Sunday, January 1, 2017

Half a month

No, I don't mean 15 days.

Or two weeks.

I mean a half marathon, every month, in 2017. That's my goal, or more like project, for the year.

I haven't made a big deal about it, but I've been back at regular running for a few months. I've had several failed reboots, but this one seems to be sticking.

I don't know exactly what got me going, it may have just been a little extra time between projects at work. Being in a great, supportive relationship has certainly helped, too. Regardless, on September 1st, I started running regularly, with the motivational goal of running a 9min/mile 5K in October.

When I started, I could barely run a mile without stopping to walk.

And I was slow. Like 11 min/mile slow.*

So my goal of running 3.1 miles with an average of 9 minute miles was daunting.

It was also humbling. Me of not that long ago would have been ashamed of me now - slow, out of shape, carrying too much weight, and looking at 9min/mile as a goal?! "That's a cool down pace, not a race pace! What have you done to us?"

That embarrassment made it even harder to get out for a run, a run that I knew I wouldn't be proud of.

At some point, though, you have to decide to keep sliding down that slope, or turn around and make the slog back up and out.

I set a plan, 3 runs a week, and stuck to it. That's key kids... make your plan realistic for you, one you can stick to.

On October 29th, I destroyed my goal for the 5K (8:22 pace).

In less than 2 months, with consistency, and little else really, I was was able to get back to a level that I could be proud of.

That may be the lesson here... we don't have to be star athletes. We don't have to have super-human pace or endurance. If you can knock out 3 miles a few times a week, you're doing great, way better than the vast majority of Americans.

After the 5K, I thought about my next step. Now I was fit enough that I could enter a 5K, or a 5-miler, or even a 10K any weekend, and that was fantastic. I sure as hell didn't have the appetite for another marathon. But, I wanted to go up another notch or two. What I really wanted was to be in the kind of shape where could run a half-marathon whenever I wanted.

So, that's where the Half a Month came from. I'm still only running 3 times a week, for the most part. I started in November. I've been ramping up the length of my weekend run slowly... I did 12 on Christmas day. And I've been scouring race calendars for halfs - exciting ones, interesting ones, cheap ones.

The halfs I've registered for so far should be on the right side of the page. (I'm not sure what'll happen if your reading on a phone.) I decided I needed an exciting one in January just to make sure I stayed motivated. I picked the StarWars Half at Disneyland. Geeky, I know, but I'll be honest, I'm super excited for this one... and may even run in costume. (Bonus points to the reader who guesses the costume in the comments... no cheating if I've already told you.)

In February I travel to Tampa because I don't want to freeze my nards off, but after that I'm trying to keep the races local, though I have a fun one near Charleston scheduled for the last one, as a celebration I guess. I'm trying not to add any additional pressure of performance goals, though I'd love to keep them under 2 hrs... we'll see. It's not about pace, at least not for a while. And I'm assuming there will be many photo ops at the StarWars Half. (Chewy, say "Cheese").


So... that's the deal. A half a month. Should be fun.

Good running,
Doug

*I hate talking about pace. 11 min/mile is fast for some people, and that's awesome. I only put numbers in here to show the relative difference between where I was and what I was shooting for. So don't let anyone tell you you're slow, especially me.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Crossing the Ravenel

Charleston South Carolina is one of my favorite places to visit. I've been there 3 times in the last 13 months. I have dear friends there, transplants from Indiana, who are not only super fun, but also super generous and welcoming and willing to host me when I visit.

As much as I love to visit them, I also love the Charleston vibe. The food, the history, the ships... it is intoxicating. I also love the Ravenel Bridge.


I won't bore you with the history of the bridgehow it was built, or any other of my usual lecturing because, though I often forget myself, this is a running blog.

It's enough to say that the bridge is an iconic piece of the Charleston landscape. So much so that when I tell people of my visits to the city, they ask if I've run over the bridge. Not what restaurants I made it to, or what interesting people I met, what history I saw, or if I got to sail. Always the bridge.

I've run the city a few times and love it. But I'd never really considered running the bridge. I think mostly because I was usually in the city, and running the bridge would require a kinda silly over-and-back... crossing just for the sake of crossing.

On Thanksgiving weekend, however, 3 events cam together to offer a natural opportunity to run the Ravenel.

First, I needed to get a 10-miler in over the weekend.

Second, completely by chance, rather than staying at my friends' house, we all dog- and house-sat for friends of theirs on Sullivan's Island. Roughing it in a few-million-dollar beach house is how my friends roll.


Third, we were slated to crew a sailboat race on Saturday.

Combining these I had a reason to run from Sullivan's Island to Charleston, over the Ravenel.

So, early-ish on Saturday morning I left the beach house and made it as far as across the street. I hadn't visited the beach yet, and since it was our last day house-sitting, I figured it was my last chance.
Beach.

It was lovely, but I had a long way to go and I was kinda in a pinch for time, so a couple pix and I was gone.


That's the bridge, way off in the distance...


I ran pretty much the entire length of Sullivan's Island, but I didn't take the time to notice anything. I was trying to get into a rhythm, going over my route in my head, and I was just a touch hung over. Just a touch. So I didn't even think to look for any of the cool sites like the Edgar Allan Poe library that's a converted bunker. I just plowed through the island.

To get from Sullivan's island to the mainland (Mount Pleasant), you take a "connector" with is, I think, southern for "long, straight, flat except for one drawbridge, road over swap land, consistently with a stiff head wind.
Connector pano... this is the most interesting bit.


 It was nice, for about 2 minutes... of a 20 minute crossing. But, there was an unusual, uhm... thing on the connector...


Possum with memorial

Yes, that's a possum. A dead possum. With flowers, an offering of Oreo's, a vigil candle, and a note. The note says:
 "To our friend! You were a great mom!!! #BlackFriday shoping accidend. Sorry little Opossum friend"

Uhm... 3 things...

  1. Creepy as hell
  2. also very sweet, little kids honoring the poor beast
  3. are we using hashtags in memorial notes now?


A little shutter to shake off the heebie-jeebies and I was back on my way.

After the connector, on a long stretch to the base of the bridge, I realized that in my hurry to get going, I'd forgotten to take on water. I like a good pint glass full before I head out. I realized it because it was hot, and sunny, and I was really thirsty. I'd survive, but I wasn't enjoying it.

A few more minutes cursing my thirst, and a few more minutes deeper into Mount Pleasant, I was pretty deep into suburbia. There were way more cars, the occasional street to cross, a running store with a water cooler set outside, a restaurant that smelled of... WAIT! What?! What was that last thing...

Sweet baby Poseidon!... Water!
I know lots of running stores serve our community on weekends with a simple cooler of water, but this one was right when and where I needed it! Next time I'm in town, I'll be stopping by Blue Sky Endurance to stock up on some gear... you totally should, too.

Properly hydrated, at about mile 7, I made it to the Ravenel. It's... longer than it looks...


But it is a spectacular run. The pedestrian way is wide and clean. And there were WAY more people out for a bridge walk than I'd expected.



The up hill is about half of that 2.5 miles, leveling out the closer you are to the midpoint. And the view is gorgeous.

This little pano doesn't do the view from the midpoint justice.

The down-slope into downtown Charleston is, and I apologize for the pun, a little anticlimactic. With the Copper River behind you, your view is pretty much industrial shoreline. But that's to be expected. Charleston is a busy sea port. The breeze also picked up as the wind was funneled down, and I got pelted with tiny bits of stone that were tossed into the air by passing cars. That only lasted a couple minutes, though, and soon I was headed down Bay Street. I picked up the pace for the last half mile or so.

When my GPS clicked over to 10 miles. Feeling immensely proud of myself (I hadn't run 10 miles at once in ages), I had little time to congratulate myself. I needed to get to the sailboat for the race! But first I needed food. I normally don't like to eat after a long run, but with a sail ahead of me, I knew I had to eat now, or it would be hours before I had a chance.

Just before I stopped, I'd passed East Bay Deli. I doubled-back to there, got a breakfast burrito (B+) and an OJ, and got moving again.

I had 14 minutes to find, and than catch the water taxi.

Yes, that's a real thing.

Aboard the water taxi.

For a few dollars, a boat takes you across the harbor. Or you can buy an all-day pass and ride back and forth.

As you can see from the picture everyone was bundled up. It was pretty chilly on the water, especially in running shorts and a running shirt. Luckily, it was a short ride, even with the intermediate stop at the stern of the USS Yorktown.

USS Yorktown, a retired aircraft carrier.
I highly recommend the tour.

During the stop I chatted with the first mate on the taxi. She knew the boat I was going to be sailing on. She knew the captain. She also knew my friends... had dog sat for them even. Charleston is a small town... that's easy to forget sometimes.

Anyway, I made it to the dock just as my friends and sister and sister-in-law arrived. We sailed, we raced, I learned a ton about flying a spinnaker. The only casualty was a brand new Sperry shoe. Not mine, another crew member's, thought there is a 50% that my foot knocked it off his foot while we were tacking.

SV Celadon 

Crossing the bridge was a thrill... way more fun than I'd expected. And I have to admit, that every time I see the bridge now, I think to myself (and sometimes say out loud) I ran across that bridge.

After the sail, we went back to the beach house, I showered, and we ate and drank at Poe's Tavern.



Thanks to the Howard's, and Deb and Laura, and to Capt. Steve for letting us sail with him and his crew. I can't wait to go back!

Laura, Deb, Robin Howard, and me.
Bill was doing something we probably should have been helping him with.

Good running,
Doug

Monday, October 31, 2016

Trail goodness

My running renaissance got a huge boost from a squiggly brown line on the ground.

While on a short over night stay on the boat...

Huh? Oh, I didn't tell you I have a boat now? Sorry... yeah, kinda crazy. I'm learning to sail.

What?! No, I don't even play the lottery. Trust me, it's not a big, fancy boat.* But it is a sail boat, and, well, it's fun and I'm learning something new.

So anyway... after a lovely night on the boat, I geared up for a quick run on some trails that I'd heard were close by. They were close by, and they were glorious!

Sure, I missed them the first try. And sure I ended up running an extra 2 miles or so, but tuh-otally worth it.

Seriously, a decent trail does wonders for one's mood. There's just something about running among trees, lots and lots of trees, to reconnect you to yourself, and your planet, and why you run at all.

And the zenned out experience of following a narrow band of dirt, letting it take you through its carless, sidewalkless, completely traffic light free world, not really sure where it's leading you, not really able to see vary far ahead of you at all, takes you to a place, a very different place than running on roads or paved urban paths.




Maybe it's all of the chlorophyl in the air. Maybe instincts that our species honed for a tens of thousands of years, dulled by the straight lines of cities and the firm sole of shoes, are awakened. Maybe it's just different.

Regardless, trail runs make me happy.

Good running,
Doug

*Here she is:

Friday, October 21, 2016

I've got a feeling...

... a feeling deep inside, oh yeah!

I'm not running very fast. I'm not running particularly far.

But, when I had to miss a couple runs this week, I got that feeling... aching... for a run.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, it's a nervous, anxious, firm request from your body, "Please, please get a run in. Soon."

It's a sure sign that your running has turned from drudgery, to habit. And I mean "habit" in the sense of an addiction. A good addiction. It's your body and mind craving what they know is good for for them.

I haven't had that deep craving for a run in a very long time. The recipe, apparently, is about 7 weeks of a rock solid schedule. For me, it was 21 runs... Tu, Th, Su... some ok, some horrible, none brilliant.

But performance isn't the thing.

The thing is returning to running... for real.

Good running,
Doug

Monday, September 26, 2016

What I really miss


Re-re-re-re-re-starting my running, and I miss is how easy it used to be.

I don't miss being fast. Pace doesn't really concern me that much. My vanity misses the slight build and narrow waste. But deep down, I don't miss that stuff.

I miss being able to fall out of bed, early, and run. A brisk, refreshing 7.5 miler before work is a fabulous start to a day.

I miss runs when I wasn't consumed with thoughts about how shitty I feel, when running cleared my head of doubt and subversion, rather than fuel them.

What I miss most is being lost in the run.

Last weekend, on Sunday, was a 5K training run. I was pleased that I ran the entire 5K... no walking, no stops. Damn that sounds pathetic. Me 5 years ago would be aghast.

The course I ran was a few miles from my house. As I was driving back... hell, even as I was driving to the run, I looked at the sidewalk and remembered training runs along that very path, long morning runs during which I'd sleepwalk through a 5K, not noticing the houses or cars or anything... just covering mindlessly distance.

In those days, I would look to the horizon, to a point way off... and soon later I was at that point, without effort, with no noticeable passing of time. I was there, having previously been back there.

Then, a run was an escape to a peaceful place, not a workout, or a task.

To run that easy requires endurance, strength, aerobic fitness, and form that allow you to move smoothly, and to get lost in it, without distraction.

They are also hard earned, and easily squandered.

Sunday, I had ever brief moments of effortless running, thanks entirely to the memory, and contemplation, of easy running, and what it meant, and how I could explain it. And, how I could regain it for myself.

Again, the moments were brief, leaving more work to do, more running to do...

Good running,
Doug

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Running with the Fab 4

I'm still not sure why, but the other day, for a good 3 miles, I was running with the Beatles.

Ok, not the actual Beatles. But you knew that. Running with the actual Beatles would be pretty hard to pull off.*

But still, from the first steps of the run, I was giving myself a bit of a pep talk, out loud, quietly, in the voices of the skinny ties, black boots, mop-topped, 1965 Beatles.

Ok, again, not actually all of the Beatles. I've never been able to do George. I like to think he was running with us though, being characteristically quiet.

Why the Beatles? No clue. What's with the pep talk? Beats me.  That's never happened before. And it just kept going. We talked about pace, which side of the street would offer the most shade, and how strange it was that I was talking like the Beatles.

The run was unspectacular. But, it was fun. And fun has been missing from my running for a few months.

Running in general has been missing for a few months. And I think one of the reasons it's been missing is because it hadn't been much fun.

Maybe that's why the lads ran along with me... to entertain me a bit, to keep it light, and to remind me to have fun. And maybe to gave me something to write about, which I needed as much as a fun run.

Yeah, let's go with that, and not signs of schizophrenia. Or a brain tumor.

Good running,
Doug

*Though not completely out of the realm of possibility... if I had a time machine. To wit, check out this article about the lads running a relay race against members of the their crew while filming Help! (found looking for pictures of running Beatles).

Also, this:



Friday, March 6, 2015

Winter in Indiana

As I type this, cold air is spilling over the edge of my laptop, an invisible waterfall, onto my fingers.

The durable, renewable, and insanely stylish aluminum was super-chilled overnight in the trunk of my car.

The fan in the computer turned on as soon as it booted up, not to cool it, but to get some warm air in and heat it up.

I have been in love with the great state of Indiana all my life, but I'm starting to believe that this may be an abusive relationship.

Eight inches of snow forced me into a parking garage for my Sunday run.

Think about that for a minute... running, a long run, in an underground garage.

Tuesday brought warmer temperatures, but also rain. With the ground frozen, the rain and the snow that it melted had no where to go. So what the day before passed as reasonable places to walk were turned into small canals, 3 inches deep in watery slush.

By Thursday the temps fell hard. Today, any travel outside, by car or by foot, is a concert of cracking ice, each "pop" reminding you that you are in a place not hospitable to human life.

I have a half-marathon in 15 days that I am in no way prepared for, and I have no where to train that isn't soul-sucking or limb-threatening.

A few hundred years ago, some brave people set off West looking for a better life. Those without the means for a new wagon, bought used, and paid the price. When their wagon broke down, on pool table flat ground, they were forced to settle down in what would become Indiana.

That's the only scenario I can imagine to explain why people chose to live here.

I long for Indiana spring, the lovely season between the ridiculously gray, cold, dreary winter and the oppressive humidity and high pollen counts... all 4 days of it.

Good running,
Doug