yes. But having a t-shirt from the Whiskey Rebellion 5K in Canonsburg on the Fourth of July would be really cool. I think that would be a fun run, too. The July Fourth parade in Canonsburg is a big freaking deal, and as this race is a precursor to the parade, I think there would be a built-in audience.
  • August: Again, to be determined. But I’m intrigued by the Brookline Breeze 5K on Aug. 11. This race is part of an annual community party, and I would hope to get some support — and perhaps some post-race beverages — from the Burghseyeview crew.
  • September: This one is carved in stone, as in I’m already registered: The Great Race in Pittsburgh (Sept. 30). Watching all of yinz guys have fun in this one last year was the reason I started running last fall, and this race was my original goal. With that in mind, when Mrs. Crappy and I saw that discount registrations were available at the marathon expo, we signed up immediately. A nice bonus: the race takes place on a road-game weekend, so we don’t have to miss any football in Columbus.
  • October: Next payday, I’ll register for the Columbus half marathon on Oct. 21. I’d still love to have Pittsburgh as my first half, but I’m not going to wait until next year to run one. Columbus in October is a perfect second choice. All I have to do it is pray that the Purdue game is a noon start. This will also be nice because I’ll have a built-in support team at the ready.
  • November: I love the idea of running to make room for Thanksgiving dinner, and the proximity of the YMCA’s Turkey Trot 5K downtown makes this race a natural.
  • December: As I found last year, there is a surprisingly large pool of December races to choose from; in the interest of symmetry, though, I’ll probably run the Jingle Bell 5K, just like I did for my first race ever in 2011.

Ambitious? Maybe. Stupid? Definitely. But once I get started again — and keep in mind this schedule is subject to change; I’m now very aware that injuries can make a mockery of plans like this in an instant — I know I’ll need goals and dates to keep going through the summer heat. And a schedule like this would be the perfect way to do that.

C’mon, groin. Get better quick.


What I want to do next Sunday: Run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.

What I will do instead: Not run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.

What I’m doing is otherwise known as the Smart Option, but it’s definitely not the one I wanted to choose. After I completed my first 5K in December — and screwed around for about a month instead of running regularly — I knew I needed a reason to train. And by January, I knew that reason would be the half.

I was making great progress, and having a blast on a months’ worth of Saturday long runs with friends in North Park. But somewhere along the way, I pulled a muscle in my groin — and I didn’t really do anything about it. I went ahead and ran 8.5 miles a few Saturdays ago, and even though I complained about my nipples more, the groin hurt like a bitch afterwards; I also went ahead with a 10K in Florida, and my groin was not pleased with that either.

I’ve tried a few times since, hoping that some rest as I ticked off the days until the half would help.

It didn’t. The pain flared a few steps in each time, enough that it was a struggle to finish a mile. I even stopped recording the attempts on Daily Mile, because I didn’t want to turn my timeline into an endless stream of grumping, especially when most of my friends there will be running on Sunday.

I’ve thought about trying anyway, walking and jogging and somehow struggling through 13.1 miles. I could probably make it, but I’m not sure where that would leave me for the rest of the summer. There are other races, and other half marathons out there, and I don’t want to chance missing out on those because I’m nursing a six-month-old groin pull.

So I’m going with the Smart Option, a name I chose in hopes of making myself feel better about not running on Sunday. I’m going to sit out for a while, maybe with an eye on walking with the March of Dimes thing in late May before I start jogging again. If that goes well, I will ease back in. I think using a Couch to 10K app would be a good way to make sure I’m ready for the Great Race in September and whatever else comes along.

I am not happy about this. I’ve come to really enjoy running, and for me, its benefits are too numerous to list. I’m not going to stop, and I will run a half before 2012 is over. But this is discouraging. Depressing. Frustrating. I so wanted to do this, and do it now, this May, and here, in my the city that is solidly my home.

But I will do it, maybe on the Montour Trail, maybe in Columbus. That’s still the goal, and I will reach it this year.

If you’re running on Sunday, I hope you have a great morning on the streets of our city. I might wander over to the start, to get a feel for everything and to see as many of you as I can before you begin.

I’ll see you other places in a few weeks too. North Park. North Shore Trail. In Brighton Heights or Bellevue. I promise.

catching up, grumpy edition.

And doing it as best I know how:

* Florida was fabulous. The kids are amazing little people — getting more grown up by the minute — and my sister and BIL are doing a great job with them. Mrs. Crappy and I got to the beach four of the six days we were there. I ran a 10K and didn’t die. And we properly celebrated Crappydad’s upcoming 75th birthday.

* And then we had to come home to snow flurries. Really?

* While we were in Florida, I neglected to wrap up the Seventh Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Bocktown). Because of unusual circumstances that require consultation with our sponsor, I will do so on Monday.

* The 10K was difficult, but fun. I was too slow — finished at 1:20 — but I completed the race knowing what I needed to focus on as I get ready for the Pittsburgh Half. And then my groin decided that there would be no running of any consequence this week, and I’m left with three weeks to prepare to run 13 miles. I am not happy about this. I’ve joked a bunch about not letting my various attempts at running kill me — see above, for example — but the half — especially if it’s a warm morning — actually could be a dangerous thing, given my lack of training in the last couple weeks.

* If I’m able to run it at all.

* For as excited as I was about the start of the hockey playoffs, the actual games have been nothing short of a horror. I’m less concerned with the fights and cheap shots on both sides — they happen, although usually not this much in the playoffs — than I am with Penguins’ horrible defensive effort. Or lack thereof. The team is staying positive — Bylsma said after Sunday’s game that Fleury would start the remaining four games of the series — and I will as well.

* I’ll do that for a couple of reasons. First: Mrs. Crappy and I want to watch Friday’s game at the big screen outside CEC. Can’t do that if the series ends Wednesday night.

* Second: I need to give my playoff beard a little more time.


I — we — had a good morning.

Mrs. Crappy and I set off from the parking lot along the North Shore Trail a little after 9 this morning.

Eight and a half miles later, I returned to the car. Mrs. Crappy? She did five miles, running most of the way.

I am pleased, for a couple reasons. First, this is my longest run to date, and it’s already helped me deal with The Voice I wrote about a few days ago. When the nice woman from Nike Plus told me I hit seven miles, I realized that I was more than halfway towards a half marathon, and I still felt great. Barring an injury, I’m going to get there on May 6.

Next, I did this all on my own. My Saturday running friends have been great at pushing me to distances I probably  wouldn’t have tried had I been running by myself, and part of my frustration that bubbled up last week was with my ability to find reasons to not go out and run five or six in the morning before work — even though I can. Getting to 8.5 on my own felt like I was clearing a huge hurdle.

And finally, I’m so proud of Mrs. Crappy. We didn’t run together — she’s still getting back into it and wants to do that on her own — but she picked a course along the North Shore and ran most of it. And when we got back, we found she had done just over five miles.

There were two things that kept the morning from being perfect. First, the groin continues to be an issue. It was tight from the start, despite extra stretching; I stopped and stretched it several times during the run, and I think that helped. But wow is it sore now.

Aaaand then there’s the title of this post. I mentioned after we volunteered for the 2010 Pittsburgh Marathon that we didn’t see any cases of bleeding nipples at our water station at mile 7.8, although friends told me they saw plenty later in the course. I had thought about the possibility that I might need to take preventative measures once it got warmer and I stopped wearing compression tops under my gear.

Did I do that today? Of course not. And about the time I ran off the 16th Street Bridge and back to the North Shore Trail, I noticed that my chest was stinging, on the right side at first and then on both sides. I knew what it was — and had I been wearing white instead of red, it would have been obvious — but I didn’t look until I got back to the car.

Yep. Bleeding nipples. And let me tell you — bleeding nipples in the shower is a pain quite unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

So. Band-Aids. Nip Guards. And an extra degree of caution until the weather cools again in the fall.

This running stuff is crazy — I hurt, I have injuries and annoyances I never imagined — and I love it.



About a mile into my run tonight, I started feeling a pain at the top of my right leg.

Actually, that’s not right. At first, it just felt tight. That turned to a pain, and got sharper and sharper by the minute.

It was warm tonight, warmer than any day I had run on since I was in the Army, I guess. I didn’t have any water with me, so I detoured towards my house to get a drink before continuing.

And as it turned out, that was all for the day. I came back outside after getting the drink and started off down the street again, but with that stop whatever muscle it was in my groin turned from annoyed to pissed. I hobbled back to the house, threw a minor tantrum and grabbed the frozen peas for an uncomfortable icing session.

* * *

I took that picture tonight, after my fit. I sat on the landing of the stairway up to the second floor, staring at my shoes. Thinking.

Actually, not thinking. Listening to the voice, the one that wonders what the hell a fat 45-year-old is doing trying to run 13.1 miles.

And on days like these, I don’t have an answer to that question.

There are lots of reasons why running is a good idea for me — to be less fat, to be less susceptible to the heart issues my family has experienced, to spend time with friends, to do something I’ve come to enjoy since I started in October — but on the bad days, I don’t have a response to the voice when it says “You can’t do it.”

And what can I say? I don’t know if I can do it. I haven’t run thirteen miles. Most of the time it doesn’t seem terribly long, but on days like today it seems like an insurmountable number. Thirteen miles. I’ve managed to get past seven miles twice — with some walk breaks — most recently last Saturday. This weekend, with the help of my coaching staff, I’ll try to get to eight. And while I probably won’t be in the same frame of mind then, at the moment, even eight seems like an impossible distance.

I know — runners have bad days. I usually can shrug off a bad run, but once in a while, I spend too much time listening to that voice. And I find myself staring at my shoes while I sit on the stairs.

I can deal with a pulled muscle. But I look at the calendar and see that I have a 10K in about two and a half weeks and a half-marathon in just over six. I don’t have time for doubts. I shouldn’t listen to the voice.

But I’m not sure how to make it go away.