Category Archives: running

The Art of Adventure

I’m listening to a podcast at the moment, the first of a series called, “Safety Third” (being aired on its parent program, “Dirt Bag Diaries”). The person in the program is talking about base jumping, but the main point of the program is not what I’m focusing on right now. What I am taking away right now is something the speaker just said, and it has struck a cord so deeply in me that my entire body is reverberating with its truth: adventure is an art.

The speaker, an avid climber, is talking about why he got into base jumping. It wasn’t for the adrenaline, it wasn’t for the fame; it was for the opportunity to do something new, like coming to a mountain no has ever climbed and figuring out to do it. That process is as creative, he says, as drawing or painting.

My reaction — heck yeah, he’s got it!!

This is EXACTLY why I run. Yes, I know I am not any great adventurer. I haven’t packed my bags and gone off to Nepal or the Sahara or Kilimanjaro. The places I choose, however, are normally not the usual places hosting the general congo line of pavement pounders, shuffling along paths that to me are predictable and boring. I explore where I am and use my paths to discover the world around me.

Here is the point though: to me, certain paths are boring; to others, they are an adventure. Perhaps it’s the first time running at all. Perhaps that congo line represents a change of some sort — of surroundings, of habits, of people — all these things represent a fresh canvas in a person’s life, a new set of boundaries to take one out of the comfort zone and into the unknown. Navigating through the unknown – therein lies the creative process.

For example, when I am out in the car or visiting somewhere, I am constantly wondering, “what would it be like to run here?” I drive a certain road as it stretches before me, undulating through towns and farms for miles and miles, and I dream about how I might feel, running from x to y. Who would I meet, how would I fuel, how fast and far could I go?

Thinking, planning, and acting on these journeys is indeed a creative process. Sometimes, like now as I make my final preparations for my next big race, the process scares me. I struggle with angry butterflies swirling from the pit of my stomach, filling me with fear. How will my project end? Will the results be pretty or just one hot mess? Will it be worthy of pride or just the trash bin?

Whatever the outcome, I know that I like standing before that empty canvas of possibilities. I can’t wait to see what my training and my vision will bring to life.

THIS is why I run. This adventure, this ART, fills me with joy. It is creative, spontaneous, beautiful, risky, and challenging. It doesn’t always turn out right, but if it did, it wouldn’t be creative. It’d just be predictable. Who on earth wants that?

Go out, face your canvas, and make some art!

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Confidence

It’s still winter outside, despite what the calendar says, and running outside has been difficult. Normally, I don’t mind running in cold weather, but after a bout with the flu and a subsequent pulmonary infection, I’ve found that running when temperatures are below freezing just HURTS. I wheeze. My nostrils and throat close up. I gasp for air when I go above even a slow jogging pace.

Consequently, the treadmill has become my friend, even for the longer and slower runs. Last week, my ankle had improved to the point that I thought I’d try 15 miles. The longest I’d run so far was 10 miles, and I was starting to wonder if I’d be ready for my trail marathon in May. I wasn’t in panic mode yet, but I needed a good run to boost my confidence, something to show me that I was indeed making progress toward my races in May and June. Slow mileage progression is essential, but there comes a point when darn it! I need to test my limits!

At first, the weather promised to be mild enough – upper 30s – but by Friday morning, the temperature dropped to the 20s with a windchill around 10. Then the snow started. Scratch the outdoor run…

I’ve been panting to get outside, but there was nothing for it, I couldn’t go out. It was a massive disappointment. I needed that run though, so…treadmill.

Okay.

Choose a string of trail videos, get my water and nutrition set up, then hop on.

No layers, no wind. It feels like cheating.

My races are going to (hopefully) be in warm weather anyway.

I set the program to run a hilly course, going from levels 2 through 9. Obviously, treadmill hills aren’t the same as actual trail hills, but at least I could do some climbing. As the snow came down outside my window and the plows rolled down the road, I stepped on the mill and pressed “go.”

Fours hours later, I stepped off, having run 20 miles and climbed 2499 feet. BAM! Confidence boosted!

Yes, it was boring. Consider it mental testing.

Yes, it was warm in the room. The races will be warm anyway (maybe).

But I finished 20 miles.

Yes.

I couldn’t copy the technical trails I will need to run, but at least I could gauge my pace and heart rate and test myself at different intervals. I figured out how much water I’ll be likely to need and how many calories I’ll require to maintain my effort. These details are important for trail runs and ultras, and now I can better envision how my races might play out on those days.

I won’t be fast, but I know I can finish the first race at least, and I am confident I’ll have a good shot at the second. I’ve come a long way since that teary-eyed session at the doctor’s office in December, wondering if I’d be able to run at all. 20 miles was a milestone for me, and while these next races are my focus, I have my autumn goals in my sights as well…

It’s so good to be back.

Snot Rockets, or Be Kind and Look Behind!

Winter runners, you know what I’m talking about – the air is cold, you’re trying to breathe through your nose, and you begin to experience that incessant drip, drip that annoys the crap out of you and everyone else (if there is anyone else) because of the constant SNIFF! SNIFF! you have to do to keep it in. What’s a runner to do?

Personally, I hold out as long as I can, sniffing until I can’t stand any more. I then use my glove or sleeve to wipe my nose if I have to, but sometimes, sometimes I just have to clear it all away. I do have tissues in my pack but they’re for…uh…other reasons. I also am not going to stop to fish them out over and over again.

Snot rockets. They are the only other alternative.

Many athletes, including cyclists and runners, do them. I really don’t like them, however, for a couple reasons: one , they aren’t pretty. I don’t care who does them; two, if done improperly, they can come back to haunt you – if you catch my drift – or worse yet, haunt somebody else.

Unfortunately, I’ve been that “somebody else” too many times!

It’s disgusting.

So, if you have to launch them, consider these pointers before you strike:

  • MOST IMPORTANTLY, make sure NO ONE is around you! Winter running often means windy running, and that mucus can carry. If you gotta blow, don’t do it when someone is next to or even behind you;
  • Point your head down and to the side, away from your body, to avoid hitting yourself;
  • Usually, for me, the need to blow occurs only on one side. To increase trajectory force, I close the opposing nostril by pressing it with a finger, taking a breath, and blowing hard to the side of the trail.

That’s it. Not too difficult. Unless the wind is so strong it’s ripping the snot right out of you before you can even blow. In that case, the snot rocket is futile. Trust me, I’ve tried. Better to just let it go!

If you need more coaching, here are a couple of articles you can use:

https://saltmarshrunning.com/2016/04/05/running-101-mastering-snot-rocket/

http://talk.brooksrunning.com/blog/2016/04/12/running-101-master-the-snot-rocket/ (this one also talks about proper spitting technique)

Sorry, no videos. They were all too gross for me.

Happy running!

Recovery

Sunny day outside, temps are below freezing.

I am taking a break from painting a room in our new home, watching golden leaves fall from the hickory trees in our yard, and watching a few trail and ultra running videos online.

OH MY GOSH, I MISS RUNNING!

A sprained ankle in September kept my running to a minimum for a few weeks, but I had still planned to run a 50 mile race in early October.  Just two days before the event, however, a family member had an emergency and I chose to head back to my home state rather than run. The day after returning home, I sprained the same ankle again. Not running, just walking down the stair and catching my foot on the last step. Turns out the second time was not just a sprain, however; weeks later, still not being able to run, I learned that twist number two had resulted in a fracture.

I have major plans for next year, including (so far) two trail races and one solo 50 miler. I know I need to let this ankle heal well. I need strong, agile ankles to tackle the climbs and the gnarly terrain – the races I signed up for have reputations for being particularly tough. So my routines now are all about rehab and recovery.  Sensible, right?

My brain and body, however, are still wondering what happened with that race I had been working toward. Where’s the reward for the work of the previous half year? What happened to the anticipation of the distance and effort?  WHY AM I NOT RUNNING?!?

This is stage 2 of recovery. The caged animal is pacing, wanting to spring.  The first stage was a a depression of sorts after missing the race and respraining the ankle.  While I go through these stages, I experience frustration, but I also spend time thinking and reaffirming why I run.

I do not run to race. I am not a competitive person.

I run to lose myself in distance.

I run to see how far I can go – mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually.

I run to arrive at the core essence of myself.

I run to be wild.

While I heal, I dream of mountains and streams, roots, dirt, and green things.  While I heal, my heart is longing to be free.

Soon, I will be beneath those trees, flowing with the leaves, to places I have yet to discover.

I Don’t Fit the Box

Running, I am slow. After moving to a new region, I find I am slower still. New surroundings, more road, still adjusting.

I miss my home.

To be sure, there are wonderful things about this move.

I have my family, including two dogs, for whom this move was made. I have neighbors who all seem to be terrific people. I once again have a yard to putter around in. The area around my home is also very pretty.

But.

There is no wild.

My spaces are limited; tamed trails trapped by property and roadways, with nothing to fear except humans, whom I rarely encountered before. Oddly, I fear them more than wild dogs, rock slides, and boar (can you blame me?).

Without the element of wild, there’s a beauty missing.

I don’t feel I belong here. I am trying but I do not yet feel connected.

The same goes for my professional life.

There, in my former home, I was connected. It was hard work: intellectually, emotionally, and sometimes even physically challenging. 

My life’s history had meaning there. People saw it and connected.

Here, people see the history and don’t connect. They can’t fit me into the right boxes.

Overqualified here, title not quite right there. Certified, yes, but not exactly in this state’s way or with that exact stamp.

Interviews happen with comments like “Impressive,” and “Well, you certainly have a lot of experience.” These, I have come to realize, are code for “You don’t fit.”

Perhaps the only box I fit is the one labeled “Other”?

Maybe so. Maybe so.

The loss I feel…

The loss, I feel…

…is theirs.

(as you may have guessed, I’ve moved. Same country, new continent. It has not yet been a month.)

Blessed

photo_2017-04-11_15-47-07The wind is free,
I feel dirt beneath my feet.

The hill is before me to climb,
Promising the reward of descent.

The miles pass below me,
Timeless,
Measured by my steps and breaths.

What is time anyway?

When pace meets breath,
And body becomes the breeze;
Sweat is like the dew grass,
Measuring the balance between body and universe.

I am Nature,
I am Nature herself.

I flow,

I move,

I course,

Through the contours of the land and sea and air;
Within Nature and through her,

Pulsing,

Dancing,

Flowing,

In straight lines and curves,

Rushing,

Crashing,

Babbling,

To points of quiet where my rhythm slows,
And rapid steps decline to almost ceasing,

In places where my banks are silent
And my heart is filled with peace.

photo_2017-04-11_15-44-55

What’s Your Best?

Every track practice, I get nervous. Butterflies, trips to the bathroom and such. I know it’s going to be hard, and I’m scared. We train hard. I push, trying to follow the coach’s instructions and advice to the letter. I worry, what if I can’t do it? I do it anyway.

I have never been on a track team before. Why am I doing it now? I am hardly doing it for competition – I run with kids who are nearly 40 years younger than I. And honestly, I have never been a competitive person.

It hit me today why I am doing this. I have never been one who has wanted to be “the best.” I am, however, one who wants to be “my best.”

I know there is more in me that I cannot seem to pull out on my own. I’m thankful to have a found a group that challenges me. I want to find out what “my best” is. I challenge you to find that too, in running or whatever your passion is.

(I run with a community track team that allows “noncompetitive” members to train with competitive athletes. These athletes just happen to be members of the middle and high school track and other sports teams. I have never run track in my life. Not a problem.)