Monday, July 26, 2010


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).

Monday, July 19, 2010

Trails and Tribulations

I have a friend coming in from Boulder around Labor Day. She's taken up running and has been doing some pretty good training. She wrote me about a month ago and asked if there were any races in the area to do when she's here. Oddly, there weren't too many. The one that looked the best is an 8.5 mile trail run.

Trail running is something of which I've done very little. The times I have done it, I have always been a bit put off by not being able to see where I'm going in the distance. Trail running times are also a bit demoralizing. They're always slower. Ticks, chiggers, and poison ivy are three more reasons I generally avoid trails. On the plus side, however, trail running is gentler on the joints (if you don't trip over a root and fall on your face).

Still, unless we wanted to go do a 5k (those races pop up like flies at a picnic now, they are so ubiquitous), the longer trail run was the only real option. I mentioned the race to a friend of mine, Eric, who loves running on the trails. He said he was up for the run as well. On Saturday, I invited him to go for an early morning 6-8 mile run in the country near my place. Instead, he suggested that we run the trails next to the levee (egad). After some back and forth, I acquiesced, and agreed to the run.

So early Saturday, after a night spent drinking too much wine, and staying up way too late to watch The In-Betweeners on BBC America, I drove to my friend's house and picked him up to head to the trails. It was as humid as swimming by the time we arrived at the trail head. A portion of the Eudora High CC team was there getting ready to run. Eric knew the coach so we chatted for a short time, kinda waiting for them to go first. The coach finally said that we should go ahead - that way we'd be the first to take down the spider webs that criss-cross the trail with our faces.
I mentioned to Eric that he might want to set the pace (I really didn't want to hit the webs first).

Rather than going into each step of our run, suffice it to say that it was beautiful. Eric set a good pace out, and I led the way back. I had one near fall, got covered in mud and plant matter, sweated like a sumo in a sauna, but all-in-all had an awesome time. We finished 10K in 53 minutes (there's that slower time), but psychologically, the slower pace didn't devastate me like it does when I run the trails alone. We had expected the Eudora CC team to blow by us at some point in the run, but we never saw them again.

When I got home, I slathered my legs with anti-poison ivy soap. I washed my trail running shoes (the Brooks Cascadias are really great shoes), threw my clothes in the wash, and was done.

So now, once a week, Eric and I plan to hit the trails. By Labor Day, I may even look forward to running in dirt and mud.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Not Hip

On Sunday, I did a nice short run of 3.5 miles. The weather was perfect and the run felt good. That mileage matched half of my previous week's total. That's right, you're not misreading this. Last week I ran seven miles. And I was lucky to be able to do that. For a week ago on Saturday, I was standing chatting with a tennis partner between points in a match, when something in my hip went haywire, and the next thing I knew I was writhing on the ground. I don't think I've ever used the word 'writhing' in a sentence, but it is apt in this instance.

Between Monday and Friday, I was at the doctor, the chiropractor, and the acupuncturist 6 times. Even with medical insurance co-pay, it was an expensive and time-consuming week. I wasn't able to sit. I could stand for a time and walk for a bit, but sitting hurt my hip so much that it made me ill.

My treatment for the first few days was to take Aleve as if I owned stock in the company and to walk for a mile or so on the cushioned track next to my house. The pain would go away (sort of) when I was in bed at night, but the come back full bore during the daylight hours. Driving in my car and sitting on the toilet were actually the most painful things I could undertake. I tried to avoid doing them as much as possible. But we all know that at least one of those actions is impossible to put off forever...;-)

Finally, on Thursday, I started a pretty massive dose of steroids to try to get the inflammation under control. The 'roids worked. I was able to start to jog slowly. By Sunday, I was able to do the road run. For my first non-track jaunt, I did choose a run that had asphalt and gravel to lessen the impact. And, by this a.m. with a slight bit of pain, I was able to hit one of my normal routes again.

During a week that really sucked, I was able to again reflect on fitness and well-being. It really seems that no matter how fit or in control you are, that that state of being is really illusory. Any tiny thing can throw you off your game at any moment. I learned that my hip issue was actually the result of an injury that I had sustained weeks before. It had simply waited to manifest until I was standing on a tennis court. It could just as easily have happened while I was at a grocery store or sitting in my living room. I wasn't aware that I even had an injury. There was no build up of pain or any other indication. So at 44 years of age, I count my blessings to be able to do the activities I do relatively injury-free.

In friend news: My buddies Jen and Steve finally got to be foster parents this weekend. It is a HUGE commitment, and one which deserves accolades. They took two tykes at once on almost no notice. The service they are performing is wonderful. If you know a foster parent, thank them. It is some serious work that only specially equipped people can do (and sadly, I am not one of those people).

Chris Ford's kickball team (Love Garden) played an amazing game last night with a couple of jaw-dropping plays (I'm really not kidding). Even my 14 year old nephew was impressed, so you know it had to be good. I have become more of a fan of that sport than I ever thought I would. I don't have a burning desire to play, but I really appreciate the skill involved.

Cockadoodlemoo Farm Animal Sanctuary got a new pen donated by a volunteer. Mark and Diane also report that the Boy Scouts are going to be building turkey pens as well for a project. Marisa Ford has also been working to get the non-profit up and running on Facebook. So look for that page soon and 'friend' it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

When I was your age...

I had the chance to spend the weekend with a teenage relative. I'm not used to being around kids, so while I do love him, I'm not in my comfort zone when I spend extended periods around them. I don't enjoy playing the role of friend and enforcer at the same time. Since I am not, nor do I have any desire to be, a parent, I always feel a bit put upon when I have to interact with kids of any age for an extended period.

My relative, is a vibrant and smart young man of fourteen years. He is pretty seriously accomplished in the arts. He also is good at activities like skateboarding. He likes adults (a rarity for teens I'm told), and is pretty happy spending time with them as long as he gets to do some things he likes as well (a fair trade).

What struck me, however, as he and I spent a lot of time together talking and hanging out, was that he's not a reader, and he seems to lack a lot of the empathy that my friends and I had at his age. I know, I know... it is shocking that a teenager would be more interested in gaming and pop culture than in literature and social activism. But it did strike me as odd, because there seemed to be no interest at all in either of the two.

And now I'll write the famous five words: When I was his age my friends and I read a lot and cared a great deal about the world around us. We were a bit progressive, and we read to the blind, volunteered for political campaigns, and wrote letters for Amnesty International. I even recall going to bed each night and praying for the American hostages in Iran.

As I spent time with my relative, I tried to think of another teenage son or daughter of any of my friends who had ever expressed interest in the greater good of the world around them, and sadly, I couldn't. I do know that there must be kids who care out there, but I am worried that their numbers may be fewer than in past generations. I hope I'm wrong.

I did, ultimately, enjoy the weekend. My relative is bright and funny. We had some good conversations about right and wrong (none of which stuck, I'm sure). And I was able to convince him to eat relatively well. I will be seeing more of him this Summer, and I'm glad for that. But I have been struggling with a deeper concern that a sense of connectedness to, and an empathy for the world around us and the people in it are sorely lacking in his outlook. And it makes a bit sad.

Now, something that makes me happy...

My cul-de-sac has a workout group. I didn't know about it until late in the day a week ago. Each Tuesday and Thursday, a group of neighbors meets on the soccer field at 6 a.m. and does a 45 minute workout overseen by a physical therapist who used to be a Pilates instructor. Last Tuesday I showed up thinking that the workout wouldn't be all that difficult. After all, I run every day, play a lot of tennis, and bike a couple of times a week as well. Wow was I wrong. The workout is amazing. I went both days it was offered, and left after each workout soaked in sweat and feeling queasy from exertion.

A couple of friends and I had been discussing how difficult it was to get a core workout. I am happy to report that I no longer have that problem. I have a minor hip issue this week that may prevent me from doing the workout, but I will certainly be back. The workouts fit in so nicely with my routine, that adding them is almost seamless.

Finally: The most interesting animal I saw on a run in the past week was a skunk (a very large skunk) frolicking in a field at 6 a.m. last Wednesday.

Have a great week.