Saturday, June 25, 2011

Every Step I've Ever Taken....

Every step I've ever taken... Every footfall on concrete, asphalt, sand, dirt, mud, grass and gravel led up to today's run.

I'll be honest, I haven't posted in a couple of weeks because I've been battling some of the worst depression I've ever experienced (and I've experienced a lot of depression). I couldn't break free of it day or night. And nights have been the worst, with panic attacks and dark thoughts. I tried to run my way through it, even adding miles to kick out more endorphins, but to no avail. Over the couple of days, however, my subconscious, coupled with as many natural remedies as I could think of (hibiscus, hawthorn, and possibly meditation), seem to have pushed back at the edges of the darkness. My dreaming mind seems to point to a type of PTSD caused by my previous work environment as being the root cause. I don't know if that is true, but over the past day or two I have felt more at ease, and more myself.

In the throes of the mental and physical agony that kick in when depression descends, I have been planning to knock out a 50K ultra. Most people who know my running habits know that I don't care if I'm in a race or running a distance by myself. I just like to do the distance. I kind of have my eye on the Lunar Trek in July, but haven't made up my mind whether or not to enter. I have done a few long runs on the roads, but not on the gravel/dirt that make up the racing surface. I had thought to do a night training run with the Trail Hawks last night, but was simply too tired to do it when evening descended.

All during the past week I had promised myself that if I didn't do the night run with the Hawks, I would get up early and knock out three hours on Clinton North Shore. And while I like trail running, I am not someone who kills himself to go monster distances on trails. I've done a couple of 2.5 ish hour runs on trails. But if I'm going to put in the time, I'd rather do it on gravel country roads.

But this morning at 7 a.m., with rain and lightning coming down, I said 'screw it' (or something that is sort of like 'screw it'), put on my water pack at the trail head and ran into the darkness. And it was really seriously dark and scary for about 45 minutes of the run. My mind played out weird wild hog and mountain lion scenarios (I may have seen one later in the run, but I'm not going to open that can of worms on this posting). Finally the clouds lightened. I could see the trail. I had settled into a rhythm that was comfortable. I alternated between the white and blue courses because I was only going for time, and not distance. It was really beautiful.

I only passed one runner in the three hours on the trails; a 30-something woman with a mid-sized black dog. The two were cruising along in the opposite direction. With the darkness and the rain, I didn't want to creep her out (because the encounter startled me, not having expected to run into anyone else)I smiled and said the most pleasant 'hello' that I could muster and cruised on.

The last hour of the run was slightly difficult. I tripped once and was really worried that my hamstrings would seize up (that happens to me sometimes on longer runs). I also felt a couple of smaller blisters forming on my right foot, but ran through that issue.

I finished the run in 3 hours to the minute (about an hour and a half ago). On the way home I had the thought that every step I've ever taken had led me to that run. And now that I'm done writing, it occurs to me that every step I take leads me to whatever run I do on any day. Today's run will lead to Monday's (I am taking tomorrow off), Monday's to Tuesday's, and so on. It is a continuum. Some components might seem more important, but they are all simply parts of a wonderful journey that I need to find a way to enjoy.

I'll post more soon.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Year's Longest Run to Date

After returning from Monterey (see pvs post), I took Saturday off from running. I pulled out my trusty aluminum/carbon Specialized Sequoia and went for a short ride. I wasn't really feeling it - having returned home at 3:30 in the a.m. the night before after a seriously delayed flight at LAX.

So after sleeping off and on Saturday, I awoke Sunday and decided to knock out my normal weekly long run (10 ish miles). I grabbed a water bottle and a Cliff Shot and headed out the door. I noted that I was still a little tired, but the weather was incredible, and the tunes on my MP3 were groovy. At about 4.5 miles into the run, I realized I was going to be joining some of the Ironmen - the triathlon seemed to be happening on (or next to) a portion of my route. That was kind of cool. I got to see some of the top dogs of the sport cruise by on their bikes. A traffic cop shouted that I was looking good. And I must've been, because I felt great. It has been a while since I've had a wave of euphoria sweep over me during a run.

At the 8 mile mark, with two miles left to go, I decided to add an additional 6 miles to the run. Rather than making a final turn toward home, I simply kept going. My breathing stayed even and my energy was high (although I did wish that I had brought another energy shot with me). I had a slight pain in my left knee (usually my right one is the problem), but I pushed it aside.

Even with the wind directly in my face for the final two miles, the run was significantly easier than many I have done this year. It is so odd how a body works. I can be fit and rested and have terrible runs. I can be hungover (not a normal occurrence) and have a great run. I can never tell how it will turn out until I'm in the middle of it.

And so goes the story of my longest run so far in 2011. I plan to do a couple of training runs with the Trail Hawks because I am eyeing the Lunar run. If anyone has done that, please let me know what your experience was like.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Monterey Bay

I ran along this beach yesterday.

Monterey, CA is a wonderful place. It actually may join the pantheon of top 10 places I've been to in the US. It certainly is one of the best places I've run. The Monterey Bay Recreation Trail is an absolute joy to run on. Whichever way I have run, I have had wonderful encounters with nature and the fun of seeing a lot of people using the trail.

Yesterday I ran up the bay by natural dunes and under a canopy created by towering trees. I ran back by cutting through the dunes (where permitted) to the beach, and then along the shore. I didn't think it could get better...

Until this morning when I took off uphill in the other direction toward Cannery Row. Wow, what a run. The coast transitioned from beach to rugged and rocky. Harbor seals lolled about on the ocean rocks and crags below me. After a few miles I came upon a promontory, and thought that would be a great place to turn around. But first I thought I'd stop and take in the sight. And I am thrilled that I did, because as I stepped to the edge and looked down, I got to see a sea-otter laying on its back in the waves dining on some unfortunate fish. It was such a stereotypical pose for the animal that it was hard to believe it was real. But it was. No one was around to share the experience, but I can chalk up one more remarkable thing I've seen due to running.

Below is a pic of the marina - if you really needed me to tell you that...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Trail Runs and Core Work

Odd week of running... Over the Memorial Day weekend, I popped some trails. The Clinton North Shore - about which I wrote last week - was fun but muddy. The next day I did a nine miler on the Kansas River trails. The trails there were bone-dry due to the sandy ground. I was able to really make good time on the run.

The rest of the week I did shorter runs around my neighborhood as well as the 6 a.m. neighborhood workout on the soccer field on Wednesday. The workout is pretty great. It really works the core. I always finish it drenched in sweat, and have a bit of mid-section muscle pain the next day (which informs me that I had a good workout). I live in a pretty active neighborhood, so no one really has much of a leg up over the others who attend.

On Sat, my running buddy, Eric, and I decided to hit the North Shore again. I had been feeling a bit run down during the week, I think as a result of having stacked two long runs back to back the previous weekend. We weren't even doing a particularly long run. But it was hot and I bonked after a few miles. We ran/walked back to the car. One great thing that happened on the run is that we ran into my monster trail running friend, Kurt. The three of us stood in front of the map at Land's End, and he explained the various trail distances, as well as how to run a marathon on the trails. I was thrilled to finally get all of that figured out.

So I did take yesterday off from the running gig. I biked instead. Lawrence is loaded with cyclists and runners in my area of town right now because the 1/2 Ironman is next weekend. Eric and I saw a bunch of them on Sat when we were running (luckily they don't seem to use the trails), and I passed (and was passed) by a passel of them on my ride yesterday.

My fav running song this week... Killbilly's - Shame the Devil; catchy and fun.

Finally - I am so happy that NOvak Djokovic is coming into form in tennis' top echelon. But the Roger/Rafa final yesterday reminded me just how much special the R&R we have had over the past few years really is.

Finally Finally. I also found out that a co-worker's father used to run with Frank Shorter - pretty cool.

Til Next week. Stay hydrated and run on soft surfaces.