My Running Year

There’s a few more weeks left in 2017 but I’ve no more races on the calendar, so I’m calling it. From here on in it’s just maintenance until winter training kicks in. So lets have some hot toddies and reflect.

What I’m Proud Of: 

I wanted to run different races this year, and I did. I kept a few favorites in the schedule, but the majority of my races this year were new to me. I ran new distances (a 25K and a 15K) and travelled with friends down into the Finger Lakes to run in places a little farther afield. Also, that’s, like, 10 course records for me!

Also, my running streak continues! 55 days and counting.

What I Want to Improve On…

Speed. I want to run a fast half marathon. Five years ago I ran one in 1:48 and I’d like to get a faster time than that. I remember that hurt, so I’ll have to make my peace with suffering. But I will be 40 this year. I’m either gonna get faster or slower, and I’d rather get faster. Going along with this, I need to be a little more selfish in my training. I can’t be hanging back with my buddies. Speed gets me to the beer faster.

 

Advertisements

Solo Saturday Run

Normally I do Saturday morning group runs with a bunch of folks at a local running store, but this week I had to take my significant other to work. So, I ran back along the canal path into Rochester.

The run did not start off well: my phone died and my ankle cramped. But I pushed through these little setbacks…and it was lovely. The canal path was mostly flat so I pushed the pace up…and I felt okay pretty much the whole way.

I’d like to do a fast half marathon next year and this was a good start.

 

Wall Art

Upper Monroe: 2.5 miles from my house.

Running gets you out in the world, lets you see more of where you live. For me, that means the opportunity to check out how our cities are decorated by street artists. I don’t pretend to be any sort of expert on this, I just enjoy finding these paintings. They make convenient way posts, distance markers and checkpoints.

 

Back of the hardware store

Fall Trail Races

Earlier this month I ran what is usually my final trail race of the year. It’s a three day event called the Dirt Cheap Stage Race.A lot of my running friends do this race so it’s a long weekend of racing, lunches and surreptitious beers in the park. A good time is always had by all.

This must be early in the race. I’m smiling. 

I enjoyed this race for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was the chance to get my new Brooks Pure Grit deeply, deeply muddy. There is no greater joy (besides finishing) on a trail race than plowing through a mucky bog in new shoes.

Provided you don’t fall over. That’s the racing gods saying, “Oh you wanted mud? Well, here you go my friend.”

The joy is compounded if there’s some snobby road runner trying to pick their way around the mud pit in a some bright new road shoes. I suppose this may come across as snobby or judgmental…but it’s a great feeling to flaunt how few fucks you give as you spray trail muck on their new Nikes.

The obligatory shoe shot.

Running Shirts Part 2

In an earlier post I ran down a few of the running shirts lurking in the bottom drawer. Here’s another one.

Gyakusou is running gear put out by Nike but put together by a Japanese fashion designer who is a runner as well, of course. It’s stylish gear and maddeningly hard to get your hands on – it always seems to be sold out five minutes before I get online, Catch-Me-If-You-Can style.

I have this shirt (and one other, gifts from my wife) and they are comfy to run in, of course. But it’s the design and message that I get a kick out of. I know part of the reason many of us run is the “zone-out”: the mental reprieve that running gives us. Running is meditative: it has gotten me through tough times, and I’m sure it’s done the same for others.

Also this shirt is fuckin’ cool. Look, there’s a wolf on it!

Another Great Sunrise

Look at that: it even makes the pavement glow. 

I have always been a morning person. In some way I think I’m fundamentally scared of the dark: I lose interest in the day once the sun is down. I’m at my best and most productive before 10am. By 9pm I turn into the old man from the movie “Up”. Running and marathon training have only made this tendency worse, because it encourages this behavior. Is there anyone more self-satisfied than the early morning runner?

Getting up early to run gives a person bragging rights right off the bat, and one of the main ones is the ability to crow about the sunrise. Oh there’s nothing as satisfying as walking into a morning meeting or breakfast and expounding on the beauties of a sunrise.

I took the above picture on my way to a Saturday morning group run. I had been running in gloom for about fifteen minutes but kept seeing flickers of this pink burning sky through the trees ahead of me. The anticipation of the taking the picture pushed my pace faster and faster. It was rare and lovely and I was there to experience, and record, the moment.

Mendon 20K

This weekend I ran the Mendon Trail Run, a looped course that gives runners the option of a 10K, 20K, 30K or 50K. I opted for the reasonable 20K: almost a half marathon, but not too crazy.

I ran the first loop hard, sprinting the downhills and pushing up every hill. My heart rate spiked like crazy but I felt strong through the first 10K. I focused on my breathing and not falling over.

As soon as I started the second loop I felt my legs get heavy and my breathing got ragged. I put in my headphones but my phone battery died within a few minutes, and I was too tired to be distracted by music anyway. By two miles in I was in full freak-out mode: “Why didn’t I start slower? I’m going to have a heart attack! Running is stupid. My hydration pack makes me look fat. Fuck this!”

So I did what all good trail runners do. I walked, and I had a snack.

After a while, I felt better, so I trotted again. I walked the hills and ran the flats. Nothing like the first loop but I felt good coming into the finish. I finished in 2:16. I had dreamed of 2 hours, and feared that it would take 2:30, so that was a good compromise.

In one way, I suppose I “blew up” a little on this race. But after some reflection (and a long hard nap) I was pretty happy with it. I ran this race, if that makes sense. A lot of my races recently have just been for fun, to enjoy the day and the company of my friends. But this one was just for me. I went out hard and figured it out for myself.

Lessons learned: food is important. I needed more energy, and sooner. I did go out too hard, but I am stronger than I thought. I maintained a 10:00 mile over some pretty hilly terrain (see below) for a solid 6 miles, and that’s pretty awesome (for me).

PS I did fall on the second loop, but only a little.

Streaking

Running is fun, social, life-changing, inspiring…and sometimes, boring. One foot in front of the other, blah blah blah. This is why people are constantly thinking up new ways to switch running up, make it more than it is. I’m trying a running streak.

It turns out a streak can go on for a very long time, sometimes for decades. But to be included in the National Running Streak Association (yup, it exists) a running streak is running at least a mile every day for at least a year. My streak started on October 10…so I’ve got a ways to go.

This weekend and last weekend I was helped along by a local running shop that organized a Fall Foliage Run to admire the changing colors in Rochester’s Lower Gorge. This is a section of the city I rarely run in but it has some excellent views, including a lovely pedestrian bridge that I never have the strength to pause on due to acrophobia.

I’ve raced over bridges and along high gorges many times and I’m usually okay as long as I keep moving, but once I stop my knees get shaky and I need to start running away before I lose my nerve. Somehow running makes me feel in control.

Anyway, what’s a little bit of a panic attack for a nice view like this?

Running T-shirts

One way that running has affected my identity is that it has expanded my wardrobe. T shirts are part of most race packets, to the point that many runners openly race for the t-shirt. I know I have. Every year or so it gets to the point that race and running shirts literally overflow from my bottom drawer and my own tidiness overpowers my urge to collect and sends me to Goodwill with a bag of my least-favorite race shirts. Here’s a few that survived the latest culling.

This is a running shirt from Janji, a socially conscious running gear brand out of Boston that has some cool, funky designs. It’s a little hard to see in the picture but that’s a llama on the front. I’d like to think my running spirit animal is the deer or the wolf, but the llama is probably more accurate: grumpy, lots of spitting.

Runners World does some cools running themed t-shirts. This one calls back to the year of the first Olympics in ancient Greece. It’s a fun way to remind everyone that our simple sport is older than Jesus. So there.

Sometimes runners and racers complain about hills. Seriously. I know, I can’t believe it either. Now I understand that hills hurt the lungs and raise the heart rate, but in some ways they are beneficial for your body and the best part is, what goes up must go down. Nothing beats swooping down a hill after you’ve had to plug along to the top. Anyway, I got this shirt to remind myself that tough runners run hills.

Just don’t fall.