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Planning to Bloom 

Runners who plan to run Bloomsday on May 3: Either plant seeds now or get smothered in fertilizer

If you’re reading this, it’s less than nine weeks to Bloomsday. (Maybe a lot less.) Oh, you just want to finish, you say — you’ll just walk it. Well, fine. But whether you plan to walk, jog or run — whatever your race-day pace — if you’re a couch potato who can barely walk three miles now, you should put off your assault on Mount Bloomsday until 2010.

Because if you’re not already doing 3-mile walk/jog/runs regularly (at least twice a week, preferably three), then you’re already lagging at the back of the Bloomsday training pack.

Let’s face facts: Most responsible training programs advise avoiding injuries by increasing distance a maximum of 10 percent per week.

That means 3.3-mile walk/jog/runs this week and maybe 3.6- and 4.0-mile jaunts the two weeks after that. Add in a couple of “plateau” weeks (in which you reduce mileage — or, at most, maintain it, instead of continually upping the distances you cover), and it’s a very tight fit between now and Bloomsday. You might advance to 5.5-mile sessions a couple of weeks prior, then taper off in the final week and hope you can hang on for the full 12k distance on race day.

But even if all you’re doing is “just trying to finish,” you’ve still got to be doing 3-milers in training. Already.

Age, just possibly, can be a factor too. When I was 17, you see, warming up was for wimps. I would take off on eight-mile runs, cruising at a seven-minutes-per-mile pace, never so much as stretching a calf muscle beforehand. I ran in Nikes that amounted to nylon sheets wrapped over rubber pancakes. I ran on concrete, in 80-degree heat. I’d stop to eat a burger and fries, then turn around and run home for eight miles more.

That was 36 years and thousands of miles ago. My body isn’t 17 anymore. Now I have to walk for 10 minutes before I even start running. (Oh, the indignity!) Then I have an entire stretching routine, complete with a superstitious pair of exercises “guaranteed” (so I tell myself) to prevent hamstring pulls. I start running very slowly, monitoring every twinge along the way: irritated left Achilles, sore right calf, hamstrings with all the flexibility of piano wire.

Jogging along, I swerve across the pavement of residential streets just to catch five yards of some guy’s front lawn. (Soft grass now, fewer aches later.) But it doesn’t matter: I’m still a collection of strained this and pulled that.

All of which can make attempting to race a little dicey. And on Bloomsday itself, the big mistake is going out too fast. (I should know: I do it every year.) The crowd’s pumped up, you’ve been milling around waiting, and the start just feels like this huge burst of energy being released.

But don’t ruin all that careful-stretching-and-10-percent-a-week preparation. Instead, at the start, go slow. Besides chanting that as a mantra to myself during Mile 1 (“go slow, go slow”), I also visualize retro rockets firing off the backs of all the smart asses who speed past me along Riverside Avenue: gushers of rocket fuel that push them farther along and me farther back. Let ‘em go: The race is seven and a half miles, not just a mile or two. They’re showing me their backsides now, but after Doomsday (and probably even before Cemetery Hill), I’ll be showing them mine.

In other words, don’t be Crumpled Guy.

I see him every year, usually in Mile 2 on the little hill leading up to Government Way. Age: about 20. Shoes: held over from Hoopfest. Athletic attire: culottes. (Sorry, fashionably baggy shorts.)

Crumpled Guy had a couple extra beers this morning for courage, and he went out in Mile 1 with the Kenyans. By Mile 1.5, a grizzly bear had climbed on his back. Now he’s on the side of the road — hands on knees, gasping for breath, crumpled.

Instead, choose a different path: Be Smart Training (and Racing) Guy! That means warming up thoroughly, increasing mileage by no more than 10 percent a week, and going out slow on race day.

You’ll finish way ahead of Crumpled Guy.

Get ready to Bloom with the help of a series of free training clinics brought to you by Providence Holy Family, Providence Sacred Heart and Group Health Cooperative. The series runs every Saturday, March 14-April 25, starting at the SFCC Gym, 3410 W. Fort George Wright Dr.  Each session starts with a brief lecture at 8:30 am, followed by a warm-up routine. Then it’s out on the road at 9 am, with a course that increases by a mile each week and also features water stations and aid tents. To register for this free series, call Providence Holy Family at 482-2356.

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