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Thursday, February 27, 2014

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Know how I know you ran cross country?

We ran cross country back in school, and loved (almost) every lung-searing, near-hurling moment of it.  There’s still something about this time of year that brings all the memories back to life. Hill repeats, poison ivy, the smell of pine needles packed along the trailside, and the excitement of spiking-up for the first meet of the season.  If you do - or did - run cross country, you’ll probably have memories (or nightmares) like this.  If you didn’t, here are a dozen reasons cross country runners are such a special breed.  

You’ve run cross country if...

Your ‘how I spent my summer vacation’ essay can be summarized in one word: running.

You know two-a-days aren’t just a football thing.

You have no problem sharing the locker room with the football team. Your xc squad has more championship banners in the gym anyway.

You hate track. Bonus: you run track to stay in shape for xc!

You know exactly where to pass, accelerate, etc., on your home course.  Bonus: you committed your rival’s course to memory.

You have that guy (or gal) on another team you’re always gunning for.  

You’ve thrown an elbow to keep from getting passed in the finishing chute.

You know this week’s meets likely won’t get cancelled - no matter how much it rains.

You see a t-shirt like this on someone else and share that that, "I feel your pain" look.  

You know that sometimes the "fun" really does hurt pretty &%$# bad.

The same uniform you’re sweating out the early season meets in will carry you through til late fall. Just with a pair of gloves.

You’ve brushed mud out of your teeth. 

You know it's a team sport.

Sometimes what happens in the woods stays in the woods.

You know it’s just as important to have your fifth runner finish well as it is your first.

Did we miss any? Pass them along!  Hope you all have a great, safe season!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

You know you're way too into running...

Had a laugh at my own expense the other day.  Not because I’m that terribly amusing, but because I realized just how much of a running geek I actually am.  My wife and I just celebrated 19 years together by exchanging a pretty pricey set of running watches.  You know, the kind that plunk more features on your wrist than were on board the Apollo 11.  And no, that’s not actually a newsflash in itself, but it did make me stop and ponder some of those many lists that I - and likely you, too - have come across over the years.  The ones that start with, “you know you’re a runner if...”  Go ahead. Dock me ten yards for piling on, but I couldn’t resist.

More reasons you know you’re a runner:
  1. You’ve planned a vacation or long weekend around a race. Bonus points if you've sold your family or significant other on the idea. 
  2. You have enough race tees to make one of those quilts.  You just couldn’t make the pile small enough to make one.  
  3. You have have a drawer or cabinet just for your nutrition products. 
  4. Your running shoes are your most expensive shoes. 
  5. Some of the most spendy apparel you own is the stuff you sweat all over.
  6. Sure, you have particular shoes for long runs, trail runs, speed work, race day. But you also the same system for socks.
  7. You might not recognize some of your running pals in street clothes.
  8. Your weekend plans revolve around your training plans or races.
  9. You actually have a favorite flavor of energy gels.
  10. First thing you ask a friend you haven’t seen in a while: “so, what are you training for these days?”

Got more? Send ‘em on!  Who don’t like lists?!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston: A Reason to Run

I didn’t want to run today.  But I had to.  Ramped-up demands from work, kids who need rides, help with homework and the like, and my own lingering knee injury seem to have all conspired to make it easier to say no these days.  Not to mention the yellow plague that is pollen around these parts. I didn’t want to run today, but I felt I had to.  I can’t even remember what I had for lunch, but the stories and pictures I’ve seen from Boston will haunt me for a very long time.  Longer than the scary parts of The Exorcist and The Omen combined. And for the record, I’m still freaked out by those films.  I know that’s cinema, but what happened in Boston is so very real.  Deadlines and phone calls and my other first-world problems suddenly seem so much smaller.  

I didn’t want to run today.  But I needed it.  I needed to be out there; a singular gesture of solidarity in the face of a tragedy that, at this point, we’re all still trying to wrap our brains around.  I needed to hear that sound of my own breathing; the metronomic rhythm of  my footstrike on the pavement.  The music that’s only made when you’re running that swallows up all the other sounds that demand your attention.  But not today.  It was the sound of fire trucks.  Largely ignored, living this close to uptown.  No, not today.  Although I know this one’s not for me, I can only imagine what it must have sounded like on Boylston Street. Urgently growing louder by the second as they all converged on the finish line; eventually drowning out the sound of the human chaos.  I’m sick at the very idea of it.  

I didn’t want to run today.  But I can.  The sports reporter from the Boston Globe said his hometown and the Boston Marathon will never be the same. Patriots Day has devolved from a day of celebration, he said, to one that will be forever marked in our minds and the record books with an asterisk.  Triumph, perseverance, underdogs and Cinderellas.  These are the story of sport.  The history of the marathon itself is a rooted in the legend of the Greeks’ victory over the Persians.  Every race has its story, and every runners’ telling of it is unique.  Every footstep, every mile is but punctuation on the pages of the larger tome that is the journey to race day.  This is not the way it’s supposed to end.  Not at the will of some cowardly act, but the sweat and grit and determination of the athlete.

I didn’t want to run today.  But I did.  I wasn’t trying to run away.  Neither were Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, or any of the other victims.  Like so many at the finish line, they were celebrating their own personal victories, or those of family and friends.  And as runners, we all watched.  And as caring, human persons we still watch, waiting for some part of this to make sense. This same gift of running that has taught us how to persevere and overcome and endure will help us do just that.  The miles and the distance we roll up won’t separate us from what happened, but will hopefully make us appreciate each one that much more.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Blue Ridge Relay 2012 and my newly realized nut allergy

Being crammed into a van full of hot, stinky people, snaking along twisty mountain roads sounds more like something from a third world commute to a sweatshop making Nike apparel than something you’d actually pay money to do.  But I did, and so did 140-something other teams in this year’s Blue Ridge Relay.  I’ve done the BRR several times on 10- and 12-person teams over the years; some have been BYO-everything, others in such high style I’m too embarrassed to go into detail (but I loved it!), most were somewhere in between.  This, however, was my first 6-person team.  That’s 210 miles divided into 36 legs to be shared by 6 runners, at roughly 35 miles each.  Sounded pretty good on paper – and it was.  I’ve never had to do much in the way of planning for these events, having always gotten lucky enough to be asked to jump in on a team.  Since I generally have enough fitness on board to make it easy to say yes, I was happy to get in here but unsure what to expect going all “ultra style” at the BRR.  Even though I’m still wearing compression socks to recover from the most recent effort, you knew I couldn’t come away without something to say about how to do it next time. 

·         DO NOT underestimate the accumulated fatigue and how those will affect your runs later in the relay.  This is the area where I believe having some legit ultra experience really is a plus.  No offense, Ironpeeps, but being able to meter out effort with the understanding that you’ll need something in the tank say, 24 hours later, is something more likely in the ultra folks’ lexicon versus that of the triathlete.  I'm not judging, I'm just sayin'.

·         You really can’t cram for downhills.  On a 10 or 12 person team, you might get a shot at a serving of downhill.  On a 6 person team, you’re getting waaaaay more than the USRDA of hills.  You can chug up a hill any way that works for you, but it’s those downhill runs that’ll get you hurting sooner rather than later.  If there’s any way for you to practice those in advance and get more comfortable with “flowing” and letting gravity do the work, the better off you’ll be.  Again, that damned accumulated fatigue. 

·         And about those uphills.  Ain’t no shame in walking here.  Unless you're a total machine, you'll probably make better time power walking the really steep hills and save some energy for the remainder of the run.  A skill worth practicing if you’re new to the idea, or just a non-believer. 

·         Underestimate your team’s goal pace.  At least from my perspective on this solitary experience, I think our team’s goal pace, and thus estimated finish time, was way out of whack.  Granted, I realize there was probably less math involved in getting Apollo 13 back to earth than in trying to calculate when we would finish, but my best guess based again on this one experience might be to take everyone’s marathon pace, add a minute to that and come up with an average.  Based on our team’s just-under 33 hour finish, that’s about a 9:25 pace/4:05 26.2 finish.  I’ll bet that math works out.  In fact, I’m so convinced that’s a pretty good best guess, I’m going to copyright it.  Now, where will I spend that Pulitzer Prize money?

·         You don’t need as much sleep – or caffeine – as you think.  Betsy and I traded time at the wheel and in the navigator’s seat and managed to sneak in a couple of naps during some of the longer legs in the overnight and early morning hours.  Being aware of the space, time and distance between the current and upcoming routes makes planning for these critical, albeit short, periods time to sleep.  The spans between runs didn’t seem as long as I had expected.  Getting folks in and out of the van, changing clothes, getting fed and watered, then moving on to the next exchange absorbed a bit of that time.  In the overnight and early morning hours, we hustled up even more so in order to get a few critical winks of sleep to get us through until the daylight hours. We had some Cokes and canned Starbucks on board, but there was plenty left at the end of the ride. 

·         Have a plan “b” and maybe even “c”.  The “Varsity” van, as it was called, was faced with a “WTF are we gonna do now?” situation when one of their team members got sick.  Well, at least she didn’t puke all up in the van.  (Hey, neither did I!)  They finally figured it out how to handle it without leaving her on the curb and made the best of the situation.  This was probably more difficult to do in the heat of the moment and someone holding her hair out.  Might be good to consider other “what if’s” as a team and discuss some options.  Barf bags being one of those options.  Probably good fodder for the drive up to the start.  

·         Decide early how – or if – you’d like to compete.  Having two 6-person teams made this a lot of fun.  Until one of the Varsity runners went out, it seemed like these two vans were going to be pretty well balanced and would have a good time trash talking and such and “racing” each other from EZ to EZ.  Not that the experience itself isn’t a good one, but it’s helpful if everyone on board has the same attitude and expectations going into it.  Personally, I’m not going to bust a gizzard trying to PR my portion if the guy – or gal – running the route after me is going to make a stop at the Mennonite bake sale they pass along their route.  Unless they bring something back for me, too.  They do make some nice baked goods…

A couple of other notes:

·         DO NOT drape your nasty, sweat-soaked, testicle-hugging running shorts over the open bin that contains your team’s entire food supply.  This opens up the definition of “nut allergies” to include just about everyone.  At least in our van.

·         If you’re going to add a tally of “kills” on the side of your van, you’d better damned well have more than 6.  That’s just sad.

·         DO NOT pack all your crap in crinkly, mylar bags.  You may not think it’s that loud, but listening to that crap crinkling at 3AM while trying to take a 12 minute nap would likely be justifiable homicide in front of the right jury.

·         If you get carsick AT ALL negotiate a deal with your team members in advance to sit in the front seat or drive.  The longest stretch of straight road along the entire 210 miles is likely only about 100 feet long. 

·         Ivan Konermann takes some great pictures. If that brother can make ME look good, you know he’s got a gift.  Or just some really badass editing software.