Monday, April 29, 2013

Loaded Up and Truckin’

I’m gonna do what I said couldn’t be done (by me anyway). I just smoked past the halfway mark on my Half Marathon training program without even realizing it! The mileage will start to jump faster from this point forward, so I will have to try to get out of work at a more reasonable time in the coming weeks. It has been six weeks already and I just entered week seven without even realizing that the race was this close already! The training must be having an effect if I can steadily increase miles to this point without noticing it. Let’s take a look at what I have to look forward to this week, shall we?
Monday (today):
Stretch & strengthen
I got home from work later than I would like again, but I managed to get in 30 squats and 20 (per leg) lunges.

4.5 Mile run
I love my Tuesday runs. It is the return to running after resting up from my Sunday (usually) long runs. Should be fantastic, albeit really warm, weather for it!

3 mile run or cross training
Normally I would just do some lunges and crunches with a long walk or something for this. Starting this week however, I think I may actually try to get a short run in here, in order to help increase my mileage without making my Tuesday/Thursday runs too close to my long run distance.

4.5 Mile Run + Strength
Thursdays are wonderful because they are almost Fridays and because I get to run! Add 10 (per leg) lunges and 15 squats to this for good measure.

Rest. Yup.

50 min cross training
Here I actually usually end up resting to recover more fully from the rest of the week before engaging in my long run the next day. I generally try to get in a few squats/lunges just to keep the muscles confused and alert.

7 Mile Run
Date night for me and Lake Shore Trail.

Up until now, training has been pretty reasonable to keep up with. Even now, I am only increasing mileage by about three miles. This is still a larger jump than I have been making from week to week for the first half of training. I just need to continue what I have been telling myself so far: just keep getting out there to run. Mileage is just a number, definitely important to increase steadily for my end goal, but just making sure I get out there with frequency is half the battle. Once I am out there, my body remembers how much I love being on the trails, even after a long day at the office. The mileage just adds up as I get out there, day after day. I hardly even realize how far I’ve come. It will be a rewarding week seven if I can win the mental battle that keeps intimidating me, as I look at the miles in the weeks ahead adding up to equal a half marathon.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Night Moves

Monday was gorgeous weather to run…but it was a resting day. Tuesday it rained all day. I took my time getting home from work, in hopes that the rain would eventually let up (or at least ease up) so that I could go for a run. Instead it just got colder. Trying to kill some time, I stopped by the store, made dinner, digested with a good book, then checked the weather again. Not better in print, but glancing out my window, it appeared to have slowed down raining enough that I would probably at least be able to get a short run in before going to bed.

Quickly, I threw on some warmish layers, strapped my foot gloves to my feet, and was out the door. Glad I grabbed a hat because the temperature felt even colder after being inside a warm apartment for a couple hours. I started running immediately to warm up. After about a mile, I ditched the old motorcycle gloves that I use to keep my hands from freezing in cold weather while running along the lake. It was supposed to be a five mile run day, but with the cold and rain I was going to be happy to make three. Three came and went and I was still running down toward North Avenue Beach. By the time I got to Castaway’s I had stowed my Spartan hat (picked up at the Double Down race put on my Muddy Monk) inside of my oversized hoodie and was heading back to dash across the foot bridge over Lake Shore Drive. More traffic was headed North than was headed South by more than double. At that time of night, it was probably more people coming from late night dinner-and-a-show type evenings than burning the midnight oil at the office, but who really knows for sure? The rain had pretty much let up completely by this point and I was enjoying the sounds of the waves as I looked South toward the city which seemed to be caught somewhere in the clouds. Mists and fog shrouded the upper levels of most of the buildings and only a few bright lights were able to pierce the dense, dreamlike, London-fog in Chicago.

From the desolation on the trail yesterday night, it seems that most others had either got their run in earlier or had decided to wait until today for a better shot at some decent weather. During the fifty-something minuets I was out running, I only saw two bikers and two other runners on the trail. People who ride motorcycles have a wave they give each other when they cross paths out on the open road. Just a subtle, low hand wave, almost like a tired bicyclist trying to make a left hand turn at a busy intersection, as the two bikers paths briefly intersect. A subtle acknowledgement that you understand what it feels like; that you may not know the other person, but you completely connect with them in this one way, in this one instant. Generally, with the high volume of runners, especially in the Chicago area, this practice would probably get tiring. On this one particular night, however, a night not really so different from many others, both runners I crossed paths with, miles apart, gave a gentle nod before continuing on their way.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Something Wicked This Way Came

"'Have a drink!?'
'I don't need it,' Said Halloway. 'But someone inside me does.'
The boy I once was, thought Halloway, who runs like the leaves down the sidewalk autumn nights.
But he couldn't say that."
--Ray Bradbury - Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Everyone deals with the stresses and strains of life differently. Most find that the way they pictured the world and how it ‘worked’ is much different, and often more troubling, than they had ever dreamed in their hopeful and optimistic youth.  Some handle this realization better than others, but who can really be the judge of just who those are who ‘handling things better’ than anyone else? It really comes down to personal preference and considering what we want out of life.

“Happiness depends on ourselves” Aristotle is quoted as saying. There is quite a bit of truth to this statement. Does it mean that if we want to be happy all the time then we can be? Of course not. Bad things happen and it is up to each of us to find a way to deal with these things and continue forward. It does, however mean taking control of whatever situation we happen to find ourselves in, whether it be a personal situation or a world event, and instead of simply letting things happen to us, to become part of the action. ‘The world is what we make of it,’ after all, so jump in and get involved. Do something. It can be a large thing that brings many others together in order to effect some change on the world around us, or it could be a minor change in the way we behave or even treat others we interact with on a day to day basis. Organize a charity event to provide support for those involved in any of the many tragedies that occur worldwide each day. Take the time to promote an event which may already exist that contributes to a cause you support. Maybe you overcame something in your own life that others can relate to; write about it, post it somewhere that is accessible to the community and perhaps help someone else who is presently struggling with the same things you had been facing. While happiness is ultimately a personal thing that each person must achieve through their own personal journey, that doesn’t mean that you cannot contribute to someone else’s happiness, or make it more difficult to achieve as well. Misery loves company, but don’t drag someone down who is trying hard to achieve some sort of joy, just because you had a bad day/week/year and want to spread it around. Smile more; only mean it.

That little sophomoric rant, quite full of clich├ęs, to ask: when was it that we stopped running everywhere? This has been asked quite a bit before, by many others before myself, but it still bothers me that, as children we would run everywhere; even if we weren’t going anywhere, especially if we weren’t going anywhere, for no other reason that just to move with enthusiasm. [Speaking of sophomoric blogging, check out all the commas in that last sentence, right? #ObviouslyHiringUnpaidEditors] Did we stop running everywhere because we started to have places that we actually needed to be, or was it that more and more of those places that ‘required’ our presence were places at which we had less and less desire to arrive? Going out for a run with no particular destination in mind seems to be the closest I seem to be able to get to recapturing what that little boy, ‘long ago’,  felt as he ran everywhere, to nowhere in particular. I think the ‘runner’s high’ is just a ‘moment of clarity’ toward an idealized view of a self we were in a different time. It is also one more way to take control of our own happiness by reminding ourselves of what is important. To remind ourselves that our ‘hopeful and optimistic youth’ isn’t something that is, or should be, outgrown, but rather something that is left behind and can be found, enjoyed, and shared with those around us who have also lost this precious gift. Go run around to anywhere and find it for yourself.

"’Wanna go for a run!?'
'I don't need to,' Said Anyone. 'But someone inside me does.'
“The girl I once was, thought Anyone, who runs like the leaves down the sidewalk autumn nights, she said.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rig For Silent Running

After the events of yesterday, it was good to just get back out there for a run. It was a good evening to go out for a run and lose yourself in thought, to the sounds of the waves washing up against the shore on Lake Shore Trail.


Details are still being ironed out, but it looks like the Chicago Running Bloggers are working with Muddy Monk to put on a Charity 5K for the victims yesterday from the Boston Marathon.

More details to come.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston Marathon 2013

Such a terrible tragedy. My thoughts go out to all of the victims and their families as well as to all of those who lent a hand to people in need. These heroic actions, no matter how small a gesture it may be, restore my faith in humanity by reminding me that while there are those who go out of their way to harm others, there are many more who won't think twice at the smallest chance to help their fellow Human Beings.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.‘ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

-Mr. Rogers

Know when to walk away; know when to run.

Snow flurries were melting against the windshield as I rode out to the suburbs for my first trail run with friend and fellow Chicago running blogger, Eric. He had convinced me to sign up for yet another first in my newly awakened life as a runner: a trail run. Muddy Monk’s Double Down was to be my first Trail Race… that is, if I could convince myself to leave my apartment and make the trek away from Chicago, toward what Muddy Monk’s pictures online showed as a soupy mess of soil that resembled more of a mass of soggy quicksand than anything else.

The 'Kings Road' to RiverRun

Strapping on my Vibram’s a little bit more slowly, I began to rethink just how much faith I should put into how well ‘Barefoot Ted’ from Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run had claimed his minimalist shoes held up for trail running. But, seeing as how I haven’t been able to run in anything else since my IT band injury late last season, I figured if I do decide to run, it is definitely going to be in my ‘five finger’ shoes. Stability and protection for the bottom of my feet wasn’t as close to the front of my mind at the moment anyway, barefoot running shoes through icy cold water was, however.

After piling layer after layer into a bag I had picked up at a previous race expo, I grabbed a jacket and an extra hoodie and was out the door. I met Eric outside his apartment and we hauled our packed change of clothes that we would no doubt need to change into before getting back into the car after spending the morning traipsing through the freezing rain, snow, and mud, around the block to where he had parked his car. We tossed the gear in the trunk and headed north. The ‘morning commute’ on a Saturday is much faster that it is during a normal work day and we made it to Dam Number 1 woods out in Wheeling, IL much quicker than I had expected. We got out and walked around a bit to scope things out. Nice laid back setup. Couple tables, one for after race snacks, one for Muddy Monk Merch, one for onsite packet pickup, a stand for the Spartan Races, and a Chubby Wiener’s wiener wagon. There was a covered shelter typically used as a picnic area which was a welcome shelter from the cold wind after the race and other runners were similarly wandering about or waiting in line for the bathroom.

After we had our fill, we did what it seemed most of the others were doing as well, heading back to their car to keep warm and to shed their excess gear as there was no real need for a gear check for a race that everyone needs to drive to reach. As I changed into some more layers in the car to be ready for the chilly weather waiting outside of the heated vehicle revving me up with some classic rock tunes before the race, I watched other getting ready by doing their stretches outside of their vehicle.


Gear check: none and none really necessary as everyone drove or carpooled with someone who drove. Vehicles worked fine.

Waves/Corrales: One wave and one corral. With only four hundred runners, everyone is pretty self-sufficient as far as placement in the corral. People who want to jump after the ‘gun’ start right up front, those who have a good pace but want to make sure to compensate for a trail run rather than a street run take their places throughout the middle, and those who have dogs or are just out for the weather or the scenery hang back to smell the, yet to bloom this early in the season, roses. With this few people, runners just paced themselves out along the course.

Course Layout: well-planned out, wider at the beginnings to allow for people to distribute distance between themselves as they set into their own pace. A nice balance of solid surface where you can really break out and run and sloppy mess that you sign up for as an added challenge and badge of honor. As far as actual distance travel and accuracy, I cannot actually say as I forgot my GPS watch at home as did Eric, but I sure did ‘look’ like about six miles but it felt like a half marathon with all of the terrain! (Not that I would really know what a half marathon feels like yet).

Finish Line: since it was the ‘double down’, you could either run a 10K or a 20K and they had separate finish lanes for each. There was no chipped time but there were several individuals who would spot runners as they crossed the finish and manually note down their bib number and their finish time which was then logged into either the 10K or 20K logs and loaded into a spreadsheet that they had available on a monitor at one of the tables. Results were published promptly the same day, as were plenty of free pictures throughout the race and finish line. Well done all around by Muddy Monk and their volunteers! Also note: Chubby Wiener's just signed up to work with Muddy Monk in future races and were taking numbers down during this race to see how many Vegan/Vegitarian options to bring next time. For this run, it was just some good 'ol salad and toppings on a bun but next time they promised the full deal. There were plenty of other after race munchies to fill up on anyway including a supply of bananas, pretzels, cheese its, m&m's, penunt butter stuffed pretcles, and more.

About fifteen minutes before the start, we emerged from our shelter and headed back over toward the pre/post-race area. I love how casual the race and the crowd was for this event. There were quite a few dogs here and there and some even joined us on the run! Great to see a dog out having fun with his people! Keeping in tune with the overall chill tone of the crowd, over the speakers where there was formerly music flowing, the DJ announces that they are probably going to get this race under way in the next couple of minutes. The crowd casually strolled over into the starting area, which was between a couple large flags and listened to the DJ continue for another minute to thank everyone and wish everyone a fun event. One minute till start. Thirty seconds. Count down from ten…and we’re off!

The water saturated ground felt like a soft cushion compared to the usual gravel or pavement I typically run on in the city. This is a welcome surprise and s good start. After running less than half a mile, I have already warmed up enough to remove my gloves and my fuzzy headband and stow them away in my hoody and pants pockets. My feet are still warm enough, but they haven’t seen any significant water yet and I have managed to doge the puddles I have passed up until this point. Before we got to mile two came the ocean I had been dreading. Ankle deep water, thirty feet across and no way to not get soaking wet. Embrace the horror. I trudged on as if it wasn’t there. It was as cold as I had figured, but what I didn’t figure, was that with my body warmed up from running, the cold actually felt refreshing. About halfway through, my feet started to feel a bit numb and I figured I should hurry along to the other side. After reaching ‘solid’ land again, after a few steps from each foot pounding blood back through to my extremities, my feet felt not only warm but relatively dry! The Vibrams didn’t hold onto water as much as typical shoes would and as there is so thin of material around your foot, the material is about the same temperature as your body it seems so it wasn’t my shoes that kept my feet warm but rather my feet that warmed back up my shoes! At this point I had not a care in the world and was free to bounce in every puddle I saw like the puppies that ran beside me.

Muddy Monk: you have successfully gotten me hooked on trail running and I will be back for more punishment. Sure glad I didn’t walk away and instead chose to run!