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 - 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


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


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 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:

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.

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....