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Unexpectedly Good Half Marathon Run Thanks to Impromptu Running Partners

Instead of recovering after yesterday, I ended up being woken up around 9:30 AM today as well, by the message notifying me that my phone credit will become inactive tomorrow unless recharged. And, unlike yesterday, despite the lack of noise, I couldn’t get back to sleep at all after that, ending up thinking that I should clean some of the filthiest parts of this place since I’m alone today, planning that and trying to persuade myself to start after I’ll get up and maybe eat something. Not that I could really persuade myself, but “managed” to make it impossible to get back to sleep as well, so a little before 11 AM I got up again, ate just a little and vacuumed and washed the floor in the kitchen. It was already 1 PM when I finished even that, so I didn’t continue at the moment, just leaving the floor to dry before putting everything back and coming here for a while. Writing this today will be quite a challenge under these circumstances, since I checked some other things first and by the time I actually started it, a little before 2 PM, I was finally getting sleepy again. The blinds are still down and the window’s closed, so I’m ending up doing for a personal post something I used to do back when I was still forcing myself to write a serious, non-personal one each week, sitting here and struggling with it possibly until evening and only giving that sort of sign that I’m up and about once I was done, but this will be a long post and there’s no way I’ll finish it in one sitting. But maybe it’ll at least help to some extent…

The main purpose of this post is to write about yesterday, when I “honored” the fact that the half marathon should have taken place this month by covering the distance through the park, now that parks are open again. After not running at all last week and using Monday’s 16 km as the only practice run, I didn’t have high hopes to begin with, and then things got even worse in the morning. Expected to wake up to pee multiple times after having mamaliga again and a salad made mostly of cucumbers, plus a small tomato, at night, and also because dad worked that night and obviously got back in the morning, but then, just after 9:30 AM, a couple of workers started mowing the plants behind the building again. So, for one, the fact itself made me angry, as it does every time, because years ago something that looked like a small forest was there, then they removed all but a couple of the trees and all the bushes and don’t plant anything else in that area, just leaving it barren until weeds take it over again and they repeat the process. So I did again rush to take a “before” picture, which I could do without fear of a reaction as the workers had no protection for their faces and one had just gotten something right in her eye and I guess left to have it checked out, the guy walking away after a while as well. However, that’s when the first bigger problem appeared, since I must have done something to either a muscle or my right hip as I stretched over the desk for that picture, and it bothered me a fair bit as I got back in bed… And then they started again and kept at it for hours, though they admittedly started pretty much right in front of my window and the noise level dropped as they moved away, allowing me to get some more bits of sleep. Kept waking up and having bad dreams, however, and by the time the alarm rang, at 1 PM, I’m not even sure I reached a total of four hours that morning.
At least that hip seemed better by then, though it was still giving me some warnings and I noticed the left knee and hip bothering me a little as well. But a plan was a plan, so I had the usual stuff, the cereals being the last of those free servings, which I had saved just for this day, plus of course almonds again, and two of those old oat biscuits, one with honey and one with jam. Weighed myself again, still seeing 46 kg, which was still worrying, as was the fact that I couldn’t take a shit before leaving, which also means that said low weight even included that. Had done so before going to bed, so it was less of a problem than it could have otherwise been, but it definitely added to the others, and to the fact that by the time I left, at 3:20 PM, I was feeling sleepy again, unsurprisingly. But, again, a plan was a plan, I was wearing the complete running gear, and the conditions seemed good as well, with a reported temperature of 17-18°C and a mostly cloudy sky. The reality didn’t match any of the reports I checked when it came to the wind though, as all reports gave pretty low wind speeds but it was quite windy when I went out, to the point that I felt it was blowing me away as I walked to the park!
On top of all of that, I must have done something to my left calf on the way, since as I meant to tighten my shoelaces before starting I suddenly realized that it was somewhat contracted and there was nothing I could do about it, just having to push through it all the way. As such, and also considering how crowded the park was, I did sort of aim to stay under 1:45, but not only that I rather doubted it, but early on I was even thinking that I might end up having to abandon the plan to cover a half marathon distance at all, stopping after five laps, or even doing only ten kilometers. However, I didn’t just cover the distance, nor did I just do so in less than 1:45, but actually managed the third best time, 1:43:23, with sector times of 4:27, 5:00, 5:45, 4:22, 4:56, 5:54, 4:35, 5:03, 5:57, 4:34, 5:05, 6:00, 4:32, 5:06, 5:51, 4:40, 5:13, 6:12, 1:55, 6:19 and 1:57, making for lap times of 15:12, 15:12, 15:35, 15:39, 15:29 and 16:05, plus 10:11 for that final portion. And I’d say I have two impromptu running partners to thank for it. Well, that and the fact that I actually had it in me to maintain such a pace, of course, since otherwise they’d have just been two faster runners moving away from me until they’d have ended up out of sight, but I highly doubt I’d have managed it without them.
I was having those thoughts about possibly needing to abandon the plan as I approached the end of the first lap’s second sector and two women, properly equipped and one of them having a t-shirt from a forest running event, got down to the path around the lake just a few steps in front of me and started running. Their pace was very similar to mine right away, perhaps only a little slower because they had just started, but since they were right there, I pushed to get ahead of them, actually needing to try one side and then the other before I could find a way through, considering the other people as well. I noticed the look the one with that t-shirt gave me at that point and got the feeling that I was going to have a bit of a race on my hands, and I thought they were going to pass me back right away when I had to stop for a couple of seconds under the bridge, people coming from opposite directions and not making the slightest gesture to step aside forming a complete roadblock. They didn’t, however, and now that I think about it I realize they couldn’t have exactly done so, since they couldn’t have gotten through either. Instead, they made a point of staying just a couple of steps behind me as I pushed harder and tried to shake them off for an entire lap. Then, pretty much in the same spot where I had passed them, I heard one tell the other to slow down and they started dropping away. But I had pushed too hard as well, and after it was clear that they had slowed down, I did so too, I guess ending up pretty much matching their new pace, resulting in that sector one of lap three that was in fact too slow, making me push a little harder again to make up for it. But they followed suit, again maintaining the distance, even if they weren’t right behind me anymore.
That remained the case for about a lap and a half, but at some point on sector three of lap four I noticed that they were getting a little closer, and after the start of lap five it was clear that, if they’ll keep going, I won’t be able to finish it ahead of them. Made a good effort, aiming and managing to at least stay ahead until the end of sector two, in case they’ll stop there, after what for them would have been four laps, but on sector three, despite really pushing, which can be seen in the time, the question was only exactly where they’ll choose to pass me, since they were right behind me again and I was tiring. So, when it seemed that they were just about to do so, I meant to stay on the inside, letting them go on the outside and actually planning to congratulate them on their pacing and the tactical run as they’ll pass… Only for two cyclists, I guess father and daughter, to mess up the whole thing. They were slow and making themselves really “wide” on the path, making it hard to decide how to pass them, and I think I heard the women ask each other which side to pick when the cyclists seemed to be coming on the inside, so I cut across, which probably put me behind the man just before he turned to look, so he saw them and went back on the outside to let them pass, boxing me in completely, as at that point I was alongside him and behind the girl, who was turning her head to see what was coming and, likely unintentionally, making her bicycle turn the same way as she did so, completely blocking my way forward just when we passed a stall, which prevented me from going off the path to get around them as well. So I pretty much had to stop for a moment, until the girl realized what was happening and cleared the way for me, by which point the women had already passed me and I couldn’t get myself to shout what I had meant to say after them. Not that I’d have been likely to say it either way, since I did have another chance and still didn’t.
They pulled away easily after that, possibly also because I had some difficulties in getting back on pace after having to stop like that when I was already tired, and I think I had to deal with another roadblock on sector one of lap six as well, but then they did stop before the bridge, at the end of what for them were five laps. They were threatening to get out of sight by then, only still being visible on longer straights, so I spotted the one in that bright t-shirt from the forest run first, but was surprised when the other suddenly showed up in front of me, running the other way. She turned as I passed her, however, seeming to just want to do some short sprints at the end, as the other was resting, so I’m not sure whether the other one was talking to her or to me when she made what seemed to be an appreciative remark as I passed her. But, as I already said, couldn’t get myself to say anything then either, only giving her a nod. Wondered whether I’d get a third chance, since when I turned to look they seemed to keep slowly walking, passing under the bridge, and I was going to get back there after finishing the lap, since there was just that final portion left for me, but I couldn’t see them again then. And at that point I had returned to just racing the clock again anyway, and while it was harder, I had already started thinking of getting under 1:44 at the end of lap five. Was even hoping to stay under 16 minutes for lap six as well, and while I failed that, I realized that I could nevertheless get under 1:43:30, so I aimed for and managed that as well, even if the stairs at the start of the last sector were quite a struggle.
Back to those two, I must say that they really got my mind off the concerns I had, and felt unexpectedly good while they were behind me… Even if it’d have quite clearly been better if they’d have been in front of me, giving me a target to chase, and perhaps offering some shelter from the wind, instead of the other way around. That calf still bothered me to some extent, but it held all the way to the end, though today it’s quite unhappy, and otherwise just my left shoulder for some reason kept bothering me, making me rotate it now and then to try to make it a bit better. Did also feel like I had to take a shit on sector one of laps three and four, but just then, the feeling not lasting long and not returning after that second time. Otherwise, there were fewer of those little bugs as well, and none got right in my eyes again, though I still had to wipe away several that ended up in that area or in other spots that bothered me. The wind was a problem on the first lap, but became less of one after that, before returning first on that certain part of sector three on laps four and five, and then on and off after that, as threatening clouds were gathering, rain and hail actually starting about half an hour after I got back.
But, as I already said, the main problem was that the park was crowded and there were plenty of groups of people that were much larger than what the current regulations allow. So, on top of a lot of weaving, going the long way around and always searching for ways through, I had to deal with quite a number of roadblocks, a few forcing me to completely stop for a moment. Got a good taste of what was to come right away, on the first sector, having one roadblock under the bridge, another right after it, and another moment, soon after that, when a cyclist seemed to mean to pass me but was only very slightly faster and I was heading right towards someone coming from the opposite direction, forcing me to slow for several seconds so the cyclist could get ahead and allow me to follow him around that other person. Then there were two more roadblocks on the next sector, including that bad one that I already mentioned, under the bridge. Don’t remember exactly where the others were after that, but there were quite a number of them, including some other situations that stood out, such as another moment when I had to just about stop when a kid riding something, can’t really recall what, was just going all over the place and cut me off, or a couple of other tricky situations under the bridge, or the moment when I thought I had a way through, two stopped cyclists making the other people go around them and leaving enough space for me to fit, only for one to just pick up his bicycle and turn it sideways just as I was passing, hitting me in the arm with it and actually leaving a small bruise. And it was another cyclist who blocked me on the first sector of that final portion, going slowly on the right side and forcing me to wait for him to pass the stairs to be able to go up. But the fact that I still managed to stay well under two minutes on that sector in spite of that was actually what made me decide to really aim to stay under 1:43:30.

Moving on, or in fact moving back, to Monday’s run, I again kept waking up to pee after having mamaliga and salad with tomatoes and cucumbers at night. But when I woke up one more time at 1:07 PM I didn’t need to go, and with the alarm set to ring at 2 PM, I decided to try to get a little more sleep and actually managed it, waking up again at 1:48 PM and that time staying up. The first attempt at the toilet was a failure then too, but went again before leaving and managed something. It was in between those two moments, so with that additional weight, that I weighed myself, and that’s the reason why I mentioned above that I still saw 46 kg and it was still worrying, because it was the same then as well. But I had a plan, and not even the fact that I saw some mold at the top when I opened the new bucket of yogurt, which was supposed to only expire yesterday, stopped me, just scraping that top layer off and having the usual stuff, plus almonds, and again two of those old oat biscuits, one with honey and one with jam. Left at 4:10 PM, wearing the full running gear, for the first time in quite a while. The reported temperature was 22°C then and it was cloudy… And I saw plenty of people gathered to chat in front of buildings on the way, in groups of more than three, or others walking in stores without masks, touching, even employees without masks… Even in the park, there were larger groups, the band closing off a playground I passed was torn away and there were children and teenagers there, and no trace of police, local or otherwise, which would have been highly unusual even under normal circumstances.
Either way, I aimed to stay under 1:18 and the time was 1:17:30, with sector times of at most 4:19, at least 5:09, 5:50, 4:21, 4:58, 5:49, 4:27, 5:05, 5:55, 4:33, 5:07, 6:06, 4:40, 5:15 and 5:56, making for lap times of 15:18, 15:08, 15:27, 15:46 and 15:51. The cap was a problem on the first sector, as it kept threatening to blow off and I kept having to try to fix it better, and that’s also why the time at the end of said first sector is uncertain. Tried to leave it alone for a bit and it really was about to fly away just before the end of the sector, so I had to quickly grab it with both hands just when I should have hit the button. The exact time I saw once I could hit it was 4:19.99, so it’d have still been 4:19 even if I’d have been just about one full second late, but there is a chance that I actually needed more than that, so it could have actually taken me one or even two seconds less to cover that first sector and, obviously, that same amount of time more to cover the second. Strangely, my cap caused no more problems after that, so all my attempts to fix it better failed but just grabbing it in desperation and pressing it back on in a hurry apparently worked perfectly.
One big problem were those annoying little bugs. I was pretty much covered in them at the end, but the real problem during the run was that they kept getting in my eyes. Also in my nose to some extent, a couple in my ear, around my mouth, elsewhere on my face, so I had to touch my face quite a number of times despite wanting to avoid doing so, and the problem with the eyes was the worst. One actually flew right in my eye on sector one of lap two and I struggled for a while to at least make it bother me less, as I’m not sure I actually managed to get it out. There was one more that flew directly in my eye, probably on sector one of lap five, though there’s also a chance it was on sector two or, less likely, at some point during lap four, but I managed to get that one out quickly. Otherwise, all the joints of my right leg started complaining on sector two of lap two, the hip just giving an occasional warning but the ankle and knee maintaining a rather steady level all the way to the end and actually getting worse on the last sector, though the pain wasn’t too bad even then.
The risk of rain was supposed to be no more than 5%, but there were a few drops on sector two of lap two, then a few more on sector three of lap three, while lap four was suddenly sunny but also had a pretty steady drizzle, and even some larger drops on the first two sectors. With clouds returning, it was back to just a few drops on sector one of lap five, and no more after that. On the other hand, the crowd ebbed and flowed quite steadily, with laps one and five being quite crowded and lap three least so, though I suddenly found myself on a pretty clear stretch close to the end, before some more people appeared just on those last two turns and the short straight. That obviously meant weaving and going the long way around, and there was a spot on sector three where on laps one, four and five I was forced to bend low under a branch, since the one spot where it’s higher was blocked by other people. As for roadblocks, at the end of sector two of lap two, under the bridge, I had to squeeze around one on the sloping part, towards the lake, and that led me straight into a group of cyclists coming from the opposite direction, who were also trying to find a way around that group of people, so there was some confusion there. There was some more confusion with a kid on a scooter, coming from the opposite direction, on sector three of lap four, avoiding him leading me into a roadblock that I had to pick my way past. And another rather nasty roadblock, with multiple “layers” of people, was towards the end of sector one of lap five, and I had also just caught a slower runner at that point, so I had no way to pass and had to just follow as he picked his way through. And the people also meant I varied my breathing, which I actually did some of the time yesterday as well, trying not to breathe out through my mouth when I’d have done so too close to someone coming towards me.

While I didn’t feel like running last week at all, I did nevertheless consider sticking to that same schedule after all on Wednesday, possibly running again before going to buy some things. What made the decision easy in the end was that Tuesday there was no hot water, so I didn’t shave and really didn’t want to damage a mask by running with it on when not shaved. That meant I got up at 12:40 PM, taking the recyclables, except those things I take to Kaufland, and going out at 2:20 PM, using that regular mask again. Had a look through the farmers’ market at first, finding some cabbage that looked good and was at the same price as it was at Carrefour, meaning that I didn’t need to go there anymore. Didn’t buy it then though, checking the price for cornmeal in that Supeco as well and finding that the cheapest was over a third more expensive that it used to be and then going to that Kaufland, getting yogurt and cornmeal from there, again having no issues with the self-checkout. Returned to the market and bought cabbage after that, the older man I bought it from quite clearly going against the social distancing rules by sending a kid to help me hold the bag open when I refused the one he wanted to put it in and was putting it in my own. Got some apples from there as well, and it wasn’t even 4:10 PM when I was back. Those little bugs sure were annoying that time as well, again getting in my eyes and under the mask.

As for odds and ends, last Friday there was a loud snap in my chair as I changed position and it felt different at the time, so I thought that the plastic under the seat cracked or broke, but I can’t see that place and it still seems to hold for now, and after a little while I couldn’t even say that it seemed different anymore. Also thought I noticed another double middle click that night, the first one in a long time, but it wasn’t followed by others, at least not yet. Then, Tuesday, I finished that 2011 novelization of Planescape: Torment and wrote the quick review for it. And Thursday I again saw no visits in either view. As for this evening, did vacuum the hallway as well after all, and after I’ll post this I’ll also finish washing this part that’s in front of my room, before going to the kitchen, since I didn’t want to do it at the same time as the rest so I won’t block myself in here until it’ll dry. Napped a little too, and while I actually slept for less than one full hour, it’s at least better than nothing. And did the day’s squats as well, which actually wasn’t as hard as I feared. That calf is still complaining quite vehemently, and my right knee hurts a little as well, but oddly enough it didn’t do so as I did the squats, both thigh muscles and maybe even the right hip complaining much more.

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