Plumb, Mad-dog Mean

“Now remember, things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. ‘Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That’s just the way it is.” – Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josie Wale

Climbing through the rolling hills southeast of Hawley, Tim and I made our way around a country road bend. And one thing came to mind: it’s time to get nasty. It was time to get nasty and mean. Two big hills stood before us, and I knew they wouldn’t be easy. With 9 miles of rollers behind us, these hills weren’t going show us any mercy. The hills never show mercy.

I dubbed the stretch the Little Manmaker Loop, a shorter version of a regular loop that included hills which earlier this year I named Manmaker 1 and Manmaker 2. But, in our runs out in this rolling farmland, we’ve learned there’s an even more challenging hill. Today, after tackling it, it also earned a name: Extreme Manmaker. It doesn’t look at that intimidating, but it always seems to make the muscles buckle and burn.

Manmaker Loop, when done properly, provides 3 big hills. Now known as the Manmaker Trio, its also a great place for hill repeats, if one’s inclined to beat the legs into a pulp and gasp for air. Today as we ran, I suggested tacking on another shorter loop with 2 more steep climbs. Thus, like any running route shared among friends might, the additional loop earned its name.

Thus was born the moniker Little Manmaker Loop after we crested the second hill. While the individual hills are yet unnamed, finishing the second steep climb prompted me to blurt out a name for the loop.

“What happens when we become men?” asked Tim, posing a seriously legitimate question.

“Then we run mountains,” I replied.

A brief stop at the vehicle gave us a chance to refill our hydration bottles before heading out on another loop. This loop had gone too long without a name, so I named it Bacon Loop.

Bacon Loop

Now there are a series of hills, all unnamed within Bacon Loop. But it’s a tough stretch, now named after the appearance of fried bacon. Much like Michael Jordan’s Hanes T-shirt commercial. So while I was in the spirit, I came up with a name for another loop – several miles to the north – that we’ve run. It’s a good name for the loop, one I’ll share after I complete it next time, which is a good possibility next weekend.

This run presented the chance to find out several answers for me as I continue training for the Chicago Marathon through my injury. The biggest question mark was whether I could log long runs while recovering from a lower abdomen injury. While I felt a bit of pain each time my right foot pushed off the ground, it wasn’t severe. And I wasn’t sure whether I had the endurance to complete an 18-mile run. But my legs and lungs felt strong throughout the run, and racing the hills during last weekend’s Ragnar Great River Relay proved to boost my fitness.

So after nearly 19 miles today, I’ve come up with a theory. Long runs tend to lend themselves to theories about a lot of things. While my injury may prevent me from logging the volume of mileage I want in the 6 weeks leading up to Chicago, and perhaps limit some of my program’s speed work, it gives me an opportunity to run more hills. With more time between training runs, I can make a few more trips to the country hills.

Running hills will help build power and strength leading up to the marathon, even though what I really want is stamina. Chicago has an extremely flat course, where stamina pays off, but the additional time off from running each week should boost the overall quality of the workouts I complete. So while my chances of running fast in Chicago are dampened, a fast marathon isn’t out of the question if I’m feeling good on race day and go into it a little bit more rested than normal.