Friday, December 31, 2010

Final Runs of the Year

Gotta say; yesterday, running in 71F weather was awesome. I had shorts on, and wowed people with my porcelain legs. Then, the ice storm cameth.... I got up this morning and thought why the hell not.... and went out for a run. It was slow going, with a lot of running on the crunchy grass to avoid falling. Everything was sooo slick. I tried to choose as flat a course as I could, but still had a few short hills to navigate. The worst part of the run came when a salt truck rumbled by a bit too close. I ran up into someone's lawn to get away from it. As weird as it may be, I actually enjoyed the run this a.m. more than the wonderful run yesterday. The weather conditions at 6 a.m. made the run exciting and exhilarating. I was just running along gingerly feeling glad to be alive.

OK, now for the year end list:

Best Movies (that I saw this past year): Kisses, Welcome, Running the Sahara, Hot Tub Time Machine (I know, I know, but it was really funny), The September Issue.

Best TV: Breaking Bad, Entourage, Weeds (in no particular order).

Best Book: Just Kids. I actually read a bunch of books as usual, but this one stands out as the top.

Best Place I Visited for Running: LA - Griffith Park still holds on at #1. Coconut Grove (Miami) comes in at #2, and the Las Vegas Strip (only before 7 a.m.) comes in at #3 (though you really have to be in the mood to run into belligerent drunken losers who didn't make it back to their hotel rooms before sunrise).

That's it for now. Have a safe New Year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Chance Encounter and Kisses

Let's start at the very beginning. That's a very good place to start (or so I hear). Anyway, on Thursday afternoon, I stopped by Gary Gribbles Running Sports in beautiful downtown Lawrence. My plan was to look around (because my parents had given me a $50 gift certificate for the store that I hadn't used yet), and then buy a gift certificate for my friend Terra who took up running this year, and who runs every day.

So there I was, looking around the store when I happened to glance up and see, none other than Terra standing next to me. The awkward conversation that followed went like this (It doesn't matter which of us is saying the lines):

"Hey, ummm.... so what are you doing here?"
"Me, oh, ummm... nothing... just looking around."
"Hmmmm... are you here buying a gift certificate for me?" (spoken in unison).
"Yes." (also spoken in unison).


So, figuring we were going to offset each other present-wise, we looked around the store a bit more and then spent the next couple of hours together. We marveled at the odds of running into each other at the same moment. But just spending time together turned out to be the best present we could give or receive.

Running this week was a bit of a bear. The cold nipped at my cheeks every time I stepped out the door. I used the new running gloves that my friends, Marisa and Chris had given me. I sweated through every piece of cold-weather running clothes I own. Runs were kept to 5 miles or less simply because breathing the cold air (while not asthma-inducing this time) was uncomfortable. The best run of the week came on Christmas morning. I felt great and added a mile to the 4 mile route I had planned to run. I didn't get into the zone, but never really needed to because I had a high amount of energy.

Finally, I saw a wonderful little movie this weekend. I rented a Scottish flick entitled Kisses. It follows the story of one day in the lives of a couple of children from (somewhat) abusive homes. I know it doesn't sound too promising from the description, but the story really is worth spending an hour and a half of your life viewing. If you like Bob Dylan, then the film will also appeal to your sensibility.

Until next week...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas in Larryville

This past week was a bit tense at work. Running was difficult due to the weather. The ice storm cameth (to paraphrase) and turned my seriously steep driveway into a death drop as I tried (unsuccessfully) to stop a 30+ mph backward slide from my garage to the street. After the tires miraculously found asphalt and brought my car to a halt, I remained frozen in the middle of the street, shaking as the adrenaline subsided. It was such a light amount of ice, but I've never (and I really do mean that) witnessed surfaces as slick as that little bit of moisture and freezing weather created on streets and sidewalks.

The ice melted off very quickly, and, after a couple of days killing myself getting 5Ks in on my Nordic Track, I ventured out for an easy 4 miler on Friday afternoon. About a quarter mile into the run I got a coppery taste in my mouth. That usually signals an asthma attack. But it wasn't very cold, and I hadn't had a bout in eighteen months or so. In fact, it had been so long since my last asthmatic incident, that I didn't even have an inhaler with me. So, thinking that it couldn't be asthma, I continued running. Well, a mile into the run, I realized that it was, for sure, an attack. I turned around, slowed to a trot, and tried to keep my wits about me until I could get home.

When I finally made it to my door a grueling 10-12 minutes later, I could barely take in enough air to make the inhaler function. I fell into bed and remained there for a couple of hours. Friday evening and night was spent coughing. By Saturday, I could feel the residuals of the attack, but I popped an inhalation of whatever is in my inhaler, and (with the inhaler in my pocket), took off on a slow 3.5 miler. It went nicely. No incident.

So on Sunday, Eric stopped by in the a.m. and we drove out to Clinton. The north shore trails were amazingly clear of debris. We normally take the white trail, but opted for the blue because it runs nearer to the lake. Clinton was shrouded in a beautiful haze. The weather was cool, and a stillness lay over the lake. It was a very pretty, relaxing run. We didn't see the usual deer, but instead saw flocks of robins that kept shooting out of the brush in front of us. It was a magical morning.

______________________________

So, with Christmas around the corner, what do you get your running buddies that won't break the bank? Many runners seem to want the latest gadget that tells time, heart rate, location, speed, blood pressure, tire pressure, temperature on Venus, and projected rush-hour traffic delays in Nairobi. My advice is to finesse that type of purchase. Let your running friends' wives, husbands, boyfriends, parents... drop the requisite cash on those items. Because they'll invariably pick the wrong one, you'll save $ and a headache as your frined fumbles around learning how to work the stupid thing. Instead, get a bit creative. Here are some suggestions on the cheap:

Gloves - One of my running buddies noted that I always run in cheap gardening gloves (they're about $2 / pr). He and his spouse gave me a great little pair of wicking gloves that are very much appreciated. And they are something I wouldn't have bought for myself.

Hats - Same idea here. I have three hats that I use for cold weather running, from chilly to arctic. Two of the three are reflective and wicking. The third is for when it is simply too cold to go running, but you're going to do it anyway. Inexpensive, but something some runners don't seem to have. Target and running stores all have great hats specifically designed for running. Some are really cheap.

Books - I gave one running buddy a book by Dean Karnazes, and another a book about running and philosophy. Neither was expensive, but both are hours of inspirational fun for the avid runner.

Massage - A bit more expensive, but always appreciated. Gift certificates for a half hour or hour long sports massage are always a hit. I bought a certificate from my fav sports massage therapist and dropped it on a running buddy this past week. Since all runners have aches and pains, massage (and sometimes acupuncture) certificates are a relatively safe bet as good gifts.

Other ideas - Trail Runner Magazine, hand-held water bottles, belt water bottles, Bio-Freeze, Glide (anti-chafe) stick, a paid race entry, or, for free, a coupon book for with redeemable training runs. Be creative.

Finally, there is one of those houses that has lights that strobe and flash to music. You've all seen them on the net. If you're in Lawrence, head west on 6th Street to Folks Road. Turn south (left) and go for about a quarter mile until you see a road called 'Larisa' on your right. Take the right and follow it until it turns. Right on the corner is the house. Set your radio on 98.7, turn off your lights, and sit back and enjoy.

See you next week.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Just Kids, Running the Sahara

I decided to write this entry on Saturday rather than Monday morning. Because the weather is getting heavy I doubt that I'll do any serious running in the intervening period. And today the blog isn't just about running.... well it is mainly about running (I mean let's keep our collective eye on what really is important in life... running), but not just...

I had the opportunity this past week to knock out Patti Smith's autobiography and biography, Just Kids, about her life with Robert Mapplethorpe. It really is a wonderful book that covers a bit of history that I had read before, yet from a first-hand perspective (which I had not read before). The struggles and minor triumphs and setbacks that the two endure on their way to fulfilling their own artistic vision make for a great story. And, while I knew quite a bit about Mapplethorpe, having read a biography of him some years ago, I knew relatively little about Patti Smith, and nothing of the inner-workings of their relationship. If you have a stocking that needs to be stuffed, this book, or the Kindle version of it, would make a much less controversial gift for that hard-to-please relative than say a book of Mapplethorpe's work. Highly recommended...

Another recommendation for you runners and cultural anthropologists is a documentary called Running the Sahara. A ginormous documentary and support crew follows three runners who cross somewhere north of 4,500 miles of North Africa from west to east. They ran approximately the equivalent of two marathons a day for 111 days with no day off. The trio and traveling circus also got permission to run across Libya as part of the trek. If you do rent this, make sure to watch the behind-the-scenes extra footage in the special features section. The runners are a very diverse lot. As a viewer, your perception of each one will change during the course of the documentary. Again, I'd have to highly recommend it.

So, with all of the great weather this week, on Wednesday I was struck down with the flu. And I do mean struck down. I had no firing out of either end (thank god), but I had brutal muscle and bone aches, chills, fever, and very sensitive skin/scalp. It suuuuuucked. While I didn't upchuck, food sounded terrible. I ended up eating almost nothing for about 48 hours before systems returned to normal. My main sustenance was OJ and some ginger ale.

Today, I awoke feeling pretty weak, but much healthier. After a breakfast of oatmeal and prunes, I bundled up heavily, left my watch off, and went for a short run. It was amazingly brisk (read cold and windy). While none-too-enjoyable, the run went off without a hitch. I returned home with a bit of leg pain, which seemed to be residual from the illness, but otherwise in good shape. One Advil and I was back to normal. I'm a bit galled that I lost two great running days. However, I am always somewhat satisfied when I tackle adversity with runs like I did today. I didn't push it, but I didn't just blow it off because I was a bit weak. So this little run gets my nod for my best run of the week.

I may pop another post this week. I just wanted to get some of this onto the blog while I was thinking of it.

Have a happy Sunday.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Running With Gators Nipping At Your Heels



Ahhh sunset at the southernmost point in the US. I stayed in Coconut Grove, FL over the past weekend. It was a lovely place to run. In fact, there were so many runners out early in the morning that I kept checking for race numbers to make certain that I hadn't wandered into an organized event. I've actually never seen anything like the sheer number of runners out in any one place before. Frankly I was surprised. And this is probably my own bit of prejudice against the sunshine state, but Florida has always seemed like a pretty unhealthy place. In other areas of the state where I've been recently, I'm usually the only runner to be found. If you head out at night in South Florida, it seems like every person around you is smoking. But there I was running with mobs of other runners on both Saturday and Sunday morning.

As you can tell from the pics, I did manage to make it down to Key West for a day. I'd never had a burning desire to go there, but once I was there, I found it to be a beautiful little place. I'd actually like to go back and visit it when I have more time.



The next day I popped over to the Everglades. I hadn't been there since I was in my early teens. I had forgotten just how close you come to the gators. They're pretty much all over the place, and there are no fences. It is somewhat surreal. Beautiful birds (anhingas and cranes) and fish (gorgeous gar, in particular) also were everywhere.

All in all a lovely experience. I will confess (as I did above) to not being a fan of Florida. But this trip did allow for the state to put its best face on. And I felt lucky to have experienced it.

Back in Kansas, this morning I arose and went for a run in the balmy 19F temperature. It sure was nice to be home - read into that whatever you will...


Monday, November 29, 2010

Running for Thanksgiving Sans Turkey, Pt. Deux




Tofurkey, stuffing, mashed 'taters, gravy, green bean casserole, corn, cranberry sauce, caesar salad, biscuits, pie and cake; and all vegan. This was the rockin' Thanksgiving dinner my bff Marisa and her husband, Chris, (also a bff) put together for the holiday. It really was an amazing day.

I had spent a good portion of the week feeling down. Winter is coming. There are some minor tensions on a property deal I'm working on (I've been trying to pick up yet another great little rental property). I'm concerned that I'll never have another meaningful relationship - I'll add here that it is completely my fault, because I suck at relationships - even writing this, I actually feel a bit relieved that I'm single. I have a mildly tense extended family trip coming up... The list goes on. It is no worse than anyone else's, but it is my list. And I tend to fixate on a few minor things that keep me up at night.

I was also a bit down because I have been lacking energy on runs. And, coupled with the kinda crappy diagnoses of the past two weeks, running was becoming a stressor rather than a stress reliever. So, on T-day, Chris and I went for a little run around the lake before we ate. The lake where he and Marisa live has a brutal 3.5 - 5 mile circumference (depending on the route one takes). The brutality comes in the form of the most intense hills I've ever run on (leaving altitude out of the mix). It was also cold as a deep space when we set out. But what a beautiful run. I sucked wind and struggled and gasped throughout. However, everything around us seemed crisp and crackly. There were some friendly dogs that popped out now and then, but only one car on the whole excursion.

When we finished, I felt great. And it lasted through a short 3 mile run the next day. So following that I cranked through a nice 5 miler on Sat, and then a 7 miler yesterday (I'm taking a rest day today). All of the runs felt great. The final one began badly, but I said to myself Self, I'm not racing. Just run a pace to get into this thing, and enjoy it.... And you know what? I did.

While I do like running faster and longer, my condition (read age) doesn't always allow for that. Chilling out, and just running for fun, with absolutely no goal, seems to be restorative to me. And everything is relative. I mentioned my runs in a conversation with a woman who is a very good distance runner at a party on Saturday. She commented that my chill out pace of 9 min/mile is much faster than her race pace. I'm thinking of joining her on a couple of training runs in the future just to enjoy being out and moving with more friends.

Enjoyment. That has always been a part of why I run, but it somehow took a back seat as I pushed and pushed over the past few years to become faster. Now it is again moving back to take its rightful place as the central reason I run.

During the run on Sunday I had a thought about putting together two distance runs for friends this Spring and summer. My plan is to lay out two courses - a marathon in the Spring and a 50K in the early Summer. I'll ask a few friends to hang out and make sure that there are 4-5 water and food drops along the courses. But otherwise, there is no organization other than a course map and a starting time and place. Time keeping will be up to the individual runner. The races/runs would end at my house with showers and a potluck. I'm thinking of inviting 10-15 runners.

Participants would be encouraged to run together in pairs or groups. There would be no first place awards. There might be an award for the runner who gives the best descriptive speech of the run at the end... I don't know.

I don't have any set dates, but I do plan to start looking at it a bit more seriously. I'm thinking of a mixture of road and trail running (both of which are plentiful near my house).

Anyway, that's all for now. Cyber Monday is upon us and I'm sure you'd rather shop than read any more of this... ;-)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Chas. Dickens Week

It wasn't like the first six words of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities last week. After dropping out of the half-marathon, where I ran one of the fastest 10Ks and 10 miles of my life before the wheels came off, the week went from bad to worse. I took Monday off, popped 4 (ish) miles on Tuesday - Thursday each a.m., and then just ran out of steam completely. I saw my sports doc and my rolfer to try to regain some semblance of my old self. After taking Friday and Saturday off, Eric and I went to do an easy 10k on the river trails on Sunday. About 2 and a half miles in, I requested that we turn around. Man, some days you're just not feeling it. I couldn't get my breathing right - something that never is an issue for me.

I spent the rest of the morning pondering weak and weary over my running. Then, a friend, well let's be honest... one of my greatest friends came into town to have an early Thanksgiving with a portion of his extended family who are also friends of mine. We partook of good food (vegetarian in my case) and wine, and splendid conversation. It took my mind off of my plethora of problems de pied.

The next morning, yesterday, he and I got up relatively early. I wanted to attempt another run. He asked if he could bike along and keep me company. What ensued was a terrific run into a cold wind. Running slowly enough to chat took my mind off of my problems. I felt fluid and, if not fresh, relatively rested. We finished the hilly and windy 4 miles in a nice time, with little or no problems to report. I felt pretty good about it the rest of the day.

This morning I decided to tempt fate again, and awoke at 4:30. By 5 a.m. I was out in the pretty seriously chilly morning air putting in a little three miler on the flatest course I run. Honestly, it felt wonderful. I made sure to stretch a bit more, and focus on the activity more than the time (22:12 in case you're wondering).

So, after a craptastic past 7 days or so, I think I'm back on track. I am going to chill out on running any races, and just focus on the zen of running (or at least try to do so). Friday and Saturday, for want of something athletic, I dusted off my awesome road bike and cranked it around town. I remember why I like doing that so much. The speed and handling of the two-wheeled Ferrari is kind of exciting every now and then. I usually use one of my mountain bikes for errands, and haven't had the roadster out for some time. I think on my 1 or 2 days off each week, it is going to get the nod as the regular go-to machine.

I've also been checking out swimming videos (since I live 100yds away from an Olympic size pool). I normally do more swimming in the Winter, and want to try to improve my form. I'll write about it more as soon as I get my head wet.

That's all for now. Props to my friend, Doug who had a nasty little bike accident in early morning frost yesterday. We've all been there, and hope you're feeling well enough to get back on the horse later this week.

Happy T-day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hard Week For Running

The bad news started on Thursday when I visited my sports Doc so that he could hear an odd grinding sound my right knee was making whenever I went up hill or ascended staircases. After an x-ray and some discussion, the diagnosis was osteoarthritis. I don't really have my pain in the knee at all, but have begun to take corrective actions. I'm getting a vegan glucosamine chondroitin (hard to find, I might add). And today I'm going in for the first in a series of three shots of hyaluronic acid into the knee. I have a couple of friends who sell hyaluronic acid through natural products channels, so when my doctor brought it up, I didn't have too many questions about it.

Long-term, I'll be ok to run. The HA shots can be done every six months. Then there is always cortisone (which I would do extremely sparingly). And finally, if necessary some years down the road, they can do minor surgery to smooth over rough edges. So, while not great, it isn't as bad as it could've been.

With that news in the back of my mind, I went with my running buddy, Eric, to crank out the Pilgim Pacer half marathon on Saturday. The weather was cold and blustery. And while I had a lot of warm clothes with me, I figured I'd just warm into the run. So I wore a long sleeve shirt over shorts. The result was that I remained cold, even as I sweated, for the entire portion of the race that I completed (ahhh foreshadowing).

I normally train at 8:45-9 min/mile. Races I usually run about a minute faster. While this works well for me in 10K - 10 mile runs, I have a tendency to get insane calf cramps at race pace when I break the 10 mile barrier. It is an odd situation. I can run 15 miles in training with little water, maybe one gel pack to eat, no salt capsules... and never, ever have a problem. But if I kick out a a slightly faster pace, it doesn;t seem to matter how much electrolyte I put into my body, I get debilitating cramps after 10 miles like clockwork.

And that is what happened at Pilgrim. I had run a really nice race up to about the 9.5 mark. My knee hurt a bit. And to be honest, I slowed the pace a tad and ran as much on the grass next to the pavement as possible. But when I felt the cramps coming on, I knew that the race was over. I figured I'd gladly tear up my knee for a good time, but if that wasn't going to be in the cards (I wanted 1hr 44min or better), it was time to pop. I slowed and jogged for a bit, waiting for Eric (who was running a strong yet sensible race) to catch up. When he did, he graciously slowed and we chatted for a bit as he handed me his car keys so I could get my warm clothes, and I handed him a packet of three Cliff's Shot Blocks (which I had been saving for the last three miles because they are so stinking tasty). And then we took off in separate directions; me to the car to finally get warm, and he on to glory and acclaim.

On the ride home after the event, we discussed our future runs. We both love running and doing the long distances. Both of us feel that the bigger organized races seem to detract from the fun level, and put pressure on the experience. While many people use races as a goal for a distance (ie marathon), he and I don't We regularly knock out big miles on the weekends. What we decided in the car was to pull back and do more of the smaller trail races which have more cameraderie, less pressure, and are easier on the joints (read knees). If we want to do a marathon, or 50K, we can do it through the trails, or just lay out our own and roll through it.

I still plan to do one shorter distance (10K) run in Feb; the Groundhog Run in the caves in KC. It is fast, and I'm thinking my calves have never blown out, even at a much faster pace at that distance. It is a good race to go for a PR. But other than that, I'm going to run for fun, do some trail races and stop pressuring myself on the road race PRs. It is simply too frustrating to be feeling great, and cruising at a good speed, only to have one small part of your body let you down.

If anyone has thoughts on what to do to prevent the weird calf cramps, I'd love to hear it. I don;t think it would alter my plans, but it would be nice to know. Currently, when I have done those, I take an electrolyte drink bottle, 2-3 Cliff shots, a salt cap before and 1-2 more during the race. It strikes me that that should be enough to chill any cramps, but it never is when the pace gets too high.

That's all for now. I'll have more next week on the HA shot.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Running for Thanksgiving Sans Turkey



I know it is a few weeks before Thanksgiving, but it is never too early to think about all that we can be thankful for (apologies for finishing the first sentence of this posting with a preposition). I'll cover why Andy the Turkey is the first thing you see her a bit later on.

What a weird week of running. It was cold as he-double toothpicks. It was also dark as ... well, you get the idea. I hate running with hats and headlamps, but I did for much of the week. I tried running tights (with shorts over them for modesty reasons), sweatpants, loose-fitting layered long sleeve shirts, compression shirts with a jacket... It was hard to get comfortable. Somehow I struggled and muddled through a bunch of runs. Then came Saturday. Eric and I are planning to do the Pilgrim Pacer half -marathon next weekend, so we thought we'd get a solid run in. We were going to do the river trails (where the Sandrat run is held for those of you not from Lawrence) and add a mile to each end, but Eric had another suggestion. He knows that my favorite surface isn't pavement or trail, but packed gravel. So, in a magnanimous gesture, he suggested that we just run the eastern length of the river levee. After waiting for the temperature to climb above 40F, we set off.

It was gorgeous, with not a lot of wind, and a lot of sunshine that was beginning to warm the air. We slowed our pace to around 9min/mile so that we could get more running time in. I was trying out a couple of new things. The first was to carry my EmergenC-infused water in my hand rather than on a belt. The second new item in my arsenal was a few Cliff Shot Blocks that Cliffs had given to me at the last trade show I had attended (Cliff's people also had given me an unreleased new mocha flavored squeeze shot that was pretty great when I tried it on a run a couple of weeks ago). I'm happy to report that the tiny hand-fitting (no strap) water bottle was terrifically easy to run with, and the blocks of strawberry energy gunk tasted great.

One of the most interesting things to note on the jaunt was that I became really aware of how much better shape I'm in now than I was even a few years ago. I used to do the same levee distance or the river trails on my bike (that used to be my sport of choice). And, when I did these, they would be what I considered my serious workout for the day. To switch from biking a distance to running it was a great feeling. I've felt a bit of that on some of my other runs, but the levee really drove it home. Enough tooting my own horn (yeah, yeah, I'm awesome and all that rot...). Anyway, we should be ready for the Pacer next week.

I've had a weird sound in my knee for weeks. No pain, but an unrelenting grinding noise when I go up stairs or hills. Very odd. I'm seeing my sports doc this week to make sure there is no issue. Chris, my other running buddy heard it on Friday and thought it sounded a bit off as well. I'll make a report next week if it turns out to be anything significant.

So this morning, I cranked out a new 5 mi route that involved running about a mile down Kasold between 6th and Peterson. I had never noticed this, but that MAJOR roadway has 0 sidewalks between those streets. I was a bit flummoxed (god I love that word) by that fact. But, being very early in the a.m., I alternately cruised on the asphalt when no headlights were approaching and then ran on the grass when cars came by. Great run when there is little traffic, because it is a road that I have never walked before, and the novelty of it made it fun. It also has some tremendous hills (and I'm kind of a fan of hills).

OK, now back to the animals and Thanksgiving. Andy the Turkey and Matisse and Kahlo (see below) are all rescue animals from Cockadoodlemoo Farm Animal Sanctuary (www.cockadoodlemoo.org). Turkeys are really very intelligent, majestic animals. So I'm just going to suggest that as a thank you to the fellow creatures with whom we share this planet, that anyone reading this consider going vegetarian or vegan this Thanksgiving. There are so many wonderful options available now, that even if you love eating meat, I could fix a dinner for you and you would never know that you weren't eating the real thing. If anyone does want suggestions, write to me or post a comment below, and I will get you suggestions and recipes. Matisse and Kahlo have an example of a meal's first course below.

Until next week, happy running and healthy eating.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Cold, the Cold, and a New Park to Run in

This should be a short post this week. Should be, but you never know... After the run a week ago, Sunday, I came down with a crappy little head cold. I ended up taking Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off from smacking the pavement. I returned to the road on Thursday for a whimpering 2 miler. It was the first chilly run I had done this year (other than Boston). Friday I dragged through my usual early 4 miler. It was faster than the day before, but not good if you're looking at your watch for improvement. I tried to set up a Saturday, a.m. run with my buddy, Eric, but he had spent the whole week sick with the same cold as well. So he took a pass.

Friday night, I did something I hadn't done in ages. I took out my blender and made sheets of paper on screens that I had constructed out of picture frames and coat hangers earlier in the week. I had wanted to get back into making paper for some time, but just hadn't (you know how it is). For the first run, I was just experimenting with thickness. The frames didn't hold up too well, but I did manage to get some nice, if uneven, sheets. As I progress on this endeavor, I'll make some periodic reports on how it goes with adding color and other textures.

Saturday arrived with a bit of a nippy wind. I waited until about 8:30 before heading out the door in a jacket, a shirt and shorts. I had picked a route that is anywhere from 8.5 to 11 miles. I choose it if I want the option to bail at any given point. I actually felt pretty good at the 3.5 mile mark, so I made the decision to continue on toward the dam at Clinton. There were no other runners once I hit the SLT path. I ran alone for two-ish miles up the gently sloping field toward the lake, and then where it turns north toward Lecompton. About halfway through the section that is bordered by Clinton Pkwy on one end and 6th St on the other, I started meeting cyclists. It was odd, because there was an abundance of them. Now an aside...

I used to bike a lot. I particularly liked to ride long distances on my road bike - a great Specialized Sequoia. Every now and then, I'd be way out on the SLT, the Farmer's Turnpike, or the Kaw River Levee (that last one on my Cannondale MB400) and I'd see a lone runner. While I liked what I was doing on the bike in terms of effort, I always thought that the runner out there in the middle of nowhere, with nothing save shorts and shoes was somehow...well, badass. These days, as much more of a runner than a cyclist, I am always internally pleased when I run into bikes in the countryside. Because in my mind, I'm now the badass that I used to admire. And its odd, because it doesn't seem like all that big a deal when I'm just out running. But there is always some kind of inner flicker of accomplishment that courses through me when I encounter the athletes of the two-wheeled variety.

OK, back to the story... So I cranked through the last 4-5 miles of the run, and felt great. I hadn't set any speed records. But I also didn't have any muscle or joint pain, no feeling of stiffness, no apparent lactic acid buildup, and no shortness of breath. Eric and I traded texts, and we agreed to meet on Sunday for a 5-6 mile run in the morning.

When Sunday rolled around, it was cold. I had a jacket, two shirts, and shorts over long pants. Eric had a couple of shirts and a pair of shorts. We discussed bringing gloves, but finessed them in favor of letting our hands warm up as we ran. I wanted to do an exploratory run down Wakarusa to 15th St, and then turn west and try to find the grass start of some trails and paths I had heard about. This turned out not to be too hard to do. After a quarter to half a mile on 15th, we came to two mown grassy areas that seemed to lead off into a wooded area bordering a neighborhood. We took the first one. And, after crossing the same stream twice, ended up on the trails that make up Fred DeVictor Park. Stupid me, I didn't realize that that was where Fred's Park was located. I have played tennis with Fred (Lawrence's esteemed former Director of Parks and Rec) on most Saturdays for the past fifteen years. I had been out of town when the park was dedicated a few years ago, and had never bothered to figure out exactly where it was. Well, I'm pleased to report that Fred has a nice park with an awesome path that stretches on for miles through some of Lawrence's western neighborhoods. Eric and I ran a couple of miles of the trails before heading back to my house for some coffee and conversation.

When the run was over, I felt pretty tired. I had put in over 16 miles in a couple of days while still a bit under the weather. It didn't help that Eric and I had finished the run with a sprint finish (because we apparently are that stupid). So I spent the rest of the day taking a bath, a nap, reading, and then watching a documentary about Fred Lebow - the NYC Marathon impresario. All in all, it was a nice weekend.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Travel Conclusion


4:30 a.m. Too many weeks on the road

Las Vegas... Sin City... Gateway to the rest... Last week, as the final stop in my tripartite trade show travel (three shows in three weeks), Nevada's premier gambling mecca became my home. I normally stay at the Westin - my favorite off the strip hotel - or one of the Venetian properties. Both, however were booked up, so I went with the Mirage.

At first blush, as I entered the lobby, I thought what a sad little place. The ceilings seemed low and kind of dark. There was no organization to the check-in process (which took an unduly long amount of time). And overall, after two weeks of travel, I wanted something light and airy, not slightly clammy feeling and dark. Finally, after a nice clerk checked me in, I found myself on the 11th floor, trudging down one of those low-ceilinged halls that seem to extend forever in the palaces of excess that populate the city. My doorway was only one or two away from the absolute end of the hall. That made it about a football field's distance from the elevator or the ice machine. Honestly, after all of the travel, it kind of rankled me (that is a term I have always pined to utilize (that is yet another)). But there were some benefits to the outpost location that became more apparent as my stay progressed - I'll get to those later.

I opened the door to my room, and was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a somewhat tasteful, passably clean, and... wait for it... airy room. I gasped, no kidding, as I realized that the windows actually opened in the room. Who knew? Since I hadn't lost any money yet, I was only tempted to inhale the fresh(ish) air, and not to fling myself out into the afternoon sky. I checked the bed for bugs - this is something I always do. One apparently cannot be too careful anymore. And, finding no critters lurking, I proceeded to unpack in the nice room, with its views of both the Strip and the mountains in the distance.

I was pretty tired from the travel and a good run the day before, but I nevertheless changed into shorts, trudged back up the hall, and went downstairs. Since it was raining (a true oddity for Vegas), I found the cardio-center and did a quick workout. The guy at the desk was nice and helpful. After the treadmill, I showered and then went to dinner at a sushi place across the boulevard with a co-worker. It wouldn't be until the next day that I'd finally do a run on the Strip.

The next day I awoke at 4:30 a.m. I had been working on the East Coast for the past couple of weeks, so it somehow felt as thought I had slept in, with the three hour time difference and all... I was looking forward to a run, but it was too early. I grabbed a small $4 cup of coffee (no kidding - and actually $5 with tip) from another very nice guy in the casino, and then went back up to my room to continue reading the running and philosophy book I've been wading through for the past couple of weeks. When 6 a.m. finally rolled around, I went back along the hallway, down to the lobby, and out onto the Strip. I was instantly surrounded by people running. And this happened the next day as well. It was amazing, really, because outside of Austin, TX, I have never visited a place that had more early morning runners in one place than Las Vegas.

For years I had heard from other runners that the Strip is a great place to run in the mornings. And, while it was nice to be around other runners, I can honestly say that the Strip is not a good place to run ever. I did two runs of approximately 6 miles each on two subsequent mornings, and didn't really enjoy either one. The Strip simply has too much traffic and emissions , too many curb cuts, too many scary drunk or drugged people (staggering somewhere...home?), and too much noise (blasting so loudly from speakers in front of the various properties that you can't hear your own MP3 player), that the run really isn't fun. It is an interesting route, but I found it utterly impossible to get into a flow. And it was pretty depressing seeing some of the homeless types sleeping wherever they could find a safe spot as I got further out of the center. So, now I can say been there, done that, but I don't plan to do it again.

Now to return to two earlier topics. First off, I came to actually appreciate the Mirage. The rooms were nice. The staff of the hotel is actually the nicest I've encountered on my 20+ trips to Vegas. The amenities (cardio-room, the snack shop, the Starbucks) were all good as well. I would happily stay there again. And I would ask for a room at the end of a hall. Because of the way Vegas is, the room requiring a hike was a wonderful insulation against the noisy late-night revelers that populate the city. I can honestly say that my stay at the Mirage was the most restful I've ever had in Sin City. After initially being unimpressed, the Mirage grew on me. I would highly recommend it as a nice place to stay the next time you find yourself in the glowing city in the desert.

Finally, to return to another comment; if you do travel a lot, you can check out places you are staying by going here http://bedbugregistry.com/ . I use it. I cannot vouch for its accuracy, but it does serve to remind me to check things once I'm in a room, prior to unpacking. On all three of the trips I took, I encountered no critters creeping or crawling. But with the bugs all over the news lately (like an epidemic), it is good to check.

Until next week... Good night. Sleep tight. And... well... you know the rest.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Boston

I spent most of last week and weekend in Boston. I probably like that city more than any other on the East Coast. That's normally not saying much, because those who know me are aware of my preference for all things west. But Boston is different. It has an open feel, nice people (a rarity for the Eastern US), stellar waterfront, great shopping, and so much history that you can't even spit without hitting a monument of some kind.

Marisa and I hit our favorite places to shop on Newbury Street. We also dined at our favorite vegetarian and vegan restaurants. A Slice of Pie, My Thai, and The Other Side were all as good as we remembered, serving up good, inexpensive fare.

We also stopped in at the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge. I picked up a copy of a book entitled Running and Philosophy. It is an edition with essays by various runners and philosophers (as the title might have clued you in) who discuss various aspects of mind and body co-existence and dynamics that occur when one runs. I'm about a third of the way through the book as of this writing. So far I've found the first three essays to be excellent, thought-provoking pieces. The two that followed dealing with running as religion and religious experiences through running, sounded as though they'd be more interesting than they turned out to be. I'll write more on the book when I complete it. I would, however, recommend it strongly, simply based on what I have read thus far.

In Boston, we stayed at the Renaissance Hotel on the south side near the convention center. The hotel has a lovely workout facility which I eschewed (except for one day that was extremely cold and rainy). Each morning I arise and hit the asphalt. I'd leave the hotel running on a bridge that crosses a major roadway. I then ran about a mile and a half through a horrifyingly trafficked industrial zone before turning through a neighborhood park toward the ocean. A mile or so of that, and I'd hit a circular jetty or break of some kind that stretches about one and a half miles with water on either side. It returns to land by an old fort. I'd then run back to the hotel, retracing my steps.

I've written about this run before. The sea and park sections of it are pretty neat. The traffic section, however, is not. I do the run when I'm in Boston because it is a route I know. The nice parts of it are certainly not worth the ugliness you have to run through in order to reach them. That being said, I did the run three times in the four days I was there. The other day I ran on a treadmill. If all running was like that, no one would run...

When I got home yesterday, Kansas weather was perfect. After 5 days in cold rainy (but awesome) Boston, I was ready for a run I love. I normally don't do longer runs on days that I fly, but yesterday I made an exception. As soon as I walked in my door, my travel clothes fell to the floor (there's a lovely image) and my running attire took their place. I felt a nit tired and jet-lagged, but cranked out an 8 miler on the SLT. No speed records were set. I also never really got into the zone. But I was able to re-introduce my being to the special feeling that comes from running a favorite route. The run seemed like a metaphor for hanging out with an old friend. Last night, I slept well.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Living here in Allentown (really just visiting)



Chris sharing a pre-race moment with his coach (and wife), Marisa

The Bert Nash Dash and Bash was a really fun time, with a 5K, a 10K, and a bunch of great bands playing afterward. I had been looking forward to running the 10K for some time. It was going to be a great way to pop a local race and support a good local case at the same time. The race was scheduled for a start time of 4 p.m. on Saturday. I found it kind of odd that a race would be scheduled with such a late starting time. I also found it odd that at 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning, I was out on a 12 mile run with my buddy, Eric, rather than resting up for the race later in the day. Here's what transpired.... I remember it like it was yesterday....

While I had been planning to run the BND&B (sorry, I'm tired of typing that out), Eric is signed up to do the KC Marathon (or half marathon) next weekend. He called me on Friday with the request that I do a last long training run with him. He also offered to pick up half of my entry tab on the BND&B if I'd blow it off (the race that is). Since I like longer distance running, and prefer morning runs to those later in the day, I didn't take too much convincing. I still picked up my race packet, just in case I decided to do both runs. But I was pretty sure I was just going to train in the a.m. and then hang out later at the race.

Here's an aside: While picking up my packet at Gary Gribble's, I bought a new pair of Mizuno's. My older pair has about 700 mi on them, and were starting to look a bit long in the tooth. I really love the Inspire model, and was happy to buy another. I took them out on the training run yesterday morning, and they felt great - no issues.


New Mizunos are on the right (My camera sux. The trim is orange, not pink)


Anyway, so we did a beautiful run on a beautiful day. And once it was done and I had showered and napped (and watched a lot of tennis on the tube), I drove downtown to see the race. I purposely left my running shoes and bib number at home, knowing that If I brought them I'd surely want to run.

Chris Ford was ready to run. At the start of the 10K, he lined up in the first row. Not too long after the start, he came rolling back through the finish chute in 5th place (first in his age division - 30-34yo). The day had gotten hot, and he had pushed it by knocking out the first mile in 6min 10sec. He held it together, though, and made it through the brutally hilly course in a good time.

Chris rocking his medal

After he stopped sweating like a... well, a guy who'd just run a hard race in the heat (sorry no good metaphors came to mind), Chris hung out with Marisa and his best friend - a glass of Free State beer (see pic below). We listened to some bands and then split for home.



All in all, it was a good week for me. I had a good race last Sunday, and a good long run the following Saturday. I ran about 40 miles this past week (sadly, 12 of them on a hotel treadmill in cold, rainy Allentown, PA). I read a book by Dean Karnazes that was pretty interesting. And I got to see a friend ascend (metaphorically) the podium at a great new race.

This coming week will be more running in more exotic places - if you can imagine a place more exotic that Allentown, PA.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sand Rat



My friend and awesome runner, Kurt Scheuler with his 'Rat' Trophy


Great race today: The Sand Rat race kicked off this morning with more runners than ever. Eric and I had planned to do it together, although due to work schedules, we trained separately. I had put in 30 something a couple of weeks ago. And this past week tapered a bit to be fresh for the 9.5 mi trail run that is the Sand Rat.

It was a chilly dawn this morning. I wandered through my house a bit undressed (read butt-nekkid) to my laundry room where I store all of my running gear. The temperature made the trek down the hall (I hadn't turned on my heat) a bit like ... well.. walking down a hall in a cold house in the winter. Most of you know what I'm talking about. And with my new awesome wood floors (just installed a few weeks ago), my feet were cold as well as points north.

For breakfast I drank a fair amount of coffee, and had a pretty good helping of oatmeal to get me loaded and race-ready.

After going over to Eric's, and waiting for him for an interminable amount of time while he packed his gear - much like a sorority girl getting ready for a date - we set off for the start of the race. As I said a moment ago, dawn greeted us like a chilly northern woman with poor circulation giving us a cold embrace. It was a bit of a consternation as we, and some other friends, discussed what to wear and bring on the run. Do we wear long pants or shorts? Long or short sleeve shirts? Jackets? Gloves? In the end, I opted for a long sleeve shirt over a short sleeve shirt, shorts, and gloves. Because there was water on the course, I finessed my bottle. I packed a shot of Accelerade Gel, a salt tablet, and some Glide (anti-chafing lube) in my short's pocket.


Lawrence music fans might recognize Tom Conroy of Crossing and Conroy's fame

When the run started, we did the first half mile on the road, and then popped off into the river trails. I spotted a guy who does ultras ahead of me, and fell in behind him. I had run with him on the Clinton North Shore race a few weeks before, and liked his pace. The trails are so narrow at the beginning that if you don't get a good spot, you're either going to be held up, or be the one holding up other runners. I seemed to have gauged my insertion point perfectly, because I was neither the passer of the passee until about mile 3.

Anyway, when we cruised through the first mile with my watch reading 8.5 minutes, I knew it was going to be a fast trail race. Not only was it fast, it was extremely comfortable and also a beautiful day as the weather warmed. By mile 2 I had removed my outer layer up top and had it wrapped around my waist.

Early in the Sand Rat Race. You can just pick out my black hat.


I hit the zone, and went on cruise control. As I ran, I came upon several people I see at race regularly. We would talk for a while as we ran, and then split and move on. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. I seemed to run each successive mile faster. Between mile 7-8, I ran a sub 8 (something I never do on the trails).


I finished with a whole lot of energy and a time of 1hr 19min. that was about 10 minutes faster than I thought I'd do on a trail. It also occurred to me that if I hadn't chatted with people along the way, that I might've been able to shave another 5 min or so off of the run. However, trail running is so fun, and the people so nice, that I find if someone wants to share their enthusiasm with you during the race, it is a great thing to take a moment and talk and take a snapshot of the joy that is running.

Eric looking happy on the run

I have the Bert Nash race next week. It has a ton of hills, so I'm looking forward to seeing how I do on hilly roads again.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Running in the STL, and a Big Win for a Running Buddy

I spent Thursday through Sunday in St. Louis visiting a friend, David, who is rehabbing a really neat 1 up 1 down duplex. The place isn't in too bad a shape, and the neighborhood is pretty nice. He picked up the place for a song. But that's the way St. Louis is. You can buy great inner city properties in decent neighborhoods for not much scratch (as they say). The place is 2-3 br on each floor. The ceilings looked to be between 10 and 12 feet (they were really high). Closets and transoms could be found in most rooms. There was also off-street parking and a back pseudo butler staircase (something I love in old houses).

While he's putting lipstick and real tlc into the property, David's staying at another friend's house. His friend, Amanda, also has a cool old house with a butler staircase and high ceilings. It is in the Shaw neighborhood near Water Tower and Tower Grove parks. While Amanda will shortly be running the Chicago Marathon, she and I never had a chance to nail on the horseshoes for a run. She headed out for a weekend at Innsbruck (that's Innsbruck, MO., not Austria - and I may have misspelled that, but who really cares). Her friend, Meg was in town from Louisiana, and it seemed like a good weekend to get away.

Anyway, I had some great runs - mainly in the rain - through the parks and the Shaw and Compton neighborhoods. St. Louis isn't Indianapolis flat, but it is pretty stinking flat. So the runs were very fast. I was able to run between 7 and 8 minute miles for most of the workouts. That led to me going a bit longer in distance than I had planned, because I was trying to run based on time not distance. The parks and houses along the fabulous tree-lined streets made for really pleasant running. There were very few other runners out, so the workouts became pretty internal and zen-like. I'd hit the zone about 2-3 miles in, and then just cruise.

Speaking of cruising... My friend, Chris ran a race this weekend. It was a 5k in KC or Leawood or some such place. The race was put on by the heart, lung, cancer (I'm really not sure which) association. He popped out of the gate quickly and finished in 4th place - 1st in his age (30-35) division. Congrats to Chris for being a running stud. I'm thankful he lets me run in his wake every now and then.

Chris with his HUGE medal and his brother

My next race is this weekend's 9.5 mi. Sand Rat Race. Then, the following weekend, Chris, Eric, and I are running the Bert Nash 10k (after Chris' performance, it is safe to say that we won't be running that race together).

Anyway, until next week... too dah loo.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Under the Milky Way Tonight

I have only done one night race in my running 'career.' However, I run in the dark almost every day during major portions of the year. This morning, for instance, as my clock ticked over to read 4 a.m., I knew I wasn't going to be able to fall back into slumber. I don't know why, but I have a very hard time sleeping in. If it is 5:30, I will get out of bed. If it is 4-ish, I'll try to stay in bed until 5 or 5:30. So, I pulled out a book I had begun yesterday and managed to finish it before crawling out of bed, making coffee and feeding Lucas, my mentally-troubled kitty (who'd been bellowing at me through the door as he heard pages turning for the previous hour).

When it finally came time to run around 6 a.m., it was still very dark outside. I grabbed a headlamp. But instead of turning it on for the whole run, I left it off for parts of the run where I know there aren't potholes in the roads, and the sidewalks are relatively even. As I hit the turnaround point at two miles, The Church's 'Under the Milky Way' pulsed gently through my earphones. I looked up and could see not only the Milky Way, but some planets and the ever-present belt of Orion. It was absolutely perfect. I waved to several of the other early morning runners I passed in the dark (always women for some reason). It really was one of those experiences that you would love to share with someone when it is happening, but instead, remains an internal and fleeting joy, that only the person experiencing it will ever know.

The run this morning was undertaken as a bit of a recovery run. Yesterday, after weeks of doing my long runs on trails, I kicked out a big run on my old solitary (paved) roads and SLT trails. I was expecting heat, but when I awoke, my area of the city was shrouded in fog. I waited for an hour for the sun to come out, but it never did. So at 8:30 a.m. I set off into the mist. And what a lovely run it turned out to be. I hadn't done it in some time, so it seemed fresh again. The fog made the run a bit surreal as well.

I have this odd thing where I'll think about what can happen to runners out alone in the country. I'm never worried about heart attacks or getting hit by a vehicle. But I do worry about stray rounds from hunters and being run down by the oft-doubted mountain lion. And yesterday, running in the fog, I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure that no larger version of Lucas was skulking along in my wake. I do know of an instance in our county where a woman triathlete was doing a training run and saw a mountain lion that seemed to be following her. But in my case, yesterday, it was just my mind going places in the fog where I didn't want it to go.

I passed a few other runners and cyclists. They would emerge out of the whiteness and sort of float on by. The moisture in the air was so thick that the hair on my arms and legs developed droplets that gave off a silvery sheen. I hadn't taken any water, but at mile 4 did a shot from a packet of Accelerade gel. It always takes those shots about 15-20 minutes before I notice a modicum of increased energy. At the 10K mark I checked my watch and realized that I was going too fast. I ran through it at 48 minutes flat. It was somewhat hard to keep a correct pace of 8:30 - 9:00/mi (which is what I usually shoot for on training runs) because I couldn't gauge distances.

I finished the run feeling relaxed and refreshed. For the first time in weeks I didn't have to shower using poison ivy soaps. My blisters weren't screaming. My hip (which continues to have problems when I play tennis) was also without pain.

So, my plan for this week is to only do 25-30 miles and simply enjoy some solitary runs. After next weekend, I have two weeks of races coming up - one road and one trail. Then it is back to simply cruising the various roads and trails in my neck of the woods until another race grabs my fancy.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Blistering Runs

I don't have a whole lot to report re: running this week. I spent most of the week not running due to the extreme blisters I had gotten during the Clinton North Shore Race the previous weekend. I did get to smack some tennis balls with the Saturday morning crew for the first time in over two months. I still felt a bit of tenderness in my hip (the injury that had killed my Summer tennis season), but it was manageable.

I did learn about excellent (and seriously expensive) bandages that are blister specific. I didn't know that such a thing existed. They work great. I was able to get back into running on Thursday and Friday for a whopping 6 miles (total). And then, on Sunday, Chris, Eric, and I went out and did the same route as the North Shore Race. Chris hadn't done those trails before, and for Eric and me, it was nice to have a third runner to rotate off the front and share in the spider-web-in-the-face duty. Every mile one of us would switch out to the lead, waving a thin stick in front of himself like a spaz as he ran. Even with the stick, we all got faces full of webs. But all in all, it was a great run on a beautiful day.

This morning, after a short 2 mi. recovery run, I signed up for the Bert Nash Dash 10K. It looks really good and hilly. It starts in downtown Lawrence, and wends its way around and through the KU campus. I don't foresee any speed records being set on this course, but it should be fun.

I'm still deciding whether or not to do the Sand Rat race on October 3. I don't like to focus too much on races. I don't run to race, and am happiest when I'm out alone or with friends in the countryside.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Clinton North Shore



As I sit down to write this morning, my left foot is throbbing from a large blister which is situated over an even larger blister. I couldn't run yesterday or today, and probably won't be able to knock out any real mileage for the next few days as I recover. The cause of this pain?... The Clinton North Shore Trail Run put on by the Trail Nerds. The course was said to be an 8.5 mile loop, but in reality stretched over 9 miles. I also got slightly lost by meddling with my sunglasses and missing a sign; a move that caused me to add somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 mile to the excursion (as well as a trek through a nice patch of poison ivy to get back on the correct trail). I haven't mentioned the mirror image (but slightly smaller) blister I have on my other foot, or the blister that straddles the majority of the top of my pinkie toe.

Let's just finish all of this nonsense now... the discomfort I'm feeling presently is in direct proportion to the amount of elation and fun I had running the wonderful race. I loved the run so much, that even as I felt the monster blisters making their way across my feet like Sherman marching across Georgia, I didn't want it to end. I mentally focused on the endorphin-release that the blisters would add to those already churning as a result of the exertion .

The day was cool and sunny. The runners gathered for a rather late, 9 a.m., start. I had a friend, Jeanne, visiting from Boulder. She's training for a half marathon and thought the trail run would be good to incorporate into her schedule Eric Henry, my regular trail buddy, was also present, having driven himself over to the race from where he and a bunch of other friends had been camping the night before.


Jeanne with the crazy socks and her friend (also named Jeanne)

Eric and I have run these trails on a number of occasions recently. We usually ended up covered in mud. I usually end up with bug bites galore. But the race day was different. For some reason (even though it had rained a lot in the days leading up to the run), there was little or no mud. I also am happy to report that I didn't get even a solitary bug bite. I showered with poison ivy preventative soap after the race (having run through a large patch, as I mentioned previously). And, other than the raging blisters, I suffered no ill-effects from the race. I didn't even feel too bad about missing a sign and doing a side excursion during the run, because my friend, Kurt, who finished 9th, also mentioned that his group had run into a couple of confusing stops in the course of the competition.


Eric on the run

All in all, it was a great experience and enjoyed by almost everyone I spoke with after. This included the woman who edged past me in the last mile. I saw her take two spills (apparently these two accounted for one third of her total falls). She just kept bouncing back up and cruising - like those birthday candles that continuously re-light once they've been blown out.

So a big thanks to all who put the race on and to those who participated. The combination of the excellent course and the participants made for a great day.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Indianapolis City Running

I'm posting this on Tuesday rather than the usual Monday because I was flying back to Kansas from Indianapolis yesterday. Indianapolis is a nice city...nice and flat that is. Coming from Kansas, I've seen flat (though Eastern Kansas where I reside is actually quite hilly). But Indy is seriously flat. And seriously flat means seriously fast running.

My friend and co-worker, Marisa and I have been going to Indianapolis for the past few years for a late Summer trade show. In our wanderings around the city, we've found that Indianapolis has a couple of places found where the running is great. The first is in a neighborhood called Broad Ripple (near Butler University). It is an interesting place where almost every house is actually a business. A creek runs through the neighborhood, and a nice trail crosses it as well. The only potential issue I saw with the place is that the trail is so popular with bicycles, runners, and walkers, that there really did seem to be a slight danger of collision.

Indianapolis bills itself as a bicycle friendly town. And it really is. I can't recall being in the center of a city and seeing so many places devoted to bicycling. And with cycling being highlighted, running benefits as well. I spent two mornings running with the lightning fast Chris Ford, who had driven in to meet us, and to hang out with a friend, Christine, while Marisa and I worked.

Chris and I ran in the early a.m. in the second great running area along the canals and river near Lucas Oil Field and the Convention Center. As I mentioned, the runs were flat and fast. We were able to cover a good amount of ground as we set off and circumnavigated the Indiana State Capitol Building. We then cruised through Purdue and U of I's Indianapolis campus to the river. The river is pretty with bridges crossing it every few blocks. Early in the morning there wasn't any traffic to speak of. Along and above the far shoreline, we ran by a wall built of huge slabs of cut stone. It was really kind of magnificent. We also ran by a pedestrian bridge that has a lot of nice sculptures on it, and then by the Indians (minor league) Victory Field. We ended the run on the last day with a run through the native botanical garden that flanks two museums across the street from the hotel complex where we stayed. All in all, Indianapolis really puts on a good show for cyclists and runners.
____________________________

Before heading to Indy, I did a mid week training run with my other running buddy, Eric. We are planning to do an 8.5 mile race on trails next week, so we've been trying to get in 1-2 runs on the trails each week. The run was interesting. Since it was pretty dark when we started, we ran out on the levee, then back on the trails. I'm not a fan of spiders, so I made him run ahead (and I'm glad I did, because he ran face first into one or two really good webs). I feel pretty fit for the race this weekend. I'll have a report in my next post.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Correction, A Long Run, and Competition


Me trying to catch another runner - Feb 2010


First things first. I need to make a correction of an earlier posting. Yesterday, while coming back from a shorter run (which was a recovery run from a much longer run the day before), I chanced upon my friends and neighbors, Sandra and Renee. They and two others were on one of their last training walks for the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure for Breast Cancer event in August, 2010 in Denver, CO. After catching up, Renee and Sandra mentioned that they have read this blog recently. It was pointed out that I mistakenly referred to Renee as a 'former' Pilates instructor. Well, as I know (and should have written) she is a current Pilates instructor as well as a physical therapist. If you live in or near Lawrence, KS, you can enroll in one of her classes through LMH South. As someone who has done some early morning workouts with her, I can promise you that your money will be well-spent, and you will get a seriously great workout.

So best of luck to Sandra, Renee and co. for next weekend's walk (it's 20 miles/day for three straight days).
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Now on to running: My trail buddy, Eric, wanted to pop another decent run on Saturday. We had looked at doing the river trails again, but opted instead for the more challenging Clinton North Shore trails. We met up with five other hearty souls at 6:30 a.m. and set off. I had run a bunch of days in a row (6), and was hoping to do a pretty easy run. Well, 2 hours and 20 minutes later we finished. That was about an hour longer than I had wanted to run, but what can you do? I can't recall ever having sweated so much during a training run. And since I normally sweat like a 10 foot breach in a levee, that is saying something.

The run reopened a few blisters that I had gotten the week before. I've never had blister issues in any run until the last two jaunts at Clinton. I'm trying to figure out what exactly is going on down there (on my feet). The shoes (my beloved Brooks Cascadias) are the same ones I've worn for all the hikes and trail runs I've done over the past year, so I doubt they are the sole cause (honestly, no pun intended there). If any reader has a suggestion for some product or procedure to chill out blistering (just at the front inner side of my arches, behind the balls of my big toes), I'd greatly appreciate it.

After the run, Eric and I were standing around chatting with a seriously awesome running friend named Kurt. He's an ultra type who's also nice and fast. He mentioned that he does a shorter, slower (for him slower means 7-7:30 minute miles) run the day after a long run in order to more quickly get the lactic acid out of his legs. I have almost always just taken the day off after runs of 10+ miles, but I thought I'd try it out.

So yesterday I got up relatively early and threw down 3.5 miles at an 8:30 pace. Other than the blisters and some crazy chigger bites, I hadn't experienced even a stiff muscle from the previous day's run. Still, I thought I'd stay slow and steady for a couple of days in order to make certain that there would be no ill effects. And I'm happy to report that Kurt's suggestion was spot on. The shorter run did seem to make the run recovery easier. I went for another run this morning before sitting down to write this, and still feel fine and full of energy.
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New Subject: Competitiveness

I have been thinking a lot about competition and what it means to compete lately. Over the years, I've been labeled as a pretty competitive person. And, while I think in some instances I am, I also can say that I can't think of anyone who fights the urge harder than I do (hmmm... if I fight the urge harder than anyone else, does that mean I'm more competitive about being non-competitive?). I'll give some 'for instances.'

I love raquet sports; ping-pong, tennis, raquetball to name the main ones I play. I don't like losing to people I don't think are as good as I am at those sports, but it doesn't destroy me if I don't walk away with a win. A lot of times when I'm playing someone who's falling behind, I ease up in order to get them back in the game. I seem to lack the killer instinct to really take someone down. I also have no issues in being beaten by someone better than I am. I feel as though it raises my level of play, and I have a real opportunity to learn whilst I'm being schooled.

I usually gravitate toward sports that involve just me, either going for personal improvement against myself (running and biking), or against one or two other people (raquet sports). When too many people get involved on a team, I get uncomfortable with the testosterone level, and the heightened, shared expectations and pressure. I stopped playing World Team Tennis for just that reason. People seem to care too passionately about something that really doesn't matter all that much.

I'm also not a fan of team sports that rely on a country or a specific location. In tennis for instance, I love the smaller tournaments and Grand Slam, but can't stand events like the Davis Cup. I like seeing the individual players perform well, but don't see why I need to root for one country over another. I like seeing Rafael Nadal, Stanislas Wawrinka, and Andy Roddick walk away with wins. I don't care what country they are from, and don't see why that should matter. I feel the same way about the Olympics. I am always thrilled by the individuals competing. But when the commentators begin to talk about country-specific 'medal counts,' I head to the kitchen for a snack.

It makes me a bit sad as well that pro sports have become mainly about who will pay the most $ for an athlete. I don't get why fans root for the 'home' teams anymore when their top players are just going to gravitate to the larger markets with the biggest paychecks. And I don't blame the athletes for doing this. If I were in their position, I'd do it as well. But at some point, these sports start to lack any real meaning for those pulling for small market teams. When your 'home' team is competing against a team comprised of superstars that your team developed early-on, what's the point? If you can 'purchase' a real shot at a pennant or championship, are you really being competitive? It seems to me that the pennants and championships are diminished when that happens.

And my main sport, running, isn't immune from that either, but there is a difference. Most runners entering a big race (let's just use the New York Marathon as an example) have no expectation of winning. The major stars of the sport will probably be back at their hotels napping by the time most of the field crosses the finishing line. The average runner won't ever see the Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazars, Greta Waitzes, or Toshihiko Sekos (boy am I dating myself with these references), and it won't matter a bit. Most of the runners in the race are going for PRs. Runners mainly compete against themselves. And, while it is great that Joe and Jane Average can actually be entered in the same event as a superstar (unlike in almost any other sport), they have no expectation of victory against a pro. The clock is their true competition.

I try (and often fail) to keep that in mind as I run. I fall into the trap every now and then, where I focus more on the clock than on enjoying the run. I love to run, and got into running because 1) it keeps me in shape, and 2) because I love achieving a kind of zen-like state of euphoria where I'm really in a kind of zone that can't be described unless you've experienced it. The second I start to think about PRs, my fun-level drops, and I've lost what I'm really looking to get out of the sport. In races, I enjoy setting new PRs. But for me, PRs should never be the goal. The journey is the goal. And winning is just a pot of fool's gold at the end of a rainbow.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Coyote Ugly



Last week was a great week for running if you like getting up early. The weather was hot but manageable around 6 a.m. each day. It was the first week since I was injured that I was able to move my mileage back into the 30+ range. After the Psycho run on Friday, I took Saturday off, and then did a 7.5 miler on Sunday before it hit 100F. The rest of the week went smoothly with runs of 3-5 miles a day; with one exception.

On Friday I set out for a short 3 miler because Eric and I had planned an 8ish mile trail run for Saturday and I didn't want to overdo it. I was cruising back to my house through a fairly rural area when what I thought were two dogs came toward me out of a lawn. I quickly realized that the pair weren't dogs, but were in fact, coyotes. If you recall my coyote run-in from a couple of months ago, these critters in my neck of the woods really aren't scared of people. When the pair were about 20 feet away from me (to my left), I started yelling and clapping my hands to at least halt their advance. They paused and then retreated a few feet. One then took off on a circuitous course ahead and around me across the two lane road. So with one coyote on my left, and one on my right, I had no choice but to run between them. I continued looking at them, talking loudly, and clapping until I felt I was safely away. A couple of cars also passed me. Normally I hate running with cars on that road - it is a small two-lane with no curbs, just ditches, on each side. Friday, however, I was glad to see them.

I've never been afraid of coyotes, but the ones in my neighborhood really seem to be fearless. I spoke with a friend on Sunday, who knows about such things, who told me that there had only been one recorded instance in history of a coyote attacking and killing a runner. Interestingly, it happened this year. A woman was running while listening to an ipod and probably wasn't aware of their presence until they set upon her. I always run with an mp3 device, but am usually pretty aware of my surroundings due to run-ins with deer in my back yard (and the earlier coyote incident). Older coyotes are much more skittish around people. Younger ones that don't know better are much more likely not to look upon us as predators. I've said enough about this now, but if anyone is interested in why efforts to rid areas of coyotes don't work, I can go into it on a future blog (I learned a whole lot about these wonderful creatures yesterday).

Back to running... On Sunday, I got up at 5:30 a.m. Eric cruised by my place at 6, and we drove out to Clinton Lake to meet with Bad Ben and some other trail types for a run on the north shore. I had actually never done a trail run there (even though it is very close to my house). I usually take the SLT paved trails on my runs in the area. This past Sunday there were 9 people who showed up. It was a stunning day for a run. The trails were a bit more technical than the river trails Eric and I usually do which made it more interesting. We turned around after going out 4 miles. When we completed the run, we found that Clinton has some really nice facilities for washing off the mud and plant detritus. I plan to do the runs whenever I'm in town on Saturdays. They do them all year. And again, the trail running community overall seems to be made up of the nicest people I've ever met. To a person, they are fit, enthusiastic, and friendly.

Now for a movie plug: I ordered a French film called Welcome last week. It is a small movie about illegal immigrants in Calais, France who are trying to make it across the channel to England. The direction and acting are excellent, and the screenplay is very well-written (in three languages). I'm a big fan of French cinema, and this is one of the best I've seen recently. I'd highly recommend checking it out of you have a chance.

Until next week, bon chance.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Psycho Wyco



6 Feet of Rocky Mountain High

Actions that bring exhilaration are not that common (and no, I'm not even remotely speaking of S-E-X). I'm talking about doing some sort of physical activity that is both exhilarating during its undertaking, and holds some sort of special place in the psyche for a long time thereafter. I've been lucky as an adult to have a few such experiences.

The first came in 2001 when several friends and I did a self-contained bike tour around Southern France. I had been suffering from pretty debilitating depression - probably brought on by leaving law school, a small business failure, and the winding down of what I had hoped would be a career in music. I'll always have a special place in my heart for every inch of les Alpines that I pushed myself over. I also hold near in my heart each person on that trip as we got to know each other through a shared struggle and adventure. The struggle also served to spark a years-long recovery from poor lifestyle choices and depression.

The next came relatively recently with my friends Chris and Marisa. Marisa and I were in Colorado for a trade show at Keystone. But we did manage a few days of crazy hikes that Chris had found. There was something really wonderful about these hikes. They were at extreme altitudes for a flatlander like me. But what made them wonderful was that the efforts invested in the hike yielded true rewards - both physically and in the most spectacular views I've ever seen outside of the coasts. The sharing of the experience was also something that the three of us will always have.

Last weekend I had another. My friend Eric and I have been doing 6-8 mile trail runs every Saturday we're both in town. I haven't been a huge fan of the trail in the past, but have gained a grudging respect for them as well as those who choose to run them on a regular basis. Trail running takes longer. It it hard to judge distance. You seem to be running at a 7.5 or 8 minute/mile pace, yet it takes 9-10 minutes to complete a mile. That has a tendency to drive me a bit crazy. I have also fallen into a ravine, regularly gotten covered in plant and soil filth, have had to spend a half hour cleaning my shoes after each run, and then have to stand in the shower with very strong poison ivy lotions as I shower like a slaughterhouse worker trying to get clean. So trail running has never really been my 'thing.'

Eric, on the other hand, loves the trail runs. He and I have yet to do a road run together. Since I'm normally a solo runner, I always like the novelty of running with someone else. If I want to run with him, I run the trails. And last week, he had suggested that we do a nighttime trail run called the Psycho Wyco. The run is a 10k that takes place over some of the roughest, hilliest, and muddiest terrain to be found in these parts. Friday night, Eric, I and about 140 other lunatics, slathered ourselves in bug spray, turned on our headlamps and took off on the run.

As someone who is not particularly graceful on trails, as soon as I saw the crazy loose rocks on the inclines, I knew I was going to be in trouble. The race quickly broke apart, with runners moving in small groups. I fell in behind a couple of guys in one of the first few groups. It was helpful to follow, because the mud holes were terrible (one guy lost his shoe in one, and literally never found it - dropping out of the race and hobbling back to the start), and the rocks were large, jagged, and loose. After a mile or two, I was the lead runner of my group. This didn't occur by choice. It happened because one of the two in front of me fell and took a break, and the other got stuck in mud. So I became the defacto leader of my group of 1. The race, was amazingly challenging as a mental test. I could only look down where the light cast its beam about three feet in front of me. Every time I looked up or around, I tripped and skidded (but did not fall). I put the hammer down as much as possible during the run, but the treacherous course continually called for added mental and physical effort, as I even had to grab trees to kind of swing around some of the mud pits. On the way back a man and woman were following me. I asked over my shoulder if they wanted to pass. They declined because they wanted someone in front to light the way. I did think briefly, of stopping and forcing them to pass for the same reason, but my pace was good, and I seemed to be feeling the terrain better.

When I came to the end of the race, there was about a 150 yard run down a hill across a field with two little streams that needed to be fjorded. What got me, however, was that everyone who had finished ahead of me was standing at the finish line cheering me on. I joined the crowd of runners, and we all stood at the end cheering on each successive runner as he or she crossed the line. I had never experienced that in a road race. True camaraderie through shared adversity.

When everything was over, Eric and I drove back to Lawrence, talking about what an awesome experience the event had been. Even though it was late, I could not get to sleep. I was too keyed up with thoughts of running blindly through nature with a goal that would yield a much more inward reward than t-shirts and medals given out at other races. I couldn't stop thinking about what a great tight-knit community of runners made up the crazy crew of trail types.

Now, several days later, I still feel the same way. While I'll still mainly run on roads, my race schedule will likely be dominated by trail runs. The effort is much greater, the pace slower, but I see the allure in making the journey (both mental and physical) the actual reward.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hot Runs and Hot Tub

It has been hot this past week. That's to be expected. After all, it is August, and it is Kansas. But the heat coupled with the (oft reviled) humidity made being outside a bit... how shall I put this... oh yes, unpleasant. For runners, or at least for those with brains, it made for some really early mornings.

On Saturday, I met my friend Eric at 7:30 for another trail run. 7:30 is about an hour later than I normally hit the road, but the trails we run are pretty well shaded. We set off at a good pace, Eric in the lead. I don't know why I haven't learned to leave some room between myself and a runner ahead of me on a trail. A few weeks ago I almost bit it on a root that I didn't see because I was following too closely. And on Saturday, I did bite it. I tripped over a little tree stump and went tumbling down a ravine. I was unhurt. Eric pulled me out, and we spent a few moments making sure that I hadn't rolled through a patch of poison ivy before setting out again. One good thing about taking a tumble is that it keeps you much more alert to the possibility in the future. Much like having a fender bender when you're in high school. One minor accident can teach you a lesson about avoiding future ones.

So Sunday came around, and I, back in road-running mode, thought why not try a new route. It was pretty hot at 6:45, so I sat down and planned a 5 miler through town, rather than out in the country. It also involved some serious hills. I don't have too much to say about the run other than it was hot and hard - not good characteristics in this context. I did find it interesting that in shifting the course of my run to a different direction, I did not pass a single other runner that I regularly see. In the other three directions that I run habitually, I always see pretty much the same people in most on the various routes. I think, though, because there is a major road I had to cross at the beginning, that the road creates a division in most people's runs. You either run to the North or the South of it, but rarely cross it.

Now a movie plug. My friend Mark Robison, who with his wife, Diane, runs the farm animal sanctuary Cockadoodlemoo.org, was in town over the weekend. On Friday afternoon, the two of us sat down to watch Hot Tub Time Machine. I know it doesn't sound much like something I'd watch, but I had heard a story about it on NPR which said it was a seriously funny movie. Honestly, there were parts that were hysterical. If you're looking for laughs, this is the flick for you. While it's not for little kiddies, it isn't a completely gross-out movie like so many that have come out recently. Highly recommended.

Monday, July 26, 2010

ReLAx

I did my favorite run a couple of times over the weekend. I've written about it extensively, so I won't wax poetic about it again. The only difference this time was that I did it without a running partner. Normally, Joe Salem meets me and we forge up and down the hill together. This time, he was back in Kansas visiting relatives. So I figured I'd just knock out the run and see how fast I could do it. The first day, I was less worried about time, and more interested in keeping out of the sun. It wasn't so hot as much as bright - the headache inducing kind of light that blinds you even in sunglasses. The second time up and down, I managed right around 8:45 minute miles on the ascent, and sub 7 on the descent. I'm not normally a sub 7 kind of guy, so it felt as if I was flying.

At the end of both runs (and before flying home yesterday), I stopped at Trails - a wonderful outdoor eatery. The first day, I had coffee and a vegan lavender cookie. The second day, coffee and a vegan mushroom pistachio filo dough pocket. And finally yesterday, yet another coffee and another pastry. The place is absolutely wonderful. I also noticed with more pleasure than I can express, they use Cafetto Espresso Clean to clean their espresso machine. I love stumbling into places I like and seeing that they use Cafetto. For any of you who don't know I was the first importer of the brand in North and South America.

During the stay in the city of Angels, I mainly slept. I have been under a lot of stress lately, and have not enjoyed much about my life. My main pleasure is running. After that, reading, and then...nothing. I believe that this state is temporary. It is mainly related to family and work issues. But it was so nice to get away, get rest, and take my mind off of all the drama and stress that has built up around me over the past 6 months or so. It is kind of sad, really, because I have worked hard to keep the world's troubles at arms length. Sometimes you just can't do that.

I did get a chance to eat at my favorite vegan restaurant - Vegan House on Sunset. And I saw a movie projected on a screen in a lovely garden/back yard at a house in Silver Lake.

Now I'm back home and hoping that this week will be a bit more cherry and a little less pit (to paraphrase Erma Bombeck).