Monday, February 28, 2011

Oh, deer!

I started an enormous posting, but have put that on hold - I might actually have the makings of a novel. I want to think about it before sticking it up on this site.

Anyway, my week was pretty much a downer until the weekend. I'm never too worried about age. Well, maybe I am. Turning 45 kind of threw me for a bit of a loop. I think I had my mid-life crisis (if I live to be 90, Hah!) in a period of about 48 hours. No, I didn't go out and buy the sports car, divorce my wife (which would've been hard to do since I'm single), or quit my job and join an ashram. But I did have a few 3 a.m. panic attacks consisting of the what are you doing with your life variety.

Friday, I started to recover by having dinner with a few close friends. I also ran into the best friend I ever had in my youth. We hadn't seen each other in 7 or 8 years. It was really wonderful to be surrounded by all my great friends, newer and older.

Saturday, I popped out for a morning run (I did run every day last week, but hadn't hugely enjoyed them until Sat). It was a muddy affair, but I finally fell into an easy rhythm and cruised. In the afternoon, I watched the KU game at a neighbor's house. The picture above is of 7 of the 14 deer that appeared in their back yard (you can see them in the center through the trees). It was a bit nuts. I live on the other side of the neighborhood, and get some deer and coyote that cruise through the high school lot, or up the ravine behind my place. But I had never seen that many deer in one place before. They also get a flock of turkeys and the obligatory coyotes as well.

Anyway, so Sunday I set off for a run at 10 a.m. I wasn't really feeling it when I took off. The route I was taking was so shrouded in fog that it was hard to tell exactly where I was. As I neared the SLT trail, a deer cruised out of the mist in front of me. It kind of freaked me out, because it was a pretty big animal, and in a collision I wasn't going to be the one emerging unscathed. Well, the animal cruised in front of me from right to left and then stopped next to the path, watching as I ran past. It was such a beautiful critter, made more so by the softening lens of the fog. I felt fortunate to have encountered the animal.

Anyway again, I had planned to just do a 4 miler. But when I came to my turnaround point, I was starting to feel OK. So I thought I'd just push ahead to my 10k turnaround. But funny thing, when I reach that turnaround point I also felt pretty good. So I figured why not just go to my 8 mile turnaround. And, you guessed it, at the 8 mile turnaround I figured that since I was already out that far, I might as well do the whole circuit; so I pressed on to the 10 mile loop. I had no problems to report. It did occur to me about mile 7.5 that I hadn't brought and energy shots or fluids because I hadn't planned on such a long run. But then I put it out of my mind and simply pushed on. And you know what? The run turned into one of those zen-like experiences where it seemed to be more of an up and down motion than a forward motion experience. The fog certainly helped that feeling, because I had little idea of my progress. But an hour and 21 minutes after I had begun, the run came to an end at my back door. The challenges of the previous week had been vanquished and balance restored.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Crazy Run Times

My birthday was on Tuesday. I wasn't feeling all that great - a bit of malaise - so I took the day off. After getting a haircut in the early a.m. I popped over to the levee to have a run. Again, I wasn't feeling it, but I put in a run that lasted exactly 41 minutes. My pace didn't completely suck. I wasn't too tired, but I never got into the groove. All in all a disappointment.

So Wednesday, on my way home from work, I again stopped at the levee. I had running gear in my Element, and the day was nice. I decided to try the exact same run as the day before. I set out feeling a bit better. I fell into a comfortable pace that didn't strain me physically or aerobically. I finished the run and looked at my watch: 34:33. I had just cut 6+ minutes off of my time from the day before. It was pretty odd.

The lesson to learn is that you are never as bad or as good as your last run. Mind and body can have dramatically different responses on different days. I can't explain how a difference that large occurred over a distance that wasn't too long. But it was the most interesting running event I had this week (so far).

Monday, February 21, 2011

Historic Site and It Pays to Run

If you haven't had the chance to visit the Brown v Board of Education national historic site in Topeka, I would recommend the stop next time you are passing through the Capitol City. Located a couple of blocks off of I-70, the site is housed in the old, formerly all-black Monroe School Building. The permanent exhibits are inspiring, and the current temporary exhibition about school integration in South Carolina is very moving.

I had not been aware that Brown v Board was really 5 lawsuits brought by courageous individuals all over the country that had been rolled into one that was to be heard by the Supreme Court. Reading about the personal sacrifices that pretty seriously marginalized people had made to better their lives, their children's lives, and those of generations to follow, actually brought a tear to my eye. And the videos of adults screaming, pushing, and espousing vileness at little children and young adults who were simply trying to enter buildings to gain knowledge, made me ill.

I also hadn't known that in the early part of the 20th century, Asian had not been allowed to own property in the US. Japanese people were not allowed to become citizens (not forgetting that once they were granted citizenship they were subjected to being put into concentration camps in the US during WWII).

We have come a long way, but we are not more than a generation or two removed from these types of thoughts and behaviors in many parts of the country. Many people in the videos are probably still walking among us. I am hopeful that their feelings have changed with the understanding that by lifting one segment of our population, we really elevate us all.

Anyway, the site takes about an hour, is free, is open 9-5 every day, and serves as a reminder of a dark part of our history that we should not forget.


Now running... After powering though deep snow on the river trails last week with my buddy, Chris, my other buddy, Eric and I decided to try them out again on Sat. The bike clubs had requested that the two-wheeler types not hit the trails in order to avoid creating ruts. That left the trails mainly to runners. Both of us had hit the bottle a bit the night before at separate parties/gatherings, so we weren't going to set any land speed records. But the run turned out to be beautiful. The ground had that kind of moist, solid feel that is easy on the knees and leaves very little imprint on the trail. It was a lovely little jaunt.

On Sunday, I donned shorts and a t shirt (it was 73F on Feb. 20 for goodness sake) and took off running in a very strong wind. I tried to pick a course that move primarily perpendicular to the gale. The run felt good and uneventful, with Joe Jackson and Lucinda Williams blaring in my ears. On my way back, still out in the country, a $5 bill blew in front of me. Without even a slight alteration in pace, I scooped up the Lincoln and continued my run. I did look to my right to make sure no more greenbacks were wafting my direction, and alas, they weren't. So five dollars richer, I finished my Sunday run.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Snow Day Running

Another cold, snowy week led to a lot of indoor running. When I run indoors I usually try to go three miles, hit the rowing machine for 5 min, do some sit ups and push ups and call it a day. After several straight days, it gets a bit old. But I still dutifully laced up, and descended the stairs to my basement for the grind each evening.

The KC Trail Nerds were having the Run Toto, Run event yesterday. I had thought about doing the 10 miler. My running buddy, Chris, and I had left the plans for it loose. I did a short outdoor run on Friday in preparation. When Saturday rolled around, however, Chris and I opted to try and do the full circuit of the river front trails instead of making the drive into the KC metro area. We waited until 10:30 so that the temperature would be climbing into the high 30s - low 40s.

When we arrived at the trail head, there was a lot of snow, some ice, some slush, and some mud. We figured we'd do what we could. So we set off on a trail that was mainly snow-packed. Every now and then there would be knee high drifts. It became quite a workout, but we pressed on. We pretty much had the trails to ourselves. Several times we weren't actually certain we were on the trails.

The riverfront trails are the ones that my running buddies and I are all most familiar with. However yesterday, large chunks of the run seemed fresh, as a coat of white had descended over the familiar green and brown hues that normally populate the run. We saw a magnificent owl and a whole lot of tracks, but no other animals or people (who, I guess technically are animals as well).

As we ran, I commented that my shoe could not possibly have more snow in it. Then I mentioned that, being the optimist, that I should probably describe it as being half-full. Chris corrected me by pointing out that in that instance the optimist would actually describe his shoe as being half empty.

So after several deep conversations like the preceding, we reached the turnaround point. The run had, to that point, been alternately wonderful and easy coupled with a study in brutal backwoods slogging. After running back a bit on the trails, we opted to make a break for the levee across a field that was a lot larger and more snowbound than it had looked from the trail.

After a foot drenching jaunt, we arrived at the summit of the levee. As it turned out, there was a pretty good wind that we hadn't noticed on the trails. I put my hat back on, and Chris donned his jacket. We had some miles in the wind atop the levee. I should say here that I love to run on the levee. I like the tight gravel surface. I like the feeling that I get by bouncing up and down as I run that puts me into the zone. Chris, however, hates the levee. He feels as if there is no progression, and that the objects off in the distance never seem to get closer.

Because of these two contrasting points of view, our speed increased - mine because I was on auto-pilot, and Chris' because he just wanted the damn thing to end. And end it did, with both of us clocking a pretty good pace as we knocked out the final few miles of the run.

It turned out to be exhilarating for both of us. I love training runs where you actually feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in what you have undertaken. The only issue I had were cold toes and a tiny blister on the side of one of them.

Chris is looking at training to place again in the Kansas Half Marathon. He's such an irritatingly good runnier, that he probably will. I haven't committed to doing the race again this year. I'm still in the run for running's sake mode, and have no plans outside of some Trail Nerds races.

But running with Chris keeps me fast. I'm always honored when he asks me to do the long training runs. I'm not quite fast enough to win my age group (in most races), so I always bask in the reflected glory of Chris' wins. I'm both kidding and not kidding here. I really do love it when someone I run with wins....

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A view of my little workout facilities

Whoo Doggies, the temps were lower than a gnat's belly this past week. It was one of those weeks where every time I walked outside, it forced an exclamatory statement (or an expletive) - even if no one was around. That is how cold it was.

I'll run through a lot of weather, but when the temps go below 15F (or 25 with some wind), I'm staying indoors and 'running' on my little Nordic Trak. I usually hit it for 25-30 minutes. Next I move to the rower for the hardest 5 minutes I can stand, before doing push-ups and sit-ups. On alternate days, I'll add anther 20 minutes on the bike.

When the workout is done, depending on how I feel, and if I have time, I'll do 20 min in the sauna. I've had the sauna about 6 years. In the summer it sits idle. But in the winter it is nice to use a few times each week. It is an infra red model which is supposed to somehow penetrate better. It was one of those single-guy purchases. If I had a family, there is little chance I would've blown the money on such an item. But I'm glad I did.

I hate weight training, and rarely do it. I do a few curls and presses. But my weight bench is relegated to a rarely-visited corner of my basement. Even though it is used less than a freezer at the pole, you'll note that it has not become a shelf or a laundry rack. I am a huge believer in using (at least infrequently) all of the equipment I buy.

So anyway... running was out of the question for most of the week. The indoor skiing was its sad replacement. Yesterday, however, I popped out during the KU game for a 10K run. The weather was nice and it was easy to fall into a natural flow. The highlight of the run occurred when I had my MP3 player set on random, and at one point Black 47 thundered into my head with the song, Big Fella, which turns out to be a nice song to run to.

I'm going to head out and do the same run today, and take advantage of the weather before the snow descends upon us again. This post sounds pretty upbeat, but I will confess to having a continuously difficult cold season, psychically. I did start on a new regime of anti-depressants (very light dosage and for not for too long I hope). For the first couple of days I seemed a bit out of it; not myself. Things were a bit hazy and I was not doing my regular routine (I even stayed up until 2 a.m. one night - very unusual). But all seems to be full-speed ahead now. I took anti-depressants for a few years a while ago when I had been suffering through years of depression. They worked well, and I haven't needed a booster in years. But stress and seasons can bring it out in me...

Enough about that. I did want to plug a show on the Science Chanel called, An Idiot Abroad. Ricky Gervais and his writing partner have put together a show that really isn't nearly as stupid as they think it is. It is oddly informative in the realms of travel and the human psyche. Catch it if you can.

I'll post more if I get the chance. Keep running.