“Today, in our field, there is so much talent and recognition that we are reaching a saturation point. An artist should no longer strive only for breathtaking craftsmanship; he should, instead, try to help us live better, either by dressing the wounds that are constantly being opened by society, or by offering solutions to get us out of the mess we’re in…But it’s going to be difficult and we have a lot of work to do.” - Jean 'Moebius' Giraud

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

MILE 8, PART 3_90 minutes

He's in full stride. I can see his cheeks puff in and out, so that means, like me, he's winded too. But he's still running. I can gauge his speed as he (once again) pulls away from me. Somewhere in the high 9:30/m range. His stride wasn't much better than mine. He was taller so, naturally, the space between each step was longer. It was beautiful.

I don't remember much of Mile8 except for the fact that the iPod/NIKE+ announcer said I was passing it. I think she briefly drowned out "Promontory" from the Last of the Mohicans soundtrack, but outside of that it was a blur. I had to shut out a lot of what was going on; the shortness of breath, the pain in my legs and the stitch in my side. I had to shut out the pounding in my head from a heart that wanted to burst out my chest and the little asshole voice in my head telling me this isn't going to work. I even had to shut out the ten speeds and their fluorescent riders zipping by me at break-neck speeds.

I just wanted to catch 42.

Or if I couldn't do that, I just wanted to be within spitting distance of him. He was about a quarter mile ahead. Again. But this time, I didn't worry about what I had left in the tank for the run home. First of all, I had nothing left in my tank. I should have been done. My thighs were burning and my calves felt like they were going to cramp in the very next step I took. My arms felt like sand bags and locking my hand together in front of me (that's a little trick I learned - it compresses my movement and helps conserve the energy it would take to swing them around) didn't help. Secondly, this *was* the run home. This is why I tapered it off towards the first leg of this little morning jaunt. I didn't have any more excuses. I was just going to run. But this time, I wasn't going to run because I wanted to beat him. I wanted to run because after all of that - after thinking that I could just walk home, after feeling like I was going to collapse in fatigue, after not having anything left - I was still here. I was still running.

In the end, I wish it turned out like that scene from "Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade". You know - the scene where the grave robber takes his hat and says, "You lost today kid... but it doesn't mean you have to like it." Then he takes his fedora, puts it on River Phoenix's face and it cuts to Harrison Ford as the older Indiana Jones. Something cool like that. Like the guy slows down and says, "Stay to my left, young buck. I'll help you get home." No, it wasn't anything like that. I got to the gate that marked the exit to riverbed so I can get onto the main street down the road from my house, and I started for home. I kept it close, but I never caught up to ol' 42.

I start cooling down. The run turns into a slow jog for about 2 minutes. Then that turns into a fast walk. My breathing returns to me and it was all I could do not to throw up. I close my eyes temporarily and tilt my head up to the sky. The sun hits my face. A breeze picks up and it's almost as good as a cup of cold water and I make a promise to myself that I am going to have the biggest stack of pumpkin pancakes I can get my hands on. I walk up my driveway and I hit the little button on the iPod and that was that. I hear my time. I hear my pace. Then I think, "Wait... did I hear that right? Nah. That's just dehydration getting the best of me because if that time was right then that..." Before I could finish that thought Lance Armstorng's pre-recorded voice chimes in and says, "Congratulations! That is your personal best for the mile."

So, two things: 1) I wish 42 would've tripped and fallen on his face. Damn show-off. And 2) I hope I see 42 next Sunday so I can do better next week. At first we become great because something else compels us to. But in the end, we are greater because we compel ourselves. I think I read that someplace. In running and especially in art (I use that term loosely, mind you - my work ain't 'art'), I can't think of a more appropriate and applicable concept. I mean, c'mon. I'm drawing Wolverine here. I dunno... it's not like I'm designing the Disney Concert Hall or nothin'. Hehe. Thank you for reading and thank you, 42 wherever you are.

I hope you trip on a rock. Bastard.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

MILE 8, PART 2_90 minutes

He didn't just run past me, mind you. He was pulling away. Not in blazing speeds. That's not how this works. No, he pulled away little by little. At every quarter mile he was just slightly more ahead of me. And for every hill we climbed I fell back just a little bit more.

But I wasn't going to quit now. There's no way I was going to let this 42 beat me to my objective - an old metal works bridge about five miles away. "Pace him. Give him no more than a quarter mile lead," I told myself. Then at the most opportune time (probably at the 4 mile marker), pour it on big.

Daft Punk's "Around the World/ Harder, Better, Faster Stronger" was in my ear now. Then there's a point in this live track where the electronica goes bananas and I think to myself, "Okay, now."

I was about a quarter mile early of my planned Mile4 marker when I started running. I mean, *really* running. Fast twitch muscles were in over drive and I was gaining. The problem was, we were fast approaching the bridge that I spoke of - the marker for Mile5. The halfway point. I'm old enough now, knowing my own personal limits, that regardless of how hard I run to try and catch this man, I wasn't going to catch him before we got to that bridge. And I have to consider keeping something in reserve to make it back home. So that made my decision making easier; I shut it down, slowed my pace considerably, and made it to that bridge. I started to turn around for home just as I saw 42 in the distance running away from me. It's tough to say, but I'd hazard to guess he was a good three quarter miles ahead and he was still pulling away. I swear the bastard sped up as he probably felt me closing in on him. At least that's what I tell my bruised ego.

That Sunday, he was better. "He was more fit, better trained, and had the longevity to go farther and faster than anything I was capable of," I thought. And that was fine. Well, not really. My competitive nature ate away at me for a bit, but there was a more pending task at hand - the last 5 miles.

The sun has come out of its cloud cover now. The temperature is up at least 5 degrees and when you're running it feels more like 20. It isn't scalding hot, but I'm no gazelle. It is to say I don't run at blinding speeds and my steps aren't Hussein Bolt-like in any way, which means I start feeling it. The heat, the dirt, the smell of horse poop from the horse stables near the riverbed - all of that attack me somehow. For me at this point, to stop and take off so much from my pace that I'm no longer running (and I'm more like shuffling my feet really fast) is an "F" in effort. It means I'm taking the day off. It means I'm out here wasting my time and why do I even bother? In reality, I know better of course, but at this point in time, I am frustrated that I let some 42 take me out of my own pace, that I let myself lose focus, and that I'm not as good as I should be. But even more than the frustration, something insidious made its way into my thoughts: I might not have enough to make it home.

My legs hurt. My back aches. My right hip feels like it's going to pop out of the socket. And I had about 3 miles left. "How easy would it be to stop right now," I asked myself. "Seriously. Just stop. Walk home and call it a day. Actually *walk* home." I can feel myself slow down. The distance between each stride is shorter and more choppy. My breathing sucks now - in through the mouth, out through the mouth. That's a bad sign. Fiona Apple's "Criminal" isn't going to help. I'm gonna walk the rest of the way home.

Then out of no where... 42 runs past me. Again. I'm at Mile7.

**More later. I'm in the middle of doing actual pages - you know, "work" work. Thanks for reading along. And for your kind audience, here's Robocop.

MILE 8, PART 1_commission

So there is this long stretch of a riverbed right near my house and every Sunday I get this idea that I should push this 34 year old body of mine and see if I can still run a ten mile stretch in the early morning.

This ritualistic form of masochism starts around 6:30AM with a good long stretch to wake up relaxed muscles from their sleep and to set up the iPod to whatever music I'm going to run to that morning. Yeah, I know. Most runners would say this is a no-no: you can't hear what's going on in the outside world, from traffic, to other runners to whatever. "Balls," I say. I like music when I run, and that's that.

There's a slight adrenaline rush in me when I first enter the riverbed. I usually don't know how the run is going to be - whether or not I'm going to have a good first half of the run or if things are gonna kick in during the second half, when I'm headed back home - but this particular morning, I hit the ground (pardon the pun) running . That means, no pain at the shins, my breathing is cycling pretty nicely, and the music track is shaping up to be something awesome (I think U2's "Elevation - 2005 Live from Milan" track was hitting me stride for stride - Bono having just told the crowd how sexy he is/was and how "...it's okay to flirt").

The air was cold and brisk because Fall is finally, thankfully here and that means it'll save me from the early sun's heat, but it also means that my legs take a little while longer to warm up. It's typically a minor point of concern for me because cold muscles can lead to injury, but this particular morning I'm not thinking about that. "Why not," you ask? Because just as I enter the riverbed, there was this other runner about a quarter mile ahead of me. And instead of thinking of breathing, of leg pain and injury, of the sun and how it'll probably dehydrate me on the way home - in my mind, with the help of Bono and the frenzied crowd in Italy singing along with him, I think to myself, "I'm gonna go run this guy down."

The guy looks to be in his late 30's/early 40's. In my head I told myself he's 42 and that's how I'll refer to him for the rest of this entry: "42". As I approached I could tell what type of shoes he was wearing and more importantly I could tell that he wasn't some newbie at this running thing. He had his gear. The most tell-tale of which was this strap that wrapped around his left leg right above the knee. It's called an ITB (Iliotobial tract) strap and it's not something anyone ever thinks about unless you've got some shortcomings in your biomechanics and it greatly affects how much that part of your leg stretches and impacts when you take a stride. Put simply, you put it on because you're built funny and your legs hurt more if you don't and only a fella who's been doing this for a bit would know why to put that on.

So I start.

I don't sprint. That's stupid. That's just not smart and the younger version of myself would do exactly that, but not at 34. No, today it will be methodical. By gauging his speed I can guess-timate that I'll catch him at Mile1. Maybe Mile1.20. I realize that I'm running slow - 11:19/m (that's what the handy-dandy iPod/NIKE+ tells me - God bless technology...sometimes), but that's normal. That's how I pace myself. I'll pick up the pace around Mile5. But for this guy, I pick it up slightly then and there; 10:45/m or something like that, and the 'chase' is on.

I pass him at the marker that I thought about and I was well on my way to the first quarter of my run. There's some construction going on at one of the underpasses I go through on this riverbed, but considering it's a Sunday (no city employed engineers out, I'd hazard to guess), I bypass the detour signs and run my regular route. I think to myself, "Hey...not bad, 34." Yeah, I know: I not only refer to myself in the third person, but in a number as well. I'm getting therapy, I swear. So there I am - basking in the awesomeness of the morning and how great I feel. "Umi Says" by Mos Def is about halfway done and it's relaxing and motivating at the same time. When all of a sudden "42" runs right past me.

You heard me. 42 runs past me. This was at Mile2.5.

**As I type this it is now 6:19AM on a Tuesday. I've got to go for my morning run, so I'm going to have to cut this short. I'll be back later today or tomorrow to finish off this little story. It's got a funny little self-realization moment of an ending, so come back if you want to know what I learned at 34. Again. Same thing I learned at 32. And once more when I was 30. More later.

And better still - a new image! Thanks for waiting. See yah!