Monday, June 28, 2010

Battle of the Sexes - Hey, It's Over.

I read an interesting statistic in Running Times the other day. Apparently a few years back, there was a flip in the ration of men to women running marathons. It used to be that many more men ran them. Now the trend is in the opposite direction. I don't know if this applies to running in general or simply to that distance. The book, Born to Run made a pretty good case for women being at least as good (if not better suited) as men in running ultra distances.

In my own neighborhood, it is almost a demographic anomaly to see another man running. In my morning runs, I usually pass a number of women. There is a group of three who run at least three times each week. There is a woman of short-stature who seems unstoppable, ambling along at a pretty good rate, looking very fit and fresh. Then there are a couple of others that are out every day really cranking. They look like seriously good fast runners. If I ever fall in behind one of them, I always struggle to keep pace. And there are a couple who run either barefoot or in Vibrams who a pretty seriously committed. There are a few other regulars that I see and know well enough from morning passings to float a knowing glance and a comment about the weather.

And then there are the guy. I see one other gent every now and then. He's usually running with a dog. If I ever see another male, it is invariably someone walking and rarely...very once every two months, another guy running.

So what's going on? I am a bit at a loss to explain it. It does seem as though the men run later. If I go for a weekend run, or run in the evenings, I'll pass some guys. I have two male neighbors who strap on the shoes a few times a week. I also have a co-worker who lives near me who took up running when he saw how it changed my life (I'd really say it as saved my life). But even on afternoon and evening runs, there are always more women out running than men.

In my circle of straight friends (I'll get to why I'm splitting this up in a minute), the women run much more than the men. I can think of 7 women who run, while only three men do. The women in this group seem much more concerned about health, nutrition, fitness, looks, and instilling these values in their children. The men seem more interested in grilling, drinking beer, and playing bluegrass. And I want to say that there is nothing wrong with grilling, drinking beer, and playing bluegrass. But there is a distinct difference in the value given to fitness between the sexes.

Among my gay friends, dedication to running is much more even. My craziest running gay friend is a guy who runs ultras. And he really runs. I saw him running as I was driving in my car the other day, and he was hauling. I have several others who run on a bit more rational level. I'm always in favor of the insane, but I respect the sensible runners as much as the nut jobs. Anyway, the number of men and women in the gay community who run, in my very unscientific poll, seems to be near parity. I'll go out on a limb here and postulate that there is a higher ratio of men who run because of the gay culture's emphasis on youth and looks. Please don't write me yelling about how this is a stereotype. There are countless articles in gay publications that point to a higher consciousness or self-consciousness about looks and youth among gay men. Gyms in gayborhoods all over the country are packed with guys spending countless hours on machines trying to (at least) look fit. So it just makes sense that there would be a higher percentage of gay men to lesbian women who run.

OK enough of the battle of the sexes. The humidity that has settled in on the area has made even early morning runs a bit of a challenge. My normal long runs of 10-13 miles have dropped to 7-8 miles. Daily run distance has remained at 4 miles, but I even feel that distance much more than in the Spring or Fall. For the longer runs, I have been concerned about hydration. I have an Amphipod water system that I use, but I'm not too fond of it. Belt systems constrict. And, even with the great design of the Amphipod, I still hate the sloshing and bouncing of the bottle. Yesterday I tried a new idea. For an 8 mile run, I grabbed a small water bottle and added some EmergenC. I carried it the first 2.5 miles, and then put it down by the side of the dirt road. Since the run had a turnaround point, and was not a circuit, I grabbed the bottle on the way back, and killed it instantly. So I was able to do the run only carrying a sloshing container just over a quarter of the run. Not ideal, but not too bad either. Still though, there has to be a better way... I woke up this morning with another idea that I plan to try out, but probably won't write about (think patent).

That's all for now.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rocky Mountain High

Spent last week hiking and running in Colorado's Arapaho Basin area. We stayed in the condominiums at Keystone - lovely and inexpensive in the Summer. Bed, bath, living room, kitchen, dining room, and balcony made the condos nice relaxing places to come home to after work or play. The condos overlooked a lovely stream with a fast current. Each morning I'd run either alone or with Chris on a path that followed the course of the stream. On the first day I had an asthma attack within the first three minutes. The altitude took its toll. I kept going and finished the run, which was only two miles. But it took me a few hours to recover. Running improved over the next few days because we remained at or above Keystone's altitude.

We took some beautiful hikes above Breckenridge. The hikes took us close to 12,000 feet. We saw marmots and pika, as well as bighorns, old abandoned mining camps (located in impossible places - kudos to the hearty souls who built them), huge snow banks, clear mountain lakes, and stunning waterfalls.

Marisa had made great food suggestions at the Whole Foods in Denver. So we had Tofurky Jerky, Cliff Bars, avocados, crackers, and gorp to sustain us. The hikes took anywhere from 3 to 5+ hours. I used sunblock like I owned stock in the company. It was really easy to burn.

My Brooks Cascadias (pictured below on the left, next to Chris's Adidas and Marisa's Keenes) worked very well for both the runs along the streams and the serious trail hikes. I had no falls, no discomfort, and no blisters. I also didn't have any joint or back problems. We covered seriously rocky, sandy, and muddy terrain, and the shoes showed almost no sign of wear. I had been half expecting a tear or two in the sides of the soles or in the fabric uppers. The Cascadias, however, really held up, and looked the same after a week of punishment.

Here are some more pics of the trip:

Finally, I received some sad news this morning. I learned that a friend of mine had passed away suddenly last Thursday. Tommy Johnson; a great humanitarian, musician, father, and friend to everyone he met died last Thursday. I knew him for about 14 years, and never heard anything but positive remarks and encouragement from him to all who surrounded him. He was an avid tennis player who I played with or against almost every Saturday for the past decade. His loss is a loss for the city of Lawrence and for all that is good in the world. He will be missed. To learn a bit more about this extraordinary person, cut and paste this

Monday, June 14, 2010


What a great week for running. I dropped down to 26 miles for the week, but the workouts felt more than my usual 30-35. The humid conditions made sweating out the old toxins much easier. So easy in fact, that even after showering I continued to sweat for about a half hour (leading to another shower, or at least a change of shirts). There was also a lot of rain. I never mind running in the rain (unless it's a downpour), but I do fear lightning. Yesterday I had planned to do a run on the levee, but there was a potential for pop-up storms. Every single time I run on the levee I think about the woman who was struck by lightning while running there. She was in training for a triathlon. For some years after, there was a memorial triathlon named for her. Between that and the mountain lion sighting a couple of years ago, I opted not to tun alone on the levee.

Instead, I popped out to Chris and Marisa's to check out their new baby. They just adopted a 2010 black Mini Cooper. It rocks. The speedometer goes up to 160, and I was assured that the little car could attain that velocity if one was to apply enough pressure to the gas pedal. They don't have plans to do it, but I think it would be fun to try...

Anyway, since I had my running clothes with me, Chris and I did a run around the lake. It was midday. It was hot. It was humid. And the run has some of the steepest hills in the region - all of the ingredients for a pain-filled running cocktail. Wow was my butt kicked. I think I had a bit of heat stroke the rest of the day. I never run in the middle of the day, preferring to do my jaunts around 6 a.m. or at dusk. While running the course, I kept telling myself that I would enjoy the endorphins that were sure to be flowing from the effort. The only thing that felt good about that run, however, was stopping at the end. This morning, I did a really short run in the rain. All systems seemed to be a go, so I'm assuming yesterday was a good thing.

Coming up shortly I plan to do a bunch of hiking and running in Colorado. I'm hoping that lung capacity will expand with the trip. I sucked wind in the Sierras a few years ago, so I plan to start with some moderate distances and paces until I get my goat legs.

Finally, the season finale of Breaking Bad aired last night; so brutal, but so genius at the same time. I can't say enough good things about it. Get out your iron stomachs and rent the series from the beginning. You just won't believe how good this show is.

Hasta Pronto...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pretty Nice Week

What a lovely week it was last week... Sports-wise, I did a combo of biking, running and tennis. Tennis was the prince of the pack as I knocked off an opponent I had never beaten. I also watched a lot of tennis on TV. The French Open ended with exciting results on the women's side, with two players who'd never won a Grand Slam facing off, and the first Italian winner walking away with the title. On the men's side, Soderling and Nadal put on an excellent match that was closer than the final tally would indicate. While I always pull for Rafa, Robin Soderling has really grown on me. What a tremendous player he is: you may recall that he is the only person ever to beat Rafa at a French Open previously.

Props to Hospital Hill for the most schwag in a bag I've ever seen at a run. The shirts, socks, flip flops, and especially the hats were great. The other creams, lotions, lip balms, shampoos (I can't even remember what all was in the bag) were nice to have as well.

The half Ironman also took place in Lawrence on Sunday. It was fun seeing all of the athletes running around town for a few days. If I trained a bit more for swimming, I'd think about doing it. Right now, after about 20 laps in the pool I'm toast.

On Saturday night, I had dinner with my friends Jen and Steve. The meal consisted of their usual delicious salad, a new beet salad, some hummus, pizza, and vino. We were going to catch a flick, but opted to take a walk up a hill to a schnotzy neighborhood near their place to watch the sunset. I normally run through the neighborhood on one of my early a.m. routes, so it was nice to take a leisurely stroll along the same byways and pause to smell the roses (as it were). On the walk, we encountered several deer, a really sweet Labradoodle lolling about in her yard, and a nice lightning show off to the south. All-in-all, it was a relaxing and lovely evening.

After a long day of running, mowing, and hanging with friends, I settled in for the new episode of Breaking Bad last night. For those of you who like great TV, and have a high tolerance for extremely upsetting violence, I'll say it again; Breaking Bad is just about the best thing on the tube. It straddles such a fine line. The viewer finds him/herself rooting for both the meth crowd and the law-enforcement types simultaneously. Last night, the most meth addled major character showed that he had the most refined moral compass - something you wouldn't normally see on a show. If you want to watch it, go rent it from the beginning so that you know what's going on. The character development really is quite fascinating. They change so much from show to show, that the person you see at the beginning will be very different from the person at the end.

Anyway... that's all that's fit to print this week.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ink spills: never a good thing...

Kind of an interesting week. I finished Andre Gide's, The Immoralist. I had never read any of his works, but had seen him referred to by other authors on a pretty regular basis. So, when I dropped into the Dusty Bookshelf and saw a cheapo Dover edition of his, I purchased it. My general impression of the work is that it is a lot like other Euro/N. Africa richie travel tomes of the era. The difference is that the main character isn't all that sympathetic because he is, well... immoral. He's not too immoral by today's standards, but he certainly is a bit of a sociopath with some narcissistic overtones. The main point of the work (or at least the main idea that I came away with) is that the true nature of people is manifested in the lowest act that they do. Very interesting. The work reminds me a bit of The Sheltering Sky (although again, it is a bit more immoral).

So I stopped into my favorite running store, Gary Gribble's, to get more BioFreeze for my legs. I had a chat with a sales person who is an acquaintance. I asked if she was going to run the Hospital Hill race next weekend. She told me that she has a slight injury, and is spending a little more time on the bike while it heals. I thought that it was too bad, because the HH run is one I've always wanted to do, and I was really looking forward to doing it.

The next day, Sunday, I took off on a medium distance run (8.5 mi). I figured that it would be the last run over 4 miles that I would do before the race. And, for the second week in a row, I experienced pain in my leg muscles. I also felt it a bit in my joints. I was able to finish the run in a bit better shape than the 11 miler the week before, but I felt a bit out of sorts. After I got inside an cooled off a bit, I went to pee. What came out looked a lot like squid ink. Well, as you can imagine, peeing squid ink kind of freaked me out. I immediately called my doctor's office. The physician on call and I went over everything. The best guess is that I was dehydrated, and the black stuff was a bit of the inner lining of my kidneys sloughing off. I had always heard of runners having a bit of blood in their urine after some runs, but I had never heard of that.

So, for the past couple of days I've made certain to remain hydrated. I've been to the doctor's office for blood and urine work, and I've given running a bit of a rest, opting to do a couple of shorter bike rides on my Specialized Sequoia (god, I love that bike). Until I know what really caused the 'ink' incident, I'm scaling back to shorter runs this week (mainly on trails to reduce the pounding), and am taking a pass of the HH run. It is hard to give up doing a race that I've always wanted to do when I feel as though I'm in great shape to do it. But I'd rather have long-term running ability than injure myself on a half-marathon. It'll be there next year. I may be opting for more marathons than halfs next year anyway...

Mainly, though, I just love to run. Races are sort of special targets on which to focus. But if I never ran another race, and could instead just go do my own longer runs, I'd be a very fortunate person. So that's that. I'll update on what caused the 'ink' spill when I have the results.