Sunday, October 28, 2012

Eye on the prize at the Hawk Halloween Run

It was a nice week for running.  In the early part of the past 7 days, the weather was warm, which led to hot, sweaty runs - the kind of training I like to do.  The latter part of the week was cold.  I had a run in the rain - nice.  I also did the Hawk's Halloween Prowl and Growl run. My prize for the race was a bottle of Rogue beer.  I was a bit overheated, and it was a bit freezing (never a good combination), so I left theparty early and went home to take a hot shower.  The run, though, was wonderful.  At night, you get tunnel-vision on the trails. My headlamp kind of sucked - operator error: I needed to replace the batteries - so it was a bit more challenging than I thought it would be.  Still, though, it was fun running and chatting on the course at night.  

This a.m. I took off for another chilly run.  I think I saw more deer than ever on the 8.5 mi river loop.  I saw very few runners or cyclists on the trails.  It struck me as odd, because while it was cold, the sun was out, the wind was minimal, and the trails were clear.  I found it to be a great day to enjoy the crisp Fall air.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Weekly running report

I had a lovely week of light runs T-F.  There was some cold, some wind, a couple of deer doing it one morning.  But really nothing too eventful to report.  Wednesday after work I played a full round of disc golf.  I'm starting to do that more and more.  It is fun because it combines throwing and running (or walking if you don't like to run) between holes.  It is kind of like a biathlon for people who don't like shooting or skiing.  I find that I am constantly amazed at the skill level of some of the guys I play with.  Luckily for me, they are patient teachers.

On Sat I popped over to run with the Hawks at Clinton at 7:30.  It was cold, but not freezing.  We were just doing the route of the upcoming Sanders Saunter, so it didn't seem as if it would be too taxing.  There were two new girls and a guy who were joining the regulars for the first time.  For some reason, I led for the initial climb to the top of Sanders Mound.  On the way down, the new guy took the lead.  He was going at a pretty good clip, but had to keep stopping to wait for the group to catch him in order to know which way to go.  So, after about a mile of that, I took off after him and the two of us left the group behind.

We ran about an 8 min pace on the trails (I think I normally race those trail between 8:30 and 9 on a good day, and train around 10-11 - they are seriously technical, at least to me).  Up and down the hill, over rocks and roots, he told me about his training for triathlons.  He is, it turned out, mainly a swimmer, and a decent runner.  We chatted about various training techniques.  Then he mentioned his sponsors.  I was thinking 'great, I'm being dragged around the course by a sponsored 19 year-old triathlete.'  Not something I encounter every day.  But oddly, it wasn't too hard to hang on yesterday.  I even contributed a bit to the conversation (although, I was happy that he liked to talk so I could spend a bit of time sucking wind in his wake).

Today I hit my beloved River Trails at 8 and knocked out the loop in about an hour and twenty.  The weather couldn't have been better.  I ran into a friend coming the other way on his bike.  We stopped and chatted for a bit.  I love biking the trails, but there is something about running them that dwarfs the bike experience.  It really is the zen-like quality of running in an ever-changing wood. The trail's distance and course remains unchanged, but the surroundings fluctuate with the temperatures, the humidity, the time of day, the seasons.  Each run offers a new experience.   I try to clear my mind and think of nothing.  Usually I fail and ponder problems and solutions.  But I never fail to go into the zone where I lose myself in the run.  And that is what makes the RTs my favorite spot.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Eagles Have Landed

On my way to run this a.m. I was listening to a program called 'Acoustic Storm.'  Just as I tuned in, the Eagles were doing a version of Take it Easy.  It really is amazing how much music affects our memories, because in a moment I was 16 again, and transported to a corner in Winslow, AZ where my buddy Dave and I had stopped to rest on our way home from San Diego.

I seems incredible today that parents would let 15 and 16 year-olds drive across country in a broken down Karman Ghia with a driver's side door that was tied shut with a rope, and with a massive F2 Windsurfer strapped to the roof.  But our parents trusted Dave and me enough to let us make the trip for three years.  It was an amazing time to be alive.  We were really 'out there' alone.  Two kids with a shitty car that needed to be pushed (and then pop the clutch) to start the engine - we always parked on flats or facing downhill.  We had no credit cards, no cell phones, not a lot of cash, no a/c (which made driving across the desert hot as hell).

But when I think back upon those cross country trips, I don't recall anything bad or uncomfortable.  All I remember is a sense of freedom and adventure.  It was a time when you really would be out of contact with parents and other friends for a few days.  It was really wonderful.

It is ironic that now, with cell phones and credit cards, safer cars, better services, and more comfort, that no parent in his/her right mind would let their teenage sons (or daughters) drive across country alone (let alone go into Tijuana unchaperoned on several occasions).  The early 1980's may have been the last, best time for teenagers to know any sort of real freedom and adventure.  My thoughts only....

On to running.....

I had a couple of lovely runs the weekend.  On Sat, the rain and thunder beat me a bit, but led to an exciting and quick knockout of the river trails.  Sunday I took the same trails a bit faster (somehow), even with several stops to marvel at how beautiful the area is after a major storm.  I got to see a duck take off on the river.  I love when wingtips repeatedly strike the surface of the water.  Then, almost exactly at the halfway point in a drainage depression, the green and yellow leaves that had fallen created such a blanket I had to stop for a few minutes to appreciate what I was seeing.  The covering followed the stream bed and was so thick that if I didn't know where the wheel ruts were, I would have tripped up.

I was mainly running a 9-10 min/mi pace.  Between miles 6.5-7.5, though, I got an unexpected burst of energy.  I threw down, and completed the mile in 7 min 29 sec.  The final mile was also somewhere in the 8 min realm.  I'm usually stronger as I go, but rarely just get some weird burst of speed.  It was a welcome, if unexpected, feeling.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

CC domination and cold zen run

This morning before running I stopped by the Haskell Invitational.  It was an October morning with a blustery wind, grey skies, and a chill that seeped through the seems of my jacket.  I stuck around for the 9 a.m. race -  which seemed to be varsity boys.  I love watching the start of CC events when the pack of men or women thunders off of the start and then funnels into a much narrower lane after 100-200 yards.  It is exciting to see.  It was kind of fun running from place to place to catch the runners as they went by.

By mile 1 some guy from SMNW High School was in first by quite a ways.  By mile 3, he was even farther ahead.  What was interesting is that 5 or 6 of his teammates were the next 5 or 6 runners.  If it wasn't a team sweep, it was about as close as you could get and not have one.  SMNW put on a super impressive display.   It is rare to see domination like that in a meet.

I left after one race because I was freezing.  I went to the Merc and then popped home to knock down a cup of Guyaki Mate before once again leaving the house for the trails.  When I got to the trails there was literally no one around.  I was 5 miles in and running with only my thoughts to accompany me before I ran into my first cyclist.  It was really wonderful.

As is my m.o. lately, I eschewed my Garmin and my mp3 and just ran.  I thought about the story I've been working on, dishes to cook, places to visit, and a bit about running.  It is wonderful to think about running when I am running.  My thoughts this morning centered around my personal dislike of running races, even as I admire and respect the people who do run ultras and cross country.  It is a bit of a dichotomy.  For me, running is about as close to spirituality as I get.  I am usually solo, and usually prefer being so.  I'll take my Garmin every now and then and worry about time and distance, but the device seems to somehow taint the experience (as does the mp3 player - which I also use occasionally).  When I run, I try not to care.  I try not to try.  And sometimes, like today, I succeed.  Right after the start of the last mile (around 7.5) of the River Trails, there is a mean little hill.  It is so mean that I usually am thinking about it for a half mile or so before hitting it.  Every now and then I'll just do the fast ultra-runner walk up it (usually not).  But today, with about a half mile left to go in the run, I realized I had passed the hill without even noticing it or that which preceded or followed it.

The realization was like a revelation to me of the power of being one with the run.  The run flowed through me, and I became part of it, and it part of me.  I was so surprised that for the next quarter mile I considered turning around and running that portion again to try to see how different it would feel on this day if I were cognizant of what I was doing.  But the approaching finish beckoned, and I decided to forego a repeat simply for repetition's sake.

I never fully warmed up in the run, and even experienced some chills between miles 4 and 6.  I wore a hat, gloves, a long sleeve running shirt with a long sleep sweatshirt, and long, light running pants (sort of loose tights - if you'll excuse the oxymoron). I felt as if it should have been enough.  I think, perhaps, I got too chilled earlier in the a.m. and never fully warmed up before hitting the trails.

I'm going to follow the weather a bit more closely before setting out tomorrow.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Running with the gazelles

Last week was a mediocre week for the thump-thump-thumping of sneaker-shod feet.  I think it was my first sub-30 mi. week in a long time.  Travel and a bit of jet lag from three back to back to back trips finally caught up with me.

But Saturday and Sunday more than made up for the malaise of the preceding days.  I got up early both days, drove my Element to the start of the levee, rather than the river trail head, and took off from there (the levee).  Adding the extra mile at the inception and conclusion of the river trail loop made for some added speed.  It is nice to start and end a trail run with a sub-8 mile.  The added distance in addition to the slight speed workout really made for a nicer run.  It always takes me a mile or more to warm up into the trails.  With the levee in front, by the time I hit the trails, I was ready to go.  I think the 10.5 rather than the 8.5 will now be my more standard go-to distance for that run.

It was also nice to share the trails with some of the top college CC guys and gals in the country.  On Sunday, several teams that had competed at Rim Rock on Sat showed up for some running.  I found myself in the company of seriously graceful runners on several occasions. It was fun and enlightening to see the running form of top-notch talent.

It was also a bit inspiring.  I felt great both days, and knocked out some good times.