um. hi.

No promises, boys and girls. But I feel like trying again.

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nipples.

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.

doubt.

 

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.

 

feet.

Shut up.

In the five months since I’ve started running, I’ve been most surprised by one thing — I enjoy it enough that it bothers me when I can’t go.

I’ve been through a couple little head colds since I started back in October, and took the necessary days off that I wasn’t going to risk making myself worse. In both instances — in the fall, when I was starting to feel really good about C25K and one during the winter as I was picking up the pace of my half-marathon training — it made me nuts to stop, even for a couple days. I was especially panicked in the fall, when I worried that taking even a day or two off would derail my progress. I know better now, but the illness earlier this year was no less frustrating.

And now? I haven’t run since Wednesday morning, and there’s a pretty good reason. I did three miles then, at a pretty brisk pace for me. I felt great during the run, but later in the morning, I noticed a pain in my right foot. The pain went from annoying to holy-crap-what-did-I-do by the end of the day, and I started thinking about the possibility that I had injured myself.

It was still with me on Thursday morning, and I limped through a Giant Eagle on the way to work to buy myself a couple bags of frozen peas so I could ice the foot while sitting at my desk. That helped, and the foot was feeling better. When when Mrs. Crappy and I got home from dinner Thursday night, she noticed that my foot and ankle were swollen. And Mrs. Crappy, being the experienced runner she is, laid down the law: More icing. No running, not even with the It’s Not A Training Group on Saturday morning. No Chuck Taylors or street shoes for a few days — old running shoes or something similar only.

So. More icing? Check. No running? It killed me not to go out to North Park Saturday morning — I’ll explain that in a later post — but I didn’t. And I’ve been wearing a pair of old cross trainers or — gasp! — Crocs pretty much constantly. Yes, even out in public.

As annoying as the illnesses were, this one is scarier. If it was just a pull, I should be able to pick up this week without too much trouble; if it’s a sprain or something else, though, I’ll start to wonder about how I’m going to prepare for the 10K we’re running at my sister’s house in April and the Pittsburgh Half a month later. It’s also troubling because I don’t have a clue as to what happened. There were no false steps during my run on Wednesday, nothing that I could logically look at and say “That’s when I hurt my foot.” Overuse? Maybe. My newish shoes? That’s possible — I hurt after running three in those on Wednesday, but felt fine after running 7 in a different pair the weekend before.

Or maybe something else? I have no idea. Crap.

But I know this: I’ll find out tomorrow morning. I’m going to run just a couple miles and I’m going to keep the pace slow. If I feel good, I’ll be able to ease back in to the training schedule without having lost too much time. I’ll still have to wonder about the shoes, but I’ll be able to figure that one out later.

And if I can’t finish an easy two miles because it hurts too much? If that pain comes back during the day? I’ll have my answer. And I’ll be off to see our doc.

crisis.

I’m probably past the point where I would logically expect to have a midlife crisis or some other sort of existential hassles. And as I’m generally a content kind of guy, that stuff really isn’t my style anyway.

Unless, apparently, we’re talking about football.

I was strolling through the Mall at Robinson this afternoon and I was struck with a question:

Why am I making myself miserable every single football season when I could be enjoying myself?

Here’s what prompted the question. Every store in the mall has Steelers stuff up in their windows. Everyone is wearing football gear. Everyone is talking about Sunday’s game. I have a well-worn Newsbreak shtick where I gripe about the endless Steeler stuff, but if I were a fan, I would have jumped in with both feet a long time ago.

I was a huge NFL football fan until 1995. I went with some great seasons — albeit some with hugely frustrating endings — with my Cleveland Browns until that point.

And then my team was stolen, with the blessings of the league. And even since the team came back, I’ve been largely absent from NFL fandom. In the four years I went without the Browns, I learned to live without Sunday football; since the team rejoined the league, I’ve had precious few reasons to get excited about anything they’ve done. And in a league that is built to make sure all its teams have a shot at being competitive, the only reason I can find for a decade of embarrassing, barely professional football in Cleveland is complete and total incompetence, from the owner on down.

And I’m tired of it.

Still, as I’ve lived in Pittsburgh area for that entire decade, that question has never popped into my head. I’ve had people ask me why I’m not a fan of  the local team; I have plenty of friends here who aren’t natives but have had no trouble assimilating.

So what’s my deal? Am I admirably loyal? Or am I just an idiot?

For the past two years, a native friend of mine who is as frustrated by the Pirates as I am by the Browns has offered me a trade: He’ll dump the Pirates in favor of the Cleveland Indians fan if I make the reverse switch in the fall. I’ve never taken him up on his offer, but on the ride back home from Robinson this afternoon, I started thinking about the possibility.

In theory, it would be easy. I already know more about the Steelers day-to-day than I do about the Browns and I don’t think I would have too much trouble finding gear I would like — I look good in black and I already own two terrible towels.

Having said that, I’m not even sure it would be possible. I’m talking about a team that I’ve hated for years; along with my feelings for pro football in general, that’s kind of faded towards indifference recently, but it still could be tough to try to flip a switch and change my allegiance. It might even be impossible.

But you guys know me — I’m all for fun, and if I had already found a different approach to Sunday football, I’d be having a lot more fun than I am now.

So, I’m curious to hear what y’all think about this one. Am I a horrible person for even letting this cross my mind? Or am I moron for trying to hang on to something well past the point that any sane person could be expected to do so?

still hungry.

Two things led me to get Taco Bell for lunch today:

  • A brief Twitter discussion yesterday about the joys of the Yum Brands hybrid restaurants — Kentucky Fried Pizza Bell! — got the ball rolling.
  • I was in the neighborhood of the Pizza Bell/Taco Hut in Center Township, Beaver County at lunchtime today.

Boom. Taco Bell is it. Because I’m cheap and easily swayed by advertising, I ordered a combo meal featuring the brand-new Beefy Crunch Burrito, which comes with two tacos and a drink. I get back to the office and start to eat; the burrito is indeed beefy and crunchy, so that’s a good start. Taco No. 1, however, seemed to be missing something, although I was most of the way through it before I noticed.

There was something amiss with taco No. 2 as well:

I know it’s a whole other fast food chain, but can I get a “Where’s the beef?” from the congregation?

Thank you and amen.

Seriously, Yum Brands people — I know I shouldn’t expect a half-pound of hamburger in a 99-cent taco, but this just doesn’t work. I mean, I have difficulties at your A&W/Long John Silver’s store across the river — I have to beg those people to give me napkins when I use their drive-through window, but at least they give me the food I pay for.

Thanks to my skimpy tacos, I’m probably going to need a snack this afternoon. Anyone have suggestions — preferably something besides a Fourth Meal at Taco Bell?