Monthly Archives: January 2012

Desperation (and discomfort) Is the Mother of Invention

Runmutting is going smashingly… Or as smashing as one can consider running to work. Honestly, I’m having a really great time doing it, even those mornings when my buddy Joe (first name, Cuppo) isn’t as motivating as I would like him to be. It only takes a jaunt down the first handful of neighborhood blocks in a brisk winter breeze (sounds lovely doesn’t it) to get the blood pumping and eyes wide awake. Then it’s a dose of miles over railroad tracks, through the parks, over more railroad tracks, under the highway and down the final stretch of street that takes me to my work where I strip down, empty my coffee thermos (into myself) and heat up some water for my pre-prepared oatmeal mixture (oats, banana slices, peanut butter, cinnamon, almonds, raisins, etc.) breakfast. Oh…and at some point I put clothes back on. It’s a decent start to these winter mornings.

There is one hurdle in this running routine however, the weight. Certainly not the weight on my body (still holding strong in the low 140’s!), but rather the weight on my back. I have this awesome Osprey Talon 22 grimace colored backpack that fits everything I need (clothes, shoes, breakfast, lunch, wallet, keys, phone, book, kittens, etc.) and with room to spare, but unfortunately, that degree of weight creates a bouncing sensation that no hip straps paired with shoulder straps is going to tame. I tighten the hip straps only to have the top of my bag swing across my  neck. I tighten the shoulder straps to prevent the swinging, but then the hip straps come up to my belly and the process starts over again. At lighter weights I can minimize any movement and really kick into a more natural stride and speed, but it’s not easy. Hence the title of this post.

There is no way I can keep runmutting with this morning annoyance, especially without the tolerance lifting magic of my friend Joe, and so my brain has been schemeing. Pulling on my other commuting preference, biking, I’ve decided to fashion a run trailer, something akin to a hands-free rickshaw, a…wait for it….Rickroll if you will.

I’m serious. It’s a thought that simply won’t go away, spurned by the frustration I experience every morning on my run to work and fueled by the mental clarity I have on my run back home. The trailer will meld together the commuting accessories of cycling, rickshaws, backpacking and maybe some cross country skiing. It’s all there in my head and it looks and works beeeeautifully. I can almost feel the hip belt securely hugging my protruding pelvic bones, the trailer casually rolling behind me, snuggly cuddling all my necessities for the day and my legs and arms swinging freely as if I’m out for an easy 10’er. It’s a beautiful thing, it really is. But first I have to cobble together all the bits and pieces to start on my prototype, which will necessitate a trip to the disneyland-like hardware stores where I should be able to find everything I need, short of welding equipment. And soon enough, I’ll be cruising to work dragging the fruits of my labor and probably some real fruit too.

It’s an idea that WILL happen, if not because the motivation is there, then because the necessity certainly is. You know there will be photos as this comes together.

Mark my words. Runmutting will be the new black. I’m just ahead of the curve (or so I like to tell myself).

Keep running. Go Vegan.

Adventures In Runmmuting – Day 2

I forgot to get a photo when I arrived home today, but I’ll get one up next time. I look absurd enough to document and share this visually. I look, to my embarrassment, like an adventure racer. My wife, Michelle, scoffs at my round about insult to AR’ers as she was once one herself, or at least got close enough to them to take their photos. The look, as some of you might know, involves lycra  and tech materials from top to bottom, running shoes, maybe some sunglasses, then topped off with an overly stuffed and nausea-inducing colored backpack that is heavy enough to turn your beautiful gait into what a constipated old man must look like while running. It’s just kinda sad, but still, the important thing is that I get to and from work without relying on my car, waking myself up “naturally” (with the help of my friend Joe) and get a serious does of health boosting physical activity in for the day. So who cares if I look ridiculous. Ok…I do, a little bit. But I’m working on that.

My new morning routine starts the night before, when I prepare all my belongings and roll them into my backpack properly (poor packing gives you bloody spots on your back from inadvertent rubbing…trust me) and make any sleep-deprived morning preparations unnecessary. The alarm rouses me before the sun has even thought of waking (5:45 to be exact) and I go through the motions to get me out the door by 6:15. My bike light, blinking a false distress call to equally sleep-deprived drivers, is clipped to my bag as I work out the previous days leg tightness by easing my legs into the run. I unnaturally stick to the sidewalks in the pre-dawn dark and work my way through the first mile and a half, suddenly awake, heart beating out a shocked but familiar rhythm.

The sweat begins to make its way outward as I carry my weighted pack, filled with work clothes, coffee thermos, breakfast and lunch and other necessities to the final destination 4.5 miles away. With an increased effort my legs lift the weight as if I’m running uphill the whole way, and I think about the strength I will have built in just a couple weeks time.  I cross the road, work through a long section of protected park green space, through some shady areas where it isn’t uncommon to find discarded bodies and onto the “other side of the tracks” (literally over railroad tracks), where the final stretch of sidewalk brings me further into the city’s urban core. The sun still in shut-eye.

My legs now loosened enough to work away the initial tightness, but stressed enough to harbor more that will show itself sometime around lunch. I blame the weighted pack. I change clothes in secret, air out my mildly sweaty running outfit (costume?) and get ready for work like Clark Kent returning to his desk. Right now I’m clocking 7 minute miles, but with route familiarity and increased strength I have a feeling that will drop. No matter, right now I’m just enjoying the run.

After thinking this through during my runs I have some things I would like to change. First off, I need to get stronger, but I know that will come with continued effort. That will make carrying the pack easier. Speaking of the pack, I need to make some sizing adjustments that are possible in the pack design itself  (Thank you Osprey for being so awesome). I think doing so will really help with the comfort of the run, aid in returning my normal gait and prevent some of the obnoxious shifting and bouncing that happens during the runmmute. Speaking of carrying items…. I’m scheming. More on that later.

To summarize, the first 2 days have been a success. I will be carrying on and looking forward to overcoming the discomforts like I had to do when first bike commuting (rain, ice, flats, hygiene, etc.). If more “epiphanies” that are worth sharing come to light, I’ll be sure to share them in case anyone else wants to try the same or at least discuss the absurdity with me.


The Return of the Run

Don’t let the title deceive you. This is not an un-retirement. But, undoubtedly, my running routine will become a little more reliable now that Michelle and I have finally completed the house buying process, signed the papers and moved all our belongings in to our new abode, approximately 4.5 miles from my job. As a one car family this means I have the option to either drive into work periodically, ride my bike or run…runmute…to my place of employment. It will probably be a mix of the three, but I have made the decision to runmute as much as is sustainable physically and emotionally. I’ve made this decision because I just plain like to run, but also because doing so is the most reliable way to keep my physical health intact. I haven’t been sick for years. YEARS. Not a flu, not a cold, not even a sniffle and I attributed a lot of that to my physical routines. This past week however, I felt “off”. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I knew something wasn’t going well inside and it might have been due to my significant decrease in physical activity related to so many life responsibilities filling Michelle and my life right now. Kid visitation, moving, etc. It took up so much of our time that I just couldn’t work in a run and soon enough a minor virus worked its way into my bloodstream. My body was, possibly, not primed to defeat it, but it did a decent job keeping it from taking over that’s for sure. Still…screw a bunch of that.

“If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.”

I like that mantra. I like being primed to run even if I’m not training for anything. I like being primed for physical and emotional health even if it’s a touch neurotic. I like not having to worry about calories, indulgences and other common concerns, if only because I work those worries away.

So with that in mind I purchased an Osprey Talon 22 for my runmuting purposes and have pulled out all the appropriate cold weather running clothes to begin my mornings with a brisk 4.5 mile run into work. I will bookend that with another 4.5 mile run back home when the whistle blows as well, giving me a 9 mile total for each day. I’m not really interested in adhering to that every day as I don’t think the toll it would take on me would sit will with Michelle, or me for that matter, but it will be nice to “stay ready”, all without the intrusion training had on my daily routines. I’ve always considered the possibility of making running PART of my routine and this works in perfectly. I know it’s not for everybody, but I’ve always stressed the importance of making physical activity an inherent part of your day (commuting the easiest way) in order to keep it sustainable. So many people, especially for a New Year’s Resolution, try to ADD physical activity to their days, seeing it more as a burden than simply a part of their lives…and this just isn’t going to last. Physical activity must be integral if it’s going to last. That could be riding your bike around town instead of taking your car. It could be running/walking your dog at least 3 times a day. It could be running to work or for errands. WHATEVER it is, if you’re forcing it, it’s not going to last. There are countless numbers of lonely basement treadmills acting as dirty laundry racks to prove the point.

Personally, getting up and out the door at 5:45/6:00 isn’t going to be easy, but I know when I make it to the end of my block I won’t regret it for a second. I’m just fortunate enough to have a runmute as an opportunity to keep me ready for what may come. I hope you can find your own way to “stay ready”.

Speaking of what may come…there MAY be an absurd race on my schedule at the end of this month. If I commit to it, (training not withstanding), I’ll make mention of it in another post.