Saturday, December 24, 2011

New Trail in Carmel

Santa is bringing a long overdue present to me, and Carmel, this year... but there is still some assembly required.

Unbeknownst to me, Carmel is building a new trail. Luckily it was totally beknownst to my buddy Marty, who took me and the dog for a tour on a simply gorgeous, crisp Christmas Eve morning.

The only problem is that the trail is still way under construction. We ducked under some barriers and lots of yellow tape. I don't think we did anything illegal. Unsafe maybe, but nothing illegal. And worth the risk.

So step around those orange barrels and let's see what my tax dollars are up to.

The Interurban is a stretch that starts off of 116th just west of Westfield/Rangeline and heads south. The trail retraces a former rail line that spurred off of the Monon for local business deliveries. This new section is the usual multi-use asphalt surface, but it is immaculate. And not just "brand new trail" immaculate. I mean every detail is really well done. The path is almost flat, not mounded, which can make running uncomfortable, but with just enough pitch to let water run off. It's lined on either side with an anal-retentive crushed limestone border that is not only perfectly even on both sides and down the entire length, but also dead level with the path, making the path edge a warning-track as opposed to an ankle-snapper. There's also a nice overlook under construction that provides a nice view of Carmel Creek.

After a half mile or so there is an, I don't know, intersection I guess, where the Interurban becomes Prairie Trail as it turns west, and off to the northwest is Carmel Creek trail. This is where the fun starts...

Carmel Creek Trail is a mostly crushed gravel loop that's, are you ready for this... in the woods! I know!

An actual trail, winding between actual trees. And it, too, is fantastic.

The loop is about half a mile, and every inch of it is so well done. Most of the surface is deep but firm crushed stone which is lined, the whole way, with logs. And these logs are nearly identically sized and laid precisely end to end, providing a perfect border while still feeling all naturey.

Occasionally you come onto some decking that either crosses a stream, or carries you over spots that probably get pretty gooey when it rains, or provides a nice scenic view. What you don't get, yet, is railings. So be careful. And also be careful on the decking itself. This morning there were some sneaky splotches of frost in places where the deck was shaded, and that's some slippery going.

One would assume this is Carmel Creek, the trail's namesake.

A little further and you are reminded, abruptly, that this trail isn't exactly open. Not that that stopped us.

Assload of 2x12s awaiting decking.

The trail has a couple variations and shorter cutoffs, and by cutoffs, I mean alternate exits, not bad jean shorts. The intersection of the main trail and one of these cutoffs is implemented with, what else, a round-a-bout. This is after all, Carmel, IN, which Time Magazine hailed as "that place with all of those damn round-a-bouts" (link).

Finishing the loop puts you back at the intersection of the paths. We continued on to Prairie Trail which takes you west to the Monon Center and hooks up with the Monon Trail. Like it's sister path, the Interurban, is well groomed.

It also takes you by some other new construction, this time some new shelters for the park. Now that I see them being built, I realized that it was really kinda weird to have a big city park without any shelters. I'm glad someone else was a little more forward looking than me.

See, shelters... coming soon.

The new trail in the woods and the connecting paths will be a great place to run from the Monon Center, or, lucky me, from my house. It will also be a nice side-trip for the hordes who plod up and down the Monon on the weekends. I just hope they wipe their feet.

Apparently the trail should be good to go by spring. If you venture out on it before then, please be careful, and if you get scolded for ducking under the yellow tape, this conversation never happened.

Good running,

Monday, December 5, 2011

I'm sorry I hate you... so very, very much

I'm really sorry. I shouldn't have flipped you off.

You didn't do anything wrong. It was just... you see... you were running.

There you were, running down the sidewalk, oblivious to me in my car, oblivious to pretty much everything, probably. And that's great. That's just what we want from a solo run, obliviousness. I'm happy for you. Really.

Thing is, I can't run right now, so seeing you running, early in the morning, in the rain and cold... I let my jealousy get the best of me. And I let the bird fly.

Again, sorry.

If it makes you feel any better, you got off easy. The day before I saw two guys out in full chilly-weather gear, chatting, waiting at a crosswalk for me to drive by so they could continue their run. I gave them a crisp "F*** You!"  That kind of FU that drips with disdain. I'm not proud of that moment. It just kinda flew out. Again... not their fault. And horribly un-Budha-like of me. These guys, and you, are my people. Even though I don't know you, I kinda do. I shouldn't behave as I did.

In my defense, when people are hungry, they can get a little testy. Withhold sex for a few days and your partner is going to be a little less than chipper. Take running away from a runner, and, well... it can get unpleasant.

I'm on the mend. I'm doing my exercises. I'll be back at it soon.

Until then, I hope you'll pardon my mood.

And the profanity.

Good running,

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Envelope

[Apologies for a 100% running-free post.]

Last week, I came home to find an envelope at my door.

A FedEx envelope.

I know! FedEx means something really good. Or really bad. Or in this case, something to be really ambivalent about.

I knew what was in the envelope before I opened it. It was something that I'd been waiting months for, and also dreading.

Inside the envelope was another, letter-sized envelope. Inside that envelope, a check. It was the check from my father's estate.. my inheritance. (In case you missed it... The post about the passing of my father.)

It wasn't a lot of money. It was enough to pay off my modest debt, which I did. And after that bit of dutifully doing of the right thing, there was even a little left over.

That was nice.


But, you know, I'd trade a whole lot of cushion money for years full of fond memories, stacks of letters with stories and sound advice, event just a good idea of who this man was, and how I'm like him, and how I'm different.

Getting that FedEx envelope is the last exchange I'll have with father. It was wholly unsatisfying and empty, like a period on an incomplete sentence. But, pretty much true to form.

Since he died... or more precisely, since I found out that he'd died... I've come to imagining that as the years ticked by, my father wanted to find some way to connect with me. When I turned 10, then 20, then 30, and yes, even 40, he must have had regrets and felt like he was missing something. I bet he just had no idea how to break through that thick ice.

I'd like to think that he wanted to make it up to me somehow, starting, maybe, with a gift, a gift to make up for the missed birthdays and Christmases and Graduations and wedding and the births of children and a sorry-about-the-divorce beer, but he didn't even know me, let alone what get me, what would come close to making up for all of that. So he gave me what he could... money. And he did it in the least personal way possible, through the mail, with no accompanying note because, as we know, he's been dead for almost 2 years, which is a very extreme way to avoid personal contact. I guess that was just his way.

So, I took matters into my own hands.

I completed the sentence.

I helped him buy me a gift.

And I believe if you look in Emily Post's Book of Etiquette, it will tell you that the proper gift for a posthumous apology for not being a part of your son's life is... a Ducati.

Ducati, saying "I'm sorry I screwed up", with horsepower and sex appeal, since 1926.

It doesn't make up for 44 years without any kind of relationship with my father, but it's red, it's loud, and if you ask it to, it goes forward in a big hurry, like a cheetah with its ass on fire.*

It was a fantastic 3+ hour ride home on the back roads of Indiana between Merrillville and Carmel. Liberating. Exhilarating. Gratifying. I won't say I've come to peace with my father, yet, but that ride sure helped. I bet the next one will, too.

Good running,

*Yes, for those keeping count, that's two Ducati in my garage. And yes, the plural of "Ducati" is "Ducati". (In case you missed it... How I came to own my first Ducati.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Guest post: Marino

A first for this dark, dusty corner of the internet... a guest poster.

"What about that time your dog posted? Everybody liked the log post?"

Oh. Yeah, I forgot about that one. People liked her post a little too much for my taste. I've since changed my password. And disinfected the keyboard.

Anyway... the first human guest poster at DougRun365 is the GF's brother-in-law, Marino. He's from Northern Ireland and lives outside London. He's a really good dude, and also, insane.

Marino had taken to ultra-marathoning. This is his account of a race he completed a few weeks ago.

I'll let Marino explain...

“I’m tired and everything hurts”

This is something I heard doing a half-marathon a few years ago.  A “runner” (and I use the term loosely) was sitting on the ground at maybe the 8 mile point, with an ambulance in attendance (yes, really) and a couple of paramedics hovering around him.  I don’t want to diss the gentleman in question as I’m sure he really wasn’t having a good time, but as I ran past I could see the paramedics rolling their eyes, telling him to man up, and sending him on his way, since being “tired and sore” apparently isn’t a recognised medical condition.  Anyway, that aside “I’m tired and everything hurts” is the best – and certainly shortest - summary I can possibly give of running an 85 mile race.  Here’s a slightly more profound statement though, from a well-known ultrarunner:

"Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense.  The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being -- a call that asks who they are ..."

A bit pretentious, but it also sums up an ultramarathon well.  What does it feel like to get up in the morning and run all day, and then all night, and then some of the next day as well? I wanted to know for myself.

I was running the ‘Ridgeway 85’ – 85 miles along the length of the Ridgeway in the south of England.  The Ridgeway is apparently Britain’s oldest road, and has been in use since around 3000 BC. [ed.- !]  Prehistoric people liked it because it’s – wait for it – on a ridge (who would have thought), and therefore easy to defend, has good visibility and doesn’t get all boggy.  The scenery is spectacular, and it was a great route for an ultra – superbly signposted, almost 100% on trails, point to point, great scenery and rolling hills.  I was feeling a bit underprepared for the race – I’d had to cancel another race 2 weeks previously, and as a result hadn’t really had much time to prepare, mentally or logistically, for slotting in a race so late, particularly a really long one where the mental dimension is so crucial.  Maybe this was no bad thing as it meant my expectations were pretty low, and I didn’t overthink it.  I was also trying out a bunch of new gear (major no-no in a race, I know, I know) for the first time.  So because of all this, I was feeling a bit half-assed about the whole thing and pretty unsure how it would go.
Mingling before the start

My wife dropped me off at the start, at Ivinghoe Beacon.  I had a great big breakfast of museli(mmm sawdust and dead flies) before leaving the house, followed by an awesome bacon and egg sandwich before the start that set me up well.  The race had a split start – 10:00a for slower runners and 12:00 noon for the faster ones.  I’d opted for the 10:00 start as I had no idea how it would go, and didn’t want to give myself any unnecessary time pressure (the first few checkpoint cut offs for the 12:00 starters were pretty tight, whereas I had loads of time). It started bang on 10:00 and about 30 of us set off.  I pretty quickly had the unusual experience (for me) of being 5th from the front (woohoo!).  I was briefly tempted to sprint to the front shouting “eat my dust, looooosers!” but instead I more sensibly reined the pace in to move towards the back of the pack.  I like to hang back at the start of long races, to avoid going off at too fast a pace, and I find it mentally very helpful to be able to pass people later.

The first 10 miles were mainly over rolling fields and hills with some great views.  Fairly windy and cool weather – ideal running conditions.  I hit the first checkpoint at roughly mile 10 in 2 hours, which felt like a good pace.  I was deliberately avoiding pacing myself to precisely – rather, just going with the flow; running fast when it felt good and slowing or walking when I felt tired.  I’ve done this before and it seems to be a good strategy on this type of hilly, varied terrain.  It allows me to adjust to the terrain and always run well within my aerobic threshold, which also helps with eating enough.  Mentally, it also takes away the stress of trying to hit given split times.

The next 10 or so miles were good going – the terrain dropped down into farmland, with a couple of short rainshowers.  I had slotted into a nice pace at this point, and was just getting the miles in without thinking too much about what lay ahead.  At 20 mile checkpoint they had hot tea, which really tasted great and perked me up hugely.  I motored on through 32 miles, then had a 12 mile push to the half way checkpoint at mile 43.  This was over fairly flat terrain, with one awesome downhill section along an old defensive earthenwork-type thingy called Grimm’s Dyke.  12 miles between checkpoints was actually a bit long, and I was definitely ready for the break.  One thing that really helped me in general during this race was posting pictures and updates to my Facebook page.  The responses were great and really helped me to keep going, knowing that other people were interested in my progress (well, at least pretending to be).

A couple of miles before the checkpoint another Northern Irish runner caught up with me and we chatted for a while, in the way that Northern Irish people always do when they meet each other anywhere in the world.  It turned out he was doing the Spartathalon in a few weeks (135 miles [ed.- !!]  in Greece), and was doing the first half of this race as a training run – he was going to drop out at the half way checkpoint.  I was pretty impressed with that, then I discovered that he had also run what is probably the premier ultramarathon in the UK – the 145 mile Grand Union Canal Race – the previous year and come second.  Needless to say, he soon headed off into the distance.

Dusk was just beginning as I got to the half way checkpoint, which was in a church hall in the village of Goring.  It was nice and bright and warm inside – very welcome but also very dangerous.  My plan was to get in and out of there as fast as possible, as I knew that once it got dark outside it would be very difficult to leave.  I crammed a load of food down my neck - hot soup, bread, cookies, some chocolate and a can of Red Bull and changed into my night gear: long sleeve top, jacket, backpack and of course head torch.  Just as I was about to leave – still wearing shorts as it had been pretty warm all day – I noticed that almost everyone else had put on tights.   I remembered an ultrarunning piece of advice I’d read somewhere:
“if the people around you who are experienced in ultrarunning are all engaged in an activity, maybe you should think about doing that activity as well”. 
So I put my tights on, and was very glad I did, as I wouldn’t have managed through the night without them.  With all this faffing about choosing my outfit, checking my hair, and generally being high maintenance I had spent maybe 20 minutes in the church hall, and I just made it outside as it was getting dark.

I hit a low point mentally at this stage – transitioning from the cosy church hall to the darkening countryside, temperature dropping, feeling tired and with the prospect of running all night stretching before me – something I had never done before.  I’d brought 2 torches along – a headtorch and a separate, very powerful hand torch.  Once I switched on the head torch I felt a lot better – the light was very comforting.  The hand torch was also a fantastic piece of kit – it provided a long distance, very focused beam, that I could use to look a good hundred yards ahead, while the head torch illuminated my immediate area.

Around 9pm I met up with another runner and ran with him for a while, till around midnight.  This also lifted my spirits as it was good to have someone to talk to.  The night section is a bit of a blur – I mainly remember plodding along the trails with the occasional welcome oases of checkpoints to break up the monotony, like little islands of light in the dark countryside.  These were really well staffed and equipped – a big fire at one, hot dogs at another and super-helpful volunteers at all of them.  The temptation to stay and hang out at the checkpoint, just for a few more minutes, was very hard to resist, but I had made a conscious decision in advance to spend minimal time at the checkpoints, as I would start to get cold and stiff and knew how hard it would quickly become to leave. I think I got ahead of quite a few runners by keeping my checkpoint stops very short.  During the night I was drinking lots of tea, and eating  fair bit which helped keep my energy up. My slightly slower nighttime pace also meant I could digest what I was eating well.  I had however gotten sick of drinking my Nuun electrolyte replacement drink, and instead had been filling my water bottle with Coke.  This was a genius move on my part - it tasted great to me and the caffeine and sugar surely helped a lot.

Just before dawn there was a long uphill stretch on a very exposed, windy and generally godforsaken hillside.  This was also a section with 12 miles between checkpoints, which again felt very long, but I eventually hit the 78 mile checkpoint at maybe 7am.  At this stage it was becoming very difficult to eat as I was getting increasingly nauseous – I managed a couple of pieces of Kiwi fruit and some Hula Hoops, and that was about it.  7 miles left to go, but I had heard a rumour that the distance was actually 87 – so didn’t let myself get too excited.  Sure enough, just after mile 85 I saw a sign that said “2 miles”.  The sun was up now though, it was mainly downhill and I was feeling good. I sped up for the last mile or so down the hill and put in a nice strong finish into the little village that marked the end.  

Total time was 22 hours 8 minutes, and I finished 37th out of 102, which I was very happy with.  I had a delicious bacon sandwich at the finish, hung about and chatted with the organisers for a bit, then made my way back home on the train.

This was a fantastic, very well organised and supported race, over some of the most beautiful scenery the UK has to offer – and I’d heartily recommend it to anyone.  Particularly if your idea of a fun vacation is no sleep, lots of junk food, smelling bad and running a distance that’s so far that it’s visible when seen from space...

See, told ya. He's insane.

Still, kinda makes me want to try it, just once.

Thanks, Marino

Good running,

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Went to a party and a race broke out

See... told ya.

The Back on My Feet 42K Relay was a total blast.

Over 95 Teams

Gorgeous location

Bitchin' course

Perfect morning

Some quotes... from real people... not made up, I promise:

  • "For sure the most fun I've ever had at a race!"
  • "I think all races should be just like yesterday."
  • "That was too fun. When's the next one?"
  • "You'll be able to spot your dad easy, he runs like a girl."*
There were some great performances put in on Sunday.
  • A two-person team finished 6th overall. 
  • 5 people ran the whole deal solo.
  • "The Firm" wore ties, long-sleeve shirts, and dress pants, for the duration. (Guys, you might want to read this post on chafing.)
  • We formed a circle of 400 people.
  • I passed The Flash, who wasn't nearly as fast as I'd been led to believe by the comic books.
There were hundreds of great stories created last Sunday morning.

There are also many great stories about how some of those runners found themselves on that bridge, surrounded by caring, loving, supportive friends that they didn't have just a few weeks ago. And about how they're running farther and faster and stronger than they ever could have dreamed that same few weeks ago. And about how far they've come personally, in so many ways, since that same few weeks ago. And there are even more great stories to come as they move forward in their personal journey of rediscovery, a journey that started with Back on My Feet.

One of my favorite stories, though, has nothing to do with that stuff, directly. It's the story of "McMarathoners", a CoEd, 2-person team, the members of which happen to be married... to each other. It's possible that they chose this approach so they wouldn't have to spend any time together during the relay. But I'm pretty sure that's not the case. A couple that can share a marathon, 2.2 miles at a time, has got something going on.

The McMarathoners also wore kilts

The real star of the event, though, was the event itself. With manageable distances and plenty of time to hang out, visit with friends, make new ones, it was a true celebration of running, and of the fellowship that runners share. That's fitting, really, considering that's the foundation on which Back on My Feet is built. The fantastic setting, the music, the goofy costumes, the loud cheers for runners coming in and going out, the even louder cheers for runners across the river, and the mingling of 95 teams of runners, my kind of people, made it one of the best races of any kind I've ever attended.

Everyone was smiling and laughing and chatting and having fun. And I don't just mean when they were on the bridge waiting to run. Out on the course I exchanged at least a couple words with everyone I passed, and everyone who passed me. I'm not talking about the usual "Good job" or "Looking good". I asked most of those I was running next to "Having fun?", and every single one of them replied with some form of "Hell yes! You?" That is the sign of a truly special event.

Until you've done a distance relay, you can't appreciate the camaraderie you feel with your team. And until you've done a short loop distance relay, you can't appreciate how much camaraderie you can feel for, and from, the other teams.

I personally want to thank my good friend Marty for lending his race to Back on My Feet and for the idea of having it in beautiful White River Park, and Beth for giving the green light (way better than a 5K, right?) and her most excellent leadership and daring to think that we might have as many as 70 teams, and I'm sure Brian did something helpful. And a huge virtual standing ovation for Lindsey for making it all actually real. You're a rock star!

Beth and Lindsey

And special thanks to Bob, Mike, and Eric for manning up and keeping it fun. Next time, a better name, better splits, and we're gonna tailgate until they kick us out.

10th over all, 7th in division,
#28 in your program but #1 in your hearts,
The Nerd Herd
Voted Sexiest Male Team (unofficially)

Good running,

*Thanks, Bob, for the gift that keeps on giving... the gift of perpetual ridicule from one's children.

Photos from GreenSky Media (Chris Thornberry), Kelly's Blog, and the GF.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hard being a dad...

... when you have to tell your son one of his heroes is gone.

The Duke and I wish you godspeed, Dan Wheldon.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Life, Death, and the Marathon

It's not uncommon to hear about someone dying while competing in a marathon.

Just last weekend, William Caviness, a firefighter from North Carolina, died within a mile of the finish. (Story here). It's always heartbreaking. And it's a little frightening.

None of us want to drop dead on a run. And especially not in the middle of a race. And especially especially not within sight of the finish. If my number's up and I gotta go during a marathon, I really want to get my damn medal first.

We read the details, hoping to find a cause, a reason why they fell and we won't. But, they always seem to be "avid runners", "well trained", "fit for the race".

Holy crap! That could be me!

We runners like to think that what we do is good for us, makes us more healthy, will help us live longer, not kill us.

Any time I hear about a fellow runner dropping dead on a run, for weeks I will notice a little extra hint of tightness on my chest, or what seems like slightly more labored breathing, or some extra thumping from my heart as I climb a hill.

I start contemplating the math... how beats has my heart given me so far this life? How many more does it have left? Is this run adding to that total, or using a bunch of those precious beats up all at once?

But then I think of the other 40,000+ runners who had a great day last Sunday in Chicago. They came, they ran, they sweat through their shirts, they finished. Their hearts raced with anticipation at the start, and kept blood flowing for 26.2 miles, and each heart fluttered a bit when it crossed the finish line, and maybe skipped a beat or two when a its runner found a loved one waiting for them.

And I think about those finishers who are pushing the odds a lot more than I am, like Julian Gordon who finished the Chicago marathon at age 75. (Story here)  He was second in his age group. That means that there are at least 2 crazy old men still running marathons. I plan to be one myself some day.

And there's the story of Amber and June Miller. Amber ran/walked the marathon 39 weeks pregnant. (Story here) That's just about as pregnant as you can get there folks. June also finished the marathon, inside Amber's belly, and was born shortly after her mom grabbed a post-race sandwich and made it to the hospital. I'm assuming she got a ride.

Amber and June Miller. That kid should get a finisher's medal.
Or maybe Amber should get two.

There are at least 39,998 other awesome stories of triumph and fun and laughs and tears of joy from that marathon. In the grand epic of life on planet earth, those stories will echo at least as long as the one terribly sad story.

You might die just short of the finish of your next race. Or while typing a blog post. Or while driving to meet some friends.

But how we go isn't really that important. It's what we do before our time, our unfairly short time, is up.

I like to spend a lot of my time with people like William, Julian, Amber, June, and the other folks who laced up last Sunday.

Good running,

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs

I never met Steve Jobs.

Still, I feel a great loss this evening.

Steve wasn't a runner, as fas as I know, but he had the heart of a runner. He plotted his course, his own course, and pounded it out. And he was never ok with anything other than the absolute best result possible.

Besides, he gave us the iPod, the distance runner's most loyal companion. And that's good enough reason for me to talk about him for a bit.

Steve built a company like no other company in the world, one that took on not only the computer giants, but also the collective notion, the very idea of what a computer was.

Then it was all taken away from him.

Then he went back and did it again.

And then he did it with music.

And then telephones.

And then computers again.

He thought differently. He wanted us to "think different".

I'm not quite naive enough to think that Steve did this for the betterment of mankind. He did it to make money. A lot of money. But he also had an insatiable drive to change the world.

I don't want to imagine a world without Toy Story, without an iPhone to map my run and snap a picture from a fountain, without FaceTime calls to my kids, without the Mac on which I'm writing this post.

I remember sitting in this same chair, with this same Mac, then only a few days old (the Mac, not me), when I started this blog. I can't explain it, but I know in my heart that the machine inspired me with its design. But even more importantly, when I needed to write, the design made sure that the machine didn't get in my way. On a PC, my writing would have been different. I would have been different.

Steve did change the world. He also, in a small way, changed me.

Thanks Steve.

I highly recommend reading the commencement speech Steve gave at Stanford. Read it and tell me you aren't inspired to do something insanely great.

"Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." Yeah, Steve was one of us, alright.

Good running,

Monday, September 26, 2011

New Shorts

The first run in a new pair of shorts is like a first date.

I picked up a sweet pair of Nike Dry-Fit, high-cut (of course), bright-ass yellow shorts a few weeks ago at a summer gear blow-out.

Much like a phone number on a napkin, they sat on my dresser, waiting for the right moment. Eh, who am I kidding... waiting for me to summon up the courage.

Thing is, I'm way too particular about my shorts to throw on a new pair just because I can. I need to be in the right mood. I need to be ready to take a chance.

A misfitting pair of shorts can rub you wrong, or bind you up, or just not look as good as you thought. (Sounds a lot every online dating experience I've ever heard about.)

The shorts and I were out over lunch today and got along swimmingly. I'm confident it's the first of many.

Good running,

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Know what happens when wet skin rubs against more skin, for an hour or so?

No, not that! Seriously, is that all you think about?

The other thing that happens when wet skin... yes, that one... chafing.

Chafing: noun \ˈchā-fiŋ-\ portable grate raised on a tripod, used for heating foods that require gentle cooking, away from the heat of direct flames.

Really? That's what you think we're talking about? Rubbing wet skin creates a buffet warmer? Um... no, that's a chafing dish. What keeps you from wandering into traffic?

Chafing: noun \ˈchā-fiŋ-\ wicked abrasion of the skin, especially painful, and often first noticed, in the shower and usually accompanied by an involuntary scream of agony and/or profanity. Caused primarily by running long distances while carrying a bit too much weight, and by carrying weight we don't mean bags of kitty litter, we mean you're skin is too full of stuff, making it rub against the skin across the way. - Webster's 73rd edition*

Runners chafe primarily in 3 areas. Here they are in order of prevalence:
  1. Inner thighs - That paints a lovely picture, doesn't it? Two thighs rubbing against each other... Oh boy! Yeah, well just wait...
  2. Between one's butt cheeks - See? A little worse, isn't it?
  3. Inner arm and just below one's armpits - You were kinda scared that this one was going to be really gross, weren't you.
Armpit chafing is less prevalent. It's usually caused by a lot of arm swings and a lot of sweat on a really long run. Chubby arms will make it worse, but skinny arms are almost as susceptible.

Inner thigh chafing is pretty much always caused by having a little extra thigh meat down there. When you swing your legs back and forth, that extra meat can't help but bump into each other. Introduce a little sweat into the equation and you've got the makings of Frictionpalooza.

An easy way to avoid Frictionpulooza is to corral those rogue thighs inside appropriately high-tensile Lycra shorts or tights. Properly contained, they can't rub. Problem solved. Kinda.

The squeezing nature of Lycra can be used for good and evil. What confines thighs will also squeeze cheeks, leading to skintastrophy #2 (unfortunate number for this one). That's not to say that #2 can't occur all on it's own, but cramming your trunk into an elastic vice is going to make it way more likely.

So what are chafing sufferers to do? Choose between smoldering thighs or a crack flame-up? Just accept that for a day after a long run we'll have to hold your arms out to your sides in the classic "Look Mommy, I'm an airplane" pose?

"They called my row. Will someone please pickup my purse?"

No, of course not.

The solution to chafing, and so many more of life's unpleasantries, is lubrication. No not Vaseline. That goop stains clothes and doesn't last very long. Plus, application goes something like this...

No one wants to see this.

The best way, in my educated opinion**, to avoid turning your skin against itself is BodyGlide.** Yeah, I know it sounds like it might be something kinda, you know, dirty... but I assure you, it's not. It comes in a tube just like a stick deodorant.

And you apply it just like one too, right on the hot spot. But, remember to apply it BEFORE your run. A couple swipes on each inner thigh, or above and below your pits, or, you know, right there in the crack of dawn, and you'll avoid that big surprise/scream of agony in the shower. And you won't spend the day walking around like this...

"No. No. Don't touch me! I ran 20 this morning and I'm chafed like a baboon's butt."
- Nicole Richie

Good running,

*Not actually in dictionary, not that way at least.
**I'm a fan of BodyGlide because it has worked well for me for years. No money, no sponsorship, not even any free BodyGlide, though I would gladly accept all of these and man I'd whore myself out like you wouldn't believe.
***BodyGlide also works well preventing the dreaded bloody nipple syndrome, and hotspots on your feet from running shoe friction.

Images from here and here and here and here and here and here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Worse Than Slow

Time flies like an arrow.*

We either get older, or we die. Thinking about it that way makes getting older not quite so bad.

What I'm struggling with is the idea that older means slower, and by slower, I mean not running as fast, not more feeble minded, though I can see where you were going with that.

When I was in high school, I was fast. But everyone's fast in high school. All of those muscles and tendons are still under warranty. In college, I was really fast, and strong. I didn't look it, but hidden under the math major clothes and bad haircut was some pretty serious giddy-up. But this was track stuff. Not really much place for it after graduation.

After college I stopped running all together. Got a job. Got married. Got fat.

I started distance running a few years later. I started from the bottom. I'd never run more than 2 miles at one time in my life, and hadn't run a step in years. As the years ticked off, I steadily improved. Eventually, I got to be pretty decent at it. I'd race, a lot, and usually finished toward the front, just a place or two away from an age-group award. I was fairly fast, fairly strong, and fairly thin.

Then I got divorced. My running's never really been the same since.

It's not the divorce's fault. Not really. But I don't think it's a coincidence that my running was at it's best when my marriage was at its worst. That's not to say that running ruined my marriage, either. In fact, it probably prolonged it.

About two years after my divorce, my good friend and former running buddy Dave**, after listening to me complain about my prolonged running slump, said "Maybe you aren't running as much now because you don't have to."

Of course, he was right. Dave's pretty much always right.

At the time, running was an escape. It gave me the chance to leave an uncomfortable situation behind me, physically and mentally, even if just for an hour or two. It was also a distraction. Rather than dealing with the unpleasantness in my home life, I spent hours on long runs, training plans, and race preparations. And it was a release. Running hard, pushing my body beyond its limits, vented stress and anxiety in the form of sweat and heat.

You can only escape and distract and release for so long. Reality catches up with you. An acquaintance of mine ran to the point of multiple stress fractures in her feet before admitting to herself that her marriage had to end. For me it was a freak misstep that fractured a bone in my foot. Three months without running left me without escape, distraction, or release. I was defenseless. I had no choice but to face my life. It was painful and unpleasant and awful. It was also necessary.

That was 10 years ago. Today, I'm older. And slower. And happier. And she's happier, too.

I'd really like to be fast again. But if I have to choose between running 6:30s and living an unhappy life, or 8:30s and the life I have today, it's an easy choice. I'm going to keep working on getting stronger and faster, but if you're looking for me, you'd probably want to look somewhere toward the middle of the pack.

Good running,

*Fruit flies like a banana.
** Dave's given up running for yoga and a life with functioning knees.

Image from here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

More Fountains

Need to catch up on my recent fountain adventures.

Carmel "Art and Design District" - July 16th

I've been in this one before, Day 107 of the streak to be precise. But this dip was required payment, up front, to get my youngest to take his own little dip (not pictured, but trust me, it's great video).

King's Island... I know! - August 7th

This is a big one, folks. And not easy to pull off. The good folks at King's Island take their fountain pretty seriously and they don't care much for people who choose to defile it. But I found a lower than average area of fencing and made it in and out before anyone became too outraged. My shorts were soaked, though. It's much deeper than it looks. (BTW, the pink floating things aren't flowers, they're pink floating Snoopie's that one can drop in the fountain if one makes a donation to a breast cancer foundation. They didn't seem to mind sharing the fountain with me... much.)

Indianapolis - Canal Plaza East - August 27th

Indianapolis - Canal Plaza West

It's not too often that you get two big-ass fountains a couple hundred feet apart. And even more rare is relatively easy access to the top of one of those big-ass fountains...

The top bowl of Canal Plaza West  - August 27th

And that brings us to today. The youngest and I were walking to the farmer's market and decided to explore a bit. We wondered around Carmel's City Center and came to a big open plaza. The boy said, "Uh oh, Dad. There's a fountain. You gonna get in it?" He's turning into a bit of a fountain guy himself. I couldn't let the boy down, now could I...

Atop parking garage at Carmel City Center. - September 10

Since they're still laying bricks for the plaza, I feel pretty same claiming "First!"

I highly recommend jumping into fountains. The less planned the better. When you see one, don't think about it, just take off your shoes, roll up your jeans, and step in.*

Sure, you're probably breaking someone's rule, but you're not going to hurt anyone or damage anything. Rules that serve only to keep us from enjoying the whimsy of life are meant to be flaunted.

And it you can get a picture of it, send it to me and I'll post it.

Come on, it's fun!

Good running,

*Remember my rules of fountain defamation:
1) Don't get into a fountain you if can't see the bottom.
2) Touch the water with your hand before you get in to make sure it isn't going to electrocute you.
3) Be careful not to step on any lights or wires, also to avoid electrocution.
Oh, and if you're asked to get out, or not get in, politely comply. The dude's only doing his job, enforcing a pointless rule.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Long Runs Suck

They sit on your training schedule like tombstones, all lined up, each a little more ominous than the next. To be trained for your race, you have to do them. And they know it.

For a week they sit there staring at you with that look of contempt. "You don't seriously think you can beat me, right?"

And it works. You haven't run that far in months, maybe ever. And how long is it going to take? What?! I have things to do! Whoa... I need to get up when? Those numbers aren't even on my clock! Too often, the long run wins without a fight.

If you do make it out, the first miles seem to take days, and are only a tiny fraction of what you have to cover. You start to do the math: "I already feel like a pound of crap. I'm only 10% done. By the time I'm finished I'm going to feel like 10 pounds of crap." You're not even sure what that means, but it definitely not encouraging.

And then you hit it.

Every long run presents you with a reason to quit. A perfectly understandable, reasonable, explainable, not your fault reason to turn your ass around and go home, or better yet, call a cab.

Here was mine...

The route I'd carefully planned included a bridge with a perfectly safe pedestrian path that I've run across a couple hundred times. But I haven't run that far in quite a while.

As I approached the bridge not quite 3 pounds of crap into my run, I realized that it was way under construction, as in there really wasn't a bridge left on the pedestrian path side anymore, which I knew from having driven over it a different couple hundred times but had forgotten. You don't really notice the presence or absence or sidewalks when your driving.

The construction erased the perfectly safe pedestrian path. What bridge there was left was 100% assigned to cars. Just on the other side of those concrete barriers were speeding cars driven by texting teenagers,  husbands heading out to drink beer and drive an electric cart around a big yard for 4 hours under the guise of "playing golf", and some really pissed off wives with errands to run who were screaming to their friends and/or sisters through their cell phones about how their husbands are not help at all. That's just my best guess, but still, not a good place to run.

The dog looked up at me, wondering why the hell we were still here. "Surely that idiot isn't thinking I'm going across this."

This was the moment when I could have turned back. The dog was all for it. No one would have said a thing. No one except the long run, whispering "I knew you didn't have it in you."

Being a long distance runner is as much about defeating those voices inside your head as it is beating a rival, or a time goal, or a distance. It's about pushing yourself when you really don't want to. And more, it's wanting to be challenged just so you can prove to yourself that you can do it.

Looking closely, with the eyes of someone looking for a solution, not an excuse, I saw that the construction left a lip of about 15 inches of concrete, right up against the barriers, littered with rusted loose nails, that seemed to go all the way across. We took it slow. Stepped carefully. And when we reached the other side safely, we flipped the long run, and the bridge, a righteous bird, and pressed on.

The rest of the run was actually enjoyable. My pace picked up. I felt better, stronger. Once over that bridge I knew I was going to get it done.

That's the feeling we're looking for when we head out for a long run.

Good running,