Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Stories from the run...

Sometimes its hard to find the time to workout. Often for me, a time constraint gets me going much harder than I would otherwise; for example, running my fastest effort of the year for 5k the day after running my longest continuous run. My wife is my best training partner as she will give me time to go out and I'll try to squeeze as much out of that time as possible. I have had some of my best rides and runs ever after being given a time constraint that results in an disgruntled stare if I break in the door late. I wish I could say that I was always back on time, but that would be a gross overstatement. Once, when I was a fit and fast cyclist, I set out on a 50 mile ride which I blasted through and finished in 2.5 hours, solo. I was quite impressed with myself, until I realized that I was a half-hour late... sorry Michelle.

Last night, I had 25 minutes so I took off on what was to be a quick jog. The air was crisp and as I settled into the motion of running I felt a little pep in the legs; it was a good night to run fast. I picked up the pace after half a mile and mentally committed to the effort. The run from the day before began to show its effects as the sub-7 pace started to feel a bit labored, "too late to slow down now though, gotta go under 21:00 for 3 miles." Mile 1 ticked by and my Garmin beeped, revealing mile one to have taken 7:16. Running fast hurt, but it was a good kind of hurt. I passed houses where people sat inside, lights on, in the warmth of a comfy couch, staring at a glowing box, feeling much less alive than I was feeling at the moment.

Entering a dark area of my route, my headlamp lit up just enough to keep me from tripping. Mile two, 6:46, now that was more like it... As I turned the corner to head home, I was no longer running, but soaring from the joy of running fast through the night. My legs were churning around 6:20 pace now and I felt completely alive. "Too peppy" I thought, better keep it realistic. Mile three beeped on my watch, 6:43. With just a couple tenths of a mile left, I began reflecting on the week, it was a week of stress, and of joy. I felt humble to be as blessed as I was. Now I neared the end of the loop, slowing enough to notice a little white car approaching on my side of the road. Its windows were down and I knew what was coming; one teenager hung his head out from the backseat and let out a wimpy attempt at intimidation, "ahhhh!" he yelled. With 41 miles in my legs for the week, adrenaline in my veins, and the built up stress from my week looking for a place to escape, I yelled back with my loudest, most primal, straight-out-of-Braveheart shout, "AAHHHHH!!!!" It was as if the pressure of a week of grading, teaching, and disciplining was released. I smiled as the car continued rolling away and I heard a distinct "holy s---!" come from the car. Poor teenagers... they had no idea how the pure, releasing, joy of motion can breathe life into a tired man.

As I ease into a new week, I am mindful of how much a small moment of freedom in a life of obligations and responsibilities can rejuvenate the mind and body. Happy Presidents day everyone, get out there and feel alive today.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

More than just running... "Eat & Run"

As is usual for me during these cold, dark days and nights of winter in Idaho, I have been reading a couple of my favorite books that inspire me to get out a do what most people don't, brave the elements in the dark morning hours to log miles, rain, snow, ice, or fog not withstanding.  I started out re-reading the classic book for any ultrarunner; Dean Karnazes' "Ultramarathon Man."  This book provides a humorous and insightful look at the development of an ultrarunning cult icon, Dean Karnazes.  If you're a runner and haven't read it, pick it up and enjoy.  I've probably read it 3 or 4 times now.

The second book I picked up this winter was "No Shortcuts to the Top," by Ed Viesturs.  You can't help but be inspired by this guy and his account of tackling the world's 14 highest peaks all without bottled oxygen.  His approach to the inherently dangerous sport of mountaineering is one of calculated risk management and sheer determination.  His book inspires one to finish projects no matter how difficult with careful, determined, diligence.

Finally, I have just finished reading a new book by ultrarunning legend and true star athlete, Scott Jurek.  Jurek is known for a few things in ultrarunning, one of them being a seven-time champion of one of the most prestigious ultras, The Western States 100.  Another unique think Jurek is known for is his diet, which is fairly unique among the world's elite athletes, being a long-term vegan.  He turned vegan after experiencing increased benefits from slowly changing his diet from junk-food junkie to a full-on vegan.  At one point, he even shunned cooking for a while, eating only raw, plant based food.  He gave this up after a bit because it involved too much chewing...  hmmmm, that doesn't sound very appealing.  Jurek's book, "Eat & Run, My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness" was on my list of books to read and I finally got a hold of a copy from the local library that I proceeded to devour in about 4 days.  From an entertainment standpoint, he isn't nearly as humorous as Karnazes, and there is less inspirational hoopla than Viesturs, but there is some excellent knowledge to be gained by this book.  To me, it seemed as if Scott Jurek was writing this as much for self reflection as for the masses.  I can appreciate a book like this, and I'll probably read it again someday.  It does have the unique feature of many running tips and recipes that Jurek shares.  I may come back around to this book if I go further with the little experiment I'm about to try...

It was while reading Jurek's book that I realized the next step in my evolution into an endurance athlete might involve something else besides training more.  I am very busy being a husband, parent, teacher, and athlete, and although I may desire to run and ride much more than I do, I am limited by time and finances.  Its is true that getting faster or running longer requires a phenomenal amount of training, but it is also true that I can likely gain significant benefits from a better diet and rest regimen.  So here it is, my attempt and going it an experiment of sorts.

I haven't been drinking much soda, but its time to cancel it completely.  I also want to give up refined sugary sweets for the most part, excluding special occasions   But the biggest change may come from eating less meat and more variety of veggies and fruits.  I think I'm going to give a shot at stepping down the number of "legs" I'm eating on a regular basis.  Going from things with 4 legs (cows, pigs, etc.) to only things with 2 (chicken, turkey, etc.).  I'm not saying I will never eat beef again, in fact, I have some great taco soup featuring some ground beef waiting for tonight's dinner, but rather; I will be choosing the leaner option when its there and looking to eliminate excess from my diet.  Here's a shot of my first meal under this new commitment: spinach salad with black beans, fresh local sweet corn, raw carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, turkey pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and italian dressing garnished with some sliced oranges.  I can say that it was really, really good!  My two little kiddos really liked it as well, chalk one up for dad today!

On a slightly different note, I'll be posting "Trail of the Week" features again as soon as some weather cooperates and I can get away to some new places.  Thanks for reading and happy trails!