Freedom Run

Most of you know that I am an avid runner. Well, maybe not so much since my hip replacement a little over a year ago. Since my 1 year checkup showed that my implant has been incorporated into my skeleton I have given myself a license to return to my addiction.  Kind of.

I went for a 4 miler yesterday and did something I haven’t done in at least 5 years. I didn’t use a running app on my iPhone to track my mileage and time. Sure, I took my phone because having that lifeline is good, just in case. And pictures. I like to take pictures.

What has changed?

A few things. While recovering, maybe regenerating is a better word, from the surgery I started to read about the human body. I bounced around among tomes on evolution and fitness. As I read more, I started to focus in on a couple of areas – biomechanics and anatomy . NOTE: The links I just provided are a sampling of what is written and represent my gateway reading. There are many other books and articles. I encourage you to read all you can.

As my recovery continued I found myself looking for a job. That process, which is worth its own post or two, took several months and occupied a lot of my time. There was a guilt paradox going on. I had the “free” time to do more cycling and running but felt guilty if I wasn’t pursuing a job with that time. When I did find a job (a great one that has been very much what I hoped for) I committed to a long commute that kind of puts a twist on my typical morning workouts. I’m still adjusting to the timing.

All I’m saying is that my ramp up to distance has been slower than it would have been a year ago. And that has turned out to be a good thing. Since I couldn’t run, I read about it, and I found alternate forms of exercise. All of that informed my running going forward.

As a writer, I decided to start a book about what I’ve learned and to distill that learning into something readable and prescriptive. In taking my own medicine, I’ve re-thought how I run. Not my form, but my pace and mindset.

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I used to run to a clock and work on specific workouts. Statistics embraced me at the end of each run and were automatically uploaded to social media. I loved it because I got in contact with other runners, many of whom have become friends beyond the running. All of it reinforced my process. Was I addicted to running or to the tracking of my running.

Admittedly, I am not fast. I’m average or a little better, but I will never win a distance race. Period. Why was I working on speeding up my running? Did I really enjoy that?

On a run one weekend I was thinking about running. It was only 3 miles, but for my point in recovery, that was my goal. I looked around and started to play a little as I ran. On a wintery, Sunday morning in the New England town in which I live, the roads are quiet and the woods are stark and graphic. Sections of snow and ice make force you to pay attention, and I ran out into the road to avoid some of the obstacles. Then I started to run out and around in the road just for fun, like a kid pretending to be an airplane or stepping around some obstacle course. I smiled without thinking about it.

The run became fun. I’ve always enjoyed running, but this was a different kind of enjoyment. I still had my iPhone app running, but I was having too much of a good time going down some side roads I hadn’t traversed and stopping once in a while to hear a woodpecker hammering on an oak tree. That sounds carries on a cold, brisk morning.

Yesterday, taking advantage of a warm spell, I went out and followed my instincts. Although I didn’t run on a trail, I am able to use the margins of our country roads to good IMG_5122effect. My neighbors don’t seem to mind me running on the edges of their lawns. As you can see, that area is usually offered up to the gods of snow plowing anyway, so I’m not doing much damage.

I continue to use a natural style of running, meaning it stems from a barefoot mode of movement that prevents overstriding and encourages a forefoot to midfoot landing. What I have found is that it isn’t about how your foot lands, it is about not overstriding. In other words, your foot should not extend out beyond your knee when you step forward. The only way to do that is to keep a bend in your knee, which eliminates heavy heel striking. You can still heel strike, but without an overstride, you significantly reduce the impact.

That said, I do wear shoes. What I wear are have a low lift – only 4mm – and a nice wide toebox. IMG_5128

These are Saucony’s and besides the low cushion, low lift they have a cool color. Why shoes? Well, the side of the road is not a prestine trail. There are many interesting deposits which are the outcome of human activity.

 

The shards of glass are pretty common. The computer remnant was a bit unique, but there is always something. True, you hardcore barefooters will rightfully say that over time my skin will thicken and these things won’t matter. I started down that path and found that shoes don’t hurt in pursuit of good form. Sorry. Plus, I can take a running break at Starbucks and not have worry about putting on those gauze booty things.

More important, I gave myself permission to not worry about time or distance. Just run and enjoy the motion. Those times when I felt the pace going up, I slowed myself down to where I was breathing normal and not huffing too much.

What’s it matter?

Slower, means better form. Better form means less injury. I’ll post more about that sometime, but not right now.

This is about enjoyment of an activity I have done the majority of my life. I’m in it for the long run, so to speak. I already admitted that I’m not fast and my 3hour, 37minute and change Hartford Marathon is going to be my best. I managed a sub 47 minute 10k, too. That was my best at that distance. I’m okay with those times. Clearly, I’m not setting any records and improvement means taking a “work” perspective to running. That’s not my mode anymore. I’m running untethered.

What I’ve learned is running is about finding your pace and enjoying motion.

RUN FREE, RUN EASY

 

 

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New York City – What Cruz Doesn’t Get

I’m not a New Yorker. I worked in New York City for over ten years and commuted from my wooded domain in Connecticut via train into Grand Central. I often go into The City to…well, pretty much do anything. It is unlike any other city in the world. Not better or worse, just unique. As I writer I am a natural and trained observer. I may not be a New Yorker, but The City offers the best opportunities in the world for a writer to see diversity and people interacting.

I think it is interesting in the U.S. if you say you went to The City in a conversation most people will understand you mean NYC. I am surrounded by cities, but New York is The City. And for good reason. The City is a microcosm of the United States, just revved up to New York speed.

My attachment to The City goes back a couple of generations. My grandparents on my mother’s side came into this country from Italy through The City. NYC is the gateway to our wonderful country. And it has attained that status for several reasons that Ted Cruz truly doesn’t understand. So I want to set him straight.

I spent the weekend in The City with my wonderful wife. We like to go free form, so we don’t really plan much. The night we arrived our middle eastern cab driver took us to an authentic Japanese Sushi restaurant (Yasuda). Authentic to the point that the management makes note that the staff is compensated well and, in Japanese tradition, tipping is not done. The table to the left of us had four Scandinavian men conversing and laughing. The table to the right was a couple from France having a good conversation.

We spent the next day looking at an art exhibit of Picasso’s sculpture, eating at a Greek restaurant, talking with a Jamaican cabby, having a drink in an Irish pub and finding a Starbucks. Yes, that is a joke. Duane Read and Starbucks are in competition for number of locations in The City.

The City is the great attractor. Every work day the population swells to 11 million. It absorbs the equivalent of a Los Angeles every day and then sends everyone home through the busiest train stations and roadways in the world. It hosts conventions, marathons, the US Navy, sports, music, art, The Beatles, the wealthy, the destitute, the brilliant, the foolish, and me on a regular basis.

The list can go on, but here’s the deal. What makes NYC so great is that it accepts anyone as long as that anyone does not have malicious intent. Don’t get me wrong. It is not Kumbaya and flowers. To be a successful New Yorker you have to have intention. And that means you have to believe in yourself and your ideas. New Yorkers are a contentious lot. Opinions are held strong and long. Just walking down the street this morning I heard a man berating his union (my assumption) for not supporting him on an issue. His use of invectives was colorful and passionate. And easy to misinterpret.

That is what Cruz doesn’t get.

New Yorkers hold their personal beliefs and values strongly, but accept that others have similar conviction. Cruz seems to think that New Yorkers are divided when what they have are strong opinions. It is quintessential America. People contest each other’s opinions, but are still united. The fact that Cruz doesn’t understand how fundamental that premise is to the success of America is alarming. I shouldn’t be alarmed since he comes from a state that regularly rises up to secede from the union.

As diverse as the population of The City is, there has never and will never be a desire to leave this great union of ours. New York, like Connecticut, was one of the original states. Our country’s history and the men who crafted the Constitution, so often misquoted by Cruz, all had strong ties to New York.

Yes, New Yorkers can be arrogant and self-centered. Learning to live in The City is like learning a craft and you take pride in accomplishing that craft. Don’t mistake that pride. New Yorker’s are giving people. I have seen it so many times in so many ways. It is far from perfect. There is corruption, condescension, prejudice and some really bad professional sports teams. Isn’t that what our country is all about? We are imperfectly fantastic. We celebrate diversity and in so doing, we encourage all the bad behaviors that go along with the good. But try to fuck with us and you get a unified response. Cruz, the Koch Brothers (sounds like a cough drop or a boy band), and ISIS can’t fathom how America continues to succeed with such diversity.

They should come to The City for a week and work here unfiltered and without the minions. Walk the streets. Observe. Listen. After a few days they will discover America and what makes this country so great. The ability to have strong opinions while accepting someone else’s right to a different and just as strong a point of view. To recognize that greatness comes when those opinions build tension that energizes creativity.

It is all right here on display in The City.

Run Free. Run Easy

The Lost Art of Picking Up Women

This was one of those mornings where my blog subject is a gift of circumstance. Talking with a friend this morning who was out for a night with her girlfriends. While enjoying their company in the bar she was subjected to the latest style in men picking women. It is called a bump, followed by an “Excuse, me.”

My first thought was, “Hey, it worked in grade school, why not in adulthood?”

I filed that tidbit of information in my back pocket. I’m not in the market, but if the need ever asserted itself, at least I was armed with the latest hipster move. I felt happy as I commuted to work. At least with this approach all I had to work on was my aim. I figured the bump had to be direct enough to get their attention, but not so direct that it would knock them over.

The-Continuing-Evolution-of-Man

Stopping for coffee at McD’s I took a seat within earshot of a coed group of septuagenarians and older. There was a nice banter going on and at one point a woman made mention of having heart palpitations. The man sitting next to her rejoined that he would be happy to give her mouth-to-mouth. My day was made. I guess a really cliche line works in every generation because the subject woman giggled like a school girl and I expect added days, if not months, to her life from the pure joy of flirtation.

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Then, the writer in me took over. You know, that part of the brain that starts to think about these events and tries to figure out what sinister plot lies beneath. As a story teller I am geared to make up continuity between scenes I witness that have no relevance to each other. That is why I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

Stick with me here. If you have read any of my previous blogs you know that if I drop right into the evolution of man you won’t be surprised. Here’s the deal. Three million years ago we didn’t have language. We had gestures and noises and, well, that was about it. In those days, if a man wanted a woman he bumped her. Sound familiar?

As we started to wander out from the rainforest into the ever expanding savannah (don’t you just love that word?) we developed language for two reasons.

  1. Complex verbalization, or language, was needed to be able to hunt prey or keep from being prey while we walked and ran out in the open.
  2. Language was needed to pick up woman.

Beyond those two survival skills, any other use of language is, arguably, just showing off. That is until we became civilized. When we gathered in communities and cities people would often bump into each other just because of proximity. Clearly, the ritual of picking up women had to change because bumping was now a generalized activity. In response, men turned to words as their means of access to the feminine favor. Let’s be honest. I say men you and I both know women had to coax and cajole us into becoming literate and finding ways to craft words into rhythms that made their pulses race and skin glisten. For the next millennia all things invented by men; art, literature, science, football; were invented with the sole purpose of picking up women. The pickup line dates back to the earliest of pre-Roman civilization when a man would look at his sleeping mate with amorous thoughts, lightly slap her on the arm (a modified bump) and ask, “Hey, you awake.” That line is the first instance of foreplay that has been documented. We’ve come a long way since.

As the 21st Century began the art of the pickup line had reached a peak. There were books and movies and personal trainers, an entire cottage industry, around how to pick up women. Then hipsterism hit and the bump began.

In defense of hipsters, they are the unknowing subjects of the new lord of technology. They have been smart phoned and twitterated into reverting to our Paleolithic roots. Most days are spent walking while looking at a 4×2 inch rectangle of illuminated glass. And literacy has been suppressed to 140 characters at a time. The punctuation which gives the spoken word the ebb and flow of conversation has been suborned by emoticons. Men still have a need to pick up women and given there is no more practice in the art of verbalization, the primal instincts have moved to the surface.

My goal here is to see if I can turn that tide and help my fellow men address the fair sex in a manner that women deserve. To get to that point, there are a few prerequisites for men who are interested in having women open their flowers for them.

Before taking that first verbal step, read a book. NO. Read three books, two fiction and one non-fiction. The two fiction should consist of a modern classic (like To Kill a Mockingbird (chicks love that book)) and a current edition. The current can not be something like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Fifty Shades of Grey. It doesn’t have to be heady, it just has to be fairly decent, like a good murder mystery. The non-fiction has to be something other than campy prose (no psycho-babble or self-help). It can be about sports medicine, the history of anything or political/technical revelations. No, books by anyone who works at Fox News do not count. These should be real books, not ebooks. Nothing against ebooks, but to do this right you need to feel the weight of the words you are reading. Reading gives you a baseline for actually having a conversation. Trust me on this.

By reading you’ve stimulated the latent intellect that has been stilted by social media. Doesn’t it strike you as funny that social media has led to the current pandemic of lack of social skills? Go figure. That is a hole different blog that I might take a shot at.

As you move into the real world and muster the courage to take that first act to talk to a woman you have never met, there are some basic rules.

  • Please, use complete sentences. Do not talk in the syntax of Twitter. It is okay and often admirable to take more than 140 characters to make a point.
  • Be yourself, not your avatar. The only place in the world where you can be an avatar and have it work is Las Vegas. Everyone is being someone else there, so go with it.
  • The easiest way to talk to a woman is to shut the fuck up and listen. Really. It seems like some kind of inversion principle, but it works.
  • Keep the conversation going by…asking questions. It is fine to pepper the dialog with a bit about you or answer a question from her, but listen and ask relevant questions. Don’t be patronizing with the questions because…
  • Women are smarter than men. Period. Just deal with it. Sure some of us may know more science, but that isn’t what smart is. Smart is knowing how to read other people and be good at social interaction.
  • Most important, put the phone away. Period. Your attention should be on her.

Now that you have mustered the courage and know the rules, let’s talk about pickup lines. There are a massive number of pickup lines, but I have the one that works. When I was single I experimented with many lines and finally honed it down to this one line that achieves the open door to conversation almost every time. I’ll save you the all the learning and let you skip right to the gold mine. Here it is”

” Hi, I’m (insert your name here).”

The most effective way to augment this opener is to tag on a complimentary observation like “That nail polish is great. What color is that?” or “You’ve got a great smile and I just had to come and talk to you.” or “When you walked by, I noticed that scent you are wearing and I just have to find out what it is.”

It goes on.

Okay. I have to confess. I didn’t really discover this line by extensive trial and error. In my single days at the bar in Houlihan’s in Phoenix I saw an attractive woman having a drink with friends. I thought I would be clever and went up to her and said, “What would be a good line for a man to use to start a conversation with you?” My expectation was that she would throw out one of those cliches. I was wrong. She looked my in the eye, smiled and said. “Hi,” usually works with me.

The sound of enlightenment could have been heard all over the bar. The DJ stopped the turntable wondering what had just happened. I ignored it all and started a good conversation. So, as you can expect, I got the best direction on how to approach a woman from a woman. Not being too stupid, I have relied on that advise for just about any social situation.

As you have that conversation she might giggle or laugh, just like the woman I heard in McD’s. When that happens you have gifted her with an extension of her life. She’ll now that and be grateful.

And there it is. The most effective social mechanism is not acting like you do on social media. It is acting like yourself.