Now I’ve done it. I’ve signed up for a race—CJ’s Resolution Challenge. It supports mid-Pennsylvania autism related organizations. “How long is the race?” you might ask. Well, that depends on how fast I run.
On January 4, I’m doing a timed run. For three hours, I’ll run laps around a 1.6 mile wooded loop in central Pennsylvania. How many laps? Well, I’ve calculated my normal trail pace; studied last year’s results; researched the terrain, the altitude gain and loss, and made a spreadsheet of historic temperatures for the last ten years. I threw all that data together into a super-computer, and then I shrugged my shoulders. I’ll almost definitely run nine laps, probably run ten, and maybe run eleven. Eleven laps is 17.6 miles. Doing that in three hours is a 10:20 pace. I’ve done that before, easily, But not since 2016. My longest run since then is only eleven miles.
2016 was my big year. I ran a couple half marathons, a marathon and a 50K. Then I was injured. Like everyone else my age, I got Plantar Fasciitis. That’s an inflammation of the fascia muscle on the bottom of your foot. When it’s bad (and mine was bad), it feels a lot like stepping on a lit cigarette in bare feet. Have I ever stepped on a lit cigarette in bare feet? Yes, I have.
It should surprise no one that many of the blogs I read are about running. And many who read this blog are runners. It seems inevitable that at some point someone will approach me at a race “Hey, you look like that blogger from Gettysburg.” When I’m hanging out in outdoorsy settings, trail running, hiking, kayaking, picnicking, I fully expect to hear “Hey, you’re Jeff Cann. I read your blog.” It hasn’t happened yet, but it will.
Actually, it will happen at CJ’s Resolution Challenge. Sort of. My blogging friend Laurie mentioned this race in one of her posts. That’s how I found out about it. It seemed perfect for my reentry to competitive running. I can take as long as I want and run as far as I want. No one’s going to be standing around at the finish line on a frigid morning waiting for me to come in. I’ve been last before. I spent my final miles calculating how many man-hours were being wasted while I limped toward the finish. In this race, we all end at the same time, we just run different distances.
For this race, I need to tread lightly around my online relationship. It’s a scary thing making the switch to real life. I did this last summer on a family trip to France. Before we traveled, I contacted Simon and Julie Freeman. They’re the publishers of Like the Wind magazine, a British ink and paper magazine I write for. I asked for tourism tips in Chamonix. I’ve known them via email and twitter for years, but all of our conversations have been about writing. “You’re going to be there when?” Julie asked, “We’ll be there too.”
We made plans to take a hike together, the two of them and my family. Lot’s of fretting on my part. They’re worldly, cool, childless, European. They’re my publisher for God’s sake. I’m a suburban dad. At the last minute they invited us out for drinks too. Too much pressure!
I was shocked at how great we all got along.
My plan with Laurie is to be friendly but aloof. A brief Hi, and then I’ll give her some space. If we happen to run the same pace, maybe we can talk a little. She’s read my blog for a year; she has to know by now that conversation isn’t my strong suit. It’s probably useful that she’s reading this.
Reading comments on the race’s website from previous years, I learned that last year the temperatures were in the single digits. Same goes for the year before, but on the other side of zero. I have to assume that was a fluke. It’s rarely that cold around here. Plus, we’ve had January days in the fifties too. I’m not sure I can run in negative temps. Especially for three hours.
Luckily, I might have some pre-race training for the cold. On New Year’s Day, my family is loosely planning to join the Harrisburg Penguin Plunge. That’s a quick dip in the Susquehanna River. The only problem with the Penguin Plunge is it’s forty dollars per person. One hundred sixty for the whole family. Susan sent me the link at work today. I wrote back, “That’s a lot of money for a thirty-five second swim.”
Tomorrow, I’ve got a day off work. I’ve been through enough Thanksgiving weeks as a parent to know that I get nothing done on Drunk Wednesday* and Black Friday. My kids are off school, and since Susan’s family is in town visiting, she’s taking those days off too. If I went to work, I’d be clock-watching all day. Before Susan’s family descends on Gettysburg for the weekend, I’ve got some time to run. I think it might be a good idea if I shoot for twelve miles tomorrow.
*A few years ago, I read that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the heaviest drinking night in the United States. I call it Drunk Wednesday. I’m hoping my name becomes a thing.