Sunday, May 27, 2012

Syringes and Sultry Weather

I'm writing this shortly after jabbing myself with a hypodermic needle. I wanted to get my thoughts written down before the drugs kick in....

OK, people! Really?!? The above statement is half true. I did just jab myself with a hypodermic needle, but it was empty. I was on my way to filling it with a feline insulin product of some sort, while entertaining the cat destined to be the injectee with a finger loaded with a soy butter as a treat (I was trying to distract it). Somehow I missed the bottle of medicine and pushed the needle into my finger instead. It didn't hurt much, but I did feel a slight pinch (lol).

Anyway, it all turned out fine. Basically, I'm hanging out at Marisa and Chris Ford's house in the country while they are on vacation. They have a lovely place on an idyllic little lake. Several kitties are also in residence. One, Mika, needs injections a couple of times each day, so it is a little involved.

Being in the country is a nice change of pace for me as well, though. I have gotten a bit of reading done, a bit of writing, and have watched a lot of the second season of the tv show, Shameless, on Hulu. I've also knocked out some running.

In the ridiculous heat and humidity, I kicked out some trail miles at Clinton yesterday. Before the run, I bumped into Coleen, Indi, and one of their other friends (who I have run with, but crappily, can't remember her name). They were heading off for 10-15 miles, and I was planning on 7 ish (in order not to overdo it after last weekend). Dang it was sweaty. I kept thinking of the Chevy Chase line about hitting a water buffalo. But all in all, it was a lovely run. On the way back from Land's End, I ran into Indi who was heading back to the trail head in order to change shoes. It was great to run together and talk for a bit. She's getting ready for a 50 mi, and then the 100 mi, Rocky Raccoon race in Feb. I'm just looking at a wimpy ol' 50k at some point in the next month or two.

So, after a night spent in a massively windowed bedroom, awakening every now and then in order to watch fireflies flashing beneath the thick canopy, I woke up this morning and decided to hit the river trails for another jaunt in the sultry weather. After giving Mika a hit of go-go juice, I made it to the trail head by 8. Coincidentally, I saw Coleen's Element parked at the entrance. She was nowhere in sight. I figured I wasn't going to see her on the run.

I set my watch and headed off into the woods. It turned out to be one of the best and strongest runs I have done in a couple of weeks. I wasn't feeling it at the beginning, but that's not unusual. About mile 3 I really warmed up into the run. I was listening to a great radio show about a woman who feigned an Irish accent in order to get a job. She had to keep it up for the next 2 years while she held the position. I love doing accents, so I was particularly intrigued by the story. At one point in the run, I also had deer on both sides of me. Normally they are off in the distance.

For the second day in a row, I finished a run looking as though I'd come straight out of a pool in my running clothes. But I felt great. Tomorrow, I'll hit the same trail again in the a.m. Then I'l do some lawn work before heading to my parents' place for a Memorial Day lunch. I've thought about the holiday more this year than in years previous. I never really write down my full thoughts and feelings in this blog, preferring to stick to running and things that connect me to the sport and to others who love it. I write my other thoughts on paper. It is a more personal experience.

Enough of that. I'm going to put a bit of alcohol on the little stick and call it a day.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Wall - Better When Done By Pink Floyd

'Soul' - My favorite graffiti along one of my running routes. This picture does not do it justice.

44. 44. 56*. No those aren't the first few digits in call to the EU. They are the number of miles I've put in over the last 3 weeks respectively. 12x12 will get you there as well, but no run I did actually involved the #12. The anomaly, the 56, is not something I set about doing , it just happened (and I kind of wish that it hadn't). I'll explain the asterisk later.

I saw on the Hawks yahoo message board, that Gary planned to do a 23 mile long run at Clinton on Sat. I have been almost exclusively running on either the River Trails or back roads near my house. So I thought, why not? My mileage is up. I haven't found to outer distance I can run yet this year. I'd like to find an easy (relative term) 50k at some point in the next few months and knock it out. So the 23 mile run sounded good.

I met Gary at the Corps of Engineers trail head. We were quickly joined by Alex and Micah. We set off at a comfortable pace. The plan was to do the white trail out and back - 11.5 each way. I would describe the run out as uneventful. It was a very pretty day. We saw some deer. No copperheads (which actually surprised me). No trips or falls on the rocky terrain. Micah peeled off somewhere on the way out and headed back. I ran third and listened to Gary and Alex chat as we ran along.

At the turnaround point, we stopped for a couple of minutes to reload our packs and bottles with water and suck down some gels. Then we set out for the retrace of steps back toward our cars. Around mile 17 Alex and Gary stopped to pop up to campground 1 to grad some more water. I, uncharacteristically, wasn't feeling very good, so I told Gary that I planned to forge ahead, and that he and Alex would quickly catch up. I couldn't put my finger on why I started to feel bad, but I knew something wasn't right. My legs started to feel tired. I forced through mile 18, then 19. Gary and Alex caught me somewhere in the 19-20 mile range. I told them to go ahead, I was fine, but just going to run slower than they would want to go.

Alone again, I started to feel pain in my knees, back, and ankles. My muscles hurt a bit, but mainly felt tired. I ate more and sucked down more fluids. But things went from bad to worse. Somewhere just shy of 21 miles, I finally learned what it is like to 'hit the wall.' Everything just stopped. I wanted to lie down and take a nap. I actually considered doing so. But I had just enough sense left to put one shaky foot in from of the other and start walking. The final two miles may have been the slowest walk I ever took in my life. But, I told myself that I had nowhere else to be, and that I should just try to take some time and enjoy nature.

Enjoying nature, by the way, is a bit difficult when your mind, body, and spirit have been chewed on and spit out by the gods of running. But, between agonizing steps, I did see some more deer (the run included more than I had ever seen on the Clinton Trails). Upon entering a clearing, I was confronted by a carpet of butterflies. Each step I took caused hundreds (thousands?) to fly up. There were so many, that as they took off, I was pelted by them. It was a very surreal and wonderful. I felt like crap, but I was aware that this was an experience I should try to savor.

I trudged along, tripping every now and then, because I couldn't concentrate or lift my feet much. It was a little scary, to be honest. With about .5 miles left, Gary, who I'm sure had grown concerned with my absence, came back down the trail to find me. He joined me on the slow finish back to the parking lot.

It took me the rest of the day to recover from the run. I have never had that type of failure on a long run. And I've gone longer many times. The Clinton Trails are quite a bit harder than the river ones, so that may be the reason. I hope to get out and do them again soon in order to address the issue.

So, the reason for the asterisk after the #56 at the beginning of this post is that, while I covered 56 miles last week, I technically ran only 53 or 54 of them. So I'll let history (because I'm sure we can all agree that this is epic;-) judge the miles covered.


Emil Zatopek. Wow, he was a great runner and a pretty humble, nice guy. He had alternately a hard and charmed life spent mainly behind the Iron Curtain. The book, Running, is not well written or translated (I can't be sure which). But it does convey a lot of information about the life of this amazing athlete. You could probably find a better source of material. But there was something charming about the no-frills nature of the book, and the matter-of-fact way Zatopek's life is portrayed.

Billy Mills. Wow, he was a great runner and a pretty humble guy, nice guy. I saw the movie, Running Brave, and learned a bit more about our hometown hero. The film, embarrassingly stars the non-native American, Robby Benson, in the role of Mills. KU is also so obviously not KU, that it is also a bit uncomfortable to watch. My favorite line came when one of the characters made reference to 'the Quad.' If anyone at the real KU knows where this 'Quad' may be, please let me know. Because having lived in Lawrence, for over 30 years, I've never come across it. But I do the the movie props for telling a really good story that needs to be heard and remembered. Billy Mills went through a lot in order to achieve what he did. I hope people do learn his, and Zatopek's stories. Since they happened in another time,I worry that their histories will be, well,for want of a better word, history.

Finally - on Friday evening, I popped over to Free State High to watch some of the 6A regional track meet. The top few (3-4) winners of each event would advance to state. The long runs were impressive. SM West has a girl named Alli (and I apologize for not knowing partial or full names) who crushed the competition in everything she entered. She ran seemingly effortlessly, and she pulled 100+ yards away from the other girls in the field, and then proceeded to lap a few of the runners. Amazing. On the boys' side, there was also a guy from SM West who could bring it. He pulled away in his races, though not by quite as much as Alli. The top boys also were lap-happy with the slower runners, who gamely hung in there and finished to generous applause from the crowd. Another neat event was the pole vault. I normally hate HS pole vaulting, because no one is very good. But again, there was one kid (from Lawrence HS?, maybe), who was seriously talented. The crowd loved him for his attempts, both made and failed. Even I, who cares very little about the event, was a bit taken by the combo of guts and grace required to do the event. I wish all of the qualifiers the best of luck at state.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Berries Blooming and Biking Buddies

The past half fortnight was, at least, interesting, if not all that much fun. I organized a garage sale with my buddy, Terra. Friday and Saturday we moved a lot of usual suspects, and a few uncommon ones as well. What made the garage sale interesting is that during the sale, we were online marketing each item individually on Craigslist. I sold my Gazelle trainer that way (purchased 6 months ago as a low-impact way to recuperate from knee surgery). We also moved some chairs and books that way as well. The most interesting use for something I sold came with the purchase of a stack of microfiber cloths. I used to import those as well as other espresso and barista equipment for use by commercial coffee establishments around the US and Canada. A woman showed up who obviously knew what they were, and purchased all of them. When I inquired what she planned to do with them, she told me that they would be cut into strips and then sewn into washable children's diapers for a group of needy children in Ethiopia. That was pretty cool. I found some more later and called her so that I could donate them to her. Anyway - good sale. Enough about that.

In the past couple of weeks I've blown by the 30 mile/week club, and firmly joined the 40 mile club. As a club, it is a bit more exclusive (although the dress code remains the same). I found every run (7-9 mi/day) to be a joyous experience. I took Friday off from running because I thought I should, not because I felt the need to do so. I also only took my Garmin 210 on a couple of the runs. After so many years of doing it, I have a good idea of my pace, and I know the course distances anyway, so I can figure things out by looking at a clock - duh! I am finding, that lately, as I go farther, I care less about the mechanics, the speed, the distance, and the noise that good runners normally focus on. I care more about the experience.

Case in point: today I popped out on my favorite trail (the Riverfront Trail) for a typical run. I had knocked it out yesterday afternoon as well. I felt great, and took off at a pretty good clip. I recall very little of the first half of the run, other than noting how awesome the berries were looking (Here's an aside: if you want great berries, hit the river trails before or after a run with a bag or bucket. There are huge amounts of the berries, and they are ripe and delicious). I was in a kind of reverie. I was moving quickly, yet effortlessly. I stopped, at one point, to check out a nice-looking abandoned bike about 4 miles out. I had noticed it the day before, but thought its owner was probably answering nature's call. That was obviously not the case. I looked around for a bit in order to make sure there didn't look like a struggle or something bad had occurred. Thankfully, I could find nothing that looked amiss other than the bike. So I motored on.

At the outer edges of the trail, I wanted to know where all of the ancillary trails for bikes went. So , instead of just doing the circuit, I started with a trail and followed it to where it joined a trail I knew. I then did that with a couple of others. It was fun and interesting to get all of the connections into a map in my mind.

Both of the above instances of stopping or going off of the planned course, are things that I didn't do previously. Last year (even though I gave up racing), it still would have driven me crazy to pull myself out of a route - especially to follow some uncharted territory. But it felt great today.

Somewhere around mile 6 in my run, my buddy, Eric Struckoff, came barreling towards me on one of his insanely awesome Cyclocross bikes. Eric is a monster cyclist who has a lot of trophies in his closet. He is well known as a race promoter in this area, and was the founding director of the Pro/Am Tour de Lawrence, which brings thousands of spectators and teams from all over the country, into the city each year. I got to see his ability up close when in 2001 I rode on a self-contained tour across France with Eric, his wife, and a couple of other friends. The guy was happy to tackle any mountain we came to with 60 additional lbs of gear packed along. Anyway, we paused on the trail to chat a bit (something again, that I never would have done previously). We talked about the berries, some wild grapes, the state of the trails (fabulous), and life as a geneticist (his occupation). I lifted his bike, which weighed about the same as one of my running shoes. Then we set off in opposite directions.

I finished the run with a ton of fuel left in the tank. I thought about popping out for another circuit, but opted against it. I want to run good miles the next couple of days. And doing 2-3 circuits would definitely require taking a day off tomorrow. So I quit with the audience (me) still wanting more. And that was just the start of, what looks to be, a beautiful Sunday.


I'm reading a book about the life of Emile Zatopek. I'll give a short report as soon as it is done.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Nice River Trails

What a nice weekend for running. It was hot and muggy, so it made you aware of the run and the effort that you put into the practice. Yesterday was a slow 8.5 ish mile run along the river trails. On the way back, I ran into a friend who, with some others, was working to maintain and repair portions of the trail. This morning, surprisingly, I did a much faster 7.5mile run over the same trails and got to see the amazing results of their labor. They really did a great job and fixed some portions that needed attention. I also got to see one of the massive trees that line the trails that had collapsed (must've been last night) onto two other massive trees, and is currently suspended by them. It is worth checking out somewhere between mile one and two on the running side (mi 7-8 on the biking).

I didn't see any snakes over the weekend, but did see a group (herd?) of deer yesterday on the trails, and a fox in my yard last night.

My weekly running is now solidly in the 30 - 40 mi range. I'd like to get it to the 40 + range for the Summer and Fall by June. So far no injuries, and my knees are holding up well.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When in doubt, run it out.

With my legs still a bit sore from Saturday's 17mi, and Sunday's 2mi (recovery run), I didn't have a lot of hope for the run this a.m. I had given my legs a break yesterday, and did pulls for a half hour in the morning at the pool. I did a Biofreeze rubdown last night, and hoped to feel adequate for a decent run this a.m.

And what a decent run it was. I took off heading west, but turned south after looking at some slightly ominous clouds (they later disappeared). I felt pretty good, and experienced almost no soreness initially. So I decided that a 5 miler would be a good move. As I neared the 5mi loop break off, I thought, you know, I feel so good that I should go for six. So I took a left down a dirt road. As the six mile loop was going, I noticed that I could feel some lactic acid building. But instead of feeling bad, it felt shockingly good. So, when I had the opportunity to add another mile, I did so.

I didn't break any speed records. But I did knock out a 7mi run at a sub 9 pace when I would've been happy with a 3-4mi run. I'm hoping to do something similar tomorrow. But first, Biofreeze.