Monday, July 25, 2011


I pride myself on my ability to resist the impulse buy.

I almost never buy anything displayed in the checkout line. Except gum, and that's only because that's where they put gum.

When I need a new pair of jeans, I go to a store and buy jeans, not jeans and a shirt and another shirt and a jacket that looks great in the window with that other shirt that I also don't buy.

I didn't buy even any of the 5 motorcycles I test-rode on Saturday.

It might seem like I have some kind of super anti-mass-marketing discipline. Truth is, one time I had an impulse that seemed like a good idea at the time, so I did it, and almost immediately regretted... for the next 11 years.

Today, tough, just a couple hours ago, I read this blog post from Loving the Run, and within minutes I'd registered for the Big Sur Marathon.

Impulse buy? No. More like carpe-ing the diem.

Since wrapping up my running and writing streak last year, I've been floundering a bit. I've been looking for my next big thing. Well, actually, it's more like I've been waiting for my next big thing to find me. And it hasn't.

This was the kick in the butt I needed:
"Life is short. We need to seize opportunities when they’re presented to us. Ultimately, I believe inaction creates the most regret."
F'in-A, man! It's about time I got off my butt and bought a new motorcycle!

Wait, no, that's not what I meant... heh, heh... "Paging Dr. Freud".

It's about time I took a step toward a new adventure, specifically a running related adventure.

What's been holding me back these past few months? Really, it's pretty simple. The streak went great. It was a tremendously rewarding experience, and ultimately, a huge success, for me. I ran, outside, every day of 2010, and I wrote, every day, in 2010. I learned a lot about myself, what I'm capable of, what I love, what I need to be happy and mentally healthy.

With that success to live up to, I've been hesitant to take on anything else. I'd rationalize ideas away because I wasn't in good enough shape, or the logistics were too messy, or it might cost too much. But at the root of it all, I was afraid I'd fail. I was afraid I'd regret taking it on and not succeeding. But as the post says, inaction creates more regret, more than failure does.*

So I will be working on my bucket list, posting it here when it's ready, of course, and somewhere on there will be Big Sur Marathon, with a big red circle around it. This will be my 11th marathon**, but my first in quite a few years. I don't know if I'll complete it. I don't even know if I'll make it through the training. But that's part of the fun, isn't it?

Get out your bucket list, pick one to cross off, and get on it.

Good running,

*Note: Be sure to balance the potential regret of inaction with the possibility of long term regret from making a really bad life-long decision. The downside of entering a marathon does not compare to the downside of marrying the wrong person, just as an example (cough).

** Indianapolis, Chicago, Sunburst, Columbus, NYCM, Philly, Twin Cities, Marine Corp, NYCM, Tecumseh

Image from here and here.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Jumping Jacks? Seriously?!

Yes, seriously.

Though I find it hard to believe that I don't know everything, apparently it really is never too late to learn something new.

The new thing I've learned, thanks to our Back on My Feet team leaders, is that good old fashioned calisthenics are a great way to warm up for a run.

Again, yes, seriously. The same old calisthenics that our parents did in Phys. Ed. classes, way back in the olden times.

I used to stretch before a run, but I've found, and subsequently read, that stretching after a run, when your muscles are all warm and supple, builds better flexibility. Further, stretching before a run not only doesn't really warm your muscles very much, but can also, once you start running, put your legs through a greater range of motion than they are really ready for.

So then I did, well, nothing before a run. This usually resulted in groans, and visions of hamstrings and Achilles popping like old banjo strings.

Then, a few weeks ago, I started running with the BOMF group. I'll admit, when we circled up and our leader said, "Ok, 25 jumping jacks. Ready... begin... 1, 2..." I thought it was a practical joke. "This'll be great. Let's see if we can get the new guy to do jumping jacks." But they kept going... to 25. And then there was more. It seemed, frankly, ridiculous.

It wasn't until after my third or fourth BOMF run that I noticed I had no stiffness or soreness after the run.  After some trial and error, it became evident that the ridiculous warm up was the key.

Now, I do it before every run. Now I can tell you, it's easier to pull off jumping jacks and windmills in a group than by yourself. In a circle with team members, it's an activity. On your own in a parking lot, it's just odd.

Not being one to worry too much what other people think, I'm sticking with these.

Here's what we do.

25 Jumping jacks

20 Trunk Twists

20 Windmills
(I used to get nauseous doing this in gym as a kid.)

20 High Knees
(Be sure not to lean back on these.)

20 heal kicks
(Ideally, your heal kicks your booty.)

This whole routine takes just a couple of minutes.

Release your inner Jack LaLanne,* and give it a try before your next run. And let me know how it goes.

Good running,

*Give this video a couple of minutes and tell me the organ accompaniment isn't awesome. Warning, his shoes, or slippers, or whatever they are, might creep you out just the slightest bit.

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

Today, it's been 5 years. 5 years since the phone call. The phone call in which the voice of a woman, essentially a stranger, told me, matter-of-factly, that you were dead in your bedroom, and that I needed to come there.

I had just ordered a pizza. Bazbeaux special. Never got to eat it.

I don't remember much else about that evening. David was there, thankfully. He did the dirty work.

At some point I shifted into "get shit done" mode. Signed stuff, called people, tried to act normal, asked what was next. That much I remember. But the rest of the night, rest of the week really, is a fog.

I know that I hosed your obit. You were born in New Jersey, not Sandpoint Idaho. You lived in Sandpoint. You loved Sandpoint. But you were born in New Jersey. I should have remembered that.

I spent most of one night outlining a eulogy. An eulogy? Either way... I know you weren't there for it, well you were, but, you know, you were dead and all, but I gotta say, I killed. They laughed, they cried, I had them eating out of my hand. You would've been proud.

Best line was when Debbie walked in. I said, off the cuff, "My mother would be neither pleased, nor surprised, that my sister is late to her funeral." Huge laugh.

Since then, frankly, it's been a mess. You left me with a large, steamy, smelly pile of shit, Mom. What the hell were you thinking?

I know, you weren't thinking. You didn't think you'd die the day after your 64th birthday. By the way, I'm so glad I remembered to call you on your birthday. I called early. You were sober. It was nice.

I know you didn't mean to leave me that pile of shit. But the reality is, you did. And frankly, I haven't quite gotten over it.

I've accepted the fact that my early years were, let's say, unconventional. I made it through.

But I haven't been able to reconcile that you weren't really up to parenting my little brother. And I'm not able to conceive how you could drink your way through his death. When he needed you most, you were drunk. That is, at least for now, unforgivable.

I miss you. I miss him more.

I know that after five years, I should be able to forgive you. But I'm just not ready. I'm angry, and hurt, and I feel robbed of the life, and the kid brother, that I should have had. And I blame you. Not fair, but true.

And as you know, your penance is imprisonment. Your remains will sit atop my fridge until I think you've learned your lesson.

Until then, here's a late birthday present. You will be forever 30 years old thanks to YouTube, and an old VHS tape I found amongst your mountains of crap. Here is Any Gal Can, the infamous Changing a Tire episode, featuring our old Ford Pinto.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Soft is Better Than Hard

I love the New York Times. Let me just put that out there. But today, we're having a bit of a lover's quarrel over this article: For Runners, Soft Ground Can Be Hard on the Body

I encourage you to read the article. Seriously, please read it, then come back... I'll wait.

Did you read it? The whole thing? Really? Yeah, that's what I thought... go back and finish it.

There, that wasn't so hard, was it.

Now, flush it all out of your head.

I mean it. It's pure rubbish.

The premise is that you might as well run on street and sidewalks, as opposed to trails or other "soft ground" because you are just as likely to get injured. Supposedly the body will somehow magically adapt to harder surfaces, negating the presumably higher impact forces of pavement. Further, it's supposed that soft ground is uneven, making if more likely you will turn your ankle.


Ok, the first example, the guy recovering from knee surgery, yes he should've probably stayed off of the trails. But hell, he shouldn't have been running either. You just inured your knee! Walk for crying out loud.

Thing is, you can get hurt just as easily on pavement. Trust me, I know. Who here's never tripped on an uneven crack in a sidewalk?  Cracks, curbs, gutters, uneven lumps in the road, they can trip you up just as easily as a root.

And as for turning an ankle, I, myself, your humble blogger, turned the bajeebas out of my ankle in 1999 while on down a hill cool-down jog, on the street. I turned it the the point of snapping a bone in my foot.

The presumed smooth, even, danger free reputation of streets and sidewalks lull the unsuspecting runner into a false sense of security. It let's your mind wander to things other than running, and that's when those nice even surfaces reach out and grab a toe.

If you're out on a "soft" surface... I hate that term... it's a negative spin term... let's call them "natural" surfaces.

If you're out on a natural surface, you need to stay present. They are indeed uneven and littered with obstacles. If you let your mind wander too far for too long, if you take your attention away from the task at hand, yes, you will probably misstep. But that's the beauty of a natural surface run. It's both meditation and cardio in one.

But that's not all, running on natural, uneven surfaces, making lots of turns, being in a state of constant change and adaptation, works lots of muscles, and makes you a stronger runner. And a stronger runner is a less injured runner.

Robotic repetition of the exact same motion, using the exact same muscles, will leave you vulnerable to anything outside of that narrow, consistent circumstance.

Besides, if you do fall, and you will, it's much better to fall on "soft" ground than pavement. This is coming from someone who's fallen on lots of surfaces, lots of times.

At the end of the article, Gina Kolata does include the idea that people should run where they want. And that I completely agree with. Better to run on pavement than not at all. And in fact, I think a mix of pavement and natural surfaces is best. But the article comes off to me like someone trying to use specific personal examples and opinions that aren't backed up by any science to support their personal preference for running on roads.

I hope people aren't dissuaded from trying out some trails because of an article based on such strong statements like...
“It is models, so God knows whether it is true...”
Trails are fantastic for running. They'll make you feel alive. You'll get dirty. You'll probably go slower. But after the run, you'll have a connection with the natural world that you can't get on any road.

Good running,

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Starvation Rehab

I remember reading somewhere that people who have been in a state of starvation need to be careful transitioning back to normal eating.

Apparently, if you haven't eaten in quite some time, you don't want to try to make it all up in one sitting. And an entire pork roast shouldn't be your first meal. Or second.

If a recently no longer starving person were to gorge themselves on a huge meal, they'd overwhelm their system. Their organs, having been idle for some time, don't just flip on with a switch. They need to be coaxed back into duty, slowly.

I would guess that as these folks allow themselves to think of eating again, they dream about buffet tables that stretch to the vanishing point, piled high with every food they've ever loved. In their dreams they can pig out, even if not in the real world.

Same goes for running. If you've been on the sidelines for an extended time, you need to ease back into things.

After way too many weeks of rehab, I've put my feet tentatively back on the road. The first runs have been slow, and cautious, making sure that I really did remember how.

Once I knew I still had it, though most certainly less of it, I wanted more.

At night, just before drifting off to sleep, my mind takes me to beautiful, imaginary trails, and I'm moving over them effortlessly, and swiftly, of course, toward the end, which I hope never comes. I used to have these pseudo-dreams all the time, but not in the last few weeks. Now, with their return, they leave me eager to run fast, even at midnight, though I know that in reality, I can't... not yet.

Runners coming back need to submit to a higher authority - physics. And physiology. And time. I guess that's three higher authorities.

No matter how much you want to run every day, or to rip a hard 10K, you just can't. You need to set your sights low for a while.

Nope, lower.


No, not even a crappy 5K... lower.

You need to put yourself into a long, slow, steady rebuilding phase. Your head and heart will want to feed that long unsatisfied appetite for a cranking run, the desire to feel great, and to be fast. But your body can't digest that meal.

The trick is to channel all of that energy/frustration in a positive direction, as opposed to self-destruction in the form of a track workout or hill repeats. Stick to your rebuilding plan. Make sure you're running way less than you want to. When you can't run, do the things that will keep you out of rehab when you are ready to run hard. Stretch, do some yoga, hit some light weights, maybe even hop on a bike or into the pool. Just stay away from treadmills.

Now that you've survived starvation, don't kill yourself with doughnuts, pork chops, and brownies. That's right, not even brownies. Stick to rice and broth until your body is ready.

Then, when you're sure you're up for it, maybe a waffle, with ice cream.

And then a 5K.

Good running,

Image from here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Starting vs Starting Over

I'll save you the suspense... starting over is way harder than starting.

When you first start running, it sucks, no doubt. Making your body do something that it hasn't done before, something that requires strength and endurance that you just don't have, doesn't sit well with your body. It will hate you and take its hate for you out in the form of pain, sweat, chafing, and despair. And sometimes vomit.

You will want to quit, often.

But there's a silver lining around that cloud of agony... you're starting from zero. The instant you start to improve, as soon as your body starts to adapt and get stronger and fitter, you feel the difference and you can enjoy the feeling, and the knowledge that you are better than you were.

Every improvement is a new high.

When you're starting over, you may not be starting at exactly zero. Today, I officially started back after almost half a year of overhauling and rebuilding. I'd say, on a scale of 0 to 10, I'm starting at a 2, maybe 3. But it still sucks. My body still hates me. The real tough part to take is that I know how great it is to be in excellent shape. I still remember when running was easy. When running fast was easy.

Today... wasn't easy. It was supposed to be a group run with work-based running buddies, one of which was also "starting back". Between the two of us we'd be able to keep the pace under control by reining in the young gun who would be going out with us. That was the plan, at least.  Until the other guy bailed. I was left to face the humiliation of being the slow guy, alone.

Note: When starting back, try to do it in the spring, or fall, or any other time than a day so impossibly  miserable that the National Weather Service "Heat" Advisory is upgrading to a National Weather Service "You Can Bake A Potato In Your Car" Watch, and finally to a National Weather Service "People Are F-in Melting, Man" Warning.

The youngling was pretty cool about running with me, the slow guy. When the stifling heat forced me to walk, the he hung back. He even tried to perk me up. "No worries man, I get it... you're not half the man you used to be." I think in is mind that was a compliment.

I survived. It was miserable. It was more miserable when I though about how far I am from where I was just a little over a year ago when I smoked this same dude during a speed workout.

But here's the choice I have... I can be the guy who used to be a pretty decent runner, before he got hurt, and then put on a few pounds, and then couldn't quite get back. Or, I can be the best runner I can be today, and strive to be the best I can be tomorrow, and just accept that it will be a long road to get "back", whatever that means. I may never be as fast as I used to be. Maybe I'll be faster. Probably not. But if that's my goal, it's going to be quite some time before I feel good about where I am.

For now, I'm going to try to take the view of the first time runner. Every day that I feel better should be its own reward, and enticement to run tomorrow, or whenever it stops hurting blink.

Good running,

Image from here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fountains of Freedom

I spent a few moments this past Independence Day weekend celebrating freedom.

Specifically, the freedom to defile a fountain. Two actually...

First, a brand spanking new fountain outside the almost grandly opened City Center behemoplex.

This one is so new, I had to break the white "Sanitized for Your Protection" seal to get in. Until proven otherwise, I'm calling it...

First! - July 3rd, 2011

The next day, after celebrating our great nation's 235th, wait is that right? Yeah, 235th birthday as most American's did, by sitting through a parade filled mostly with self-engadizing local politicians, "floats" that were little more than a trailer carrying a local business' employees who had been manipulated into sacrificing their holiday for the honor of throwing candy at children the way I imagine the king's handlers used to through grain to starving peasants along the road to the castle of some homely princess/second cousin, and local bands that aren't nearly as good as our band was* when I had to march in the sweltering heat and then go work a 6 hour shift at Dairy Queen while all of my friends came to the drive-thru on their way to the fireworks to let me know how much fun they were having, we went to find a nice, patriotic, ice-cold caffeine-free diet co- HEY LOOK A BEER TENT!

We stayed here until we ran out of cash, which took awhile, even at $5 a pint.

Then we walked home, on the path to which lay a gargantuan complex of condos, or apartments, or businesses, arranged in a big pile of huge brick buildings with also huge columns, and dormers, lots of dormers, so colonial that Thomas Jefferson himself might have built them for his family, including a building in the back for his other "family", and in the middle of which is a huge-ass reflecting pool. To wit...

For the record, I did not swim, not even a little.

Also for the record, my shorts did not dry out by the time we got home, as I was promised.

For those new to this humid corner of the internet, you can retrace my path of fountain defilement on this most excellent use of modern information technology.

Just to fulfill my "Hey, isn't this a running blog" quota... tomorrow, after wuh-hay too long on the sidelines, I'm going to tip-toe back into the world of the running. Stay tuned to watch how I handle the delicate balance of not doing too much too soon, and staving off clinical lack-of-running insanity. Should be fun.

Oh, and this is the last time I will pester you kind, above-average-looking, and super-generous readers... last time I will pull a PBS pledge drive and ask you to click here to give a dollar or two to the wonderful Back on My Feet program in Indianapolis. Everyone who donates will be highlighted in a flattering blurb on this here blog. The bigger the donation, the more flattering. Thanks in advance to those about to give, and huge thanks and appreciation and love, or at least like-like, to those who have already given.

Good running,

* My son's band excepted, as they rocked, most especially the bass drum section, and even more especially, the smallest base drum. That dude was awesome!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Gravity Sucks

I trip more than anyone I know.

Seriously, I hit the ground more often than a toddler, those little people named for the fact that they don't walk well.

Happened again this morning. Out on an easy 4 miler with the Back on My Feet gang, crossed a street, caught a curb.

Thing is, I don't just fall. It takes a good 5 seconds and 30 feet for me to make my way to the ground. Arms flailing, legs flopping out giant clown steps, all in a ridiculous, and frivolous effort to avoid the unavoidable. You can imagine someone watching... "Uh... Uh... Uh... Yes.. Maybe.. Uh... Uh... Nooooh, too bad. Thought he might have had it there for a second."

I suppose the deranged acrobatics might slow me down enough to save a couple square inches of skin, but I'm not sure it's worth the humiliation. I'm already falling down. A grown man, tripping over a curb, with alarming frequency. Do I really want to make it more of a spectacle?

It's not that I'm not looking where I'm going. I don't trip over obvious curbs. Somehow my toe finds the lowest obstacles. The tiny root, the bump in the sidewalk, the ever-so-slightly misaligned wedge of handicap curbing.
Like this, but more... trippy.

Perhaps I droop my toes when I run. Or maybe I'm just wuh-huh-haaay more clumsy that anyone else I know.

I'd like to say that I've accepted it as just the way I am, it's just the way I run, it's how I'm built. But if that were the case, I wouldn't be surprised when it happens. Or pissed. I'm always pissed when I trip. Know why? Cause it hurts! And when you're body's out of warranty, it doesn't just hurt for a few minutes, it hurts for a few days. For the rest of the week I'll get a little jabbing reminders of my inability to master bipedal locomotion every time I stand up, or bend over, or breath.

I am gravity's bitch.

Good running,

PS - For those who have donated to Back on My Feet Indianapolis, a huge "Thank You", as well as a post to honor you all, coming soon. For those who haven't donated yet, or don't know what I'm talking about, please click here to learn more and please consider giving a dollar or two for an insanely worthy cause.

Images from here, and here.