Saturday, January 29, 2011

TGI(w)F* w=was

Friday afternoon was one of those weird wonderful days in Eastern Kansas, with the temperature in Lawrence moving into the mid 50s, and the wind becoming negligible. I took off from work early in order to have a vegan lunch at my parents' house (my parents aren't vegan, but they are very accommodating for their children), do a bit of banking, and of course, go running.

The lunch was a nice veggie stew and salad. Dessert was a fruit salad that contained mangoes and (my fav) papaya along with all the other usual suspects in a fruit salad. Banking followed. I was changing banks for a couple of my accounts, because the bank I use for me real estate loans was not one in which I had an account. I can't quite explain this. I have bought 5-7 houses and apartments with them over the years, but had failed to open an account. Well, they have wonderful people to work with, offer great service and a lot better schwag than other banks. So I did open the account. If you want to know the bank and you live in NE Kansas, write me and I'll tell you.

By the time that was done, I was tired, but the road beckoned. I dressed for (running) success, but when I stepped out the door, I realized I was over-dressed. Now for job interviews and the like, it is better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. But, if you're like me, and have issues with dehydration and profuse sweating, over-dressed is not always the way to go. So I put on very light-weight not-quite-tights and a light long-sleeve shirt and set out.

The first few miles were a bit demoralizing because with all of the melting snow, my feet got pretty stinking wet. I knew I'd have to do the run with squishes accompanying each footfall. But by the time I got out into the country, I had forgotten all about my feet, and just settled into a slow pace (9:15/mi) and enjoyed the view. I took along my new hand-held water bottle rig. It was a bit irksome at first, but overall, I like it better than the water belt I usually take. I also had a Cliff shot that I consumed midway.

The run was pleasant, if uneventful. But when I returned to my house, I found that I was pretty ragged. It was odd, because I hadn't felt that way on the run. For the next five hours, my stomach was cramping and upset. I tried (WARNING: TMI moment coming up fast) a bowel movement, and succeeded in filling the toilet up with blood. That was disconcerting. I also had a headache and an odd feeling of satiation. And, perhaps the strangest thing, my feet hurt. They hurt as though I'd had them beaten with a belt. I took a shower and a nap, and forced down a small salad and a tortilla. For my feet< I pulled out some Gold Bond cream. I used Bio-Freeze on my calves, and arnica on my knees.

I spent most of the evening watching the Australian Open while pondering my physical deterioration. I went to bed around 11 and slept through the night. When I awoke this a.m. all was well (whew). I am, however, taking the day off. Tomorrow I'll do a shorter run and see how that goes.

Finally, if you have a chance, watch the Finals of the Aussie Open. If you don;t know the women's result, I won't give it away here. But it was a wonderful match. Tomorrow, Andy Murray is trying to be the first Brit (well Scott, actually) since the 30s to win a major. But Djokovic is also looking to be in top form. Enjoy your tennis and running.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Winter Wonderland - HAH!

The past week was a bit difficult psychically. The cold and darkness descended. I actually felt despondent at times. For me it takes the form of a kind of pain in my chest that is accompanied by extreme anxiety and then dark thoughts. As bad as it seems lately, I used to have it a lot worse. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD - the most appropo name ever given to a syndrome) and depression were a pretty major part of my life from my 20s through my late thirties. When I did enter my late thirties, I decided to do something about it/them. I became less of a recluse, took up biking more seriously, played a lot more tennis (after running, my sport of choice), and took anti-depressants for a couple of years.

I've written about it before, so I'll shorthand this: suffice it to say, I recovered, and only have short bouts that are invariably triggered by either winter or stress. Lately, both have been present.

So I've been running every day this past week. Jesse (who has a great blog) and Indi (who also has a great blog) wrote me after my last post, because it does seem crazy to go running in a snowstorm. But for me, with a serious need for the calm running brings me, it seems crazy not to do it when I was feeling down. Nothing takes away the blues like a run. I used to drive round in winter months and see runners out. I could never understand their motivation. But I have developed an understanding of at least some of the reasons why people strap on the shoes and head out into the elements on days most sane people stay indoors.

I didn't knock out any terrific mileage last week. I might've hit 24-25 miles. But the runs took a loooong time ad a lot of effort. Running in the ice and snow was a lot like trail running, where concentration was everything. I traded off on the shoes I wore. On three days, I wore my older pair of Mizunos. On the other days, I used my Cascadias. Both shoes seemed to work equally well for the terrain. The Brooks were easier to clean off the snow and mud, but the pretty, round, trippy laces kept coming undone until I double-knotted them.

The other thing that always brightens my January, The Australian Open, kicked off last week as well. When I was indoors, I got to watch some stunning tennis, and lament the fact that I had been offered a free trip to Melbourne, but had declined to go. I travel so much, that sometimes even an offer of seeing something great like that can't get me off of my keyster (I'll check spelling on that word later). My bracket was blown in the first couple of days as a new crop of young guns knocked off some of the top players. I actually love when that happens. While I won't win the prize, I will get to see a lot of players that I don't normally see moving through a tournament. My prediction for the second week, however, is that the highest seeds left will push the pretenders aside. For the men especially, it'll probably be the top four seeds in the semis and the finals.

Well, until next time, hang in there, and try to find ways to keep the winter blues at bay.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Crazy, Baby

So yesterday I catch a ride home from work. The roads are terrible, and the snow is coming down. Wind is out of the north at 9mph (I didn't know that fact until later). I get dropped at my house and think why don't I go for a run? It was only going to get deeper as the evening progressed, and Thursday was going to obviously be an indoor workout day. So I bundled up and went for a three miler.

I would describe the experience as cold, disorienting (you go snow blind really fast if you're just looking at the white stuff), but again, exhilerating. My facemask turned into a wall of ice. But other than my cheeks, I had no issues with the cold. I had a few stumbles as I tripped over objects that the blanket had hidden. But I never went down, and never slid out on ice.

I was really glad I did it. I may not (or maybe I will) do it again today. The snow is now seriously deep. If you're inclined to give it a try, my one recommendation would be to run on a course you know well in order to avoid tripping.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Food, Giveaway, Running

It's cold and icy outside this morning. I was planning to hit the grocery store to get muesli, light bulbs, salad, frozen veggies, more of those super-thin flat hamburger-style buns (that are so popular right now), pickles, sauerkraut, small cans of veggies (for lunch at work), and some Not-Chicken vegan bouillon. Now you know what I mainly eat.

In fact, it occurred to me the other day that I write very little about what I eat. That may be because I have a couple of close family members (my father, in particular, and my brother) who talk more about food than anyone I've ever met. My father, for example, will tell me in minutiae what he had at a dinner party when I call him on the phone. I like food a lot, but I really try to de-emphasize it in my own life. I will admit to having a vegan friend who is an excellent cook. We work together, and I'm always asking her what she brought for lunch, because it is invariably delicious-sounding, and well-made. But other than that, I really don't care more about a 3 Michellin-star meal vs a Chipotle bean burrito.

Food-wise I have very simple pleasures. My favorite meal, bar none, is a greek salad. There is simply nothing I'd rather eat. Next in line would be home-made vegetable or hot and sour soups. The vegetable soup is pretty traditional. Just throw a bunch of veggies and a little rice or pasta into a large pot, season, and serve. It can change with the season. The hot and sour soup is much more interesting. I make it with 2-3 cups water with either vegan beef or vegan chicken bouillon in the base. To that I add 3-4 garlic cloves, 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1-2 teaspoons of Sriracha (rooster) hot sauce, and whatever frozen or fresh veggies I have lying around the house. When the soup comes to a boil, I throw about 20 soba noodles in on top, wait 4-6 minutes and then eat. It is a seriously spicy soup, but it doesn't give me any heartburn or aftershocks.

I like meals that don't take too long to prepare. If it turns into an hour-long production, I might do a recipe once, but then I'm going to have to pass. I do enjoy cooking (or preparing meals at home), but I don't like to 'make a day' out of it. So, most of what I do is centered around dishes that can be knocked out in 10-20 minutes. I'll make a bunch of rice or tabouli, and have them around for a week so that I can add them in with veggies or tofu and make easy, quick meals. I also have veggie burgers and always frozen veggies, fresh fruits, and bags of salad.

One of my favorite snacks or side dishes to a soup or salad is my notdog sandwich or wrap. I picked this up one night in St Louis when a hot dog vendor sold me everything but the dog on a bun. What I do is use either a hot dog bun or (much more frequently) a tortilla, and then add sauerkraut, mustard, relish, jalapeno peppers, and a bit of salt, and then chow down. For most of you, this probably sounds gross, but I'm telling you, it is amazing. It has a heckuva lot of crunch. And you don't realize how much of the hot dog experience is the add-ons until you just punt the dog (or in my case, veggie dog).

OK enough about food. Let's talk running.

Before I forget, I was on Jesse's site, Runtotheborder, earlier and found a link to a Garmin giveaway. If you're interested, you can go here and sign up. You only have a couple of days left.

Now, for goodness sake, let's talk about running. Well, the weather sucked. It was really cold and too snowy for my little piggies to want to hang out in running shoes. I mainly worked out indoors on the Nordic Track. I found it difficult, because I was so banged up from my running buddy Chris's, football game the previous Saturday, that I had to go slowly for extended periods. I also hit my sauna for its infrared heat a couple of extra times.

Finally, Friday rolled around. I popped out for a nice afternoon run. My knees were sore, so I only did about 3.5 miles. But it was so great to be outside that I didn't focus for too long on my aches and pains. Running in ice and snow is a lot like trail running. You pay a lot more attention to where you are stepping. The pace slows. And I find that when I don't worry about time, that somehow the experience becomes much more zen-like.

Yesterday I went out for a longer jaunt. It was a bit colder, but I soon warmed into the run. I found great enjoyment running on the varying surfaces which were, varyingly, covered with snow. The ambiance was a sunny haze. It was something I don't see too often. I found that I was expending almost no effort, and giving no thought to the motions of running as I cruised through the countryside. When I popped back into town, cars even paused to let me make my way through piles of icy snow. Everyone seemed to be vibing on the special nature of the day.


While I am not a fan of over-technologizing my running experiences with things like computer programs, complex running logs, extensive marathon training routines, etc... I did sit down to try to calculate how many miles I put in last year. The figure came to somewhere between 1,300 and 1,500 miles. I'm no Scott Jurek, but I felt pretty good about the final tally. This year, if all goes well, I'll probably have about the same. I've come to a place in my running where I enjoy being. I'm planning to do very few organized races - probably just a few Trail Nerd events. My plan is to do personal marathons and ultra marathons 1-3 times this year, either solo, or with a couple of running buddies. I have spent a lot of time thinking about why I run. And what I have found is that I don't really need goals. I enjoy the experience for itself. It is much more of an internal desire and expression of my self to myself than anything outward. I really feel that running has saved my sanity and my life during a few (psychically) difficult years. It has really become almost a religion to me. I didn't write that last line to blaspheme or offend anyone. I am just trying to be honest about the value I place on the experiential nature of running.

Well, until next week, stay warm, but give snowy running a try.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Thanks to all who wrote posted comments or wrote in after the last post - Indi and Katie, in particular. I'm now using a hybridized workout plan that doesn't seem to mess up my knee (any more than it already is), or bother my tennis elbow too much.

The past week was actually very good for running. I did several runs heading out of Lawrence on the river levee, and then returning on the trails. The runs made for a nice change of pace from the normal road pounding I do in training. I only had one run on pavement out of the 6 I did last week.

So Saturday rolled around, and I stepped out my door to do a long run. I live in a pretty high point for Lawrence, with open lots and fields backing up to my house. Saturday, as I stepped outside, the wind blowing through the 20F temps made me change my mind. I thought, why not do what my running buddy, Chris, does on Saturdays? Instead of running, he gets together with a group of 20 and 30 somethings, and plays flag football. The field they use is in a lower section of the city, much more sheltered from the wind. I thought it might be a nice change.

Many of you will recall last year when I played with these guys in the snow and returned absolutely brutalized and traumatized by the experience. Over the next month, I lost three toenails that had been crushed inside my shoe. I was sore, and had bad bruises. In short, not a fun time.

But, for some reason, I thought this past Saturday would be a good time to go try it again. I mean, after all, there was no snow.

I'm not going to go into the whole ordeal of sucking me sucking wind for two hours, as the younger guys pushed me around. Today, though, I do have a lot of cuts and bruises. Those coupled with some muscle strains have made the past 36 hours or so very unpleasant. At least my toes are intact...

Snow is falling. My plan this week is to get some runs in on treadmills or ski machines. Friday is going to be in the 30s, so that is the outdoor run day. 'Til next week, stay warm and healthy.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Long-winded, but not much to say

It was a cold weekend for running. I stayed inside and ran/skied on my Nordic Track, used my rowing machine a bit, and then just did sit-ups and push-ups. I started to head out the door for a run on Sunday morning, but when the wind pushed itself through the fabric of my gloves, I thought better of it. In the middle of the afternoon I set out for an easy 5 miler. It is really strange to run in this kind of windy and cold weather. I always dress pretty warmly, using layers I can remove if needed. But there is invariably a part of me that is too hot, while another part is too cold. A slight turn that allows me to run with the wind rather than perpendicular will cause a river of sweat to explode from my pores. Layers are shed, only to be hastily returned when another slight variation in direction causes the river of sweat to freeze on my skin. Don't get the wrong idea here. I actually don't mind the unpleasantness too much. I just find it interesting how dramatic temperature changes can result from what seem to be very minor shifts in a run.

So one of my running buddies (Eric) has been going on and on about some workout regime called P90X. He's starting this week. I told him that I'd do it with him before I had checked out what it entailed. After my run yesterday I had the chance to watch (that's watch, not do) the first workout. Holy crap does it look brutal. I actually felt a couple of emotions after watching the workout - excitement and fear. I plan to get the necessary items this week in order to get with the program. Then, I hope to start it next weekend. I'm thinking that when I do the program I'll cut running mileage to no more than 25 miles per week for the first few weeks until I become a bit accustomed to the new workouts. I'll try to have a report on my first P90X in my next blog posting.

Finally, have you ever seen a movie or read a book where you just can't recall the dang title? For the past two posts, I've wanted to recommend a great book I've been reading. But every time I sit down to plug it, I can't for the life of me, recall the title. I'm actually making a note of this futility so that maybe, just maybe, I'll do something like write the title backwards on my forehead, and remember to post it next week. But trust me, it's a great read. Too bad you can't just run out and get it....