Category Archives: Running is Cheaper than Therapy, Save for the Shoes

50 Miles to Anywhere

I live in a small town now. Small enough that there are not a plethora of bookstores, and the majority of stores generally close by 7pm. It’s definitely odd. I run with wild turkeys and a vague threat of mountain lions, and I had quail move into my attic for a weekend. Did I mention odd? Within those quirks and myriad others, the cross-country move has proven to be as wonderful Running_Beachas I imagined–and in many cases, far more so:

I took this picture halfway through a 12 mile run that began at my house. As midway points go, even ones that require a climb over a dune, this does not suck. Neither do the views on a 10 miler from Asilomar to Bird Rock (off 17 Mile Drive). Nor from Del Monte Ave. to Point Pinos. Or parts of the wild in Fort Ord (did I mention the mountain lion)? And so forth.  Perhaps moreover, all of these runs can be accomplished during the afternoon. In August. Such was never possible in GA, where summer long runs demanded a very, very early start to beat the heat (though not the humidity, which is often highest right around sunrise). I got to watch the sun rise this morning as I ran toward home. Right up over part of the (I think) Gablian range. Just beautiful (and an unusual sight, since sunrise usually happens while the marine fog is still hanging around).

And so I run. With glee. (note: not Glee). I have miles and miles of coast and trails that I’ve not yet run.

I turned 39 earlier this month, and while I’ve never been a roadie (unless one counts extinguishing fires from cheap-ass candles before Duff’s Cleveland show), I feel like I’m doing pretty well on the so far, but I also feel the need to do *something* remarkable before or around my birthday next year. Because.

I started CrossFit (shut up) last month, more or less on a lark, but that doesn’t feel like “it” (what with having zero desire to do heavy lifting), though it seems to be good for my running strength thus far. And it turns out that I may have somewhat less range of motion in my right elbow than I thought. Doesn’t quite bend far enough to do some of the weightlifting.  This is not really a huge surprise, but it does make for some humerus (*ahem*) moments.

For this “remarkable,” I have to reach into the “things I’ve never imagined I’d do” list, so I’m glad to have some time to ponder/scheme/etc. I probably should cross-reference with the “things neanc has already forbidden” list.

In the meantime, I’m training up for a half marathon (hence the double-digit routes above). I’ll start training for a marathon immediately thereafter. Dammit, I am on the West Coast, I will run/hobble the Surf City Marathon in 2015. Whatever it takes to finish that race (hell, to start that race–injuries immediately before the last several made for too many cancelled trips).

Seriously, I will crawl if needed (which would have the benefit of meeting the “imagined I’d never do” criterion, this crawling a marathon. Perhaps in a tutu? Duck costume?). Granted, the course time limit could create a problem with this solution.  Oh, and the traffic on PCH.

Suggestions are welcome.


Running Lessons

I had intended for this post to be something radically other than what it is, which is as much testament to my unwillingness to just let things be as anything else.  I thought I’d be announcing the successful completion of a marathon.

It’s 10:56 am on Sunday, March 20.  I should be 4 hours into a marathon right now–and heading toward the end.  Since I am not so talented as to be typing while running, clearly one of three things has occurred:  I finished WAY faster than any one of us could imagine me having done, I started and did not finish (or, rather, finished unexpectedly early), or I didn’t start.

Good job if you picked door three for the reality of the situation on this lovely morning.  I withdrew from the race on Saturday morning, when we got the phone call that G’s mom went into hospice care.  I couldn’t risk being unavailable mentally, physically, etc. when the next call comes–and let us agree that marathons tend to take the wind out of the sails for a while.  So, we wait. No call yet, but I’m sure we’ll be making the drive this week.  I covet your thoughts and prayers on behalf of G and his family.  While this is not a surprise by any means, it has the qualities of feeling so very sudden.

I’m disappointed, of course, even as much as I know that it was the right thing to do.   For today, I’m practicing just being with my disappointment but not focusing on it.  My attention is for G, who, you might imagine, is in far worse shape than mere disappointment.  My legs and running brain, on the other hand, are just confused–trying to figure out why I am being so nice to them today.

I joked with G yesterday that HP* was trying to tell me to knock the marathon crap off, as this makes the third I’ve had to pull out of**–and only one of those three (the second time) was directly because of injury–and it wasn’t completely running related.  But, when I reflect more carefully, I tend to get marathon-crazy–obsessed with them in ways that I don’t obsess over shorter races (even half marys) to the point of planning to run while injured in the case of the first cancellation.  I finally withdrew because of unrelated-to-running factors, but I really shouldn’t have been considering the race at all since my foot was in far worse shape than I was then willing to admit.  The second race went to the dogs, or, rather, a dog–specifically the pit bull that decided to use the beagle and I as chew toys.  Three factors conspired: the rabies vaccinations wiped me out for a month, I was (and still am) nervous about running in the dark because of the attack, and my drinking was getting worse.  Did I acknowledge the last of these at the time–no, not really, and I wonder if maybe HP didn’t put a dog in my way to force me to stand down and quit trying to avoid the obvious (it was in my head at the time that if I could train for and run a marathon and drink then I didn’t really have a problem.  Laughter is perfectly acceptable).  And now this.  I detoxed twice during the training for this marathon, so I can’t really say my training was…optimal.  Unlike the Seattle mary, I was not 100% sure I could finish this time (though, some of that was the staying-in-my-own-headspace problem–letting the descriptions of the course get to me).  But, I was prepared and excited.

I’m not so deluded as to believe that the events of the weekend are about me, and I was mostly joking about HP (mostly), but, hey, even I can take a Mack-truck-size hint.  I am probably guilty of storytelling at this point–that is, constructing a story to make sense of a reality I simply need to shut up and exist in–but, delusions and humor aside, again being forced to stop trying to be in control and to overdo it, which is absolutely a hallmark of my addict-brain, makes me think there is something I need to pay heed to.  That marathon training, having three times now been associated with some kind of attempt to get and/or stay sober (and, in the fourth case, prove sobriety was unnecessary), may not be so good for me at present.  I use it in delusional and unhealthy ways–rather than running for the sake of running, I involve myself in an intense training that allows me to shut out other duties and reality itself (or, rather, to pretend that I can do that).  So, perhaps no more marathon training for a while; let my head get healthy with the steps of the program instead of my body getting healthy with the steps of the training (not that I’ll stop running.  That would be stupid).  I seem to be able to get to and complete half-marys and shorter, so I may stick to them.  They are certainly more humane for all involved.

*Er, Higher Power, not Harry Potter, for those unfamiliar with my silly abbreviations.

**I did go to Atlanta, wander the expo, and pick up my shirt, though.  Damn thing is YELLOW, which should make me immensely visible as I take a jog this afternoon.  Seriously, I feel like an Easter egg in this thing.

Well, That Went Well

So, scratch the Nanowrimo (again) this year.  I lost my focus rather quickly.  Interesting enough idea, but…meh.  Re-reading Harry Potter seemed far more pressing.  And reading this fanfic gem community, which I share only because I love you.  Be warned, however, ’tis not for the faint of heart.  Or humor, for that matter.

Did begin training for the Georgia Marathon, and I am pleased with the progress in week one (read: off couch and onto the treadmill).  Normally, I eschew the treadmill thing–it feels dreadfully boring, but in light of my recent dog trauma, I’m not totally comfortable with running in the neighborhood at 5am right now.

I did do one neighborhood run this week.  And, was accosted by a dog.  Now, the Min Pin in question, spiked collar or no, offered little in the way of actual threat (unlike the Dog of the Month in October), but I was disheartened by how much it threw me to be approached and threatened (in all its Napoleon Complex bravado) by an unfamiliar dog.  The meeting didn’t last particularly long, and no skin was lost by canine or human, but two pieces of the incident really bugged the crap out of me: my reaction (fear) and the fact that the dog was loose to begin with.   Being loose–from either a fenced area or a leash– presents a danger to the dog, which drivers would have a hell of a time seeing (and we’ve a large number of folks who leave for work between 5 & 6 around here), and the hapless runners and walkers who have the temerity to pass by.

Speaking of which:  Would the dog owners who have their electric fence sans signage along the roadway please take a moment to consider that while Fluffy is a dear to you, the apparently unbound truck-sized tooth machine charging the runner is, well, not especially dear and/or friendly looking.  Try it sometime.

Anyhoo, to deal with the treadmill crazies, I put together a playlist of several of my current musical earworms.  I hit shuffle and let the boys and girls (L7 does make a notable appearance) distract me from my efforts.  Much more so than the omnipresent Faux News in the gym.

So, scorecard:  one failed novel, one re-read novel (yay!), and one week into the 20 weeks of training.

Half Crazy

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.  Half doesn’t even begin to describe me properly.

Saturday a week ago (the 24th), I ran in the first annual Athens Half Marathon, in lovely Athens, GA.  We started before dawn, which was exceptional and awesome, and took a winding, hilly course through the western part of the city.  While there were some bugs in the works (the gel station was about a mile from where it was supposed to be, for instance), it was an excellent, well-managed race and a fantastic course.

That I PR’d doesn’t hurt my opinion, mind you.  I was about a minute or so faster than in VB, on a much hillier course (I do think hills help me far more than hurt me, in the main).

As with the VB Half in September, I ran this half barefoot, though I’ve upgraded my Vibrams from the Sprints to the new Bikilas, which offer more padding and traction.  I’ve had more trouble getting used to this pair than I did with the Sprints, largely because of some seams that sit right under my arch.  I don’t think this is a defect to the shoe–merely the reality of my very high arches, and I suspect that some moleskin properly applied will take care of the matter once and for all.  I’d noticed the rubbing in earlier runs, but, as one might expect, the situation was much more apparent during the race.  And, yes, those are my feet, somewhere around the 5th mile.

Due to an unfortunate encounter with a Pit Bull, I had to drop out of the Battlefield Marathon that I had been training for.  Both Doggo and I were attacked (the Pitty was after George, of course.  I was collateral damage) on October 1, and both of us are recovering nicely.  Doggo got a bit of a facelift out of the deal (slim, trim neck these days), and he’s back to his normal, ineffably lazy self.   Because the owners did not surrender the dog and this area has a high incidence of rabies, I had the enormous pleasure of going through the rabies vaccination series this month.  Wicked stuff, kids.  Thoroughly wiped me out.  But, those, too, are over.  Yay!

Funny things that occurred surrounding this decidedly unfunny event:

1) When I arrived at the Human ER (after taking dog to the Pet ER), covered from stem to stern in blood (seriously, I had dog blood in. my. hair.   Ew.), cradling my arm, I was asked if I needed help.  While I realize this is a normal greeting, it struck me hysterical at the time.  In fact, I think I laughed and am probably fortunate that I did not wind up in the mental ward several floors up.

2) I initially declined pain medication, because the doc was going to send me home with a narcotic (Oxycodone, to be specific), and that seemed overkill, in addition to my standing policy of avoiding opiates due to my, er, fascination with them.  When I said no, Doc looks me over and remarks “I think you are in more pain than you think you are.”  While I’m still not sure what the hell he was getting at about me at that moment, I eventually left with said prescription.  Even took two of the pills and remembered WHY I don’t take opiates.  I was loopy as hell.

3) The process by which one gets a post-exposure rabies vaccination is a bit odd, and begins with a trip back to the ER (which, as it turned out, is the only place that does the initial part of the series).  Simple, right?  Well, no, it took Environmental Health, my PCP, two ER nurses, and a patient rep to figure that out.  Let me tell you how confident in systems I was feeling.  Yahoo.

4) Vet techs singing “Georgie Porgie, Puddin’ and Pie” to the dog.  The dog enjoyed every second of it.  I will say, though, that I am so very grateful to his vets and the techs who took such good care of him.  Firehall 4 rocks.

So, no marathon this month, but I’m going to reboot training in order to run the Georgia Marathon in March.  Should be an adventure!




Barefoot Running Zen

I raced my second race barefoot last weekend, at the always fantastic Virginia Beach Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon.  The course is, as advertised, flat and fast–I was thrilled to finish 5 minutes faster than last year!

Going Barefoot

My Vibrams were simply fabulous on the course.  Despite the lingering effects of the bout of plantar fasciitis that ended my hopes of running in 2010’s Surf City Marathon, I experienced virtually no foot pain after the VB half–nor after the 5K I ran in them in May.  I was recovered–at least in terms of the “OMG my quads are stiff!” post-run turmoil–fairly quickly, too.  I credit the shoes–which I had a chance to brag about repeatedly during the race (so many people asked about them).  I really believe I wouldn’t be back to long distance runs had I not switched to Vibrams.  So, if I haven’t testified to the fabulousness that are Vibram Five Fingers enough, allow me to do so here.  The experience was just fabulous.  Even more fun?  I walked right into the ocean–shoes and all–after the race.

Way better than an ice soak!

During the last LSD run (ahem, that’s Long Slow Distance, you heathens) before the half, I ran in the Vibrams.  The weather was terrible–heavy, heavy rains.  I was particularly pleased that I could run in the rain in the Vibrams without slipping (I’d been a touch concerned about that) and–better–without having to worry about the dreaded soaked sock.

My training for this half–as well as for the one next month and the marathon in November, had not been going particularly well.   I’ve missed more midweek runs, largely owing to exhaustion, than I should, and the LSD running has been both slow (I know, I know, it’s supposed to be) and difficult, so the ease and speed (for me) of the VB half was uplifting.  I’ve found that I need to remind myself that I am no longer running FOR something–other than running.  In other words, running for the sake of running, rather than sobriety, weight loss, or whatever.  I realized that without running just for the hell of it, I was likely to give up running when I succeeded in whatever I was using running for.

Bad idea.  Running is a goooood thing.

Of Silly Hats, Barefoot Running, and Marathon Training

Morning (evening, night, whatever), all.  Nice to see you again.

It’s been a while.  We’ll blame it on the year.  2010, I give.  Uncle.  Seriously, my version of 2010 has erupted in shades best referred to (quietly and in secret corners) as nightmarish.  And we aren’t even half done yet.  I’ve no doubt at this point that I’ve not yet seen all of what 2010 has to offer, though I suppose if I were to posit an upside, I have had repeated opportunities (weekly, daily, hourly, be damned, we’re at nano-secondly) to practice arts from Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times and
Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion.

My humblest, deepest thanks and apologies to rhyte, who suggested the last–terribly timely, I have to admit–, and to whom I have been a terrible friend of late.  She’s an awesome and amazing person.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

2010 has offered one lesson time and again: stop planning.  Relevant to me because I covet control–as much control as I can muster.  Problem here, of course?  I cannot muster control over the world and it’s denizens, no matter how much I’d like to.  I can control me and my responses (to a degree–I can, at least, respect and understand my own responses).  So, I enter into the next phase of this post with not just a little trepidation–having already had one of these kicked firmly to the curb this year.

See, 2010 needs to back the hell off.  To encourage it to do so, I began training for a marathon yesterday.  I am running the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon in 26 weeks, which involves, some, you know, planning.  Consequently, I’m also trying to adjust my thinking about the process–rather than planning to run or even committing to run, I am working to create a calmer and healthier life (and, yes, I recognize the magical thinking I’m engaging in–“if I don’t think plan, 2010 won’t bite me in the ass!”.  Laughter is allowed, but do be kind. )

And, since why stand up to 2010 with mere half-measures, I’m also running the VB Rock-N-Roll half marathon (awesome finishers medal) and a brand-new local half-marathon in September and October (Mad–are you coming to VB???).  In the latter, I am hoping I’ll be running with scads of my supremely awesome colleagues.  Perhaps a few group training runs will be in order.

And this weekend?  Warrior Dash.  It was the hat, man.  I couldn’t resist.

So, here begins the new chronicles of marathon training.  I began yesterday with a lovely very short morning run.  I’ve been running on and off for the spring–placed 2nd in my age group in a profoundly sopping wet trail 5K a few weeks ago (yes, there were only 3 in the age group.  Shove it.  I’ll take what I can get.) Did an 8 mile trail run several weeks ago, and have continued barefoot running as well.  Minimal foot pain yesterday from the ongoing plantar fasciitis debacle (now appearing in the left arch).

I noted some forevers ago that I had purchased a pair of Vibram Five-Fingers.  BEST. PURCHASE. EVER.  Somewhat counter-intuitively (to me at least), these shoes help stop the foot pain when I wear them (would that I could wear them daily).  OMG.  I can’t wait to put them on tonight to walk the pooch.

Today was a cross-training day–I hit the gym at 5:15 am (huzzah!) and did weights and the elliptical machine.  Tomorrow is another short run and Wednesday will find me swimming about, scaring the innocents, no doubt.

So, here we are–undoubtedly as the runs get longer, the situations will get sillier–particularly since so many will be in the summer.  In Georgia.  I’m still here, alive, breathing, and reading.  I hope you’ll join me on this odyssey and that you’ll share your own.  You know, to give me something to ponder around mile 18.

It’s the polite thing to do, after all.

Embracing my Inner Hippie: Vegetarian Eating and Barefoot Running

I’ve a couple of Lenten posts in the mill for this week–sorting through what I’ve been reading, but I thought I should take a gander at the other parts of my Lenten discipline: no meat, no book purchases.  My dear sweet son, TG, has taken all of this Lenten discipline and the changes in running as a sign that I am every bit the hippie he accuses me of being.  While I’m not sure exactly how hippie came to be an insult (kids these days, honestly), if this is neo-hippie, I’m good with that (dude, I so love the Urban Dictionary.  Neo-hippie indeed).

For the most part, 18 days without meat has been pretty simple (but for an odd craving for bacon or two).  Mmmmm….bacon.  I’m most pleased with the ways in which I have been forced to reconsidering cooking; prior to Ash Wednesday, I had 20 or 30 meat-centered dishes that I cycled through without much in the way of thought about the cooking process or, quite frankly, the enjoyment or lack thereof at the table.  Cooking vegetarian (and occasionally vegan) dishes for myself has reignited my interest in cooking–as well as in eating.  I find myself experimenting with flavors and playing with recipes, even the meat-based ones I am prepping for the rest of the family.

Today’s adventure will be making pomegranate molasses, in preparation for making Pomegranate BBQ Tofu from Vegan with a Vengeance (a cookbook that is taking on an increasingly significant role in my home).  Aside from the FABULOUS suggestion for oven roasting Brussel sprouts with garlic–I got my husband and son (TG), both of them avowed anti-Brusselists–to eat them and enjoy them, what I really enjoy about this cookbook is the fairly simple preps (a must, since both G and I work) and the focus on keeping costs low, something a great many of the cookbooks on my shelf lose sight of.

The  joy of cooking and eating is an amazing gift that I’ve lost sight of over the years.  I am so pleased to have stumbled upon it again.

18 days (truth be told, I’d not bought any books for a week prior to Ash Wednesday and no new books for at least 14 days prior, so my fast is a bit longer) without book purchasing.  *Sigh*  This has been far harder.  I went into the den of iniquity bookstore yesterday to get tea (now that sounds silly, however true it may be); I opted not even to browse, knowing dang well I’d find something I wanted.  I’m thinking I should work the steps with books in mind:

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over books–that our lives had become unmanageable.

Um, yes.  I’m looking around at the state of my poor bookshelves and floors, and, well, unmanageable does seem to be an apt description of the situation. I do need a far better handle on my book buying, though I can’t imagine abandoning it entirely–too many gems to be found.  Perhaps, though, I can be more judicious in my choices when I buy in the future.

18 days.  *sigh* It’s been (insert whiny voice) haaaaaarrrrrdddd.

So I’ve been buying shoes instead.

Well, I’ve been buying shoes because I needed new running shoes, and I’ve decided to play a bit more with my running, since I can do that pretty effectively while doing 5K and 10K races–marathon training, not so much, though I hope to be able to be more playful during that training this year as well.  Anyway, a friend and colleague has been barefoot running for a few months, and in conversations with him, I have gotten quite intrigued.  My interest in such had first pinged over winter break, when G gave me Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superatheletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.  McDougall writes at length about barefoot running, why we run, etc. See page 172 and his “Painful Truth Number 2: Feet like a good beating.”

For a bit of context, inasmuch as my mother now curses that I was born in CA (she blames my birthplace for all of my “crazy liberal notions”), what really provided me with the foundation for my crazy liberal notions (note:  I prefer progressive and some day we’ll need to chat about why owning a home is not always the most fiscally advantageous choice–unless one can protect large tracts of land in the process…sorry, silly digression) was my early rearing by that same mother, she of the fresh baked breads and barefoot running child, since that was what my pediatrician recommended (no, her notions were not exactly out of the realm of normal, merely engaging in her favorite sport of exaggeration here).    Anyway, I grew up without shoes–until I injured my foot recently, I generally shed my shoes as soon as I walked in the door at home.  I was notorious in grad school for shedding my shoes at work, too.

My calluses are forces to be reckoned with, I tell you.

So, given my love of a barefeet life and the studies suggesting that barefoot running can strengthen feet (something my poor feet need these days–they’ve lost the elegant strength of my teenage toe ballet and tap years), I thought that barefoot running sounded pretty groovy.  But, I also thought that barefoot running on asphalt for long periods might accidentally present a problem, so I gave into suggestion from my colleague and bought these as my new runners:

Going Barefoot

For the uninitiated, these fine fellows are Vibram Five Fingers Sprints.  I luuurve them, especially being able to feel my toes.  My stride in these shoes is quit different than in the Nike Vomeros and the Asics I’ve been wearing for some years.  I can’t quite describe it yet–TG says that from his observations, I’m hitting the ground more heavily (which was surprising, since my feet certainly don’t feel that way), so I’ll have to pay more heed to that in future runs.  I did discover in my first time out in these that making sure that my toenails are of proper length is essential, as my big toenail on the right foot was bloody after running, presumably because it was getting caught (though, again, I didn’t notice until after the fact, so it apparently wasn’t particularly painful).  The upside of that discovery was that I also discovered how easily these suckers clean up.  Rinsed them out, and, *poof*, no blood.

I’m also working on trail running, and my Nike’s were okay so long as there wasn’t much in the way of loose rock, etc.  Fairly good traction, but not much protection from the rocks and other sundry hard stuff.  Moreover, since we are preparing for a couple of big ole hikes this summer at Glacier National Park and Mount Rainier (and I hope to do some trail running in both places, too), I needed some better trail shoes.  Thus, a pair of Montrail Mountain Masochists came home recently (love that name).  I haven’t taken them out for any really good trails yet (that would be today), but I’ll report in on them once I do.  I will say that they are remarkably comfortable thus far, though.

So, that’s were we (me and my inner hippie) are for now.  Peace, all!