Monday, January 9, 2012

Picked yesterday to DO IT ALL. (Well, except the important things like write, and go to church.) After hammering some serious mileage on my knees and ankles, I went home and showered up before I dove in to the beer-making and barbecuing. 

The run was was easy enough, and the last long one before race day in two weeks. I ran from my house down to the 13 mile mark of the marathon -which I consider a sweeping accomplishment given that the start line is ten miles from my doorstep. We taper now, and that means that the hard part is over. (Yes, you heard that right, the marathon itself is FUN!) The weather has been perfect for running, as far as I'm concerned. Cool temps in the morning, and clear, sunny, blue skies. I'm not like those "serious" runners who prefer a cold, cloudy morning to optimize their peak performance. No, I like the outdoors. I like the sunshine. I like seeing all the pretty ladies and the surfers. There's a beach out there, and it's awesome to behold.

There were other runners, a lot of them, and I suspect that they were all getting their final long run in for the big local race coming up. You can tell the distance runners by the little bottles of hydration fluid strapped to their belts, by their sleek leggings, aerodynamic sunglasses, and deft ability to move fast down the highway with short steps and little-to-no bounce in their shoulders. They run like lithe, featherweight, soft-metal cyborgs, attuned only to forward motion; focused, and not easily distracted.

I, on the other hand, run like a sweaty, scoliotic giraffe in swim fins. I'm always slouched forward, neck bent, twisting my head around and up and down to take it all in, while my feet kick out to the sides like loose oars on an ugly canoe. I don't carry water (I plan my runs around local drinking fountains) and kick down the street with little more than my cell phone and headset. I don't wear a watch, and I buy the "twice-worn"shoes at the running outlet. I almost always go out the door with a plan, and I almost always ditch the plan about 400 yards into the run.

There are days when I'll just turn down streets because the song I was listening to told me to, somehow. And there are days when I just go out straight, run until I get tired, and then turn around and head home. I see all the other runners out there, and they all look so strong and bright, so good. But I feel like a happy, escaped orangutan disguised in mismatched running clothes -always an old, pit-stained race-day t-shirt that belies my carriage. And yesterday, on more than one occasion, I passed some joggers, stopped at the drinking fountain, and then passed them again as they shook their heads at me. Whatever. I was on my nineteenth mile and no one could tell. That's marathon-training: no respect would be given. It's all head-shaking.

So I went home and made beer. Mrs. Ditchman had picked this day to make barbecue sauce, and the Little Digger has been in the habi
t of doing jigsaw puzzles on the kitchen floor recently, (and he's good at it!) so it made for a (literally) hopping-busy kitchen, and one full of powerful, delectable smells. We all worked together masterfully. The sauce was excellent, the puzzles finished off with a little 3-year-old fist pump, and this Sunday's concoction of brew, the first of the year and my twelfth batch since I reinstated the old hobby last January, is one of my own creation, so it remains to be seen. I had found myself at the supply store recently with no recipe in hand, so I just picked out my favorite hops, a reliable yeast strain, and then worked the grain scale and mill like some local, hermit scientist. And then, yesterday afternoon, I whipped it all up in a big stainless steel pot, right next to the homemade barbecue sauce. The sauce is fantastic. The beer... we'll see. 

I guess it's how I roll. I'm not inclined to be proud of the accomplishments, though I get enough compliments. I "friended" an old high school acquaintance on Facebook recently, through some Internet running chums. He's finished a couple marathons in the 3:10 range (which I consider to be fast) and I complimented him on it, but he was surprised when he found out that I was running my 18th marathon in a couple weeks. An "experienced marathoner," he called me. Not fast, mind you, but experienced. Anyway, I'd run a lot more than he had. I suspect he considered all that running without improvement to be somewhat sad, and perhaps, worthless.

And my beer hasn't changed the world, either. Neither will it profoundly inspire the renowned master brewmakers of the region. But it sure tastes wonderful after a nice, long run.

So here's a thousand words about it. I'm not an accomplished writer, but I'm learning my way around the hops. Or, should I say, I'm hopping my way around the learning.