Friday, September 2, 2011

The Ken Doll

I would have blogged sooner, but the power has been out at Chateau Jilly and my nights writing stories were replaced with nights shuffling around the house with a flashlight. Today is the first full day with electricity since hurricane Irene visited us last Sunday, so I have some catching up to do.

The thing about being without power is that it makes you feel…well, powerless! Simple things like flushing the toilet, packing lunch, making dinner, all become major hurdles of daily life. I needed something normal, something familiar, to keep me grounded and remind me that I’m okay. So at 5am on Monday, aided by a flashlight in the pitch dark, I packed my gym bag and headed to work. All stories at work revolved around the storm, and those without electricity vastly outnumbered those with. By noon I was looking forward to breaking free and going for a jog around town. I wondered how the residents up there had fared in the storm. Todd was the only other runner at lunch on Monday, so the two of us headed out together. I forewarned him that I wouldn’t be very speedy, because I’m really trying to nurse my hip, and he said he wasn’t worried about it. We ran together for the first half mile, and then he took off. We had already mapped out our route so I wasn’t worried about getting left behind. At this point, I’m used to it. What did catch me off guard though, was when I rounded a corner and spotted Todd on the side of the road, shirt off, doing push-ups! I caught up to him and shouted something ridiculous, at which point I think his chin hit pavement, and then he jumped up and started running again. We jogged together for a few seconds, and I asked why he couldn’t just enjoy a nice leisurely run. He rattled off a few testosterone-injected responses and sprinted off again. We repeated this leapfrog routine for the entire 3 mile run, and more than once I mentioned how embarrassing he is to run with. I can’t even imagine what people driving by must have thought, or the homeowners seeing some sweaty shirtless bald guy doing push-ups under their maple tree. By the end of the three miles, I was feeling pretty good (except for my hip) and Todd said he felt like he was going to puke. So did I, psychologically.

Tuesday Todd opted for yoga at lunch so just Kerri and I ran together. We did the same run as I had done with Todd the day before, only Kerri split off and did an extra mile and a half on the way back. I’m trying to just stick with 3-4 miles at lunch now, because of my hip, so usually this means either I take a short cut back, or my running partner thinks up crazy interval training to compensate for the short distance. Wednesday I didn’t run because I needed to give my hip a break. I’ve come to the realization that I absolutely cannot run three days in a row. If I do, I can’t walk on that fourth day. Instead, Todd found a new guy to run with. I had never seen this guy before so I don’t know if he’s new to the company or if he just started running, but somehow Todd found out he runs and recruited him into our club. We all know how I feel about opening the running circle at lunch, so I was immediately skeptical of this new guy. Todd had run with him once last week and said he was “okay, not bad, he kept up for a while but he’s still working on his pace. Not bad for his first time out. Big guy, definitely more of a weight lifter”. As I figured, Todd had recruited another runner that would be slowing us down. I was actually okay about it though, because it would be nice to have someone slower than me for once. Coincidentally on Wednesday I went out for an errand on my lunch break and happened to spot Todd and the new guy running down the street. He sure didn’t look that slow or winded to me, and Todd told me after they had done 4.3 miles. I started to think this new newbie might be less of a dud than some of the others.

Thursday, still without power, I once again packed my running clothes and insisted on a 3 mile run to make me feel normal. Even better, the original four were all planning to run. (Todd, Jaimee, Kerri, and I). It was like a reunion and I was looking forward to really feeling back in the old routine. It had been exactly a month since Jaimee had injured herself and except for a couple of failed test-runs, she hadn’t been out with us at lunch. She’s been going to PT and the doctor did some electric shock therapy on her knee Wednesday night, and she was eager to see if it worked. This is the same doctor that the week before told her to go home, eat a banana and drink a glass of wine, and he guaranteed she’d be able to run 30 minutes the next day. (She couldn’t). We now refer to her physical therapist as the witch doctor. At the last minute Kerri got stuck in a meeting and couldn’t make it, and instead Todd drafted the new guy.

This was our first time meeting the new guy, and as part of the sacred lunch runners’ code, newbies are under no circumstances allowed to know about the Thought Per Mile blog. At first glance he seemed like a good guy. Good looking, great personality, appropriately dressed, saying all the right things and using all the right running lingo. On the surface he seemed to fit right in, but I figured he was just trying to make a good first impression. I made myself promise that I would give this guy the benefit of the doubt, and not be too critical. We headed out to the parking lot and the new guy immediately started up in a trot. He definitely didn’t need a warm up. He was telling us about running with Todd on Wednesday and how much of a challenge Todd is to run with. Yeah, yeah. I know. Don’t worry, he’ll do push-ups and wait for you. Then he mentioned, “yeah we were averaging a 6 minute pace on that trail, I was sweating all afternoon”. Gulp. I wish I could say what else he said, but that was the last I saw of Todd, Jaimee, or the Ken Doll for the entire run. Within 15 seconds of starting, they were out of earshot, and within a half mile, I never saw them again until the turnaround point.

Jaimee’s knee held up pretty well and she kept up with the guys for much of the run, so maybe her witch doctor finally found the right brew. When I got back to the parking lot, the three of them were cooling off in the shade and I got a round of pity-applause. Since the run was so short we still had plenty of time to kill, so the four of us walked around the building once to cool off. This was my first chance to really see the dynamic of the group unfold. Todd and the Ken Doll exchanged stories of their athletic prowess, who’s conquered the biggest obstacles, scaled the tallest walls, or climbed the highest ropes. The air was ripe with testosterone and you could practically hear them thumping their chests. It seems that Todd has found another Todd.

Back in the locker room Jaimee and I concurred that our lunch runs would never be the same. Todd found a competitor. Someone he would never let get ahead of him and who would constantly be challenging him to run faster and create even more absurd drills every half mile. Gone are the days of the nine minute miles, and the casual jogs sprinkled with scandalous conversations. Todd, our playful puppy and mascot of the lunch runners, has his very own Ken Doll.

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