Monthly Archives: May 2010

Food / Fuel

It’s weird to post about what I eat pre- and post-workout as I haven’t actually run a full on stressor since just before my “injury” put me down, but I’m under sponsorship obligation to do so regardless. Ok, not really, but since the question was asked, I don’t mind answering. Not to mention, my diet isn’t that drastically different when I’m not putting in the preferred mileage compared to when I am, save a few depression induced root beers, homemade cookies and pints of soy ice cream episodes. Anyways, specifically I was asked about early morning pre-workout foods, because there is that issue of wake-up hunger, but also that disaster of feeling overly full during a difficult workout such as a long run or intervals.

My running schedule, personally, has changed since I got a job that requires early morning hours and therefore I don’t get to run in the morning but 2 days a week, even though that is my preferred time to run. I like feeling light before a run and knowing that I don’t have a lot of food digesting while my innards get jostled around a bit. I just run better when it’s the first thing on my daily agenda. Regardless, I do get to run early a couple days a week and despite the difference in the run, either a long run consisting of 20 miles, sometimes with a dose of speed thrown in, or just an easy 10 to 12 recovery run, my eating habit is pretty much the same, which is to say…not much.

The body does a good job of digesting the previous days contents overnight, so my main concern has always been about getting rid of the excess. For me, 1 cup of coffee usually does the trick. 1 and a half if I have a little trouble. I know drinking a hot cup of coffee before a run sounds like a turn-off for some people, but any hot liquid usually gets things going. Also, there have been a number of studies that have shown increased performance when an athlete drinks a cup of coffee within an hour before a run. Plus, when you are getting out the door early, a cup of coffee isn’t going to be heavy enough to be noticeable during the run…it’s just hydration is all, which is, of course, not a bad idea. Just make sure you visit the boys/girls room before you head out….trust me.

Depending on the type of workout I don’t just go out with a cup of coffee, unless it is just a simple easy run. If it’s a long run or something with both distance and speed I always put something in my system, not because I feel I need it right then, but because 90 minutes into the run that hunger feeling will hit and then the workout starts to go downhill. In order to avoid that I always fuel up with a good mix of primarily carbs and a touch of protein to get that satiated feeling. This, for me, means either 1/2 an english muffin (or bagel) with peanut butter (sometimes with margarine too…don’t knock it, it’s tasty!) or a full english muffin with peanut butter. That early in the morning, it just doesn’t give that overly full feeling, but will help sustain you later in the run. The carbs are the initially firing energy and the protein is for muscle strength and that “full enough” feeling. Also, I’m of the school of thought that you shouldn’t necessarily carbo-load just before a run. Carb intake is important for an athlete on a consistent basis, but “loading” I save for races. I do this because when you train on a diet of normal nutritional intake, you essentially train the body to run on the energy stored and then to burn body fat. If you carbo-load consistently, your body only responds to the carb energy and burns that through and through, leaving the body’s excess and fat to remain intact. If you leave the tank less than full the body will burn through the carbs and then begin burning the body’s fat and utilize that as an energy source, which has both endurance benefits as well as weight-loss benefits. What you DON’T want, however, is the body to burn through carb energy, then fat energy and finally have to rely on muscle. When you get to that point, you’ve burned off all the healthy energy and started destroying your muscular systems, which drop your immediate performance goals and force you to rely on extended recovery times while your muscles build themselves back up, cutting into crucial training time. The goal is to burn energy and burn fat, but not expend so much that you’ve burned into muscle…just ask most marathoners how that feels.

I know it’s difficult to head out into a run or workout when you feel depleted and weak, but I’ve actually found that such a feeling in the stomach tends to be more of a false hunger than an actual deficiency. Look at it as your body following an expected routine and just giving you the high-sign that the routine has begun, but know that you can skip that part of the routine or stave it until later. I’ve actually found that once you actually start running, depending on the type of workout, the hunger that was nagging at you since you woke disappears as soon as you start turning over your legs. Whatever hunger I feel prior to a run is quickly forgotten as soon as I start running. Sometimes, when I’m finished with work, I’m completely famished and feel like I can barely ride my bike the 9 blocks home and I’m still facing a 10 mile run and my instinctual urge is to eat as soon as I walk in the door, but I know that will have unpleasant consequences during the run. Cramps, heaviness, bloating, etc. However, even with the feeling, as soon as I start in on the run it goes away and I’m running on stored food energy from earlier in the day and any body fat that might be needed. Of course, when I get home I’m all ready for a solid dinner, but it wasn’t like I was stumbling over myself with fatigue while out on the run. You just have to trust the body to perform when the time comes, and the meal can come later.

Ultimately, my advice, when it comes to eating before a workout is to go light. Make sure you’ve eaten properly the night before or in the morning if your workout is later in the afternoon/evening and the energy you need for the run will be there. It may not feel like it at first, but it will be there once you start in. Your muscles might be fatigued from earlier workouts in the week, but no amount of eating is going to fix that.

Then there is eating after the run. During the workout you’ve used up carb energy and stressed your muscle fibers to the point that you’ve created microscopic tears in your muscles. It sounds bad, but that’s the process of growing. It’s like when The Hulk gets huge and rips his shirts at the seams, but if you were to then come and sew more fabric into the ripped portions, he could wear it again. Then if he grows again and rips the crap out of it, you sew more fabric back in. That’s what happens to your muscles during exercise. You tear the fibers and the protein you take back into your body through foods generates the cell growth that fill in those tears, effectively making your muscles bigger. If you aren’t getting enough protein (which is difficult to do..not get it that is) then you have nothing to fill those muscle tears with and the muscle doesn’t repair or get bigger. You just sit around in pain for awhile. So, after a run you have two concerns, replenishing the carbohydrates you burned during the run and rebuilding muscle fiber tears with protein. It has been shown that the body is most responsive and most absorbent of these nutrients within a 1/2 hour window of exercise, so it’s incredibly important to ALWAYS take in something just after a run. The recommended ratio is a 4 to 1 carb to protein intake, but don’t stress over the math of it all and don’t limit yourself to concentrating solely on carbs and proteins…there are many other nutrients that help recovery and growth as well (potassium, calcium, etc.).

With this in mind, after a run, after I’ve cooled down for a bit and performed some light stretching I go straight to the fridge for liquid replenishment and nutrient replenishment. If I’m lucky Michelle has made me an awesome smoothie with fruit, soy milk, peanut butter, and flax meal or almond meal or something of the like. Sometimes she’ll add a hemp protein powder or something into it, but not consistently (that stuffs expensive). I just make sure to have some peanut butter with whatever I eat afterwards, whether that’s a smoothie, a banana, or what have you. If I have a Clif Bar around I’ll eat one of those as well since they contain a solid 4 to 1 ratio, but usually I need something more substantial. Smoothies really are great as they digest quickly, are easy to get down and nutrient dense. If you don’t have the patience for a smoothie, then a sports drink of some kind (only AFTER a run) and a banana with some peanut butter is pretty sufficient until you get a solid meal in later.

So in a nutshell (I prefer pistachio thank you) I suggest eating light (if at all) before a run, despite the hunger in your belly (run it away!) and post-run eat a substantial snack with appropriate nutrient ratios to replenish your system before eating a solid meal, whether that is breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Oh, and always make it vegan, for ethical reasons if not nutritional.

I hope this helps.

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Quick status update

I’m still plugging away at my strength exercises and doing a back and forth rotation of cycle training or cycle training and running on grassy terrain. The leg is feeling stronger and doing better, but I still have a ways to go as I feel it swell after my runs. Fortunately it’s not to the point that it keeps me from running, but I still have to take it slow as I build the leg up. I hope this is progress, but it’s still too early to tell. At least I’m getting out there and releasing that emotional pressure. I hope for continued positive reports for you (and me!).

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Why (run) Vegan

There seems to be a new trend I’ve noticed with “veganism” or vegan culture, and that is promoting veganism from a perspective based entirely on health and athleticism and nothing else. I’m certainly not implying there is anything bad about this, but it’s interesting to me as I come from a culture that viewed veganism as primarily a set of ethical guidelines relating to ones diet and the effect it has upon animals. It was seemingly ONLY about animal liberation and anything else connected to it, such as environmentalism or health benefits, acted only as justifications to support the idea that non-human animals should be free from harm, enslavement and death. This was my perspective and is still very much my perspective. Quite simply, our culture needs to undergo a massive transformation on many levels and both human and non-human animals need to be liberated from so many chains, both physical and social. What that essentially means in my viewpoint is varied and complex and I don’t intend to address that here.

As this blog makes very clear, veganism is a central tenet to me and a central focus with my running. That doesn’t mean I run for various animal welfare charities or hand our literature to the spectators lining the course, but it does mean I put my veganism out in front of a number of other interests of mine when it comes to running. Primarily, aside from the ethical importance veganism holds with me, it is because running is a physical act and veganism is as well. As my body responds reacts to the fuel I supply it with, my dietary choices essentially comprise my running. My running is veganism and veganism is my running. The plants, nuts, grains, that I ingest are transformed into processes that rebuild my body and supply me with the energy to run further and faster. To mentally separate the two would be a foolish and potentially performance depleting act.

Now, this coupling of veganism and athleticism makes me understand why others take to promoting veganism upon its health merits alone, but what interests me about this is the use of the term “vegan” or “veganism” in the process. I mean, ultimately, when we speak of veganism in this limited context we are only talking about what one eats in relation to their body and nothing else. This is simply eating like an herbivore. Why don’t people promote “The herbivore diet” or something of the like? Isn’t that really all we are addressing anyways? Granted, I don’t know of many herbivores that would chow down on a bag of Twizzlers, but technically, it’s not an animal food, however, I don’t know if we could call all the ingredients plant-derived either.

Regardless, to me veganism is not simply about eating a plant-based diet. Yes, that is what I do and I understand the health benefits of doing so. I understand the anthropological arguments for eating plant-based foods and I understand the biological arguments as well, but if those were the only justifications I made for my dietary choice, I would simply call myself an herbivore. Or and incredibly selective omnivore. But I don’t. I’m vegan, because I don’t just eat plants for the sake of eating plants. My diet, and my eating to me is a POLITICAL ACT. It is fundamentally tied to the treatment of animals and is not simply about benefiting myself, but also about addressing the hierarchy of species that our culture is founded upon. That reason alone is why I promote “veganism” instead of “herbiverous eating” and it is why veganism is a prominent part of my running promotion.

So is there a problem with others promoting veganism based upon diet alone and not addressing the more political elements to the dietary choice? Of course not. To me, any act that further erodes the stranglehold the meat and dairy industries have upon our culture’s dietary choices is A-Ok, even if that is not the intent. Further, those promoting veganism are doing so out of the care for other beings, even if that care is limited to the human species. Admittedly, at first I found the promotion of the vegan diet somewhat vanguardist, telling others their health choices are incorrect and that veganism was the ONLY way to eat properly despite evidence proving that many people around the world who are not vegan are still healthy. Still, promoting veganism to others, I think, has something to do with responding to cultural dominance and the lack of choices and information we as Americans have over our eating habits. I think the care that is extended to other human animals has to do with offering an alternative to the disease promoting diet that is properly accronymed as SAD (standard american diet). So I can’t fault them, but I don’t look at my dietary choices in that light.

Yes, I firmly believe a plant-based diet is fundamentally healthier than what is offered to us via the standard Food Pyramid, but I certainly don’t believe a plant-based diet is the eden of diets. I don’t believe it’s what we were “designed” to eat, not only because I don’t believe in a designer, but also because evolution is a shapeshifting beast that cares only about survival through adaptation. We have adapted to eat many products we normally don’t have at our disposal and survived, from animals, to plants to chemicals. Because of that, I don’t believe in a “first days” sort of approach with diet, however, I do believe we are biologically related more to animals that are herbivorous instead of animals that are carnivorous or omnivorous. That seems to be pretty cut and dry.

Regardless, although there is so much evidence that eating a plant-based diet is beneficial for optimal health and the elimination of so many common “western” diseases, I still find the most important aspect of veganism (not herbivore eating) is addressing the treatment of animals in our culture and the responsibility we have as thinking and feeling animals to address that disparity of care between human and non-human animals.

So, to address that elephant in the blog title, I am vegan not only because it comprises my athletic performance, which is no significance to you really, but also because I have a vision of the world that is defined by a relationship between all species that is based on complete liberation.  It is a relationship that allows all beings to be born into a state of absolute freedom and live their lives all the same. This certainly isn’t to say all would be lions and lambs sleeping next to each other like some propose, but instead proposes that the starting point of ones life is outside the confines of domination and submission. For me, that means I don’t merely promote eating like an herbivore, but living (and running) like a vegan.

If this is something you are interested in further, feel free to email me – urbanwings@hotmail.com –  for more involved discussion.

Recovery plan 2.0 – better than ever

Part of me wishes someone would say, “Oh yeah, you’ve got a stress fracture. That’s obvious. All you need is this amount of rest, everything will heal up and then you’ll be good to go again.” Or even, “Yeah, you slowly overworked this muscle and so all you need to do is this stretch and within two weeks you’ll be good to run like new.” That’s not how this is working out though. That’s just wishful thinking. Regardless, after more treatments a couple weeks ago I decided to slowly build up my running program and everything was going quite well, until the last 3 days when the lower leg sensations that sidelined me initially sprung up. Each day they got worse until I was out of commission yet again. Obviously, whatever I was hoping had healed itself, hadn’t. But here’s the good thing about that.

I had a good feeling about working with Darrell Barnes from St. Vincent’s Sports Performance Center and not just because of those he’s worked with in the past. Even though he couldn’t determine the EXACT underlying cause for my pain, he had a good theory about what was going on. As I’ve stated before, he feels that through either an imbalance of some sort or an injury somewhere in my right leg, that over time I began very slightly favoring certain muscles while protecting others, and through that the reliance kept building on some muscles while others went further neglected. After enough time and enough mileage, the overworked muscles started screaming uncle. And that was that. They had enough.

So why I was somewhat relieved that my assumed “injury” didn’t correct itself after I started running again is because it affirms Darrell’s theory, that I don’t have an injury. I have a weakness. Sure, I have sore muscles/tendons/etc. that are in pain from running, but they aren’t injured that simply need rest. Rest will give them some reprieve where the pain will back off, but over time, without correcting the initial imbalance, those muscles will again get overworked and start screaming again. What this means is that rest is helpful in alleviating the current pain, but STRENGTH is what is going to correct this situation. My homework, and the proposed solution to this big mess, is to strengthen the muscles that have kicked their feet up and took a little vacation. That way, those muscles will start to bear the weight they should be taking and take the burden off the overworked muscles so they call off their muscular mutiny.

The minor problem to all this is that without a definitive underlying cause to this weakness, it’s hard to pinpoint which area of my leg I should be strengthening. Interestingly enough though, through some strength exercise as the performance center, we deduced that A LOT of my right leg has become weakened.

With that in mind, Darrell hooked me up with a number of exercises that focus on strengthening my glutes, muscles around my shin, ankle etc. etc. We are basically strengthening every area of my leg with lunges, squats, resistance band movements, calf raises, and so on. And here’s the crazy, reaffirming thing….my right leg is WEAK!!! I can knock out all these exercises with the greatest of ease on my left leg, but EVERYTHING I do with my right is so much harder. It’s so nuts to feel just how weak so many parts of that leg is, which, I think, adds so much to Darrell’s theory that if I just strengthen that leg (even adding periodic running during the process) I’ll be good to go again. And even better, all this time I’ve been running faster and stronger on a progressively weakening right leg, which means when I get this leg back into muscular shape, I’ll be THAT MUCH STRONGER of a runner. That’s awesome.

How long that will take is a whole ‘nother story. I should be able to start a running build up program relatively soon, but the buildup itself is going to need to be drug out a little further while I work on this leg. And believe me, I’m going to be working on it. Each day I’m not running I’m on the bike sweating it out, then hitting up the exercises whenever I have the chance, sometimes at work, sometimes on the computer, sometimes focused on the workout alone. I’m not letting up now that I have a definitive theory and goal to work for.

The added awesomeness to all this is that it’s not like I’ve been doing these exercises and need to add a huge dose of them to see an effect, but rather I’ve never done any sort of strength exercises outside of running AT ALL. No weights, no lunges, no resistance, etc. Nothing. I did start a core workout a few months ago, which I know is helping, but nothing like this, which means ANYTHING I do is going to help. And actually DOING these strength workouts is something I’ve had to come to terms with. It’s not like I find it as fun as running…not at all, but it’s helped me understand something.

I’m considered an “elite” runner to some degree. It doesn’t mean I’m paid to run or have big name sponsors, but I run fast enough  and put in enough work to do so in order to attain certain times and corresponding perks. What I didn’t take into account is the sort of additional requirements that go into running at this level, that go into staying CONSISTENT at this level. See, I work full time and tend to a family, among other interests, so I tend to have the time and will to run and that’s about it. Adding more time in the day for strength isn’t so easy, unless I rope Michelle into the effort to, which fortunately she enjoys. So that perspective on overall health and strength gets pushed aside, hoping that running is enough. But as an “elite”, that means I also put in elite level work, both amount and intensity, which takes a toll on the body and requires a decent amount of maintenance. I can’t do this and get away with eating like crap. I can’t do this and get away with staying up late and partying. Those days are long gone. I have to focus intensely on fostering the efforts that keep me running at the level I’m working towards.

This is seen most clearly through those elite athletes that do NOT have full-time jobs and DO have big name sponsorships. They are running similar mileage, often much more, and of similar intensity. They certainly DO NOT just rest on their running and expect that to carry them through. When they aren’t running they are working on stretching and strength. They work on fine tuning their bodies to handle the stress they routinely place upon it and do so in order to get through and excel, to push further and run further and faster. They know very clearly that they can’t just run huge mileage and expect their body to hold up. That’s absurd.

Running like we do is a ridiculous act. It’s pushing our bodies far past the limits evolution has allowed for maintenance. And if don’t maintain ourselves past those limits, we will inevitably fail. It’s the checks and balances of nature. And this downtime has both shown me the truth in that perspective and done so through my failure to maintain.

I’m looking forward now though, understanding that I can’t simply run my way to an Olympic Qualifying marathon, but that I must also work on the rest of my body completely. I have to be able to run and run strong, not just on rest.

The future is still very hazy, as I just don’t know how long this is going to take until I get back to big workouts and 20 mile long runs, but I’ll be doing whatever I can to make it happen as soon as possible. I’m excited for that future though, where I’ll not only be the runner I was, but an even stronger and faster runner than before. Better than ever.

Bring it.

the one perfect act

I had the pleasure of hanging out with a new friend today when I asked him to meet me at a local coffee shop, to talk shop, writing culture specifically. Lately I’ve found myself pulled toward writing and subsequently writing culture, something I know nothing about. We talked about so many things, but found commonality with the inferior, wherein we excelled over others talents in some life interest of ours, but also found it was highly contextual. He found that he was a talented and great writer in the context of his college classes, but when he stepped outside of those boundaries, into the real world so to speak, he was an unrecognizable minnow in a sea of whale sharks. His talents were dwarfed by so many others. I sympathized in my experiences with graphic design, where in the incredibly limited world of my local two year technical college I was a veritable Kandinsky, but outside those stuffy classrooms I quickly realized my potential was drastically limited. I was essentially nothing, reaching desperately for talent and coming up penniless. My graphic design future has come to a screeching halt, if only due to the realization that I am simply not great in the practice.

This is something I’ve struggled with most of my life.

I’ve always wanted to be great at something. Something. Anything. I wanted to always be the best, even if “best” was a dream in the unreachable skies. I have an “all or nothing” personality that many have pointed out to me as a flaw and others as an asset, of which I prefer the latter, but understand the former. I’ve always wanted to be the best and if I couldn’t be the best, I’d sometimes settle for great. Good was ok, but only ok. With ok, my motivation wanes.

I think I’ve progressed with this as I’ve aged, coming to understand what success really means in the story of life and drawing out the most value from my interests, doing for the sake of doing, if I’m not even the best, or great, or just ok. That doesn’t mean I don’t try mind you.

When I was young I was a good soccer player. Whether David Bender played that season or not, I was sometimes the best, but as I got older and my little soccer world expanded, I only became good, sometimes ignorable. That was fine in the end, but my motivation waned. I was simply never great at soccer. And that was just one sport.

As I entered the world of greater freedom that is post-collegiate life I dabbled in so many interests, trying to find something that helped me stand out among the sacaphony of voices that fills our social spheres. I was consumed by politics, but was never academic or articulate enough. I created a relatively popular bike publication, but it certainly didn’t hold to my lasting standards (and it actually quite embarrassing when I look back on it).

In the work world I tried my hand at graphic design, but that fell plenty short. I was never the greatest barista, nor did I care too much for that title. I was the ONLY bike messenger, so that sort of “best” is ill-won. I often wrote poetry, I knew that was a failed endeavor before I attempted to put anything legitimate out, even if I enjoy the process.

So trying to comprehend and immerse myself in writing culture is another pre-failed endeavor, I know, but going through these previous attempts, I also know that I’m not in this to be the best anymore. I’m not even in this to be great. I’m just in this because it speaks to me directly and gives me value. I simply enjoy it and that is enough.

Then there is running. I’ve run since I was an incredibly young child, for fun and for competition. Running, far and relatively fast, is a talent I discovered at a very young age, so young that it became a fundamental part of my being as it stayed with me as I grew physically, mentally and emotionally. It defined me more than anything else. No matter what other interests I took up, beneath it all everyone knew I could run. I could always fall back on it. I won the races in school. I was beating the 8th graders when I was in 4th grade. I won city-wide track meets for my age division. I entered community races and won my age group before I even understood awards were given out for such a thing. It has always been something that helped me stand out.

And for a long time I turned my back on the interest for no other reason than I didn’t understand what to do with it. I was out of high school and didn’t know how to compete in college. Maybe I feared no longer being a valued and necessary part of the team. Maybe I just didn’t understand my potential. I moved on to other things. There was all that college freedom, skateboarding, internet relay chat, politics, etc. I was distracted away from competitive running no matter how fundamental it was to my being. I never left completely though.

The sweet smell of fresh cut grass ONLY reminded me of x-country season. Trails leading into woods ONLY reminded me of our high school course. Talk of running had me bringing up all kinds of stories.

It was the ONE thing that I could say I was good at.

And in my adult life I struggle even more, trying to find SOMETHING I’m good at, even great at. I’ve tried in so much and always come up short. I want to excel. I want to be valuable. I want to be great. And I rediscovered running. The one interest that brought me the closest.

And, with a great humility, I began running again, not knowing the talent I held inside. For a couple years in I still did not know the ability I had and where it placed me as a runner, even when I was winning my age group, then smaller community races and even placing in more populated races. I just thought I was doing pretty good. And I was, but as I became to understand competitive running culture more and more I realized that I wasn’t just running well, or good, but downright great. Again, with great humility, I started to realize that I was not only putting myself in a position of relative greatness, even if only by my own standards, but that I have the potential to do something great on a larger cultural scale. I’m not talking breaking records here or anything, but at the very least, doing something not many people get to do in their lives.

And in this realization I have become driven more intensely than I have over any other point in my life. I have found my attempt to be great and, again with humility, been able to define my effort as great.

Too bad this type of greatness doesn’t pay.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way deluded to think I’m the “best” or anywhere close to the best. There are tens of thousands in the world that do what I do (Is that right? More? Less?), but even so, we are a drop in the bucket. We have the special gift of biological talent coupled with the drive to actually make the effort, initiated by circumstantial luck that led us to discover this talent of ours. We are great at what we do, but equally as lucky to be in this position.

All this is to say…I’m dying here.

This is why NOT being able to run right now is absolutely killing me. I’m at this position in my life where my ability to run like this is more towards the end of my athletic spectrum than it is the beginning. I’m not a high school prodigy, a college champion or a potential world-class athlete. I’m an almost mid 30’s distance runner, which means I have about one open window to make the olympic marathon trials. If I don’t do it this time around, there is a good chance I won’t be physically capable to do it later. It’s hard to say, but this is my prime chance and I have to make the most of it. But right now, I’m broken.

That path to greatness (my standards mind you) has been blocked a million fallen trees, for the time being. My identity has taken a blow and that hurts. This is my goal in life right now, to fulfill this attempt at personal greatness, maybe the ONE thing I’ll ever do that I can consider truly great. This is all I want. This one perfect act that I can always fall back on in the future, to say to myself, if no one else, “You set yourself apart. You did that.” Ego-driven, yes. I won’t deny it. It’s part of my (our?) nature, that brought me to this point in the first place. But now my standard of greatness is on pause as I wait for seemingly uncontrollable circumstances to take place when I can get back to fulfilling that one honest goal of mine.

To set myself apart. To be great.

Square one?

Precarious. The word conjures a mental image, toes curling the edge of a cliff in cartoon proportions. My eyes peek over the edge while my torso does its best to pull away from the depths. All seems well, but with such great potential to end so horribly. A question looms – Am I about to back away from the edge to more stable security or is my trajectory heading toward impending doom? Like a pendulum paused at plumb, I only wish I could feel which way the wind is blowing.

I have run for a week straight, topping out at 6 glorious miles. I would deserve a spanking if that was a sarcastic statement, but I truly mean those 6 miles were “glorious”. Where once they would have been embarrassingly routine, after such a long hiatus from putting one foot in front of the other, each mile ticked off without restrictive pain was a finish line of supremely important proportions. To think I ran those at 6:00/pace and was still able to come back the next day and do 4 more miles, well, that’s just reason for celebration of a religious degree.

I celebrate internally, but if you’ve been following this blog long enough you know I’m hiding something. You know if I was in the clear from this injury I’d be typing in all caps, probably sending out ill-advised press releases of self-importance. And I’m not, because I’m certainly not in the clear. My situation is quite precarious.

I did run for 7 days straight, slowly increasing the mileage each day, and I was still able to run 4 today after running 6 the day prior, all around 6:00 miles, but I feel my leg. I don’t feel my leg like I was a couple weeks ago where any attempt at running had me sulking my way back home, tail between my legs, head dropped to my chest. But I still feel it. Today I felt it in the muscles and tendons on the outside of my leg, which is far enough away from my shin to have me excited, but concerned I might be drawing out a pain path right back to my shin again.

I don’t know, this pain seems to be entirely muscular, that might be remedied with a good dose of stretching and massage. But just like the pain I’ve been dealing with before, I still don’t know why I’ve been having problems down there, so I just don’t know how to treat it. I won’t say I’m back to square one, because I’m not sure I ever left.

I want to say these are residual twinges of pain that will work themselves out over time as I start to get my legs back, but I can say anything I want. It doesn’t mean that’s what is actually happening. I’m not going to wish this thing away that’s for sure. All I can do really is keep running while I’m able, keep assessing the pains and potential remedies, and stay positive as much as possible.

For now, every run is a victory and I’m ready to get my legs and lungs back. I’m ready to get consistent and controlled. I’m ready to get back to that 5:18/mile paced 10 mile tempo run I did before everything fell apart. Of course, I’ve been ready, but that doesn’t mean my toes have curled away from the cliff yet. I’m still entirely unaware which direction my momentum is taking me, whether that is towards stability or certain doom.

With a 50 mile week coming up, I think we’ll find out one way or another. Stay tuned.

A world running

I dream of a world running.

I do it while driving, odd as that may seem.

When I was much younger, middle school and high school age, skateboarding consumed me. In my naievity I made statements that alluded to skateboarding for the rest of my life. Never quitting. Ever. Of course, at that age, in that unrestricted, utopian mindset, that seemed like an honest possibility. Skateboarding was my world, so much that it changed the very purpose of the physical environment itself. Nothing was defined by its stated purpose when one looked at it through the eyes of a skateboarder, eyes that saw value only in relation to how it facilitated skateboarding. Consumed by the highway induced boredom of long car trips I would look out at the moving landscape and envision myself skating along at the speed of the vehicle. Guardrails became platforms for boardslides. Cement dividers beckoned spark inducing 5-0 grinds. Off-ramps were catapults for various 360 flips, landing cleanly back to the on-ramps. The world was no longer the world, it was a playground.

Only when the realities of life set in, both the liberating new experiences that opened me up to a myriad of interests and the confines of daily life that took away so many precious hours available for my recreation, did my interest wane from skateboarding and everyday objects returned to being everyday objects. To a degree, I had grown up. Grown up in the negative sense, where responsibility overwhelms imagination, where daydreams give way to sensibility. The world went from playground to safety net. Guardrails became protective barriers, saving erratic drivers from careening over precarious cliffs. Cement dividers became necessary and ugly separations between myself and overloaded semis driven by red-eyed truckers. Off-ramps became speeding respites and on-ramps the escalating opposite. The world was its stated purpose.

Only so many years later did I stumble back upon my love of running, a seemingly physical extension of my very being, no more removed than any of my appendages. I stumbled back into that interest and very quickly it consumed me at the level that I thought was only reserved for my skateboarding days. All of a sudden I couldn’t imagine living my life without it, as if it would be a part of me forever, like driving is to the American way of life, inherently necessary. Funny enough, while sitting shotgun as my fiance drove down the highway I found myself longing in the way I did as a youth with my skateboard dreams. Those stretches of highway were filled with visions of myself running, keeping pace with the car along layed out carpets of grass that went relatively unused aside from being periodically mowed. Tractor roads that skirted newly planted fields and disappeared into patchwork woods became untrodden trails I would enter into like mysterious forest gates, winding me through a snaking running path that spit me out into the continued tractor trail. Seemingly neglected areas of grass that held no obvious purpose morphed into imagined interval sessions where I bounded effortlessly on the pillowed ground. The world, again, became my playground. I grew down.

I grew down in the good way, where the youthful imaginings create a world unseen, motivated by the most valuable of primal interests instead of necessity and safety measures. Running removes me from the world of adulthood and into the magical minds of children where we wonder, “What if, just WHAT IF all we had to do was run? What if I had enough food and money to never worry about either again, and my days could be nothing more than finding new places to leave footprints? WHAT IF I pulled the car over, hopped that fence and just started running?” Why not?

Sometimes I temper that youthful dreaming with a bit of adult-like reality and wonder how my life would be if I won the lottery. And I’m not talking about that $1000 dollar sort of winnings, I’m talking about the 10’s of millions sorts of loot. You know, not that I would ever need all that, but just in case I make a bad decision here and there, I could still afford to buy a small island to run off to…sort of winnings. Right now, as my interests dictate, I would buy one of those stretches of wooded land, probably down in Southern Indiana, and stomp myself out a repeated and well-worn trail of running. It would not neglect open areas of pillowed grass and mysterious gates would meet me at the entrance to every patchwork woods. The trail would wind and snake over rolling hills, race along horizon flattened country road fences, and turn back towards the trailhead that loops me through my daydreams made reality over and over again.

Yet, I am an adult and reality is all too present, so short of acquiring those sorts of lottery winnings I am relegated to the highway induced daydreams where I can only imagine the world of running instead of living it. This is not to say I despair however, for the fact alone that I have rediscovered a part of me that takes the world and reimagines it entirely is a victory in its own right. To have a passion so deep that it alters the landscape, that it repurposes everyday objects, that it gives me even just a temporary way out of the adult world is valuable beyond all measure.

I dream of a world running, which is to say a world of youthful imaginings. A world running is a world wide open.