It’s a Marathon, Then a Sprint, Then a Marathon

>> 3.08.2010

Just after the new year, I started the Couch-to-5K running program.  It’s designed to get someone who lives a sedentary lifestyle ready to run a 5K in just nine weeks.  This Saturday I finished Week 5, day 3:

Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 2.5 miles (or 25 minutes).

Whoever designed this program is a genius.  Every time the workout steps it up, I think, “Oh man, there’s no way, this is gonna kill me.”  Not only hasn’t it killed me, after most workouts I feel energized, powerful, healthy, alive.

This workout, the 20-minute run, is a big hurdle in the program; the longest run prior to that is 8 minutes.  The 8-minute ones weren’t a picnic, and I’d never run for 20 continuous minutes in my life.  Yet, come Saturday, my running partner and I settled into a slow-but-steady groove; still going after 15, 16, 17 minutes.

Lately, we’d been trying to “kick” to the finish of these workouts; pick up the pace for the last thirty seconds or so.  But, with all these walk/jog/walk/jog exercises, I’d spent about six weeks “running” and had never actually run.  Pacing myself has always been a problem for me, and I’d been fighting the urge to just take off for weeks.  But, when my partner said “a minute left, you wanna sprint?” I said "Okay"—and I took off.

In sailing, there’s something called a bow wave: the water being parted and displaced by the ship’s bow.  A ship’s speed is partly limited by this resistance; a normal sailboat can’t go fast enough to get up over this bow wave, and start sailing on the water.  However, with the right shape of hull, and enough power, a watercraft can hydroplane—skim on the top of the waves, free of the resistance of the water.

That's what it felt like during that run: I was skimming on top of the pavement, slicing through the air,  arms and legs swinging free, feeling only explosion under the balls of my feet as they touched, touched, touched the pavement.  Free from the slow-but-steady groove, free from the sustainable pace, I was completely unleashed and absolutely flying.

It dawned on me that sixty seconds of sprinting is an awful lot of sprinting, and my eventually my Emersonesque “transparent eyeball” moment fell back down to Earth with a lot of being really tired.  However, I was amazed—when the clock hit 00:00, I didn’t hack, cough, retch, or collapse, I just breathed really hard over and over and over.  I was spent, but I still felt energized, powerful, healthy, and alive.

It was those weeks of jogging, though, that made it possible.  At the beginning of the program, sixty seconds of jogging felt like an epic crucible: it seized my calves, made me cough and hack, and pushed me almost to my limit.  Just weeks later, though, I jogged for 19 minutes, sprinted about a minute more, and felt energized, not defeated.

So it is with free agency.*

The Lions’ out-of-character burst of activity in the wee hours of Friday morning added three solid pieces at three critical positions of need—and those additions made the team better.  While signings like Bryant Johnson and Grady Jackson certainly “filled”, at least on paper, holes in the Lions’ starting lineup, we can see that the sum of all those leftover parts didn’t actually upgrade the quality of the team. 

The Lions spent last year furiously churning the roster, scouring the waiver wire, signing practice-squadders, making trades, working out street free agents, signing and cutting guys left and right.  All the while, they were desperately hoping to find some foundational depth, youth, and talent; trying to supply the coaching staff with the raw material needed to build a winner.

If the Lions had made these same signings this past offseason, it wouldn’t have done them nearly as much good.  Replace Bryant Johnson with Nate Burleson, Dewayne White with Kyle Vanden Bosch, and Landon Cohen with Corey Williams . . . how many more wins do the Lions get?  Not many.

As Mike Rosenberg of the Free Press said:

The signings of Kyle Vanden Bosch and Nate Burleson and the trade for Corey Williams make sense, not just in a vacuum but in the context of what the Lions are trying to do. Finally, there is a plan.

Exactly.  With the 2009 draft class, and the entire 2009 year’s worth of coming and goings, the roster has taken shape.  There are some real assets for the future, and some cornerstones (Stafford, Johnson, Delmas) upon which to build.  These three acquisitions fit nicely into place—but that’s only because the past year’s worth of effort has built a place for them to fit into!

Now, there are still plenty of niches yet to be filled.  Commenters rightly christened the release of Patrick Buchanon, and allowance of Will James and Anthony Henry to leave, “Cornerback Armageddon”.  This Armchair-Linebackerian phrase fits perfectly—not because Buchanon, Henry, or James are devastating losses, but because there isn’t a single NFL-caliber corner on the roster behind them.  Four or five “good dime/okay nickel” guys, perhaps, but nobody who could be entrusted with covering an NFL wide receiver one-on-one. 

With top free agent corner Dunta Robinson gone to Atlanta, second-best corner Leigh Bodden wanting nothing to do with this franchise, and word on third-best corner Lito Sheppard, it looked as though the Lions’ options were between slim and none.

Instead, Mayhew did his thing, hammering out a deal to send the Lions’ sixth-round pick to Atlanta for newly-demoted-for-Dunta CB Chris Houston.  Moreover, the Lions are rumored to be entertaining a younger depth-type corner, Jonathan Wade from St. Louis.  Together with holdovers Eric King and Jack Williams, the Lions should have mix of experienced young veterans fighting for the #2, #3, and #4 cornerback spots.

This begs the question: when will the Lions fill the #1 spot?  Patience, friends—you can’t keep up a sprint forever, and this one’s already over.  However, the Lions will go back to the marathon: signing, trading, and releasing guys according to their plan, upgrading and remaking whenever there’s a chance.  Oh, and drafting.  Don’t forget drafting.

*I made you wait 500 words before I got to football.  Did you think I was going to pull it off?

Technorati Tags: detroit lions,nfl free agency,nfl,chris houston,johnathan wade,dunta robinson,leigh bodden,lito sheppard,atlanta falcons,running,trancendentalism


A Lion in ViQueen Territory,  March 8, 2010 at 12:39 PM  

Great work, Ty. Keep running, you'll get there. I agree with the "energized, powerful, healthy, and alive" quote about running. It just makes me feel good.

Weston Corbitt,  March 8, 2010 at 3:25 PM  

I am going to start running after my knee heals from a lower body injury I had earlier this year. Keep it up man!

About the Lions, we have so much flexibility in the middle rounds in a deep class that we can address the secondary. Is it just me, or did Marvin White play pretty well without much practice? He could be a solid starter besides Delmas.

Honestly, lets do what we can in the middle rounds and waiver wire and take care of the secondary next year. We should really focus on the lines this season (as well as next, and the next and the next) and see what we can do. A good line can make your whole team look better.

Ty,  March 8, 2010 at 4:27 PM  


Thanks man! I definitely feel like I have more energy. It's funny, my wife and I agree that since we started running for exercise, we're more apt to run for no reason--like, from here to the car, or from the house to the mailbox. It's making us healthier in a lot of ways.


Ty,  March 8, 2010 at 4:39 PM  


Will do!

I don't see Marvin White as an option, he was just a little bit better than some of the completely worthless scrubs that saw time there. I'd love to see the Lions take a run at Atogwe . . .

Unfortunately, the Lions need to make a couple moves in the secondary just to get to "not awful". Houston is a gamble, a talented player who's had a hard time translating that into consistent production. Nobody else on the roster is capable of being a starter.

Seriously: Buchanon was head-and-shoulders above the rest of our corners, and they (understandably) cut him for crappy performance. The Lions need to add a veteran starter and draft a guy who could compete for a starting gig, one at corner and one at safety--don't care which is which.


witless chum,  March 8, 2010 at 5:17 PM  

"Commenters rightly christened the release of Patrick Buchanon,"

No wonder he couldn't cover anyone! The man is about 60 and spends a lot of time providing right wing political punditry.

Neil,  March 8, 2010 at 6:42 PM  

Hey, Pat Buchanon has surprising quickness. But he has a tendency to play it too conservative, which opens up the field in front of him for receivers to settle into and make plays all day long. I understand that he is close friends with Richard Nixon, the former right fielder for the Boston Red Sox. I'm not sure what that has to do with football, but you never know what sort of secrets high caliber athletes share with one another.

Anonymous,  March 8, 2010 at 6:49 PM  

Ty - eloquent and a pleasure to read as always. Always satisfying to see pieces of a plan come together and bear fruit, whether personal fitness or building the Detroit Lions. Keep it up!

Jim,  March 8, 2010 at 11:07 PM  


Good luck with the running. As a guy who ran 80 miles a week for 25 years and can't run now b/c of 4 knee surgeries, remember to temper your enthusiasim with common sense. Your joints are not made to take lots of pounding.
As for our CB problems, really hope it's addressed in round 2, somebody like McCourty from Rutgers or Robinson. Too bad Wilson lit it up at the combine. I think the guy's gonna be a stud!!!

Ty,  March 9, 2010 at 9:14 AM  

witless, Neil--

Oh my. Terrible typo on my part, outstanding work on both of yours! I belly-laughed at that.


Ty,  March 9, 2010 at 9:15 AM  


Thanks! I need to me more disciplined with my diet, though. I started off doing well with the diet and struggling with the exercise, now it's more like the other way around.


Ty,  March 9, 2010 at 9:44 AM  


Thanks for the advice. That's one of the things the Couch-to-5K program is supposed to be designed to avoid: overdoing it. I'm just going to try to listen to my body and not push too hard.

. . . I'm too out of shape to push all that hard, anyway.


Egret,  March 10, 2010 at 8:07 AM  

Good job running! I started back running a little over two years ago. It was slow going for awhile. This past fall I ran full 26.2 miles of the Detroit Marathon!

I now regularly run local races. I'll never be fast, but I enjoy it.

A Lion in ViQueen territory,  March 11, 2010 at 9:32 AM  


I run to eat more. The way I justify it is that I would eat the same number of cookies if I ran or didn't, but because I run I can now eat with impunity.


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