Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Week's Worth of Words

Alas Poor Goggles, I Knew Ye Well

So, I switched out my swim goggles last week. I had been using the smaller pair for a few years. They never leaked, and seemed to do a good job with only a bit of fogging. My swim coach had been telling me to get a pair of the TYR Technoflex 4.0s for a while. She said I would really like them.

So, last week, as my birthday came around, I ordered a pair. And, I must say, she was right, The TYRs are great goggles. They are insanely comfortable, marrying soft, pliable plastic around the eyes, to a harder, crystal clear plastic lens area. I cannot believe how far I can see in the huge Free State pool. Actually, I can see across the pool in all directions. And all for only $16. It really is remarkable.

I did a few long runs this past week (8+ miles). The best was on my birthday. That was last Wednesday, and the temps reached almost to the 70s. I left my office early and cruised the River Trails. I didn't see any other runners. There were some cyclists, but not as many as you would've thought for how great the weather was. Mt buddy, Eric, and I went for a 5 mile run on the trails yesterday. It was a lot colder. A huge tree had expired across the trail in the intervening day since my last run. It was pretty remarkable.

I read some Trail Hawk postings about trees dropping at Clinton as well. I'm glad that I haven't been around to witness that type of event. If I'm alone, I run with headphones, and my head would probably leave a large dent in the poor tree when it came crashing down on me unnoticed.

I'm heading out shortly to knock out 5-6 miles before going to KC to see the KC Ballet's Romeo and Juliet this afternoon. KC has a stunning ballet troupe. We are fortunate to have such a wonderful thing in our midst. And speaking of another wonderful thing in our midst, I would urge anyone who hasn't been, to check out the Linda Hall Library. Every time I go there I am amazed at what it offers - books on science and engineering (sounds boring, but it isn't), exhibits, lectures, a cosmology theater. Check out their site, and stop in - if only to see the exquisite architecture that makes the interior a dramatic yet welcoming space. - seriously, you won't regret it.

Final thought: I'm glad to see the KU/MU rivalry end. People speak of what a great rivalry it was. But to me, it really wasn't a great rivalry. Great rivals have a mutual (if grudging) respect for each other. Great rivals cheer for each other in non-conference or tournament situations. Great rivals want the other team to be great as well in order to enhance the rivalry. Well, over the years, not one of the above ever happened on either side of the state line. There is/was so much animosity and genuine dislike surrounding any meeting between the two universities, that the games became extensions of a never-ending grudge match. I, for one, am glad to have that negativity out of my life, because it is nearly impossible to live in Lawrence or Columbia (or to have attended one of the schools) and not feel it. Farewell to the ugliness that surrounded the games. Goodbye, and good riddance to a rivalry that diminished both schools.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pi Day Preview

What a lovely week for running! Actually, I went kind of light on the running until today due to the temperatures and travel. I did a couple of outdoor runs early in the week. I kept them short (under 5mi ea) because I am really trying to limit the time spent running on roads. I did a couple of days of Nordic indoors. I popped down to Orlando on business Wed-Fri. So on Thursday I had my first ridiculously sweaty run of 2012 along International Drive (Ave.?)in 80F weather. It was wonderful. Friday I took the day off from running (because I knew I was going to go long on Sat) and swam a mile in the pool in the evening after the return flight. It was my first time back in the water since injuring my knee with poison ivy and (possibly) staph a couple of weeks ago. I found the return to the pool to be singularly relaxing and enjoyable.

So Saturday reared its head as I arose from my way-too-comfortable bed at 5:30. I'm sticking with my no caffeine unless I'm on a run pledge pretty well. But I do kind of fumble around in the morning a bit more as my neurons take a bit of extra time to fully sync up. An hour and a half later, I was fully sorted, with clothes, a packet of Sharkies vegan organic sport chews, GU Brew in my water bottle, and hemp powder and a banana (for post race refuel) all loaded in my Element. I figured that there would be 9 or 10 hearty souls who would show up at the River Trails to knock out the 13 miles that mirrored the Pi Day race course for the event that would be held in a couple of weeks. My attendance estimate, as it turned out, was waaaaay off. I don't know exactly how many people showed, but it was certainly between 20 and 30. It was great to see my blogging buddy, Indi there, as well as my Heartland 100 volunteer buddy, Jacob.

We set off in a couple of groups, the gazelles and the ponies. I went with the Gazelles, who managed to keep about a 30 yard lead over the ponies for the first loop. We were ably-led, but a bit un-gazelle like. For the second 5 mile loop, we ran the course backward. And by 'backward' as you know from previous posts, I do not mean that we ran with our backs in front, looking over our shoulders in order to keep from tripping. I mean we ran the loop in the opposite direction. I love running the course that way, because the trail seems completely new. You know what is coming up, but you have never (or rarely) addressed the hills and turns from that direction.

The moment the second loop ended, I and a fellow by the name of Jeff (Geoff?) Beecher took off instantly for the third, and final loop. Between the first and second loop, there had been a pause while everyone re-outfitted due to the weather conditions (cold and windy), with some losing some gear, while others added. Jeff and I (and a couple of others, as it turns out) had started to freeze during the brief hiatus, and for the third lap had planned to just go immediately into it.

So we took off at an agreed-to slightly quicker pace and were joined within the first mile by 3-5 others who had also just turned around at the loop's inception. At the turnaround point for the final loop, a few members of our group went on in order to seek greater glory, with runs of 15 - 22 miles. But 4 of us turned and headed for home. I was the leader and offered to let anyone who wanted to pop out in front take a turn, or simply run off, but no one did. The final 1.5 mi of the run were the fastest we had done by a good margin. It was nice that we all finished the run with a kick still available.

Upon concluding the run, there was an inspection of the back of Gary Henry's truck. The four of us determined that there were at least 3 pies in a cooler in the bed of his Tacoma. Blueberry, peach, cherry, and maybe something else. Since I am still trying to lose some weight from the gain that occurred after knee surgery, I demurred (with regret), said my goodbyes, and drove off into the bright light of day.

I love being a Trail Hawk. Today reminded me of the feeling of camaraderie, and friendships that develop from being around folks with a shared passion.

I mentioned a couple of people in this post who have blogs or websites.

For Indi's blog, cut and paste and go here:

For Gary Henry's blog (which should have a pic up of the Pi Day pre-run group in a day or two), go here:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

P.I. and decaf

Like most people in the world who wear shoes, I put on my running shoes one foot at a time. A lot of times when you read a platitude like that, the author writes something like "I lace up my shoes." But mainly I don't. I have most of my running kicks set so that I can slide in and out of them. My Lunars and Waves work well for that type of entrance. My Cascadias do not, being much too stiff from running through water, ice, dirt, mud, brambles.... Still it is an oddly common unifier to think that we all pretty much without exception prepare to run in much the same manner.

So if the preceding paragraph made you think that this might be a slow week for writing about running, you are at least half right. But I do plan to write about events that surround running. First off: the knee.

If you'll recall last week I mentioned that my knee had a weird rash. Well, newsflash, poison ivy is still virulent in the Winter. I had scraped a vine on a river run, and hadn't even really noticed it. The line of the scrape turned into a massive split seam across my kneecap, while the rest of my knee turned into a blistered red sea. I had done some nice runs last weekend, but that all cam to a crashing halt after visiting my doctor on Monday and being put on steroids, antibiotics, antihistamines, and some salves/balms (not sure what the difference is between those last two). The knee was so bad that I'll probably have a permanent scar.

The result was that I waited out Monday and Tuesday before resuming running again. I did a couple of outdoor runs before the weather turned cold. I've spent the weekend running indoors because, while it is almost healed, I don't want fabric rubbing against the knee. So, lots of Nordic Track and biking have ensued.

What I took away from the experience was to remain vigilant about one of the most banal menaces of trail running. So often, I don't pay a lot of heed to poison ivy. I know I'm allergic, but I see it and I avoid it. But poison ivy doesn't go away. We all know it is all over the trails. And particularly in a warm Winter, it can still make its presence known.

A second 'event' that involves running (and life in general) is that I decided to eschew coffee for the foreseeable future. For me, a former coffee industry exec, this might seem incongruous. I love coffee. I am friends with many coffee company owners, US and Australian barista champions, and industry magazine publishers. But I have been thinking a lot about how I 'use' coffee in terms of dealing with each day, and for sports in particular. I found that for the past 20 years (at least), I probably have had 6-10 cups of coffee each day. That may seem extraordinary (or not), but a cup, if you measure it, really isn't a large volume of liquid. Still, though, that is quite a bit of caffeine. I used coffee to get me started each day. If it was ever unavailable, my mood was severely affected.

So how does this relate to running? Well, as I pondered a good time to slam a gel shot on a run recently, I thought, 'gee, I drink so much coffee I doubt the caffeine component of this shot (which is designed to give you a good jolt) will even be noticeable.' And on some runs, truth be told, I want a shot to be noticeable. I want a caffeinated effect.

So I went cold turkey on coffee. Strangely, the results were minimal; no headaches, not much energy loss, and only mildly lethargic at the start of the morning. I have an herbal tea, some hemp protein powder and chia in my muesli, and get on with the day. I have yet, due to the knee, to try out my theory on a long run, but I plan to do so within the next week. And please don't think I am disparaging coffee. I'm not. As I wrote, I love coffee. I am just taking a break from the sweet sweet brew to become less reliant on it, and in order to test out a running theory.

Finally, I have no swim report for the week. I didn't need to go over to the pool to know that one should not swim in a public pool with a festering, open sore. I hope to get back into the agua by the end of next week.

Until then, Happy Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Chance of Snow - 50/50

Biggest snowfall of the year. It's gonna take me hours to shovel.

Before I begin, I want to wish big congratulations to all of the Trail Hawks that raced this weekend at the Rocky Raccoon 100mi and 50mi, and the White Rock Classic 33.4 mi. It is cool that you guys and gals let me hang out with you.

I had an extremely light week of running. It was light, but high quality. I did a nine miler on Sunday, 5 mi on Tuesday, 4 on Thursday, and 6 on Saturday. So 24 miles total. The best of the runs was the 5 miler with Chris Ford (see pvs posting) where we saw a bald eagle and encountered the snake. I've got a crazy rash on my right knee and running down my calf, so since I can't get to a doctor until Monday,my Sunday run (today) is going to be in the 6-ish range. I'm going to try to keep off the main roads so as not to scare little children with the weird, oozing thing on my leg.

I finished (finally) Again to Carthage and also Tobacco Road. As a follow-up to Once a Runner, Again to Carthage leaves a bit to be desired. It loses the innocence and the joy over running that the first book had. But, if you liked the characters and want to follow them a bit longer, Again to Carthage is a decent read. If a book comes out following the characters into their 40s and 50s, I'll probably buy it as well.

I had the chance to see a couple of really good movies this week. I know that everyone has been talking about Moneyball. And, after seeing it, I think they are talking about it with good reason. It is a fun, none-too-cerebral flick that addresses an issue (small market vs big market) and resolves it in a new way. I still don't understand why anyone from a small market follows baseball. World Series and league championships don't mean much when 2-4 teams buy up all the top players. What a hollow victory it must be...Yay! NY wins again! The rest of the nation yawns and doesn't care.... Sorry about that, but for me, the disparity in dollars has sullied a beautiful game.

The second movie really got to me. 50/50 is a story about confronting cancer. It has a fantastic script and is pretty seriously funny. In fact, there is one of the most uncomfortable scenes I've ever witnessed in a film that actually caused me to laugh out loud. I had to watch it again to catch everything that was said. There are poignant and tense scenes as well (as one would expect in a cancer film). But the movie is seriously smart, life-affirming, and worth watching.

Well, I'm going to be heading out the door shortly. It is a sunny, beautiful day that deserves a respectful, joyous, life-affirming run.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Odd Sight

I just wanted to have a quick mid-week post to talk about an odd sighting. On a River Trail run on Tuesday, we saw a bald eagle. But, this being Lawrence, KS, that wasn't the oddity. A few days before on a run along the same trails, I saw a full on snake skin that I assumed had blown off a tree or out of some hole. It was an odd time of year to see a snake skin - it being January, and no snakes around. But then on the Tuesday run, I was following along behind Chris Ford when I heard a rustling in the grass next to my foot. I stopped. And Chris, noticing that I had stopped, halted as well. He asked what it was, and I said it had to be a snake. A quick dig through the grass revealed a decent-sized garter snake - on Jan. 31. It was quite a shock.

So, watch where you step this Winter. Some snakes are slithering when they should be slumbering.