Monday, June 24, 2013

Grandma's Recap

So, as I mentioned on Facebook, on Saturday I ran in Grandma's Marathon, Duluth's very own world-renown (maybe?) race. My observations started on Friday, the day before the race. All around Duluth I saw runners as they went out to eat, picked up their racing packets, shopped, etc. How did I know they were runners, you ask? They were wearing running clothes. I don't understand this. You aren't running, it's 50 degrees in Duluth, and you are wearing shorts, technical running shirts, and neon yellow running shoes. To my mind, your entire outfit is one giant cry for attention. You so desperately want someone to ask, "Are you running tomorrow?" So you can look slightly abashed and reply, "Why yes, yes I am. How did you know?" I mean, why not just throw on the headband and the compression socks too while you're at it. Maybe wear one of those water bottle holsters/fanny packs and munch on energy bars during conversations. Sheesh.

So, the morning of the marathon came much to early. I woke up at about 5:25 after a fitful night of sleep where I checked, re-checked, re-re-checked, and re-re-re-checked my alarm clock to make sure I would get up. I blame this Seinfeld episode with Jean Paul where he explains how he overslept for his Olympics race:

So, I headed to the mall for the shuttle out. The drive out to the starting line might be the worst part of the entire experience. As you're gliding along with the help of an internal combustion engine for a good half hour, all you can think is, "I have to run this whole way back? Can I just take the bus back to the mall and maybe go to Denny's for a grand slam instead (disclaimer: we really don't have a Denny's in Duluth, so it would probably be a Tremendous 12 at Perkins, but I thought Denny's would be more recognizable to my country-wide readership)?

So, the day was foggy and cold, which I thought was just fine for running. As we were all standing around the starting line people were doing what they could do keep warm. I've never understood the people that run to warm up. Isn't 26.2 enough? If I could get someone to push me in a wheelchair all morning up until the very point where I have to start running, I would. Alas, that service is not provided. Finally, the run started, and we were off.

The actual marathon went pretty well. I decided to stick with the 4:00 hour pace guy at the beginning, and I felt good. As I mentioned before, I had timed my audiobook so that I would be listening to the last 4 hours of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so I was enjoying the beginning of the Battle of Hogwarts as I trudged along. At about mile 13 I realized that I really was going to have to go to the bathroom at some point, and I am just not going to be the person who just uses their spandex as a diaper; I am neither that competitive nor have the necessary disregard for hygiene. So, I took a  quick trip to my disgusting arch-nemesis the porta-potty around mile 14. That could be another whole blog post about the fierce battle between my OCD tendencies and my need for speed, but I will leave such potty talk in the porta-potty.

When I got out, I still found myself far back of the 4 hour pacers. I decided not to expend the energy necessary to catch up and kept on keeping on. As per last marathon the most difficult part was probably mile 18-23. During this point, you have run a long way, but you can't really say you're almost there. When I heard people yell, "You're almost there!" at mile 19, I wanted to retort, "Oh yeah? Then why don't you run it?" Instead, I listened to the history of Snape's love for Lily Evans/Potter in "The Prince's Tale." At about mile 23 I started seeing people I knew, which helped motivate me to keep running. The Right around mile 25 I realized that I could get under 4 hours if I hoofed it until the end, so I picked up the pace. The nice thing was (HP spoiler alert) that at around mile 25 Harry killed Volemort. I decided I should put some music on to finish the last .6 miles, put on my running mix, turned on shuffle, pressed skip, and "Born to Run" came on. It was the perfect musical inspiration I needed to hustle to the finish line. I still didn't know if I finished under 4 until I talked to my sister who had been tracking me via my racing chip (mark of the beast, anyone?) and she said, "You made your goal by 2 seconds!" So, a 3:59:58 marathon. Here's a picture of me at mile 26. I don't know what that smirk on my face is all about; maybe it's because I didn't have enough energy to control my facial expressions at this point, and my natural expression is a smirk. If my face was actually representing how I felt, it would be melting of my skull.

So, I thought it was a successful racing day, even if they put up a hypothermia warning on the last 7 miles (late June in Duluth!). Plus, I got to catch up with Greg and Kelly Johnston, Cooper Gillan, Steve Hawkinson, and Tim Lindstrom, which was wonderful, even if the latter three did make me go to Grandma's Sports Garden the night after the race (they were watching the Bruins/Blackhawks game there, even after I assured them that the "sports" in Grandma's Sports Garden is a misnomer anytime after 8 p.m.), something I vowed never to do again after 23. I now redouble my vow NEVER to do again. That place is a John Barleycorn-esque meat market. Anyway, here's my freezing family and me at the end of the race.

 Today I'm feeling pretty good as long as I don't have to make any sudden movements, walk up stairs, or get up from a sitting position. Also, today I got to watch my niece Paisley get dedicated by my dad, so it was worth getting out of bed for. I have no pictures of that yet; I'm sure you are all heartbroken. So, one more week in Duluth and then headed to the Windy City! Later.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Grandma's and a Family Reunion

Well, T-2 full days until the marathon! Today was the last day of running, so I obliged with a nice, easy 4-miler with the illustrious Eric Borndal. I have to say, I wasn't quite as vigorous with my training as I was last time, so Saturday could be an interesting run! However, I feel that the spirit of Lake Superior will give me the needed boost; that, and the shame of walking in front of so many people I know. Shame: motivating since 1984. Speaking of people I know, I am looking forward to Greg and Kelly Johnston, Cooper Gillan, Tim Lindstrom, and Steve Hawkinson - all friends from my Chicago university/seminary days - coming up for the race!

 As part of my marathon preparation, I've been listening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as an audiobook, and I timing it so that I can listen to the last four hours while running the race. I mean, I may be wiping sweaty tears from my eyes, but it should keep my mind occupied from the stupid thing I'm doing to my body. (Speaking of which, you can still vote on your favorite of the HP books on my poll found just to your left.) I found my motivation to run years ago when I was running my first half-marathon and I saw someone wearing a t-shirt saying, "Run to Eat Club." It was deep crying out to deep, as something within me, in the very core of my being, resonated with that sentiment.

Congratulations to Jenny, Kyle, and Charlotte Mecher on the addition of the beautiful Evelyn Jane to their family! Although I was partial to the name Charlotte had chosen for the baby: Oreo Chili. Lately when I have thought about the wonder that is childbirth, this song always pops into my head:

I mean, besides the whole subtext of the dude getting Tevye to let him marry his daughter.

This past weekend I went down to the Twin Cities for my cousin Zack's wedding (Congratulations, Zack and Angie!). It was so wonderful to have all ten people from the Bjorlin/Graves/Kasper family together for the first time! We spent Friday at the rehearsal dinner and then hanging out at Jessica and Isaac's (where we had Part 2 of the Great Bjorlin Air Mattress Debacle; see Facebook for more details). Saturday we ate a decadent breakfast consisting almost exclusively of bacon (brought from the farms of North Dakota) and baked goods (doughnuts, almond cake, and American tea cakes from the Minneapolis bakery The Baker's Wife, which are basically the best thing I've ever eaten, which means they must be TERRIBLE for you) before heading to the wedding. Sunday morning we went to First Covenant Church (glad to have brought my sister and brother-in-law over to the dark side) and then Anna, Peter, Isaac, and I went to the Twins game! It was my first experience at Target Field, and it was amazing thanks to great seats given to Anna by her boss, Dan Urshan.Here are some of the highlights in pictures. Daphne and me at the rehearsal dinner:

The family after church (at First Covenant - Minneapolis) and before the Twins game. The nieces are looking at MJ because every time they aren't looking at the camera, she tells the person taking the picture to make a certain noise and then demonstrates, which invariably causes the nieces to look at their grandma instead. Apparently, I too was drawn by the noise:

And here's a rag-tag picture of the Szyman clan (my mom and her seven brothers and some of their kids/grandkids) at the wedding:

I love the photobomb in the lower right side of the picture combined with most of the family neither smiling nor looking at the camera. Pretty typical. Finally, this is the view from our seats at the Twins game:

Seriously, we were so close that I was nervous I might not be paying attention for a second and get tattooed in the kisser by a foul ball. Unfortunately, the Twins took it on the chin, losing fairly handily to the Tigers. So, all and all it's been a good week. Now I need to buckle down and get some writing done. Also, I'm going to eat whatever I want between now and the marathon, all under the pretense of "carb-loading." Blizzards/concrete mixers and hops are forms of carbs right? I'm going to let my ignorance answer a resounding yes. Happy Wednesday!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

North Country Ramblings

Well, still waiting for my background check to go through. Stupid government bureaucracy trying to keep people safe. Next thing you know they'll be overreaching some more and fixing our roads, arresting criminals, and giving old people medical handouts. Just one more way Big Brother/Obama (they're synonyms) is ruining my life. In other news, it has been gloomy and cold here in Duluth, or, as the locals call it, June. I'm ready for the sun to come out one of these days so I can go up the North Shore and see this:

Or this:

While listening to show tunes and watching the Twins game on mute last night, I thought, "This probably isn't a common combination of evening activities." Speaking of which, the Twins have won 7 of their last 9 and have crawled up to third place. That's why you must always expect very little from MN sports so you can be pleasantly surprised at mediocrity. That's also the title of my memoir, Surprised by Mediocrity, hitting stores sometime next year if I can motivate myself. It will mainly be about my daily struggle to reach easily-achievable goals toward normal human functioning and then my immense pride at reaching them. For instance, today I'm going to shower and brush my teeth. Boom.

I'm sick of national ________ days. Yesterday someone said I needed to run because it's National Runner's Day. That's not anything. Seriously, these national and international days are getting out of control. I think today is National Catch Your Knee on the Corner of the Kitchen Cabinet and Swear in Front of Your Kids Day and tomorrow is National Eat Something You Left Too Long on the Counter Before Refrigerating and Hope That You Aren't Racked with Stomach Issues and the Sweats Day. Tomorrow could make for an interesting day.

Only 25 days until I make my triumphal return to Chicago! If you want to plan a small parade or strow (I'm guessing this is the present tense of "strewn," so I'm going with it) rose petals in my path, I will allow it. Seriously, I'm already coming up with a list of the restauran....I mean, the friends I want to see.

In other news, I've finished all the "fun" books I brought home to read during the summer, so if you have any good suggestions for novels I should read, I would love to hear them. If I don't hear anything in three days, it's a sign from God that I should re-read the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings series. Also, in my new poll I am asking which of the Harry Potter books is your favorite. If you can't decide, you may vote for more than one. You're welcome.

Yesterday (or the day before), Stephen Colbert said farewell to Michele Bachmann with a tribute montage. Ah, Michele, we hardly understood ye.