Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas. At least I find it to be a merry Christmas. My plan today is to write this blog, have some coffee, and then pick up my buddy, Eric, and head to the River Trails for a run. After that, who knows; perhaps lunch with parents or friends, dinner with parents or friends (although, in all honesty, I'd rather make both meals at home and just visit/hang out with parents and friends). That sounds odd, but I am tired of overeating and chewing things I generally eschew. I like my own fare.

So, since my last posting, my recovery has gone swimmingly. I've been able to do quite a bit of running on the track and on trails. For the time-being I am deleting road running from my repertoire. It is too hard on the knees. What is nice, is that I'm able to knock out daily 5-8 mi runs on the trails (on the track I get too bored after three to continue). Yesterday, for instance, I blew of the Hawks' early start (7:30 a.m.) for a more modest 9 a.m. run. I was pulling into the lot at Clinton North Shore as Gary "Story Hawk" Henry was pulling out. I endured a brief bout of ribbing for not going early, but promised to run with the Hawks again soon. I then took off at my normal pace, with a beet and berry juice mixture in my bottle and buds in my ears, for a wonderfully exhilarating, peaceful run.

Later in the day, for the second day in a row, I hit the pool to knock out some laps. I am really starting to like swimming. Well let's actually be a bit more honest about that. I seem to get bursts of endorphin-releases when I swim. The physical exertion is so much more dramatic (at least for me, a non-swimmer), that the rewards kick in sooner. Right now my 20-40 minute workouts follow a routine that begins with a few laps using the super short Zoomer Gold fins, followed by pulling a few laps using a leg buoy and hand cups, followed by straight American Crawl, followed by kicking across with a board, then repeat the process. The workout isolates the different movements, then puts them together. It also works my knee, and then give it a rest. It is actually a lot of work and a lot of fun.

My coach wants me to do a triathlon, but I'm not sure that will be a course I want to follow. As with running, I like doing sports simply to do them. I understand it for others, but I don't feel the need to compete. I don't need a goal off in the distance (although I do sometimes put one out there). I suppose that my next organized event will be Colleen's. Depending on the weather, I'd like to get in at least 12 mi (and I know I've said that before). For her Summer run, I'd like to hit 10 laps, and have my ultra-distance for the year - no timing chip, no number, no medal - just the personal satisfaction of knowing that I did it.

Again, I know that a lot of people who read this - particularly those who email me rather than post a comment - like to run a lot of organized races. I really don't want anyone to think I'm disparaging that, because I'm not. For me, racing puts too much pressure on running that I would do for fun anyway. That is why I don't like to do them.

Finally, just to show that I do have a bit of Christmas spirit.... Last night, a couple of friends and I spent a couple of hours driving to a couple of those over the top light and music show houses, and sitting in line with a bunch of other cars in order to watch the show. It actually was a lot of fun. On house near Dad Perry Park, in particular, had an awesome show. I'm glad there are people who will blow thousands of dollars to set something like that up - seriously I am. It turns the holiday a bit Fellini-esque. And we could all use a bit more absurdity in our lives.

Next week - resolutions and lists.

Ciao.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Another Week In A Not-So-Dreary Winter

In my never-ending quest to return to knee normalcy, I was able to do a whole lot of not-too-impactful workouts this week. I spent 10-25 min each on the Gazelle, the Nordic Track, and the bike trainer. That, with additional leg-lifts, weight training, and sit-ups allowed for the deterioration in my legs to dissipate and begin to actually reverse course. The workouts culminated with a 2.5 mi run on the FSHS rubberized track yesterday. I had planned to kind of run/walk a couple of miles at a 10-11 min/mi pace. After the first mile, though, I realized that I was rebounding pretty quickly. There was little if any pain, and I was shuffling through a 9 min/mi pace. And it is a different style of running. I was trying to run lightly. It involved less of my usual, let's-crush-this-distance pounding, and more of the Joan Benoit marathon speed shuffle (you can see her on old videos). It really seemed to fit my running style. I ended the run because I felt that I should, not because I felt that I had to do so.

Today, if all goes according to plan, I'm going to knock out a 3 miler on the Riverfront Trails with Rebecca (my running buddy Eric's spouse, who's also a runner and a monster swimmer) and another friend, Kit. Rebecca promised to go slowly. I hope to have a careful, tentative run. The trails should test the side to side motion a bit. I still plan to have the knee ready for 9-12 miles of Colleen's run on the 13th. I'm hoping to be in LA and Malibu the first weekend in January. While I won't be undertaking the brutal Griffith Park Observatory Run (my favorite run I've ever done so far), I do hope to do some beach runs in Malibu, and more of the trails (and less of the hairpin turn road runs) in Griffith.

I have said it in at least one past post, but I feel I should say it again. I would highly recommend the movie, Welcome. It follows the story of a 17 year old Kurdish boy who arrives in Calais, France after covering a couple of thousand miles alone on foot. He has suffered many hardships to get as far as he has. His goal is to get across the Channel so that he can be with his girlfriend. The film watches his struggles with day-to-day living and planning. The film, of course, is really just showing a microcosm of the the larger issue of displaced people and their treatment by governments and private citizens around the world. But the allegorical nature of the movie, doesn't detract from the intimate portrait of the main characters as they build trust and find a common humanity. Again, highly recommended.

Next week I hope to list some of my favorite films, books, songs, and miscellaneous events that I encountered in the previous year.

Quick update - nice 4.57mi run on the trails this a.m. It felt so good that I kept going. Still feels fin 7 hrs later.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Again to Carthage

So after knocking out 'the greatest novel about running ever written,' Once a Runner, last week while flat on my back following knee surgery, I loaded my Kindle with Mr. Parker's follow-up tome, Again to Carthage. I'm only 4 chapters in. But the story, so far, just doesn't quite live up to the magic contained in the first novel. Again to Carthage just feels darker and heavier than I was expecting. I'll have a full book report, I hope next week. I'm going through a couple of others as well, including the Erskine Caldwell classic, Tobacco Road. It is odd, but I never read two or more books at once unless one of them is on the Kindle. I try to support my local library more and more, but Again to Carthage wasn't in the catalog, so I pulled it in from the ether.

My knee continues to improve. I've done more Nordic and Gazelle workouts, mixed with biking and various leg lifts and saunas. It feels a little tired by the end of the day, but has no swelling or, what I would describe as, real pain.

For the coming week I plan to hit Unbreakable in KC on Wednesday evening. By Friday I hope to be out on the track doing some tentative first laps on the soft rubberized surface. I hope to be fully recovered and cranking out the miles by Colleen's Frozen Ass Run on Jan 13.

See you at the movies.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Late Week Update - won't have you in stitches

So, next Wednesday night, the ultra-marathon movie, Unbreakable, is going to be shown in KC. I'm planning to pop in to see it. It took some effort by members of the Trail Hawks to bring the film to the area. The trailer for the flick looks awesome. If anyone wants more info on this one-night booking (in a real theater), let me know and I'll shoot you a link.

I did my first workout in 9 days last night. My knee is hugely recovered - which seems almost miraculously early. I had the stitches removed yesterday, and questioned the doctor and nurse about what I could do. The answer was take it slowly, but biking, and no impact machines (Nordic Trac and Gazelle, in my case) are fine. So I knocked out 10 minutes on the Gazelle and NT followed by a bunch of crunches and knees strengthening exercises off of a sheet that had been provided. The result was no pain at all. I'm doing the same this morning.

On Monday I'll get to move to the rubberized track next to my house. The plan will be to lightly jog/walk 1-2 miles a day for the following week and then move up to 5k by the following week. The doctor said that popping back up to my more normal 10-15k distances shouldn't take more than a few weeks.

I will say that taking a bit more than a week off leads to insanely fast muscle deterioration in the quads. It also leads to 3-5lbs of weight gain. Shocking how many calories one burns through running.

More later...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

No Kneed to Worry

Hola Todos. I apologize in arrears for the particularly smarmy title to this post. Today is day 5 since having surgery. The most discomfort I can report is a backache from sleeping too much on my back with my knee up on a support pillow. Last night I finally started to roll over on my side with a pillow between my knees and the ice machine's water cable still attached. It was not the most comfortable slumber I've ever experienced, but it was a definite improvement.

It seems crazy to write this, but in 4-5 days I'll start hitting the pool again in order to get my swim on. Then in about 16 days I'll begin to get my run on again. My plan for that is to hit the Free State track and run 1-2 miles every other day for the first week - icing after each run. Once I make sure that there is no ongoing problem, it is on to bigger and better runs. I'm hoping to get through this without much loss in strength and distance at all. But I won't push the issue as I rebuild. I do plan to get hyaluronic acid shots in both knees in January, which should allow for even more pain-free running.

As I've lain around the house this past week, I have fought off the staggering potential for onset of ennui. I actually don't know just how I did that. I really haven't done much other than work and read while lounging on the couch. I had been concerned that a dearth of endorphins would cause my mood to plummet. However, perhaps the pain from the surgery itself provided for the release of the endorphins. I really took no pain killers (ibuprofen). So I may simply be the beneficiary of unintended (good) consequences.

In the 'baby steps' category, I got behind the wheel yesterday and drove. No issue. I also have walked a bit without the assistance of crutches. And, other than experiencing some pretty messed up dreams - including one where I was forced to hit a man of small stature who's name was Mr. Pouty-Sissy (he must've been British), and another where friends came over to my house and destroyed the floors and kitchen (but in the construction/destruction's aftermath, I did find a second 'butler's staircase') - I have had no untoward after effects from the surgery.

As a footnote to this paragraph, I have been checking dreams out on interpretation sites. Hitting the small man can be interpreted to mean that I feel powerless (small man), and am trying to take some pro-active steps to regain control of some aspect of my life - surgery leads to loss of running... The house dream has much more to do with order being interrupted. Also attributable to surgery. Anyway, the dreams differ from my usual fare of unicorns, rainbows, ponies, and clouds, so I thought I'd report them.

Until next Sunday (or until something interesting occurs)... Have a great week. And don't get lost on the trails (you know who you are).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Knee Surgery



Anyone Hungry Yet?... Seafood?

I really hoped to have some gory pictures, but knee surgery looks much more like trimming aquatic plant life in an underwater setting. How'd it go?, you inquire. Well, it went better than I could have hoped. I had some really crappy rough spots with dead cartilage cleaned up. I also had some wear spots that were better than predicted - with both bone and cartilage wearing down in perfect complimentary ways (so only minor steps taken). And then I had a pretty decent meniscus tear that took some fixin'. But, and this is a big 'but,' no microfracture required. I will be running again in three weeks rather than three months! Yay!

I have, though developed a taste for chlorine, so I plan to continue my swimming workouts through the Winter. I hope to spend a few days running and a few days swimming each week, both for recuperation and in order to enhance core strength.

Apparently when I came out of surgery I was a bit whacked. I had a couple of conversations that I don't recall. "Ahhhh, Lucas," I sighed at one point. My friend, Marisa, who was there to be my Flo Nightengale, replied, "What about Lucas?" "I was just thinking about him," I answered softly, smiling. In case you are wondering, Lucas is my ill-tempered feline (who loves me to death, but is ...oh, how to say this politely...difficult). It was an odd thing to say.

Anyway, I'm not taking any of the great painkillers, because I haven't needed them. I have an ice machine pumping cold H2O over my elevated (and sexily shaved) leg. All in all, life is much better than I would've predicted it would be when I awoke this morning.

More next Sunday. Thanks to all my friends for the ridiculous amount of calls, emails, and good thoughts. I loved and felt them all.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Greatest (running) Story Ever Told...


The Chilly Entrance to the Riverfront Trails This Morning

When you pick up a book to read, and the cover not only has the author's name and the name of the book, but also has a blurb stating that it is "The best novel ever written about running," you might think to yourself, sure it is...

In the case of John L. Parker, Jr.'s, Once a Runner, the blurb may actually be correct. If it is not the best, it is certainly one of the best. I had been hearing about the novel for years, but had mainly limited myself to reading more non-fiction articles and books on the sport/lifestyle of running. True, if you have read previous posts, you will realize that I do enjoy reading fiction (and fiction about running). But while a large number of runners are shockingly good writers, there really isn't a whole lot of fiction that really delves into running. Once a Runner lives and breathes running. It has peaks, valleys, denouements; all the things one expects in a good piece of fiction. I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves the sport and wants a good read. You'll laugh. You'll cry...

While I can't do the winter wear extravaganza that Mizuno is putting on at Gary Gribbles in December (due to knee surgery), I was able to see their winter fabrics at work yesterday. Honest to god, if you pour liquid onto the fabric, it heats up. I have never seen anything like it. If you run in the cold, you should absolutely try the Mizuno products. If nothing else, just for the novelty of it. It is simply different from anything I've tried before.

Finally, I completed my last run for 3 months today. Knee surgery on Tuesday will put me on forced hiatus. The past 4 days found me running 8mi, 8mi, 5mi, and 8mi. I've tried to run super hard to empty the tank, as it were, but have felt nothing but great. Tomorrow I'll get a last quick swim in the a.m. before taking about 10 (endorphin-free) days off to let the holes heal. Then it will be a Winter of swimming and pedaling before emerging in the Spring (I hope) ready to run.

So get ready for some surgery and swimming blogging. I promise that if I can get nappy vomitous pics of the surgery that I will post them. So, until later, run in person and in your mind.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanks. Thanks a lot.

It has been an eventful and terribly trying year filled with job changes, stress, a depressing political atmosphere (in KS especially), and anxiety over upcoming surgery (next Tuesday). All of this has made the past year, as QE II would say, an annus horiblus.

In the midst of my depression, angst, and physical decline (well after about 30, we all are on the downward slope), I did try to think of some things for which to be thankful. The following is a list in no particular order:

- I'm thankful for my friends. In person, on line, Skype, and phone friends. All of you are collectively the best thing in my life (I did get that subject/verb agreement correct, seriously). I value you more than you could know.

- I'm thankful for the River and Clinton Lake trails that have allowed me so many wonderful hours of running alone with my thoughts, or together with my friends over the past years.

- As an overview to the preceding, I am really thankful for the running I have done and will continue to do. Running has become less of a sport and more of a raison d'etre for me. I am not a musician, a businessman, a Democrat, etc... who runs. But instead, I am a runner who also happens to be a musician.... you get the idea. It defines my very existence. I am most relaxed and spiritually 'at peace' when I'm pounding a trail or road. I'd expound, but I want to keep this brief.

- I am thankful that I live next to an Olympic size swimming pool. With surgery crushing my runs for the Winter months, life would be terribly dreary. And, while swimming isn't really my 'thing,' I am glad that somehow my karma set up my current locale just when I needed it.

- Almost finally, I am thankful that I have the ability to work. In this economy one can never be certain of the future. But I have a job, have been offered others, and am fairly confident (knock wood) that I could find something suitable should my current situation take a turn (which should not be the case). But I do recognize how many people are facing a terrible and uncertain future right now while our government does seemingly less and less to create jobs or assist those who are out of work and without hope.

- And finally, I am thankful for my family. While I am single, I do have family all around. My parents still live and have good health. My brother's family continues on with all of the foibles common to most American families. My Aunt and cousins and their families seem to be thriving. So all could be a lot worse.

- And finally finally, I'm thankful for my health overall. Knee problems aside, I really never experience anything too terrible. And without health, I cannot imagine truly having the capacity to enjoy life.

If you do want to donate to good causes, this is the time of year to do so. I switched my credit card issuer earlier this year from one that gives me cash back, to one that gives the same amount to the Sea Shepherds. That is about the easiest way to give - without even thinking about it.

Good local charities - wherever you live, you can amend your list to include ones in your area that match the following types of charities:

Health Care Access (low-cost health care)
the Lawrence Community Shelter (homeless advocates)
Bert Nash (mental health)
cockadoodlemoo.org (farm animal sanctuary)
KANU (Public Radio)
DCAP (AIDS care)

Whatever you can give will always be appreciated. I am thankful that I have the ability to give - even if it is just a bit.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bilateral Negotiations

I took a run by myself on the riverfront trails yesterday. It was the definition of a 'blustery day.' Wind, normally redirected and tamed as it passes through dense foliage, instead ripped between trees and vines denuded of their leaves. It was a truly odd experience to be on the trails for the first time in the season without the canopy.

The openness allows for a heightened awareness of 'where you are' on the trail at all times. You can also see the trail heading in the opposite direction during much of the run - something which is not apparent in other seasons. One of the neatest things I noted was a very long and very solid old iron staircase that headed down from the trail to the river's edge at .92 mi. I stopped and, after testing it for structural integrity, took it down to the banks. I can't think of another time that I ever did that. It was beautiful, and worth the interruption to my run. As I ascended a few minutes later, I couldn't help but wonder how the stairwell came to be place there. It is not a temporary structure. t is solid and comes to rest at its upper end a foot or two above the ground. Because there is no sign of any development around it, the stairs must have led up to a wooden landing that has long since decayed and left no footprint. I have been thinking about it off and on since finding it. It has crossed my mind that it could be part of the old North Lawrence park/fair grounds that went along the river in the late 1800's. I'm going to ask around, and let you know when I do.

Continuing on with the no-leaves theme; the run also reminded me (as it does every year) just how many incredible trees we have along the river. Their scale is really enormous for this region of the country. In other months, I never notice the trees because they are covered. The greenery they carry somehow diminishes the majesty of their scale. And the vines and volunteer plants that hang off of and between the giants are impressive in their own right. I spent a lot of the run simply looking upward (not a recommended way to run on technical trails - which this isn't) and observing the intricacies of the superstructure that underlies the three-season greenery. Quite impressive.

In swimming - yes, dear readers, I said swimming - I had a bit of a breakthrough week. My coach had been working to get me to do unilateral breathing on my dominant (right) side. I have always been a unilateral breather on my left side. And while I could swim decently that way (without too much post-swim dizziness), breathing on my dominant side was causing me to cough and sputter. I was quickly doubting whether I'd be able to actually pull this swimming-thing off. But at the end of a session last week, my coach mentioned bilateral breathing. She said that most triathletes swim using that technique. It is a little harder, but that I might be able to get used to it once I had unilateral breathing down. Just for kicks she had me try it. What happened next was amazing. I took to it as a cat laps milk (that's Shakespeare, people. No kidding). For me it was the most intuitive way I could possibly imagine swimming. My coach seemed a bit shocked and very pleased.

So, now I have my post-surgery stroke down (that sounds either really obscene or medically bad - too many meanings for one simple word). I hope to be able to emerge from the pool in a few months ready to take on a triathlon of some real proportion at that time. For me, finding the optimal way to breathe was the key to becoming comfortable in the pool. I hate doing anything I care about in a half-hearted manner. So achieving this breakthrough ticked off a step toward a major goal for the Winter.
_______________________
Move Rec: If A Tree Falls - incredible documentary about the human spirit and a commentary on the limits (right or wrong) of protest.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Making a splash in the running world

No pictures this week (or maybe for a while). I began my transition from running to swimming for the surgery over the Winter months. I did run a slightly below average number of miles this week. But I took a couple of days off in order to meet with a swim coach in order to go at my new endeavor with the proper form. What I learned is that my form was really bad. I could swim some laps, but would drown a little bit each time. I'm not a lot better at the moment, but at least I understand why I'm drowning.

In all seriousness, I am now feeling the effects of the hyaluronic acid wearing off in my right knee. My left knee hurts quite a bit as well, but I'm going to let it ride until a couple of months post surgery (on my rt knee) when I'll have injections in both knees. The acid works so well that I should never have to have surgery in my left knee (knock wood).

I'm heading out to do a solid North Shore run this a.m. with my running buddy, Eric. Trails seem to be the best things for my knees. They rarely hurt when I'm bouncing off of uneven rocky surfaces.

One odd thing that happened while swimming was that I experienced another calf cramp. Normally I get those on long road runs. I was surprised and a bit disappointed that one would kick in while I was kicking in the H2O.

I hope to get in I hope to get in 12-14 more runs before the surgery. I also plan to emerge from the pool in the Spring with a buff swimmer's-build body that will enable an easy transition back to running and also add much-needed core strength. So maybe there will be a photo in 3-4 months.

Finally, I saw a movie this week called The Long Run, about an African woman in South Africa who is discovered and trained to run an ultra by a mono-maniacal German coach. While the running scenes were a little wrought (read not very believable), the general feel of the flick was really quite charming. I'll give it a tentative thumbs up (it ain't no Chariots of Fire). But I have seen worse...

Next week - transition week 2.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Something to read if the asteroid doesn't hit us tonight.

What an interesting week - perhaps only from a Proustian perspective, but oh, well. Due to the cold and darkness, a lot of my running was indoors. I did manage a couple of good road runs and a crappy (in terms of how I felt), yet stimulating(in terms of finding a new course) run this a.m. Good lord, I hope you are all still following me after that disjointed sentence. As I could've said, I felt like crap, but took a new route. I started down the blue course at Clinton, and as soon as I had a chance to access the shoreline, I popped off of the trail and ran along clay and sand mixture that lines the lake. It was pretty, quiet, and a little dirty. I also found an inlet that obviously hadn't had water in it for some time and traced the circumference of that as well before ending at a boat launching area. I plodded up the hill, and found myself back on the white trail. Even thought there had been a little wind when I began the run, there was a stillness that had fallen over the trail as I made my way back. It was interesting that there were plenty of cars in the lot, but I only saw one other person the whole time I ran - s woman with her two dogs right at the start of the run.

On Friday evening, I learned how two do two things. First, I finally took a few more tentative steps across that fabled bridge to the 21st Century, and installed a wireless router for my house (I'm using it to write in this blog right now). Second, I used a Red Box for the first time. Being one of the thousands who recently punted Netflix (that company's behavior really was similar to having your best friend kick you in the nuts and call you names), I had been using the library a lot recently, but did want to try Red Box. How cool. If you haven't tried it, go on line and give it a try. It'll hook you up with more titles (and shockingly genres like foreign) than you would expect. It'll also reserve movies, tell you which box has them, and give you directions (all for $1 or so). I recognize RB's shortcomings, but for quick easy entertainment, it is a viable option.

Finally - and this may be a bit esoteric - but I learned the difference between a clasp and a hasp...... anyone..... didn't think so. A hasp is a lockable clasp - like you might find on a shipping trunk, or a shed door. Ahh knowledge. It never gets tiresome.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tucson Running


Mountain shot from a car in Tucson


So, while not doing the ultra-marathon last week, I did have a couple of good runs in Tucson. On Sunday afternoon, I did a slow 7 miler in the heat along a dried-up river bed. It was really a beautiful place to run, with a shrub and sand-filled depression 100-150 feet wide on one side, and parks and trails lining the other. I had a small bottle of Fiji water with me. Once I depleted its contents after the first mile, I popped into a park every couple of miles to refill it from fountains. The temp was pretty good, 80F+ or so, but the absolute lack of humidity parched me and dried out my lips almost immediately. I had on SPF 70, and I'm glad I did. I was still a bit red (but not burned) when the run ended.

The next morning I got up early and ran in much cooler temps for 4 miles. Even though my hosts at Maya Tea and I had splashed a bit too much tequila (fine tequila it was, too) down our throats the night before, I was still able to do a nice run at an 8:15-ish pace. There were a lot more runners out in the morning. The cyclists seem to favor the afternoons.

Since my return I have just done a couple of 3 mile runs. I'll probably do that again tomorrow and knock out a long run on Saturday. I'm trying to give my knees a bit of a reprieve. I went to my orthopedic doctor as soon as I got into town to have him take a look at my left knee. The bad news is that it also has a bit of osteo-arthritis settling in. The good news is that it is not at all in the same scope or scale as the OA in my right knee. So, if it hurts, I'll be able to get hyaluronic acid injections and not worry about it (possibly ever again).

I'll post more on Sunday.

Below is a picture of a pretty farmer's market in Tucson.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Answer to the 'Cliff Hanger' question


Old Train Depot Control Board


All week long I battled, not a decision to run (or not to run) the 50k, but rather a more personal physical battle against allergies and hay fever. I had some of the more amazing sneezing fits, stuffy noses, and post nasal drip (which migrated into my lungs) than I have ever experienced. Life was miserable. Any hope of recovering enough to do the 50 was put to rest on a 9 mi run on Tuesday and a 5 mile run on Thursday, both on the river trails, and both of which found me struggling to find the energy to keep pace with my running partners.

So after the Thursday run, I took a friend up on his offer to hang out at his place in Tucson for the weekend. I arrived early on Saturday, and immediately noticed my allergies ebbing a bit in the dry Arizona climate. My friend, Manish owns the storied Maya Tea Company - www.mayatea.com. His company also runs a bunch of farmers markets in the Tucson area. As a major fan of farmers markets, it didn't take a lot of arm-twisting to get me to go to the first one yesterday at the old Tuscon train station. In addition to the new farmers market there, the station houses an Amtrak facility, an excellent restaurant/gourmet store, and a fantastic art gallery called Obsidian.

In the evening I was invited to attend a Tucson Local Favorites event at a hotel in the mountains. A slew of excellent restaurants, food companies, and wineries (who knew just how many stunning wineries there are in AZ?) served their fare to an eager crowd of hundred of people in the hotel's ballroom.

Being a relatively new vegan, and a relatively long-term vegetarian, there wasn't a lot that I could sink my teeth into. However, the event was fun. It was good to see people coming out to learn more and support their local eateries.

This morning I'm heading off to Tucson's biggest farmers market. In the afternoon (lungs permitting) I plan to take a 6-10 mile run on a path that -follows along dried-up river bed.

I will try to get some pictures posted. The scenery here is spectacular. Saguaro cactus are everywhere. The desert-scape has some of the heartiest, and at the same time most delicate flora and fauna to be found. As a former transplanted Arizonan (I actually did attend kindergarten in Tucson 40 years ago), there is something about this place that gets down in your blood and makes you long for solitude as you find yourself drawn into the vast expanses of earth and sky.

Below: The little leave on this tree are about the width of a paperclip wire

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cliff-Hanger


Grasshopper eating an egg at the Hawks' Halloween Picnic
It was a lovely week, though a bit on the cool side. It began with the 18 miler last Sunday, and concluded with a 10 mile run yesterday. In between the two bookends, I managed a relatively paltry 9 miles. Still, though, the combo worked well. Only one day came and went where my legs just didn't feel quite up to task.

This past year I have kept myself motivated by trying to have no motivators other than my own will to improve. I have entered no races and trained for no specific event. I did do a fun run, Colleen's Sweaty Ass Run, in the Summer, but there was no fee, no race, no set distance; thus the only reward was internal and transitory.

With my knee surgery approaching, and with knee pain rearing up a bit on the longer runs, I thought it actually might be a good idea to knock out a 50K - an official 50K - as in I pay my fee, show up at an appointed hour and run the dang thing. And I had picked just the perfect race, the Blue Springs 50/50 coming up next weekend. I had a friend, my running buddy, Eric, who agreed to come along and pace if I needed it, and drive the car home. The course is soft, flat, and easy... But then, after a chat with a fellow Trail Hawk (who shall remain nameless), I have rethought my objectives. His comments dealt with the strain of any long run. I had been operating on the notion that my knee was already a mess, and that, since it couldn't get any worse, why not knock out a final pre-surgery long run? But after our conversation, I started to think the better of it. I guess I am grappling less with the physical side (I am fairly confident that everything will hold up), and much more with the spiritual side (I have really enjoyed running with no pressure, and even contemplating issues surrounding this fairly simple run, seem to intrude on the soulfulness of the long run).

I'm actually torn. I suppose next week's posting will let you know whether or not I ran the race. Wow, I rarely leave this post with a cliff-hanger:-)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Coyote Season

It has been months since I last encountered a coyote, but on Thursday I ran into a big one on Wakarusa near Overland (right off of the Free State High practice fields). The critter walked in front of me and then stopped in the bushes about 3 feet from where I ran by. I was clapping and yelling, but the coyote didn't seem to care at all. It freaked me out. I was super glad that a very out-of-place semi tractor trailer passed by on the road at the same time - bringing civilization into my run. I wanted as much noise as possible to keep the beast in check.

It is very disconcerting just how unafraid of people the coyotes are in my neck of the woods. They are beautiful animals when seen from a distance. Up close they look a bit like... well, ummm... wild dogs.

Heading out for a run shortly. More post manana.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Redemption


Salt marks on the side of my face

So after 'not feeling it' yesterday, I awoke this morning feeling somewhat better. After an oatmeal and some coffee I grabbed my hand held bottle a couple of gel shots and a Clif Bar and headed out. I didn't know how far I'd go, but I did have a route in mind. I first ran out to the Lecompton Interchange. Frome there I headed along the SLT path to Clinton. Rather than hitting the trails at the lake, I just headed into the state park along the roads. There were a couple of big hill, but at about mile 11 I felt so good that I barley gave them a passing thought. I did see two huge turkey vultures looking very vulturish at the top of a tree. One of the birds was sitting with its wings fully spread, taking in the sun. It was strangely beautiful.

I turned around at the final boat launch area. On my way back I ran up Bunker Hill and on the trails along its spine. The view of the lake was gorgeous, but I didn't stop to really take it in.

At mile 14.66, the wind was really coming out of the North pretty heavily. Normally that wouldn't have sucked except I was headed due North. For about 2 miles I really didn't enjoy the run. Also,here's a surprise, my knees hurt. I tried to ignore the pain and concentrate on how many extra endorphins must have been getting released. That actually worked for a bit. Miles 17 and 18 were smooth and relatively easy compared to the two that preceded them. But again, I was feeling the run in my knees. Doing most of the outing on hard surfaces wasn't as kind as the trails would have been.

I called the run at 18. I had done a pretty chilled out 9.5 min/mile pace, so setting a speed record wasn't an issue. All in all, it was a pleasurable outing. And it was a relief to knock out a decent distance after yesterday's bail.

Finally, I chose the pic above, because I lose monster amounts of salt when I run. I usually take salt caps with me (as I did today). I didn't put in a shot of my forehead that looks seriously salt encrusted. You'll just have to believe me. See you next week.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

10K - not just the price of a used car anymore

I'm making my main post a 'preemie' this week. I usually lick the verbiage out of my head and onto the screen on Sunday mornings. But since I have a half an hour to squander and ponder, I thought (originally, I might add) there's no time like the present.

In my running life, I actually had a pretty good week. It began last Sunday as I was simply too thrashed from working the 100 mile race to get out and run. Instead I watched as my friend, Chris Ford,celebrated an age-class victory in the Nash Dash.

Monday arrived and as I went for my normal 6 a.m. 4-5 mile saunter I thought gosh, I never really do enough 10K or longer runs during the week(I normally throw in a 8-10 miler on Wed, and then do my longer runs on the weekend). So Monday I knocked out a 10K. Tuesday rolled around and I did the same (umm ran a 10K again, not rolled around - note to self: watch those modifiers when trying to be witty). Wednesday peeked its ginger head over the horizon, and I did another 10K. Thursday and Friday, guess what? Hah! Fooled you, because I did not undertake a run of 10K proportions. Instead I tapered (how I hate that word) in order to do a long run this weekend.

Going to bed last night, I wasn't sure if I would do 18 or 30 miles - I really did plan to knock out some distance. All night my legs were jittery under the covers. I even dreamed about the longer distance. But then came the dawn...

Oddly, when I awoke, I wasn't feeling it. I went through the motions and put on my gear. I loaded some natural bars and unnatural gels, some supplements and some electrolyte liquid, and then hit the door. My Garmin synched up rather quickly and off I went.... for just under a half mile. For you see, I really wasn't feeling it. I was completely shot-down tired, beaten, exhausted, raked over the coals, a just slightly fatigued. I turned around, ran home, jumped into bed and slept until noon.

It is not a regular occurrence that I run into a cloud of malaise. But when it happens, it is best to simply acknowledge the incident, take steps to correct it, and then ride it out. By 4:44pm (the time it is right now as I type these bon mots), I feel my energy returning. The good news is that I am packed and ready to hit the roads and trails for a long run tomorrow.

If I have time then, I will post a bit more. Welcome home to my friend, Indi, who spent a week in NOLA. Happy birthday to my dear friend, Terra who turns __ on Sunday (trust me, I know, but I ain't gonna say). I may be back on this site manana. Hasta pronto.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Bigger Piece of the Sky


This pic is of the aid station looking calm - you can't see the 30+mph sustained winds that even blew over the porta potty.


A week of big miles was capped off yesterday when a fellow Trail Hawk and I drove out to the Flint Hills to assist with an aid station in the Heartland 100 race. My running week had started with an easy 10 on Sunday, followed by some easy 4,6, and 8, mi runs for the rest of the week. On most runs now my knee hurts intermittently as I go along. The hyaluronic acid shots are wearing off right on schedule, and the kneecap with its dead cartilage is beginning to bare its teeth again. I did schedule surgery for November 29. That date will allow me to miss the ugly running months of Dec-Feb as I take the three month recuperation schedule that is advised post-surgery. Rather than looking at November 29th as the day I give up running, I prefer to look at it as the day I take up swimming. Since I live smashed up against an Olympic-size pool, I can use the 90 days to become more proficient at drowning...er swimming. I plan to knock out as many miles as I can prior to that date, then paddle for a few months before coming roaring back to the trails and roads in the Spring.

So anyway, after a good week of running, my fellow Hawk, Jacob, and I drove out to a desolate intersection in the Flint Hills where we ran into Trail Hawk, Gary Henry and a couple named Phil and Stacy who are ultra-types as well. In sustained winds of over 30 mph, we managed to set up a couple of tents with rain flys. The first tent held the kitchen and food. We had hot vegan chili and potato soup, chicken ramen, sloppy joes, and an assortment of pb&j, crackers, cookies, candy, soft drinks, sports drinks, wipes, and first aid paraphernalia. The second tent held the runners drop bags.

The race had over 100 entrants for the 100 mile event, and around 50 for the 50 mile run that never made it as far out as our aid station. We were located at mile 36 on the 100 mile race's way out, and at mile 64 on the loop back. It was an unbelievable day, with runners and support teams showing up at all hours, rain coming and going, wind strong enough to topple the porta potty (thankfully it fell over backwards, so it didn't spill the ummm, honey, all over the interior), and our small crew trying to satisfy everyone's needs even as we kept track of who was checking in and out, how they looked, and what suplies were needed to help them finish.

It was a nutty day that began for Jacob and me at 6:30 a.m., and did not finish until 3 a.m. the next morning when I finally fell into my bed back in Lawrence.

This pic shows the 2 leaders about 2 minutes apart on the way out at mile 36

Cow Juxtaposed Against the Sky

I should point out that I had always wanted to stop and walk, run, or ride across the hills where we were situated. Every time I drive from Lawrence to Wichita, I have always found this particular area to be beautiful. Late in the afternoon, after most of the runners had passed through the station on their way out, and before any had come through on the return, Jacob and I got to change into running gear and head out for a run under the big sky. Honestly, it was one of the thrills of my running life. I love gravel, sky, and hills, and even the (comparatively) short run was a grand moment.

Looking down the road in the other direction

Finally, I awoke too late this morning to actually get up and see the Bern Nash Dash, but I popped downtown as soon as I could get my eyes open and some coffee down the hatch. My running buddy, Chris Ford, had gutted it out to grab 4th in the 10k race's second year. He and my friend (and his wife), Marisa hung out and listened to the bands play while we waited for the awards - Chris happened to have finished first in his age category as well, so he picked up a little hardware. We had outdoor massages, a Freestate beer, an organic apple, and then parted ways so that I could go home and tackle an overabundance of leaves in my lawn, and they could get on with their collective day.


Here's a pic of Chris crossing the finish line at the end of the brutally hilly Nash Dash 10k.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hawk 100 Blog Post and the Usual Pablum From Me

I'm going to start by giving a plug to Gary Henry's blog about the Hawk 100 race that took place a couple of weeks ago. We are so fortunate to have an event like it in Lawrence that I'll probably plug it a few times a year. Check out his take on the race as both a race founder and participant here: http://ultrastory.com/Blog1/

So anyway, this past week, after a brief return from Baltimore, I jetted off with my compatriot, Marisa, to the Golden State's Inland Empire (Ontario, California, actually). We were there to launch our vegan, gluten-free veggie burgers in So. Cal. While we were successful in that endeavor (look for us in Mother's Market and a bunch of other stores, initially), I was less successful in finding a place to run. I had to use the dreaded treadmill. Honestly, the better I get at running, the more I despise those things. I'd like to own one to have for about 10 days a year when it is just too icy or snowy to run outside. But otherwise, they don't do anything for me. I had done a couple of good runs before I headed out west, so the week wasn't a total bust. But it was kind of light on miles.

Today I awoke around 6 and waited until dawn before popping out of my back door. I cruised along the SLT trails until I hit the Clinton Dam. I used that as my turnaround point. The Fall colors were starting to show. The sun slowly warmed me. And, as I ran out to the overlook at Clinton, the path I was on was lined with small, blooming sunflowers. They all faced east to catch the same rays I was after. It was a really joyous moment.

On the way back I was kicking myself for not bringing more sports nutrition. I had planned to do 10 miles, but about 7 miles in, I wanted to add another 10k to the run. My choice had to be made at the 8 mile mark. Because I hadn't brought enough gels I didn't want to risk another calf cramp attack. I reluctantly submitted to my own better judgement and ran home. The pace was a leisurely 9 min/mile. I clocked the last one at 8 just to give myself more of a feel of a workout for the miles I had missed. All in all, this morning's run was a really nice experience.
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Now for some product updates. Anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows that I love Vega products. I like that the products work, are vegan-friendly, and made by vegans. But let's be honest, I will admit to not being fond of everything the company puts out. To begin with what I do like: I love the post-workout vanilla protein mix. It is a mixture of vegan proteins (no soy, yay!) and it tastes great. I mix in a banana and a couple of ice cubes and I'm refreshed. I also love their bars that you consume during a workout. I have taken their mocha and an acai berry bar on two long 10+ mi runs, and have been really surprised at how great they taste, and at how good they make me feel. They are pretty raw, and have a much better mouth feel than most of the other bars on the market. Also, I studiously avoid anything acai - I normally cannot stand the flavor. But in the case of the Vega bar, I have to admit I actually liked it.

So now onto a couple of products that don't add up for me. I tried one of the Vega berry-flavored pre-run/workout drinks. I really don't know... I guess I'm just not that into taking something right before a run other than my own food - cereal, oatmeal, smoothie. I don't think there is anything wrong with it, but it wasn't for me. I'd give the flavor passing marks, but it wasn't anything special. The Vega Electrolyte Hydrator product (mine was lime-flavored, I believe) is something I really cannot recommend based solely on flavor. Honestly, on first taste I thought, here is a product that actually has full-flavor when added to a bottle of water. The problem is that the flavor is so sickeningly sweet that it overwhelms my palate, and makes me wish for a plain water in order to rinse the sweetness out of my mouth. Honestly, I think Vega could make an easy fix on this product merely be lessening (or just completely removing) the amount of sweetener added.

So two big winners and a couple that haven't yet stacked up for me. I'll try to review one of the post run bars at some point. I never feel like eating a sports bar after a run, however. And, while I'm sure that Vega's post workout chocolate protein is as good as the vanilla, those of you that know me well, know that I'm not a big fan of chocolate, so my review would be clouded by that (for most people, just the fact that I'm not big on chocolate clouds their impressions of my reviews;-).

OK - Final product review: I have now finally (and it has been tortuous) broken in my Nike Lunar Eclipses (I swear I will not put in another pic of my cat lying on them). My thought is that they are a really great pair of shoes. I don't know if I would ever recommend them due to the crazy length of time it took to break them in. But I really like the feel of them. They somehow seem very cushioned yet give a massive amount of road-feel at the same time. It is somewhat contradictory to write the previous sentence, but they do perform two opposing functions well. I am no longer afraid to take them on longer runs or on varying surfaces.

Until next Sunday....

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Vega, River Trails, and The Candle Cafe


Vega Schwag Bag

Since I'll be in the air tomorrow at the time when I normally sit down to write this blog, I thought I'd just file my weekly report a day early. I'm in Baltimore for Natural Products Expo East, the second largest industry trade show in the US. It has really been a nice place to be. The weather has been hot and rainy. But the Inner Harbor looks beautiful, and has provided a nice backdrop for early morning runs. Speaking of which: yesterday I did a three mile run with Brendan Brazier and the Vega team. Vega put on quite a nice running event for the 10-15 of us who were there to do the run (see photo above). I have always liked their vegan protein products, and had the chance to try several of their other powders as well (pre and during run drink mixes). I have some of their bars, and will report on them after taking them on some longer runs. A couple of friends From Flora, who had been on the run with Scott Jurek earlier in the year were also in attendance. Brendan is a nice, unassuming person, who does seem passionate about the products. The event was a nice combination of low-key presentation meets high-energy output (the run).

On the run, I mainly ran with a woman who works for Health Force. She was the fastest Vibram-wearing runner I have ever encountered. We knocked out a nice pace on the way back as she told me she has always run barefoot or in Vibrams. At 45 she looked great. Her feet truly did hit the ground so lightly that I was a bit surprised. I am used to hearing people in the five-fingered shoes kind of slapping along. But my running partner made no such sound.

Someone else I met on the run was a supplement-buyer for a natural products store in Pennsylvania. He was about 60 and looked like a runner. After the run, he asked if I'd join him for a Saturday run. I did so this morning, and have to say that it is rare to meet someone who falls into a running rhythm that matches your own. We popped along the water front at an 8-8:30 pace, all the while engaged in a conversation about supplements, supplement companies, supplement suppliers, and (well, you get the idea). Super nice guy and super fun run. He and his wife also own a really good organic chocolate mail-order company (www.smithorganicchocolates.com).

Now let's go back in time to Monday. Chris Ford (who is totally going to place in the Nash Dash) and I knocked out the Riverfront trails in an evening run (something I never do - being almost exclusively a morning runner). We were joined for the first half by my other running buddy, Eric Henry. A few miles into the run Chris said - "Hey, let's take that new section of trail. It looks short." Well, it wasn't. It also was soul (sole)-sucking sandy. It was nice to do for a change, because it does go right along the river. But I think that I shall forego that section of the trails on future runs. Chris seemed to concur with my sentiments. We trotted in the rest of the way, avoiding the pedal-pushers who frequent those trails. Still, a great way to spend an evening...

Final note: At our booth yesterday, the owners of possibly the best vegan restaurant in the US, New York's Candle Cafe, stopped in to try our vegan burgers. They liked them (thank God). Marisa and I had met with Bart and Joy at the Cafe a few years ago. We also both own their cook books, and kind of view them like rock stars. They have a new vegan cook book coming out shortly. Look for it online or in a store near you. It was one of several wonderful moments from the show.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kansas, a state of mind. Baltimore with Brendan Brazier. Nike Lunar Eclipse update.



This past week was pretty nice. The weather cooled and, as a result, training times came down dramatically. I love running between 45F and 60F. The difference in breathing and freshness is amazing. For the week, most of my running was done on roads and sidewalks, with one run done indoors (on a particularly cold, rain-spitting morning). My knee creaked and moaned a couple of times in the past 7 days, but it was mainly the result of sitting in a car for extended periods, and had very little to do with running.

My friend, Marisa, and I took a drive over to Lyons, KS to spend the night, before working a trade show in Salina the next day. Lyons is a nice town that is situated close to another nice town called Sterling (where Marisa did her first couple of years of college before transferring to Southwestern). After knowing Marisa for the past 8 years, it was great to get a chance to see where she came from, went to school, hung out, etc. Sterling, while pretty, gives off an odd vibe when you are there. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it is palpable. It did have one of the quaintest Dillon's stores I've ever seen. Set your watch back 40 years and have fun shopping. We picked up some bananas and organic oatmeal for our breakfast. We also had vegan pizza and salads at Gambino's. The college looked like a pretty place to be.

Marisa's father's body shop in Lyons was pretty cool. Since he drag races, his main car happened to be sitting in a bay. Pretty tough '57. I don't know why I didn't take a picture of the places or cars on this trip (other than a surreal-looking natural gas plant in Conway, KS).

All in all, as morally, politically, and intellectually stone-aged as Kansas is, the state has some real physical beauty to it. I love being in the rolling expanses of the Flint Hills. I also thrive in wide open spaces, and love plains (where there are no mountains to get in the way of the view).

I even found the salt and natural gas mines to have their own industrial beauty... Yoiks!?!?
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I know what you're thinking: Allen, why is there a picture of Vega Sport Vanilla protein powder posted again at the top of your blog post? See? I knew I nailed exactly what you were thinking at that precise moment...

Well, the reason it is there is because later in the week, I plan to do a run (albeit a little 5 k) with Vega's own, Bredan Brazier (if you wanna learn more, go here http://www.brendanbrazier.com/ ). He's a triathlete, vegan, and author. Since I take one of his products, I followed up on an invite to join him next Saturday at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore. I got to run with the great (and super nice guy) Scott Jurek at the beginning of 2011, and will bookend with Brendan Brazier. Not too bad - although it would be nice to do something more of a real distance sometime when time didn't constrain our runs.

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Finally, below is a recycled pic of my cat, Lucas, hanging out in my Nike Lunar Eclipse running shoes. I had said that I would give an update on them (I am a huge fan of Mizuno and Brooks, and hadn't owned a pair of Nikes in years). Well, after a very rough start, the shoes have finally broken in a bit. Other than the not-attractive color, they perform admirably. The initial problems that I encountered with them were mainly centered around the hard piece of plastic that surrounds the heel of the shoes. Every footfall, particularly when running parallel to an incline, caused the plastic to bite into the side of my upper foot. It was not comfortable. I started just wearing the shoes for shorter, very flat, runs. Over the last month, though, the pair has broken in nicely. I no longer get bitten by the plastic bracing. The sole, while incredibly soft, gives good ground-feel as it offers decent shock-absorption. My current analysis would be that the shoes are a really nice pair to own and run in for any distance. I would want to have a different pair of shoes available, however, while breaking in the Lunars.

Finally, finally... I had planned to go for a good trail run this a.m. It is raining, though, so I'll probably do a shorter road run. My buddy, Chris Ford (Marisa's husband), and I are doing the Riverfront Trails (8.5-9 mi) tomorrow after work, so I think I'll be able to restrain my enthusiasm until that time.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunflower close-up shot from a field near Lawrence, KS yesterday...

Before I begin, I need to congratulate Jessie of the blog, Run to the Border for knocking out a 100 mile race this weekend. If you haven't seen his blog, it is an interesting read. He posted updates of his latest race as he was doing it. It was an impressive feat. Congrats again.

I had crap news about my knee, as usual. Recovery will take about 12 weeks once I have the surgery. I plan to schedule it just before or after Thanksgiving. That way, the 3 months I will take off will be Dec-Feb, rather than months that are more fun to run. I live on top of an Olympic-size pool (literally 100 yds from my house), so I will be taking up swimming/drowning this Winter. My knee has held up pretty well. I got in about 30 miles this week.

My running week culminated with me and my running buddy, Eric heading out at 4:30 on Saturday morning to tear down spider webs from a 5 mile stretch of the inaugural Hawk 100 mile race that the Trail Hawks are putting on at Clinton this weekend. It was, at the same time, eerie and super fun to clean the course. I have never run on those trails in pitch black conditions. Eric mainly stayed in front, gamely dispatching the webs with a long stick, while I played the role of sweeper, dealing with the overlooked and obstreperous hangers-on.

Our duties completed, we headed for the main shelter that served as race HQ. We chowed down on a bagel or two. The shelter had been the site of an elaborate race picnic and potluck the night before. Now it was sparse (save for bags of bagels) and ready for action, with drop bags lining its main bench area. As a reward for spider wrangling, we were given long-sleeve race tech shirts. But that put Eric in a quandry. He won't wear a race shirt of a race in which he did not compete. I think little of that. I only won't wear race shirts when I'm competing in a race (it always seems tacky). But I don't care what I wear when I'm training. But, since this race is a 100 miler, I will follow Eric's lead and Sharpie in the word 'Volunteer,' so that there will be no confusion.

Finally, my friends and next door neighbors, Jim and Ann Jessie, called me and offered me 4 tickets to a lux Executive Suite at Livestrong for Sporting KC's game against the Houston Dynamo yesterday. So some hours after the spider run, I drove over to KCK with my friends Marisa and Chris Ford, and Jordan Yochim. Eric, who works with Ann, was also there with his wife (and my friend), Rebecca, and their daughter, Helen. We, along with the Jessie family, all enjoyed a tremendous victory from a nice vantage point. I'm now so spoiled that I don't believe I can ever go back to general admission.

Hasta pronto.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I kneed ....


MMMMMMMM.....Sexay!

So, this guy walks into his doctors office and says.... After a seriously painful day in LA following my descent from the Griffith Park Observatory, I checked in with my sports doc when I arrived back in Lawrence. Due to changes in insurance and in my condition, I agreed to shuck out a thousand bucks on an MRI. Getting the MRI was a little weird. I had to lay very still (motionless actually) under a very heavy-looking machine that made scary noises. After about 20 minutes of that, though, I got used to it and was able to doze off.

A few days later I saw my doc again. He told me that there are 4 stages of osteoarthritis on the knee (1 being good, and 4 being, well, shitty). I had always assumed that my knee was a 2 or 3 because I can go out and run a marathon without too much issue. As it turns out, however, my knee is a 4. So next week I meet with the surgeon to see when we can schedule the solution to the problem. Apparently the surgery isn't too bad. It has a quick recovery and no PT required. I'll write about the procedure after it happens in the next month or so. I have a pretty good idea of what it entails, but don't want to report something wrong.

So that kinda sux, but it will be fixed once and for all. My running is still going well. I did an eight mi run yesterday on pavement, and experienced no noticeable issue. My knee only seems to be a problem when it is a problem. I can't predict when it will happen. And it only causes me a day of pause. Still, I am happy to be addressing the problem (just keep telling myself that).

In other news, in a drunken stupor last night, I walked across glowing embers in my neighbors' lawn. It was actually no big thing. I do have a couple of small blisters where an ember or two stuck to me. But no problems - I will be running in a couple of hours. I would not, however, advise anyone to do that - particularly when intoxicated (that state always seems to lead to bad decisions). The risks are pretty great. I feel fortunate that I did no (or very little) harm to my feet.

This week, sit back and enjoy the US Open. Rafa, Novak, and that Swiss guy are all still hanging around. It makes for a good show.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Camus, and how his work doesn't even relate to my running blog at all (but I really like it)



Jepson and Levi

I've been reading a lot of Camus lately. I am surprised that he has moved from the position of 'one of my favorite authors,' to the status of 'my favorite author.' Hemingway's 25 year run has come to it's conclusion. I may change my mind or preferences again some day. Andre Aciman has a lot left in the tank for his writing career. But for now, Camus' absurdist view of the nature of life and death has struck a nerve in my psyche. Start with the obvious, The Stranger, and then move forward into his works from there. You will see why he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Also stop by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in KC. In the new wing, there is a photography show of pictures taken that relate to the cosmos (the sun, moon, stars, galaxies...). It is striking to see some of the pictures that were taken in unconventional ways. My favorite is a photo taken using a pin hole lens. It was shot in Yosemite and used the sun as a focal point. It creates a very different perspective when the sun, not the landscape, is the center of attention.

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Let's move to some run on sentences... This was actually a short week of running for me. I took a bit of time off after injuring my knee in LA last weekend. I laced up the shoes for a Nordic Track romp on Tuesday. On Wednesday I did a 3.5 mile run. Thursday I knocked out 4 before heading to the doctor's office and being told to get an MRI. Friday I ran another three, then had the MRI ($1,000 out of pocket, which kinda sucks). Then yesterday I met my running buddy, Eric, and a guy named Jepson, who had come over to Clinton North Shore from KC. Jepson had written to some Trail Nerds and Hawks about running the trails. I was the only one who was going to be ready to run when he wanted to go. So the three of us met and did the out on white, back on blue run.

Eric just wanted a 10k ish run. He turned around after about 35 min. Jepson and I kept running on, what turned out to be, one of the great days for spending time on the trails. There was little wind, good temps, no bugs (other than the huge spider webs that I kept running into with my face), and dry pathways. We spotted a deer in a clearing, a couple of frogs, and (thankfully) no copperheads. We finished the run strongly, and with the addition of another Trail Hawk, Levi, who latched onto the back of the pack with one or two miles to go.

All in all, the run completed a very short 20 mile week. I'll find out more about my knee on Tuesday. Until then, have fun running.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I Love LA


Poolside in Silverlake

I flew out to the coast on Friday for some much needed R&R. My flight was an early one, and not into Burbank (as I like), but into LAX. However, it was non-stop and only $200, including tax (crazy cheap).

My friend, Roger, met me at the airport, and we headed out to visit another couple of friends and former clients of mine who gave us a tour of their awesome production facility. After that, we hit a great vegan place for lunch (I posted pix of that meal on my FB page), went to a movie with another friend, hit a bar in WeHo, and then went to bed.

I awoke early the next day to do my favorite West Coast run; from the house where I stay in the hills, down to the base of Griffith Park, and then up to the observatory and back. .5 mi downhill, 2 mi uphill, 2 mi downhill, .5 mi uphill. I have posted numerous pics of this run before as well. It is always a treat. I knocked it out on Saturday and Sunday. I did run into a scraggly old coyote in the hills. I cannot escape coyotes wherever I go.

At the end of Sunday's run, however, something screwed up in my problematic knee. A shin splint also pushed some pain to the fore. Not good. I am seeing the doc about getting this taken care of permanently on Thursday.

Still, though, I got both planned runs in and was able to walk afterward. I never take days off from running, so this forced break is, in fact, a nice break to have. I'll get some biking and swimming in before seeing what can be done on Thursday.

I was able to relax (finally). I spent two full days poolside at a friend's place in Silverlake. The number of hummingbirds was shocking and wonderful. The pool was beautiful. The people who stopped by, interesting and nice. The wine, margaritas, and food were fantastic. The overall experience...priceless.

I also hit the Hollywood Farmer's Market (my favorite in the country), the Farmer's Market near The Grove, another vegan restaurant, and a Thai restaurant where I had the single spiciest meal I've ever had. I love hot. I always spice my foods beyond what most people can tolerate. But even to me, the final meal in LA was almost too much. A few hours later it was too much. I think I burned every internal surface in my body (and you know what I'm talking about). Note to self - in the future, order medium. You can always add heat, but you can never take it away.

More next week.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Happy Trails



Lucas - relaxing on my Lunar Eclipses - wishing he could go running with me this a.m.

I cruised through about 34 miles of asphalt, concrete, gravel, and dirt this week. As the weather cooled, my mileage rose almost unconsciously. My normally shorter 3-4 mile Wed and Thursday runs became 5 mile runs as temperatures in the early a.m. moved into the high 60s-low 70s range. The highlight of the week's running happened Saturday morning, when my running buddy, Eric, and I popped down to the riverfront trails to knock out a 9 mile run.

For once, there were no other runners in sight. But you couldn't spit without hitting a mountain biker. It was great to see the trails in full use. We had the closest encounter with a cyclist that I've ever witnessed. But everyone was good-natured and enjoying the day. With stops to get out of the way of trains of riders, we still managed to finish in an hour and a half. There were very few spider webs to the face as well because the bikers had cleared most of them out by our 7 a.m. start time.

After dropping Eric back at his house, I drove home thinking about just how much running has come to mean to me; particularly trail running. On our runs together, Eric and I have talked about how much of a community the Trail Hawks have built. Friendships, support networks, and social gatherings have all come out of the organization. You feel good when you are around these people. Everyone has varied interests and backgrounds. Yet everyone shares a common passion about the oldest of sports.

The Hawks are hosting a 100 mile race in September. They are looking for volunteers to help with the 30+ hour race. If you are a runner who can help monitor the trails, or just a person who might want to volunteer time in another capacity, please visit http://www.lawrencetrailhawks.com/ and find out more about how to become involved.

While writing this post, I took a short break and ran the 1/2 mile to the trails near my house (in the odd little park off of Folks Rd.). I ran the white course, and then popped back out for a loop on the orange/yellow route before heading home. It was a lovely way to wind down from the runs of the last 7 days, and enjoy the flora and fauna that surround my neighborhood.

Next week's post will be a little late. I'm going to be out running my favorite road course in the country (I have written about this mystery course extensively in the past). I hope to have more pics and prose by a week from Tuesday.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bush-Roaming Mammals (and wild turkeys)


Here's a flock/herd of wild turkeys

Mileage crept downward this week in response to the seriously hot days that kept coming, one after the other. After the night run in Olathe a week ago, Friday, I took a couple of days off from running and instead hit the streets on my Specialized Sequoia. It was a nice change, and let my running muscles have a bit of recovery while still providing a workout.

Runs during the week were shorter. I would come back to my house drenched in sweat from the humidity. I don't mind sweat, but the heaviness of the air made it a bit hard to take in the oxygen needed to go long. On Friday, I awoke seriously early and popped out of the house before the rains were supposed to fall. As I ran, I watched a beautiful dark loud bank move toward me from the west. I turned back to try to beat it before it overtook me, but to no avail. The gust front billowed through, and the day went from light to dark in about 30 seconds. As I was looking at the sky, I realized that I was surrounded by deer. There were several does to my left, and a couple of fawns to my right that I appeared to be cutting off from their mother. It was a little disconcerting for all of us. The fawns bounded (and I mean jumped super high) as they ran across the road. Their mother and her ummm, friends, stood nearby looking distraught. I loved seeing the animals up close, but realized I was part of the problem and moved on as quickly as possible. I caught up and ran with a couple of other runners who had turned around upon seeing the menacing cloud bank. It was odd because the darkest portion of the storm did not drop any rain. I passed a friend and neighbor heading the other direction. She had gotten up a bit late, looked at the storm and decided to go out anyway. 15 minutes later, after I got home, it just poured.

Saturday there was also rain in the a.m. I waited around for a while and then decided not to worry about it. I drove to the Riverfront Trails and ran the circuit. The only really eventful thing that happened was when I suddenly surprised a flock/gaggle/herd or wild turkeys. I almost jumped out of my skin, but quickly realized what I was running through. I stopped for a moment to watch these interesting animals. I hadn't run into a bunch of them in the past few years. While they aren't the prettiest creatures, there is something sort of regal in the way they carry themselves. It was the high point of the run.

As usual my Nathan pack worked tremendously well. No chafing or weird weight issues. It was a good acquisition.

See you soon.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Vega Sport



I don't often talk about the sport supplements I take. I do the usual rotations of energy shots, gels, electrolyte drink mixes, and Cliff Bar-type products. And for the most part, I rarely come across products that disappoint (although during the Coleen's all-nighter last weekend I did have an unfortunate encounter with a sad little sports bar by a monster-big company that shall remain nameless so as not to detract from the real point of this post).

But of all the products I have used and currently use, Vega Sport powder holds a special place in my heart. I bought it after I started going much longer distances on a regular basis. I have amped up some of my regular runs north of 20 miles. My friend and Trail Hawk mentor, Gary, had mentioned how a runner should always ingest protein right after strenuous runs (and in fairness here, my friend Marisa was actually the person who had first mentioned it to me). As a vegan-leaning vegetarian, I wanted to find a solid protein source that, for me, had an ethical component to it. I looked at protein products from companies I admire, like Tempt products (which are wonderful), but ultimately settled on Vega because it had a combination of pea and hemp protein and also contains spirulina, a fantastic blue-green algae.

I know some people have issues with pea protein, but I'm not one of them. After a long run, or a particularly brutal shorter run, - like many of us runners in the 100+ degree heat flyover states have undertaken lately - I put a scoopful of Vega Sport in the blender with a little water, ice, and a half of a banana and make a delicious replenishing drink. I can honestly say that for once, with a supplement, I can really feel a difference in my overall energy, stamina, and recovery. And, because no animal products were used, I feel as though my running is is even more in harmony with my beliefs about how we should treat the world around us.

I'm done with shameless plugs and preaching now. Back to more running and writing next weekend. Please try to stay cool and be good to each other.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Coleen's Sweaty Ass Run

I drove to Olathe on Friday evening. I had been tentatively planning to do the Hawks' - Coleen's Sweaty Ass Run. The run is an all night afair that commences at 8 p.m. and goes through 6 a.m. Runners can do as many of the 3 miles circuits as they wish in the intervening time. Some come for a once-through, while others do lap after lap. For me, in the days leading up to the run, the weather had been too relentlessly hot. Several weeks ago, I had looked at using the run to complete a 50 K. But with the scorching temperatures of the past 2 weeks, I wasn't even sure that I was going to do the run.

But when yesterday morning rolled around, bringing with it cooler temps, I decided that I'd pop over in the evening and do a few laps. The course, which you can read about by cutting and pasting this: http://www.lawrencetrailhawks.com/races/2011/jul/29/coleens-sweaty-ass-run-second-annual/
is pretty, with a path that goes through fields, trees, up and down mainly gentle hills, and has a little bit of gravel/dirt road running in it as well. The food provided at the start (you passed back by every three miles) was great. Watermelon, cantaloupe, cookies (even vegan ones), chips, and more sports shots and bars than you'd see in most stores were all laid out on a table for everyone to grab.

I arrived a bit late and ran the first lap in 27 minutes which wasn't very smart. I was wearing a full pack - not realizing that there was no need for one. It was also a bit to hot just to pop out of the car and go. For the second lap, I dropped the pack and grabbed a hand-held bottle and an MP3 player. I mainly listened to Beethoven's Symphony #5 on KANU for that lap. I rarely listed to classical when I run. But communing with nature on a run with such a chill vibe, the Fifth seemed to be most appropriate.

Other highlights (or low lights): my headlamp faded to almost nothing. I had the foresight to bring extra batteries that really helped out. I had run a chunk of a lap with a pretty good runner from Colorado (he was on his first and I was on my third), but I was pushing a little bit to keep up and share his light. I developed one of the worst side aches I have had running. But by peeling off and walking a quarter mile while drinking a lot of fluids, I was able to restore my form.

I met Jessie from the blog Run to the Border. He's training for a 100 mile race that is coming up pretty soon. It looked as though he was going to be there all night. I also ran a lap with Mark, a Trail Hawk that I'd done the scary Let's See how Many Copperheads We Can Step On, 22 mile run with at Clinton a few weeks ago (see earlier blog Snakes on the Plains). Mark was going to be there all night.

I finally threw in the towel and came home. I had been up since 5 a.m., and knew I needed to give it a rest. But what a fun run. Coleen has a winter run at the same place. If I'm around and the weather is driveable, I'll be there.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sales, Runs, and TDF


Pics of my kicks

So Gary Gribbles Running Sports had a pretty awesome sale for members of RunLawrence and the Trail Hawks this week. I met my buddy, Eric, at the store at 1 pm on Wednesday and proceeded to stimulate the US economy (I mean somebody's gotta do it, right?). I picked up a pair of Nike Lunar Eclipses, Saucony shorts, and a couple of nice Mizuno wicking T's. Eric threw down more loot for more products. All in all, we dropped about $250 in the store for about $550 worth of goods.

Thanks to all who set up that sale and promulgated the info. It is appreciated.
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Tuesday morning I had yet another encounter with a coyote. As usual, it was in the burbs and not out on some country road. The coyotes around my house just have no fear of people. They aren't aggressive, but they don't hurry to get out of your way, and that is pretty disconcerting. I've had closer encounters in the past, but not with a critter as big as this one was. As I ran by, I kept looking back over my shoulder to make sure I wasn't being followed. I just did an involuntary shudder while typing this. Two words: heebie jeebie,
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Saturday, I popped out to Clinton at 5:45 am and met a woman named Holly, my running buddy, Eric, and fearless Hawk leader, Gary Henry. We set off on the white trail for Land's End. It was seriously hot. But under the canopy, it was about 10 deg F cooler. It was a pretty run. It was also pretty uneventful. We ran and chatted and ran some more. It was hot enough that when Eric, Holly, and I had finished (Gary kept going), I did feel the 10 miles. Normally I don't feel a run like that. Heat and humidity will dish out their medicine every now and then.


Holly and Eric after the Saturday run
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Finally, if you haven't watched any of the Tour De France, turn it on for the last day, today. Cadel Evans has become the first Australian to take the win. He did it yesterday in an epic time trial that erased a 50+ second deficit to Andy Schleck (Andy's brother, Frank, had also been ahead of Cadel at the start of the day). And Alberto Contador also found his form, and for the second day in a row pulled out all the stops on a terrific ride.

All this writing about biking reminds me that I need to hit the road for a cross-training day before the heat smacks me down.

Hasta pronto.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Running With Pre

I had a bout with poison ivy. I am on my second to last day of steroids that were prescribed to clear it up. I always find it kind of fun to be on steroids (legally) and work out. They freak some people out, I guess, but they always make me feel great. With this week's heat and humidity, they probably did factor into a few good runs.

On Monday I popped out early for a 4 mile pre-work run. About 2.7 miles into the run, I did something I have only done once or twice before: I stopped and started walking. I was drenched in sweat and sucking wind. My arm with the poison ivy was stinging. In short, I was miserable. I walked about a quarter of a mile and then jogged at a ridiculously slow pace back to my house. By Tuesday, with some help from my running friend, Pre (short for prednisone... who were you thinking I meant?), I was able to knock out an even longer run at a good clip.

But, with the heat, running this week wasn't all that fun until this weekend. I got asked by the Trail Nerds to be one of the leaders for the North Shore Clinton Saturday run at 7 a.m. I said I'd do it, but I wasn't going to do the 23 miler due to the heat. I was thinking more along the lines of an 8-12 mile run. I called my buddy, Eric, and asked if he wanted to come along. Eric is a fine runner who has been taking the summer off, for the most part. But he's someone who can take time off and then go do ten miles. It is a bit ridiculous, but he's always game for a challenge.

So yesterday, Eric and I met at Clinton. We saw a couple of other Trail Hawk / Nerd type vehicles in the lot, but no one else showed up by 7:10, so we set off on what was a really pleasant run. Eric ran in front waving a stick in a spastic manner to clear the path of spiderwebs. For the most part it worked. I stopped paying attention at one point (I was mainly looking down for copperheads (see pvs post)), and ran face first through a massive web. But after a momentary freak out, I forged ahead. We hit Land's End, turned around, and finished the run without incident.

A short note on Clinton North Shore: The trails are absolutely perfect to run on in hot conditions. The canopy truly keeps the sunlight out, and the heat down. There isn't much one can do about the humidity. But, if you feel that you have missed your window in the early a.m. for a cooler temperature run, you can always head out to Clinton and enjoy a trot amid fauna and foliage.

So today, the second part of my nice weekend of running happened. My non-running buddy, Doug, biked over to my house and met me at 7 a.m. I had wanted to do a shorter, more intense run on the country roads near my house. Doug had offered to bike over and keep me company. Basically it would just add some easy miles to his morning ride. So we set off. On the way north of 6th Street on Folks Road in Lawrence, I showed him Lawrence's cool nature park that no one ever uses. I run in it periodically to add about a 1.5 mi. round-trip distance to some runs I do. But the park is almost always empty. Kids don't even go there to make out or drink or whatever. I can't figure out why it is so under-utilized. Anyway, Doug, I think, thought that the park was pretty cool as well. I'm hoping he takes his family there sometime to explore.

After the detour on the park trails, we cruised along Peterson for a few hundred yards and saw a deer crossing the road before heading north again down the hill by Martin Park. The hill is a blast to go down. And, at the bottom you are treated to a farm that has llamas or alpacas on one side of the street, and one that has really pretty goats and geese on the other. The road then traverses a stream and winds along the base of the hills, with woods to the south and corn fields on the north. This morning there were hundreds of bag worms hanging by single silken threads over the little road. It was remarkably pretty. It was also pretty sultry. I sweated through every pore.

We turned back south on Queens Rd (1000 rd in the county), and attacked the brutal hill that marks the city limits. The rest of the run was through the western burbs of Lawrence. We had a coffee at my house before Doug continued on his way.

What was nice about the weekend was that I had two successive days of running with friends. I do so much solitary running that it is always a nice change to have someone along. And two runs in a row; well that's just about unheard of.

Equipment update - I love the Nathan hydration pack. I used it again yesterday. No leaking. No chafing. The reservoir is super easy to clean. All in all, a great little pack.

And finally, congrats to all of the Lawrence Trail Hawks who hung in there during the storms this weekend to complete the Lunar Trek races. Impressive.