Back On the Rock

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Miami Miles: Week 6

The search for P.M. running buddies is futile. Morning runs mean no nights out. Not an option, especially not at Christmas. I’m considering starting my own club – The Rum Runners – people who like to drink and run, though preferably not in that order.


Monday: Emancipation Park’s Christmas Concert series is on. Dean Fraser and the EPark Big Band are just what I need for my planned 55 minute 10k. Unfortunately, I am nauseous. My sister-in-law has been retching all day and last night’s curried lobster and stuffed crabs are the primary suspects. I’ve been relatively fine, but as I pull into the Park, today’s lunch – veggie balls and broad bean stew – lurches south, then north, then south again. Nausea and the Christmas crowd in the Park aren’t exactly ideal conditions, but my running-induced OCD has returned and after a quick trip to the facilities, I forge ahead.

At the 5k mark my one sensible brain cell begs me to stop. I am practically gargling broad bean stew and my stomach contents are fidgeting like irate stand-by passengers for a southbound flight. A 25 metre swath of the track is clogged with waiting performers, so there’s little hope of getting in a good time. But there’s no space on my schedule this week to fit in the missing 5k so I’m determined to keep going. Inspiration comes at lap 11 when I innocuously pass a heavy-set fellow with a lopsided stride. I christen him ‘Fitzroy’. Fitzroy, predictably, doesn’t take kindly to being passed and 150 metres later, ratatat footsteps announce his revenge. Here comes Fitzroy, plowing down on my right in a blaze of glory.

Oh no, Fitzroy.

Broad bean stew be damned, there’s no way I’m being punked. I pick up my turnovers and take him down in 50 metres. But Fitzroy’s heart is as big as his belly and he answers the challenge. 100 metres go by with Fitz yapping at my heels. This is not good. Now I have to teach him a lesson. So I put a little polish on the next 200 and leave Fitzroy to enjoy the melodic strains of Dean Fraser’s saxophone.

A teenager takes the stage to perform a poem in dialect. One lap later, I hear ragged breathing. Ratatat footsteps. A who dat? Nuh Fitzroy.

Fitz doesn’t know this but he’s in direct contravention of my running rules. So now lesson time is over, and I have to punish him. I slow down to let him find a spot just off my right shoulder. Turn around to smile at him. And then I make him pay.

What happen to you Fitzroy?
You can’t keep up the pace?
If you want fe catch me next time
Take likkle off you’ waist


As Fitzroy’s breathing and footsteps fade into the night, I notice that my nausea has gone, cured by the magic elixir called competition. I spend the next few laps looking for Fitzie, but he’s nowhere to be seen. Carolers take the stage. Just as I start thinking about calling it quits, I spy fresh bait. A runner ahead, moving at my pace. Yellow football jersey. Number 12 on the back. That one sane cell pipes up again: Just enjoy the night. Enjoy the Christmas lights and the music. But I smell blood in the water and I can’t help myself.

I speed up to take on Number 12, but he isn’t going down without a fight. Number 12 does justice to the memory of his baller days and answers with a kick I can’t match. Humble pie joins the bean stew in the back of my throat and suddenly I fell very weak and nauseous. Sanity returns and I slow down. I nurse my wounded pride and tell myself to finish the 10k, go home and rest. But half a lap later, here’s a gift as glorious as partridge in a pear tree - Number 12 hobbling along slowly, favouring his left knee. Ah, Number 12, you’re the worst kind of runner: a one lap faker. I feel sorry for you buddy, but I have to take you out on principle.

On the 12th day of Christmas
Santa gave to me
A slow runner with a bad knee.

I put Number 12 to bed and finish up the next two laps gleefully.

The 56:50 doesn’t disappoint me. Starry night. Beautiful music. Two new scalps.

Sometimes having a good time is more important than running one.


An emergency trip to the facilities follows Monday’s run. Broad beans, veggie balls, curried lobster, stuffed crabs and every meal I have ever eaten exit my body in an instant. Somehow it’s not as cool as Jarrod Shoemaker recycling Gatorade at the finish line of the New York Tri. And it only gets worse. I spend the night propped up on my throne like Pope John Paul in his last days. This is more than runners trots. This is good old fashioned Jamaican running belly.

Tuesday I am slow and miserable but I rouse myself enough to pull through a workout at Gymkhana. Wednesday: not stomach flu, not cramps, not a long work day, rain, nor a fresh pedicure will keep me from running. The plan: 9 miles. Unfortunately, it’s 10 pm before I can even think about running, so that leaves the Park. Laps and laps and laps in the Park. 29 in fact. It’s nearly empty so there’s no one for me to play with. Only the checkered commentary from the security guards keep me going:

“Take time, man. Done now.”

“This lap too slow. Don’t give up.”

“Da gyal yah mad, star. She a run inna de rain? Fe wah? She a t’ief?”

At 11:20 I’m only at lap 25 and the guards decide they’ve had enough. They close the park and I have to call it a night. 7.75 miles: 78 minutes.

The rest of the night is torture. Nausea. Night sweats. Hallucinations. I finally have to conced that I really am sick. I take a day off on Thursday. Friday, I’m still throwing up on the way to the gym so I decide on a short run. Just to make it intersting I alternate (very weak) sprints and recoveries. I inch the treadmill up to 7.5 miles an hour, my old 8 minute mile pace. Surely I’m mistaken. I don’t remember ever running at this speed and certainly not for an hour. Again, 35 sucks. 2.26 miles: 20 minutes.

Saturday: who goes running on Christmas Eve? Not the running friend who calls to bail on Miami, blaming too much holiday cheer for interfering with his training. Not me – officially laid out by stomach flu, I take another day off.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Blood In the Water

There’s a little game I play when I run. I’m the only player, the only one who knows the rules. It’s a ridiculous game and when I’m not running it makes no sense to me. It’s called Blood in the Water.

I always go with a planned run, but secretly I’m looking out for competition, for targets. And as soon as I spy one, I make my move:

Blood in the water
Ready to attack
Take down that runner
Show him my back

I am by nature a relatively calm, non-violent person. But there is something about the sight of a runner my pace – a minute or so faster or slower per mile – that brings out an aggressive streak in me. An urge to chase him, pass him, and leave him choking on my dust. A fire that makes me want to yell “Move, swine” as I go by, though usually I opt for the more polite “Excuse me.”

It’s a true case of duppy knowing who to frighten. I know better than to test the really fast runners. Like the typical schoolyard bully, I don’t pick on people who can beat me up. And the really slow runners don’t count. The game is just about finding my peers, running them down and killing them. Metaphorically, of course.

It’s my game, but I suspect some of you play too. You know who you are. You’re the ones who block me or speed up when I try to pass. The ones whose footsteps I hear creeping up on me. So just so we’re all on the same page, I think it’s time to share the rules:

The game is only on when I am strong. (It is my game, after all!) When I am sick or slow or tired or injured, your passing me doesn’t count. I’ll pout and roll my eyes at you like my niece used to when she would declare, as only four year olds can, “I’m not playing with you.”

But when I am up and running. Well, then it’s on.

When I pass you, I will mock you. Add you to the list of scalps on my belt. Like the Tourist, the Sprinter, the One Lap Hot Girl.

If I pass you – stay passed. Do not run after me. I will take this as a challenge. I will push the pace till your legs or your lungs give out. Or till mine do. I really don’t care which.

If I can’t outrun you, I will outlast you. Run until your quick pace makes you quit. Smirk at you as I run by when you slow down to walk – just to prove to you that the race isn’t always for the swift. If I can’t match your speed or your distance, I will hate you. Dream about you. Think about you while I do lunges and squats. Train harder till I see you again, then try to make you pay. (Listen up, Old Man, I’m talking about you. And 7-Minute Hottie, get ready. I’m back down to 9’s and I’m gunning for you.)

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I am fully aware of the extent of my delusion. I am a relatively slow runner who logs relatively few miles. My preys are the weak and the slow. Not good. But it’s my game. The parameters are set by the limitations of my biology.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know running is supposed to be an individual sport. I’m supposed to focus on my own race. Beating my PR is supposed to be my only motivation. Mm hmm. Whatever.

I know I don’t know who you are. Whether you’re a veteran or a newbie. Whether, when I see you, you’ve been running for a minute or an hour. Whether you’re doing sprints or a recovery run. I don’t care. I like the thrill of the chase and I like the taste of the kill. I like listening out for your ragged breathing, your erratic footfalls as you lose form. I am not proud of this, but it’s the truth.

Who cares if the real runners (and the rest of the world) look at us and see some middle aged people trotting along? Doesn’t affect the game. I don’t even care that you don’t know you’re playing. You might just be out having a fun run. How could you possibly know that for the seconds that pass while we’re neck and neck, you’re Hendrik Ramaala and we’re in the last 800 metres of the New York Marathon. I am, of course, Paul Tergat and secretly I hope that, like Tergat, I will sprint you into submission.

Delusional, I know. But hey, it’s just a game. It makes the miles more fun.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Miami Miles: Week 7

Running friend calls with a challenge: Miami Half Marathon. January 29. I’m in! The delusional part of my brain conjures up a goal: 1:45:00. Monday night that dream fades with another laborious 60 minute 10k. 2:00:00 seems like a more reasonable goal. (Note to the yellow-clad runner who stomped on my pride: give me 7 weeks and I will kick your ass, buddy.) Tuesday I join Gymkhana. 2 miles on a treadmill in an overheated room would only be appropriate if I were training for a race in Equatorial New Guinea. My ears ring and I cough and sputter through 2 sad little 9:30’s. Wednesday: I get in 2 laps of the Mona Dam upper loop just as night falls. 3.23 miles in 35 minutes. Abysmal, but slipping on limestone in the dark will kill anybody’s time, right? It is pitch black and the three ‘security guards’ are huddled together at one end of the dam. “Shouldn’t you be spread out?” I ask. “Yea man, we spread out when we goin’ home.” Thank you, Water Commission. I see my $2,500 Dam fee is money well spent.

I’m too scared to finish my run at the Dam but, undeterred, I head down to EPark. 5 more miles in 47 minutes. Better. Overheard: “Why me woulda want go so fast? After me nuh cyar?” An Indian man with a ponytail shouts out “Wait for me, man. I comin’," but then resumes puffing away on his cigarette.

Thursday night I sign up with a trainer at Gymkhana. Friday night: It’s happy hour so the Dam is empty. As soon as I start I feel faster. The first loop takes 15 minutes. The second one takes 14 and change. Not bad. “You movin’ well,” says a brown-skinned man in his fifties as he trots by me. I finish up my 4 miles in 36 minutes. I’ll take that. Now I just have to do that three times in a row to make my 2:00:00 goal. I’m tempted to run more but I’m late for my hair appointment. The only thing worse than a bad run -- a bad hair day.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Miami Miles (Eight Weeks to a Comeback): Week 8

I turn 35 this week and my body seems to have recognized this overnight. Suddenly (or so it seems to me), I am soft and pudgy. Since moving to Jamaica this summer I’ve added 2 minutes to my mile pace, gained 10 lbs and turned into that cruel irony - the Round Runner. Not good. Apparently I’ve been running my mouth more than my legs and the casual, short runs I’ve been putting in aren’t enough to offset the ackee and saltfish, boiled and fried dumplings, jerk chicken, banana chips, tamarind balls and Vodka Tings that have become my staples. I commit to getting back on track. I’ll run 15 miles this week.

Tuesday night: a slow 4 miles at Emancipation Park. Blown away by a 7-minute Hottie. Even slower 5k the following night. Thursday: a 10k that feels like 10 miles and takes 60 minutes. Friday: bliss comes in the form of a 2 mile twilight run at the Mona Dam. Lost in the view of the Blue Mountains, I forget to clock my time. I pledge to up my weekly mileage to 20.

The serene scene at the Dam is offset only by the attitude of the Security Guard, who greets me on arrival with a reassuring “Is this time of night you come fe run?” “Is it safe?” I counter. “Boy, me fret for you. Try your best run fast.”

Saturday night I party all night to celebrate my birthday. I dance so much I wake up with a sore hip. 35 sucks.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Crappy Haiku

Ironic like the song
Morant Point at sunset
The timing is wrong