Monday, March 29, 2010

Run, Talk, Sing

I went for a bunch of runs last week ranging from 3 to 9+ miles. I had a first, for me, during one of the shorter runs; I tripped and fell. It was an odd fall, because I was running on a route I regularly run with a perfect sidewalk about 6 feet across. I have a habit of sometimes running really close to the sides of walks, which was exactly what I was doing when I lightly tapped a landscaped outcropping with my left shoe. Luckily, I didn't get anything more than a scrape on my hand. And, even more luckily, I was in a somewhat rural location, so there was no one around to see the minor spectacle. I quickly stood up and took off running again. Point of the story...keep your wits about you whenever you are doing something athletic - particularly in remote locations. Second point...if the sidewalk is 6 feet wide, maybe use more than just the outside 8 inches.

Sunday started off blustery and cold. Chris and Marisa Ford showed up on my doorstep at 10 a.m.; Chris to run, and Marisa to hit the grocery store while her husband and I sauntered around the western outer reaches of the city. Chris and I had a debate about whether to take jackets (we both had gloves, hats, and long sleeve shirts over Ts). We opted to err on the side of warmth, and it turned out to be a good choice. Portions of the run that were either with or perpendicular to the wind were nice and warm. But every time we turned into it, the breeze became biting.

It is always fun to run with someone else, even if that person happens to be a crazy great runner like Chris. We had some good exercise, made better by good conversation. And that, conversation that is, is something that I am not accustomed to when I run. I'm such a solo guy, that when I have the chance to run with someone, it is fun to chat. But it does require some extra effort. Chris asked me a question as we were just beginning to head up the longest and steepest hill on the route. I had to defer my answer until we were closer to the top. I normally just listen to music or NPR when I run. It is not uncommon for me to throw out a short verse or harmony to a tune when I run. I usually do it when I think that no one is around, but every now and then I'll startle the crap our of someone with a loud outburst or a yell (like before the bass solo in the Beastie Boys song, Camouflage). I've read that in training, a good pace is where you can have a conversation with someone else. If you can sing a song, you're running too slowly. So I am just a snippet of song guy. It is like a conversation with myself and my MP3 player. Later this week, I'll go over my fav bands and songs to listen to when I run. I do know that Chris likes LCD Soundsystem among others. If anyone has suggestions as well, this might be a good time to make them.

Finally a short note. Oakland had its first marathon and half marathon in 25 years over the weekend. Over 6,000 showed up to run the course which took people all over the city. The race turned out to be a smashing success (according to the written reports). It is good to see the sport expanding and thriving.

And now, as usual, finally finally... In upcoming entries, I want to start covering gear, training techniques, books/magazines, training routes around the country, and races that people enjoy (or better, hate). I'm mainly writing these points for myself in order to have a reminder that I need to get started on this. The posts will become a bit more frequent if I can get it together.

Ciao for now.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Reform - Check It Off The List

Its a new day in America as we finally take a significant step forward toward a more universal health care. As many of you who read this blog regularly will recall, the first posting I wrote covered health care reform (not running!?! gasp!). I believe that there are certainly portions of the current incarnation that need tweaking. And, while part was hijacked by anti-abortion zealots who care more about the unborn than the living, all in all, it will be good for America as more people get under the umbrella of health care, and will not go to bed each night deciding between bankruptcy and breathing.

The Republicans came out of the debate looking like what they are, the party of NO. No other solutions offered, no change in the status-quo, no concern that millions go uncovered. During the debate, it struck me as odd, that the party that claims to be fiscally responsible (even though they racked up the largest national debt in history) would be against health care reform, when their own Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecast that the new plan would lower the deficit by over a trillion dollars over time. Doing nothing, as the G NO Ps wanted, would have had the opposite effect. So why were they against it? Anyone with a thought on this can feel free to comment, and I'll try to summarize those in the next blog posting.

My take on all of this is that we should give this new plan a chance. Its weaknesses will surely show, but so will its strengths. I have one friend, in particular, who has worked mightily for the passage. He's one of the insured, but horribly under-insured who has dealt with a myriad of surgeries and health issues over the past year. On several occasions he has called me and actually cried over the crazy bills that he has had to deal with (and again, he is insured). So last night, as the bill was going through, I called him. He and a friend were having a watch party. And, while the passage will do nothing for him in the short term, In the long run, he feels that he, and others like him will be better off.

Now on to running. I popped a couple of 7 mile runs earlier this week. Both were good, with the weather in the 50-60 degree range, and light winds. On the second run, I felt a twinge in the back of my left calf but kept on running. It was still there the next day, but I decided to do a 4 miler and see if it completely cramped up, or if it went away. Luckily, the latter event occurred. I can count on one finger the number of times working out through an injury has cured it. But this past week, the gods of running were smiling upon me. In between the 7 mile runs, I did another 4 mile jaunt. Oddly, that was the run of the week. I somehow hit a zone where I was shuffling along at about an 8 minute clip with, not a little, but absolutely no effort. The feeling lasted the entire run. True, I wasn't going fast, but I had no sensation of anything other than effortless movement and flow. Ending the run was like waking up from a great dream. There's a bit of disappointment, and you wish you could just fall back into it. I took Saturday off because we had 8 inches of snow (it should all melt away be the end of today). Sunday I set out for a shorter run due to sidewalk and road conditions - no to mention the fact that it was fricken cold. I did 3 miles through ice, slush, and pretty deep snow. So it turned out to be a good workout. I saw no other runners, which made me feel that oh-so-common blend of studly and stupid. Great weather planned for this week, so I'll be out daily.

Finally, I went to the doctor's office to get a physical last week. I hadn't had one in over ten years, and figure that everyone should get one at least once a decade. The results were good. Resting pulse, 48. Blood pressure, low. Prostate, small. Doctor's finger, large. Discomfort, normal.

It turns out, that I'm probably better (for my age) than I've ever been in my life. And I think more and more of my friends are doing things to ramp up their own health as they get a bit more conscious of their lifestyles. I know of one who is making the effort to walk to and from work every day. Those three miles will probably add years to his life if he keeps it up (I'll probably drop dead on a run after writing this...). Others are taking up running, biking, walking, and swimming. 'Cause let's be frank; 40 is the new 40. We're not getting younger. But with age comes wisdom (I love platitudes), and we can certainly apply what we know to be true, to make our remaining years the most active and vibrant ones we have ever lived.

Finally, if you missed Indian Wells, you missed some great tennis. Journeyman Ivan Ljubicic took home the prize yesterday in two, close as you can get, sets against Andy Roddick - 7-6, 7-6. Along the way to the final, Ljubicic had to knock off Novak Djokovic and Rafa. So, while there isn't a great amount of parity in men's pro tennis (with Rafa and Federer running around), it is great to see someone else win the tournament that has been called the fifth major.

C U Next week.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Which to quit - running, smoking, drinking, or sex

There have been a few things in my life that I like more than sex. Of course I'm speaking of over the past few years, not when I was between the ages of 13 and 25 (when I might have given up breathing air in exchange for sex). But as I have aged, to be frank, if given the option, I would have given up sex for drinking, a cigarette with my coffee in the a.m., and running. Luckily, I never had to make that choice. I have, however, had to prioritize doing the things I love to do. For simplicity, I'll repeat them in no particular order - sex, drinking, running, and smoking.

I have always suffered from cold weather and exercise related asthma. I do run with an inhaler when it is cold outside. Over the years, I have been to the doctor many times to have breathing tests done. My doctor has told me repeatedly that he can't tell that I ever smoked a day in my life - something that, over the years, I attribute to daily biking, tennis, or running. However all that changed for me over the past few weeks. Several blogs ago, I wrote about running the Subtropolis race. During the race (a 10k that was run indoors) I had an asthma attack. I finished the race in a good time, but I was a bit concerned about the episode. Then, a week ago Sunday I returned from an 11 mile run through the country. The weather had been good, and the pace had been somewhere in the 7.5 min/mi range - not too taxing. I stepped inside my house after the run and had another mild attack. That got me thinking that maybe smoking was taking a toll on my running. So I quit.

I have never been a really heavy smoker. For the past several years I've smoked 5-6 cigs a day. If they were healthy, though, I'd have chain smoked, because I like smoking that much. Days without cigarettes were always a lot like those anti-smoking commercials where the poor schlub who is trying to quit can't even dress himself. If I didn't have coffee and a nic stick first thing, I couldn't get going.

But I love to run. Apparently, more than I like to smoke. So I quit. And it has been shockingly easy. Yes, I get a couple of strong urges to suck American Spirit tobacco smoke into my lungs a few times a day. But the urges go away after a short while. And then I think of other things to do. I chew a few pieces of nicotine gum, and that helps as well.

I had no plan for quitting when I did, but the timing worked to my advantage. Last week I had to attend a trade show in Anaheim, CA, and that meant staying at a hotel. Most hotels I stay at are completely non-smoking. Also, the industry in which I work certainly frowns on use of tobacco products for anything other than sacred ceremonies. So, even though trade shows can be stressful, the living situation for the first seven days of my new smoke-free life was optimum.

So now, one of my 4 favorite things to do has been eliminated. I still have the other three, with only one done to excess (umm...that would be running - guys c'mon).

OK, since I haven't done it in the past, let's talk about running in Anaheim. If you thought Kansas was flat (which it isn't), or Florida was flat (which it is), you ain't seen flat till you've been to Anaheim. The landscape around Disney and the convention center is like a massive parking lot. It is heavily trafficked, but super flat and fast if you can get across the intersections or around the mid-western corn-fed family that walks five abreast at a snail's pace along the wide sidewalks (which are in perfect condition). While I took a couple of runs in other directions, my regular run was a 3.5 mi course around and through the Disney property. The first time I did it, it was a bit disconcerting, because it crossed two freeway entrances, several major intersections, and some large hotel lots. It also crossed the 5 (Interstate 5) on bridges twice - which, while a bit disorienting, was kinda cool, because you could see massive flows of traffic below your feet. The early a.m. brought out a bunch of runners of all abilities. I love places like Austin for just that reason - you see a lot of other runners. I wouldn't have guessed that Anaheim would've had the second largest amount of people I've seen out and about on early morning runs. And, while I'd never list it as a good place to go for a run, Anaheim was a good place to be if you wanted to be out on the crazy flat pavement with a lot of other runners. True, most are very likely from elsewhere, but they still count as Anaheimians (Anaheimites?!?) in my own private running census.

So, I got back to Kansas (still not smoking) and popped out for a 7.5 miler yesterday. No issues with asthma, traffic, or people walking 5 abreast on the sidewalks. Life is good.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The 11 mile run and some other stuff

This weekend was lovely. While snow may fall upon our heads once more before Spring finally embraces the region, we have now had the taste of sunny 50s and 60s, and there is no turning back for long.

The weather made for a pleasant clean out of a warehouse that my little company had been leasing for the past several years. It actually looks better than when I first rented it. I'm guessing that due to a water line break this past winter that my company will probably lose its deposit. And that's OK, because the landlord and the neighboring company spent hours of time standing in ankle deep water on a really cold day to get the problem fixed. I am thankful to both of them, because I wouldn't have discovered it for days, and wouldn't have been able to take care of it on my own. All in all, a little bittersweet giving up the place, but also a big relief.

I'll get to the Academy Awards in a bit, but first want to write about running (whoa, there's a shocker). After the 9-ish mile run last Sunday, I took Monday off, and then eased back into the week with 3 and 4 mile runs. For some reason, the first three shorter runs were really difficult. I couldn't get my legs flowing, and couldn't tap into the good humor I usually find in runs. By Saturday, however, the malaise had lifted. I had planned to do either a 9 or 11 mile run on Sunday, so I was relieved to find my groove again as I took a particularly hilly course for Saturday's preparatory run.

Sunday I awoke early, having slept fitfully. I wanted to do the run in shorts - I am sick of running in long pants or tights - but it was a bit chilly early on. So, I popped over to the aforementioned warehouse and cleaned it out. I then washed an amount of dirt (reminiscent of a California mudslide)off of my vehicle before heading home to change for the run.

At 10:15, I headed out my door and onto the streets. It was a bit chilly, but the sun was out, and I knew that it would get warmer. I ran over to 6th and Wakarusa, and then proceeded to run the full length of the street to where it dead ends at the SLT. I crossed the SLT, and took the bike path west up to Clinton lake. After a couple of hairy highway merge crossings, I was able to reconnect with the path and run it back to 6th. The final leg from 6th and SLT back to my house was the fastest of the whole run. I was able to hold a sub 7 min pace and was on cruise control. I finished the run averaging somewhere between a 7:30 and 7:45 min/mile pace. No pain, no real fatigue to report either yesterday or this a.m. - even though I am taking the day off as usual after a longer run.

I did have a Power Shot at what I perceived was about the halfway point in the run. And, although I didn't partake of it yesterday, I did note a water fountain just west of the softball fields. That'll come in handy on warmer days. While I will carry water if necessary, I don't like to due to the weight and the jostling of the bottle and belt aparatus.

OK now onto the Oscars... My fervent hope last night can be summed up in three letters, ABA (anything but Avatar). And, for the most part, I was pleased with what transpired. Movies with good story lines won most of the awards that I cared about. I think Star Trek was probably my favorite big American movie last year. I am not, as most of you reading this know, a fan of big budget American movies, sci-fi (with the apparent exception of Star Trek - go figure), or animation. It was good to see a woman win for the first time as well. There have been some great directors (ie Penny Marshall) who have been nominated, but have not gotten the brass ring (so to speak). So that was a wonderful moment in the show. As for Avatar... the movie didn't leave empty-handed. I saw it and liked the special effects, but really found the story insipid and distasteful. I also cannot abide by a movie that goes much over 2 hours. If I look at my watch more than once while in a theater, the film is not worth it in my book.

So, that's the news from Lawrence, KS - Flyover State Central. Wishing you and yours a good week from me and mine.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bone Jarring

Since I did such an abbreviated post yesterday, I thought I'd supplement it a bit today. I have noticed an odd sensation on runs longer than 7 or 8 miles. What I notice is not muscles working (which is a relatively normal thing to notice on a run), but bone awareness (stop laughing, pervs). What I feel with each footstep at some point is the bones throughout my legs. It is very odd, but somehow, I feel each impact, compression in the joints, and the ripple effects of the jarring going up through each individual bone. The sensation doesn't last too long, and normally occurs on downhills or flats. It is not painful or unpleasant, just odd. If anyone else who runs ever gets this sensation, let me know. I don't recall experiencing it when I used to run years ago.

The Winter Olympics ended on Sunday. The ceremonies surrounding their openings and closings don't really interest me in the slightest. People who put emphasis on which country won the most medals (as if they can somehow bask in the reflected glory) also don't interest me. The overwrought television background stories are a needless distraction (leave the tears to Lifetime). In short, there are a lot of things about the way the games are presented that leave me cold.

The athletes and events, however, do not. While I will admit that I am not a fan of hockey or curling (is that a sport or a game, c'mon), I did have ass time on the couch watching both of these. And they were oddly appealing. My absolute favorite events, though, were the men's and women's short-track speed skating, and (oddly) any of the nordic cross country-type events. I'll admit to being crazy about Apolo Ohno as he strove to vanquish the (unfairly demonized) Koreans. I also loved the Chinese women. They were absolutely amazing in their effortless ability to surge ahead on a moment's notice. And the nordic events had more down to the wire finishes than many other types of races I've seen. And since they are on skis, and cover long distances, the nail biting moments actually took a heckuva lot longer than they do in other races (ie 100 meter dash). When I first had turned on the tube and saw a nordic event, I thought, great, how boring. But after a couple of minutes, I was hooked.

Frankly, I loved almost all of the events. The skiing and snowboarding was great. Speed Skating (now I guess called long track speed skating), bobsled, luge, skeleton, (and really crazily for me) ice dancing, were all wonderful.

If you missed it, you missed out on something that even chatty, insipid, America-centric television coverage couldn't destroy - athletes coming together from around the world to compete in interesting events in brilliant and amazing ways. I'm looking forward to Sochi in 2014.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Half-Post about Half-Marathon

I signed up for the Kansas Half Marathon last week. So, on Sunday I thought I'd see just how ready I am to run the distance and the course. For those of you who know Lawrence, KS, the race spends a bit of time on Clinton Parkway heading out to Clinton Lake. Since that is near one of my regular running routes, I thought I'd incorporate those hills.

What a wonderful day to run! It was cold (high 20s) when I started, but it was sunny and warming, with very little wind. Somewhere near the 4.5 mile mark and the 6.5 mile mark, I experienced (for about 5 min each time) the runner's high; where you feels as if you've found another gear, the run seems effortless, and exhilaration sweeps over you. I love when that happens.

Anyway, I knocked out about nine miles and still had plenty of fuel left in the tank. I also averaged about 8 min/mile even with the one brutal hill just before the lake. So I'm feeling pretty good about my starting point on training for the race.

More later. Got to run (figuratively this time, not literally).