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...