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.

Photo Sep 20, 3 33 34 PM

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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The Resolution Solution

As I left my first physical therapy session after the magic six-week post op period I was very happy. The physical therapist said I was causing them problems because my recovery was weeks ahead of schedule. They were having to revise their plan for me to be much shorter. I was not working according to their schedule and I was glad to cause them consternation. Being fit and healthy has paid off in unexpected ways.

As I left the building, a smile beaming to everyone and a spring in my step, my main thought was that I wanted to get to the point in 2015 where I could put my sock on my right foot without mechanical aid. I got a kit for hip replacement that includes this could device. It is a half tube with cords on it. You slip your sock over it, then put your foot in and pull your sock up. Works great and it is the only device I still use.

hip replacement kit

Then I wondered if that constituted a New Year’s Resolution.

Excuse me if I get the whole NYR thing wrong. My family never really got into them. I am grateful for that because I don’t think I am built to handle resolutions of such intensity. If you are like me; my sympathies if you are; then making resolutions is a futile effort, unless the resolution involves training for a distance run. For some reason I can train using an extended plan and pretty much stick to the intent of the plan. Go figure.

Marathon_Walk1

I attribute my resolution paralysis to my short attention span. Maybe it is better termed Easily Diverted Syndrome or EDS. Wait! That won’t work. Anything acronym with “ED” in it can be mistaken for something related to erectile dysfunction. That has nothing to do with being easily diverted. At least it hasn’t impacted me.

Back on topic; how about calling it the Quickly Diverted Syndrome or QDS. Nobody can muck up an acronym with a “Q” in it.

It isn’t that I don’t make plans. It is that I need something more concrete to focus on. Here’s an example: “I will lose weight in 2015.” Losing weight is, what? An end state? A mantra? It sure isn’t a strategy or a tactic or a plan to get to an end state (isn’t that kind of a tactical thing?).

If losing weight is my goal, then I need a plan to get there. Is my strategy going to be diet, exercise, Dr. Oz’s next great cure, magical elixirs, or a combination of some or all of them? Once I decide what the strategy is, I need to put together a plan. It is more that just “I’ll eat less and workout more.” For me to make a significant accomplishment that takes more than a couple of minutes I need a sectionalized plan.

“Sectionalized.” I just made that word up. We can do that in the computer age.

Going back to the running thing. I am successful there because there are plans that break down what you need to do day be day over a period of weeks and months to get to a specific running goal. You just print them out and do what they say day be day and you win the New York Marathon. Sounds pretty simple, right?

It ain’t for me.

I often skip steps and modify others because, well, because that’s how I pretty much do everything. It is never the same twice. Maybe I’m not a good example to follow if you are trying to rally accomplish resolutions. There is one consistent thing I do in my self-created, dynamic universe and that is allocate time dedicated to doing whatever it is I need to do next to get to my goal.

You don’t have to become an automaton or a slave to your calendar, but you do need to honor the slices of time you’ve set aside. I am always putting in free time where I can digress and play like a 3-year-old, but I also spend some time understanding most of what I need to do to get to the end game and then sectionalizing those tasks onto some kind of calendar based program.

It is the proverbial “eating an elephant” process. A truly successful person is surrounded by elephant skeletons. I am certain Tony Robbins has acres of property litter with the carcasses of elephant projects he has devoured. Even in this phase, I can falter. It is easy for me to get lost in finding a tool to help me track all this shit to the point where I spend more time playing with the tool and not doing the shit.

Tony Robbins

The first step is to admit you have Quickly Diverted Syndrome. Once you do that, you can apply controls of governance to yourself, most of which involve allocating specific time to your actions (“I won’t spend more than 30 minutes trying to make Evernote work for this”). It isn’t foolproof, but it is far better than the more random approach I used to use.

It has even edged into my real world existence where I allocate time on my calendar to do the tasks I’ve committed to. If I don’t, then I face a day full of meetings and the only time I can do the real work is after hours. I don’t want that because, you know, Twitter.

So my first ever NY Resolution is:

 I resolve to sectionalize my resolutions so that I can actually achieve my goals. 

Now that I have put that stake in the ground, I need to think of some resolutions that are a little more demanding that getting to put my sock without the cool tool.

Enjoy the day! As always, I would enjoy any and all comments.

Run Free. Run Easy. Just Run.

Why Natural Running?

Running is fundamental. I was going to say it was a passion, but it goes much deeper than that. Since I started to get involved in changing to a more natural running style I began reading a lot of material on the technique, biomechanics and human evolution. These areas haven’t quite intersected completely in current publications and so I will bring them together.

Why running?

First, let’s talk about the reason we run. More than that, there is a particular set of reasons that running has sustained us for millions of years and been one of the significant contributions to our mental and physical development.

About 3 million years ago the first human like creatures left the forests and started to roam the savannah that was developing and eating up the rain forest. To survive we needed to walk erect to see above the grasses and small trees. We also needed to move our heads back and forth and keep a constant vigil to find food and to not become food. The more we moved, the bigger our brains got. The bigger our brains got, the more high potency calories we needed. The human brains uses about 20% of our bodies energy. Gathering and foraging is great to keep a basic level of energy, but fresh meat had an abundance of protein and fat calories that our hungry brains needed.

It is probably likely that in those early millennia we scavenged as much as we foraged. Remember, we didn’t really have any weapons for hunting from a distance, like spears and arrows. If we killed game it was up close and personal with instruments that were in close proximity. How, then, did we kill game that gave us huge caloric benefit?  Persistence hunting.

Persistence hunting was done until the 1960s and seems to be the solution that best fits the needs of our ancient relatives. In persistence hunting a group of hunters work together to isolate a large animal from the rest of the herd. This was usually timed during the hottest part of the day. A big animal being made to run hard during the hot part of the day will fatigue fast. This type of hunting was science, not just random work. They managed the situation to the advantage of the human over the beast.

The Art of Tracking cover

As a team, the hunters tracked the animal, keeping it from rejoining the herd and making it sprint repeatedly to get away. It might take a few hours and cover as much as 25+ miles, but the big animal would eventually succumb to heat exhaustion and would either die right then or be unable to flee getting battered with a club or rock. The end result would be very potent caloric reward.

There are two important factors to keep in mind. First, the process of tracking was demanding. At times the hunter would lose sight of the animal and would have to figure out where he had gone. Part of this was learning to interpret signs of movement and part of it was the hunter learning to put his mind into the same space as the animal and finding its trail through sensation. This is arguably the beginning of man’s ability to do abstract thinking. Our ability to feel love, passion and intellect all started with tracking animals during persistence hunting. Our higher capacity for learning all stems from running.

The second factor, is that running down a large prey requires a commitment of energy. It only makes sense to make this investment if the outcome was greater than the cost. Since persistence hunting went on for longer than we have been living in cities, it suggests that the positive outcome in terms of calories was consistent. That is the key point. The cost to get the food had to be less than the value of the food

Keep that in mind while I make this next point.

How to Run

I’ve written before about a number of the reasons our anatomy indicates we are born to be distance runners. They are all drawn from works by people like Daniel Lieberman.

the human body

From toe to head we have biomechanics that only make sense if we are distance runners. Things like our short toes, our foot arches which absorb impact, the achilles tendon which operate as a spring when running, the large gluteus muscles, tendons in our neck that keep our head high, how we breath across multiple steps and the way our skin sweats to cool us. I can go on, but suffice it to say that the evolutionary record seems pretty clear.

Survival demanded the efficient use of energy and resources. If running was the basis for capturing needed calories, then running had to be done as efficiently as possible.

Even with all of the attributes that make us great runners, running had to be something more than just moving your feet fast. It had to be efficient and in a form that did not promote injury. Our ancestors had no shoes, or, at some point, only thin strips of leather to cover their feet. They grew up running in a natural form and they learned from each other the most efficient way to run. It wasn’t a random approach. Random meant inefficiency and more caloric output than could be sustained during persistence hunting.

In trying to find the biomechanically correct way to run I discovered the Pose Method. It is the only method that stems from efficient biomechanics that require the least amount of muscle expenditure while providing the least injury prone form that is fast. It was developed by Nicholas Romanov in the 1970s.

The Pose Method

In the Pose Method, the focus is on simple attributes of effective running.

  • The most efficient running happens when landing on the forefoot. It provides the least amount of time that the foot is in contact with the ground. Either heel or midfoot strikes require the foot to roll forward, which means energy is used to force the body over the foot. You can only heel or midfoot strike if you over stride and an over stride requires more energy.
    • Over stride means that your foot extends outward beyond your hips. An overstride, like heel striking, means that you put on the breaks with every footstep and have to power over with your leg muscles to compensate. That is very inefficient from a caloric expenditure perspective.
  • Forward motion is achieved by falling forward and using gravity to accelerate. The more the lean forward the more speed. There are some nuances to the fall. It is more like being pulled forward at the waste because the torso has to be straight to allow proper breathing and to keep balance.
  • The landing foot is picked up, not pushed off of. A lot of runners push off with their landed foot. This uses a lot of muscle that doesn’t really add value, but does burn calories. By lifting the ankle up in direct line with the hip, the body can just fall to the next step and few muscles are used. An increased cadence (~90 steps per foot per minute) is a cruising speed.

There is more too it, but then again, there really isn’t. The beauty of the Pose Method is that it allows you to run very fast with minimal exertion of large muscle groups.  If you want to see a picture perfect example of how this type of running looks, here is a video of Dibaba.  I am pretty certain she did not have any Pose Method training, but her natural method has all of the elements of a good Pose run.

When you tie together persistence hunting with efficient running form, you have a solution that makes sense. In other words, for millions of years we ran naturally in a very specific way. A way that minimized the calories used but still allowed us to run great distances to capture prey that yielded a very positive caloric reward.

Thanks for reading. I hope this has been interesting for you. As a writer, I am compelled to keep asking why something happens and digging a little more each time to get to a kernel of truth that makes for good character motivation.

Enjoy.  Run free. Run easy.

It Hurts When I Do That

There’s an old joke, I think told by Henny Youngman, about a man who goes to the doctor and reports, “Doc, it hurts when I do this,” as he raises his arm. “Well, then don’t do that,” the doctor responds.

That is kind of what happened to me. When I went to an osteopath who is a specialist in hip issues for a diagnosis of my hip pain. It was osteoarthritis, which I already had a decent idea it was.

He did some mobility and flexibility tests (he moved my leg in several directions for about 10 seconds while I lay prone) and watched me walk for about 3 steps. His counsel consisted of basically saying that if there was too much pain he could prescribe something or give me a shot (neither of which I wanted). When I asked him about physical activity he said what I already knew. Ease up. I told him I was a runner and he said I should stop running or reduce it significantly. I did get to see the X-ray, and he pointed out where the arthritis is. Like I could really tell. I guess I got my $35 co-pay’s worth. He spent less time with me than I did waiting for him.

hip xray

Not my X-Ray

On a contrary note, my family physician, who did the referral, called me to see how it went (actually left his cell number for me to call back). He knows I am an avid runner and that this was a big issue. He spent a fair amount of time talking to me and doing the preliminary exam.

The difference between the two is their sense of self. My family physician has deep pockets of knowledge, but he never assumes he knows it all. When he did the exam he asked a lot of questions and did more flexibility tests asking how it felt with each one. The specialist seemed to have a conclusion as soon as he saw the X-ray and responded with a set diagnosis. Whether I was a physically active runner or not didn’t alter his approach or comments. I felt like I was almost bothering him to be there.

As a result I am left with finding options on my own. Yes, I am starting to look for a different specialist who is more oriented toward sports, but unless you understand what motivates a runner, you really can’t treat them for something like this.

What am I doing?

Well, I’ve shifted a lot of my workouts to cycling. I am building those muscles back up. I hadn’t realized how much I had lost in the last 2 years when I focused mostly on running. The motion and alternate muscle use feels good.

I’ve been able to run 3-5 miles and feel pretty much the same afterward, but I can’t run every day. I often do 5-10 minutes of treadmill running after I do a bike workout. The warmup seems to help and the dual workouts give me a boost.

What does it all mean?

Well, I doubt I’ll be running any marathons in the future. That’s OK. I can live with that. I do want to get to the point where I can reasonably to 10Ks and hit a half a few times a year.

To get there I am looking for ways to help my body find a new path. I am taking glucosamine daily and some ibuprofin if it gets too much. I make sure to stay in motion as much as I can during the day and I’m finding information about specific stretching and flexibility exercises. I have also gone back to cushioned running shoes since most of my running is on roads, not trails, but I have kept my minimalist form. When I run I feel very little impact. The benefit is that now I can shop for different running shoes! I’m thinking these will be my next purchase.

NB1400

I have noticed that the harder I work out, the better I feel the next day or so. That is a message my body is sending to me, although I am not totally willing to listen right now. I have a lot of faith in the human body. It can’t necessarily fix itself, but it can adapt if you work with it. Yeah, someday I may need a cortisone shot or even surgery. I’d like to see how far I can go without that. There is something inside me that says I can run again, like I used to. Maybe not as fast, but at least at distances that let me find the runner’s pleasure.

After learning to run again in a more minimal style, I am now going to learn to run again, period. Cycling has always been a love of mine, although not as convenient as running. These two movement exercises will help me find my path.

As always, Run Free!

Running Can Be a Pain

Running with pain is a fact of life if you have a chronic inflammation like arthritis.

Two weeks ago I found out arthritis is the cause of pain in the hip (only about 9 inches away from being a pain in the ass). I stopped running after that, doing cycling on my trainer and resting while I re-grouped.  Bike trainers are great torture machines if used correctly. I just put it in a resistance gear and pedaled for a while.

kirby kineteic trainer

Since I was out of town on business this week, I decided to take a few days off. Usually running is my mainstay workout when I travel, but not this time. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I’ll wrap them in a future post.

On Friday I worked at home and decided to take a short three mile run after my calls ended at 2pm. I’ve been running in minimal shoes – sandals and zero lift/low cushion shoes with flexible soles. For this run I reverted to my technical running shoes – a pair of hardly used Nike Vomero’s to get the cushion that they offer. Most of what I read about running with arthritis is that you need more cushion.

I ran the three miles, feeling a tinge of the inflammation with each step of my right leg. I focused on staying as smooth as I could, not overextending my stride and not worrying about speed. It felt good to be out and running again, even with the pain. Here’s my SportsTracker output.

Photo Sep 20, 3 33 34 PM

It’s a mixed box of information for me. I ran the distance and finished feeling no worse than when I started. I also ran one of the slowest average speeds I’ve ever logged. Although speed isn’t why I run, it is the barometer I use to gauge how good my fitness is.

Later that afternoon my inflammation rose to a level that I hadn’t felt for a while. I hydrated and took some ibuprofen and waited for the morning.

The pain was still there, so I iced it with a package of frozen peas. It is a perfect ice pack. I prefer organic frozen peas (just a joke).

fozen peas

The icing helped immensely and saved me from cycling into a “can never run again” depression. This reminded me that maybe there are simple things to do to abate the discomfort and gain some control back. I will ride my bike today and continue to stay mobile because that makes it all feel better. Most of all I am determined to find a path forward that includes running and cycling and keeping in shape.

Fortunately, my mind has no symptoms of arthritis (no more than normal) so my creative writing continues and is getting better. My writing reminds me that from any starting point it takes a discipline and persistent desire to continue to improve. Writing also reminds me that every endeavor is never perfected and always offers improvement and discovery if you keep working at it. I know from creating a novel (several actually) that you don’t control the plot. The characters and context take you where they need to go.

With arthritis I have a new starting point for my athleticism. A wicked twist in the plot of my running life. I need to listen to my body and context and I’ll work it out. And I will learn a lot in the process.

As always, I am interested in what you have to say. Send me an email or post a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Run Free and Smooth.  

A New Challenge

Here’s the deal. I am NOT going to be able to do my 60-at-60 running challenge right now. Here’s why…

I have arthritis in my hip.

Athritis-300x300That is a hard thing for me to admit. I’ve been fit and healthy most of my life. Running and cycling have been my primary means to that end and this development has shaken me a bit, but only a bit.

A few months ago I noticed the pain and did some self-diagnosis based on symptoms and what I read online. I was basically treating the pain as overuse injury expecting, like all the other injuries I’ve had, it would resolve itself and I’d be back on the road.

The pain did get more tolerable, but started to change. I mean it moved around. Kind of a galloping sensitivity. Some times I’d feel it down my thigh or across my knee or even down on my ankle or foot. That made me think nerves, so I went to the doctor.

He is a local orthopedist who supported a professional sports team at one time and understood athletics. He said I can keep running, just not long distance and that I would benefit from more cross training. I love cycling on par with running, so that isn’t going to be an issue. For the last two years I’ve focused mostly on running, and now will get back into the groove of cycling with my running. I may even take the jump into the water and start some swimming at the local Y.

It was cool to see the X-ray and the spurs near the joint as well as the lack of gap in the ball and cup area (meaning the cushion was gone). There is something relieving about knowing what source is. The orthopedic surgeon timelined my options based on pain and mobility. They go from ibuprofen (my current treatment) to cortisone to a hip replacement, or whatever they have for invasive surgery at that time. I usually don’t take any pain meds because I don’t want to mask my recovery. Plus, the pain, although irritating for someone who is very mobile and active, wasn’t so so bad that I couldn’t tolerate it. Knowing the arthritis isn’t going to go away, I am going to take ibuprofen more often, but not on a daily basis. The last run I went on was 3 miles a week ago. I am going to go back into more cushioned shoes but keep my minimalist form. My pace will be slower, but running is running, so I’m not really complaining.

I have made a commitment to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps and I plan to find a way to keep it, just not this Fall.  They are a great organization doing something I really believe in, so it is important to me to keep to that commitment. Plus, they sent me a very cool running jersey, so I have motivation to keep it up. Maybe I’ll do a personal duathlon that maps to the 60 sentiment.

Team-Logo-Web-2013-copy2

The sun is out and it promises to be a nice spring day. I’m going to spin on my bike for a  while and then start on weekend chores. Maybe I’ll log a couple of easy miles  get started again. We’ll see.  I will keep you posted. I have never been good with motivational phrases. All I can tell you is that I see this as a challenge and I’ll find a way around it so I can keep my athletic sense of self while dealing with the reality of what my body needs.

Run free, easy and smooth. My new motto.

Run on National Running Day!

June 5, 2013 is National Running Day!

I run...

I encourage all of you to get out and move. It doesn’t matter how long or how fast (a walk is just a leisurely run). Go solo. Go with friends. All I ask is that you smile while you run!  It’s about having FUN!

I’m going to do a very short run. I’ll tell you why.

The day before National Running Day I got a nice cut on the bottom of my foot when I stomped on a nail head on the deck. The string of invectives that followed the cut would have made my friend AJ Aalto proud, even though I lack her innate creativity for slang.

It means I have to lay off training for a while. That will be hard to do because I am just ramping up and it has been fun feeling the form come along.

I’m not that anal about my training, except I just publicized that I am running the Fairfield Half Marathon in 18 days. I know that if I try to run before the cut has healed it will open up again, sending me back to day one on the recovery calendar. The cut is right on the bottom of my foot on the outside of my forefoot (the ball of the foot). That just happens to be the place that hits the ground first with every stride.

My impatience has me looking at the tube of Rhino glue in the cupboard.

Photo Jun 04, 8 07 00 PM

Don’t laugh. I’ve done it before, but not on my foot. Did I mention that men are generally stupid and that we apply the same technology to our bodies that we do to broken furniture? Air guns and shelac go a long way in remedying what ails you. Really. I’ve seen the staples doctors put in incisions and my Porter-Cable staple gun can do about the same job.

The good thing is that we won’t use those same curative methods on our spouses or significant others. But, beware ladies. We might do try some of this on our kids.

Funny how these blogs take on a life of their own. It’s like most of my writing. I start out with a hint of an idea and where it goes surprises me.

When you put your feet in front of each other today and run down the driveway or across town, think of me with the tube of Rhino glue in my hand while I do the risk analysis on whether I’m being stupid or brilliant.

And…

RUN FREE!!!

Running for Team Hole in the Wall

This fall I plan to run a 60K distance in support of the Team Hole in the Wall.

Team-Logo-Web-2013-copy2

My event is entitled 60 at 60 and you can link to it here:  http://events.teamholeinthewall.org/2013communityevents/jlgrunr

Why the Support the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp?

The organization was started by Paul Newman and is dedicated to giving seriously ill kids and their families some time to have fun. As Paul said, every kid needs to “raise a little hell.”

I can totally get behind that sentiment. Having three wonderful children and a beautiful granddaughter who are all healthy and hellraisers in their own right gives me reason for thanks.

The Camp started here in Connecticut and has expanded. All of the proceeds go to running the camp and helping kids be kids. I’m just a big kid at heart anyway.

What’s with the 60 stuff?

On June 23, 2013 I tick off my 60th year. I consider myself to be pretty average – as in I’m nothing special. But, I’ve made the most of it. My ability to do that is, to my estimation, related to my running. I am not an obsessive runner, but I am a constant one.

Let me be clear. I am a very lucky man. When I run I celebrate my good fortune. That is also why I feel compelled to help others while I cover the distance.

Running has been in my life since I was a freshman in high school. Actually, running was been part of play and entertainment as long as I can remember, but it became part of my “workout” when I was thirteen and joined the wrestling team. I’ve had off times, but never for very long. Running has been a constant companion for me. It is the place I go to meditate, solve problems, vanquish stress, and celebrate life. While that is happening I also fight disease and aging while justifying eating these every so often.

A Boston Creme!

A Boston Creme!

To celebrate my love of running and my temporal achievement, I decided to run 60 miles in one day. Then I had some hip/IT band problems. I’m now recovering from that issue and decided that 60 kilometers (37.28 miles) is more doable. That’s about a marathon and a half. I hope you can understand that I don’t want to risk pushing it because I do want to keep running in comfort for another 47 years.

The main event will happen in the fall of this year when the weather is more suitable for distance running. In the interim I am doing the Fairfield Half Marathon on my birthday. That will be the official kickoff to this event.

I’ll be running in my Luna Monos.

Photo Jun 02, 8 10 44 PM

There is more to come.  In the next few posts I’ll explain more about my decision.  I’m going to ask you to weigh in on a couple of options, so please keep linked to my blog. I will also explain how you can participate in the event beyond giving your pledges.

Please, follow my blog and forward the link to this page to your friends and family.

Thank you, in advance, for you support!

Run Free!

Parallels

I don’t know why, but I often find parallels between two or more unrelated concepts.  Some call it peculiar, but I call it a gift.  During an early morning cup of coffee, as I sat down with my Aurora fountain pen and a clean sheet of paper, it hit me that there are several parallels between writing and working out.  Since I am an avid runner and cyclist as well as an author (SYN:FIN) I was surprised it had taken me so long to see the relationship. Let’s take a look at the parallels.

Passion

To get good at either writing or a sport requires you have a burning desire in your gut.  The kind of desire that gets you out on the road or sitting with a writing device to ply your craft.  It isn’t a one time effort, either.  Writing and running are lifetime commitments to me.  I may finish running a race (jlgrunr.com) or complete writing a novel, but I know those are just milestones along the way.  There is more to come and, if you have passion, you relish the idea of what’s ahead.

Discipline

An emotional draw is only the calling card.  To be successful and grow requires discipline.  As a writer, if you sit and start throwing words out you may feel fulfilled, but are you creating something of value that is truly the best you can do?  As a runner or cyclist, if you go out on the road and cover the same track every time are you really gaining anything?

A long time ago I made an attempt to race bicycles.  It was a great learning experience, which led me to improving my riding, even though I never attained much in terms of racing accomplishments.  Early on, I went out with some experienced racers on a training ride and got dropped.  Twice.  Tucking my tail between my legs, I pedaled back to the bike shop on my red Pinarello racing machine and talked to the team manager.  After hearing that my training consisted of putting on miles by just riding progressively longer routes around town he told me “You aren’t going to get there by doing what your’re doing.” Those miles were like empty calories.

What he prescribed was a different approach.  One that actually had fewer miles with a more focused effort.  It made a world of difference.

A Mixed Regimen

For the last several years I have been working on novels.  My normal writing time in the morning is either writing or editing those works.  That has been a bit of a mistake. It has been through some discussions with other writers on Twitter and Facebook that made me realize the error of that approach.

In running, I learned that I need to do diverse efforts to really improve.  The past 7 months have been a little different for my running since I am converting to a minimalist style of running.  That has had me going back to square one in terms of form and mileage.  It also had me re-gearing my training program.  In order to get the most advantage out of low mileage, I did several runs during the week that focused on hills and hill repeats (yes, running up and down the same hill several times in a row).  Other times I slowed my pace and went for longer distance or just went out and had fun.

In writing, I am now taking that same approach.  I started to write some short stories, a craft that I have a growing respect for.  Those shorts are in genres that I don’t normally write in.  I penned some erotica or YA fantasy (I’m not combining the two!). I haven’t tried poetry or a screenplay, but they are goals.  Hell, practice writing book blurbs or new copy for advertisement.  It all applies

As a runner, I have found growth and strength come from changing the level of intensity and the terrain on which I run.  In finding that strength, I have confidence to push myself further and harder.  You know what?  Each time I go to a new limit I discover I have a lot more I can do.

The same with writing.  Just in the few weeks that I have started to vary my writing challenges, I am discovering that I can pen my main WIP with more focus and clarity.  So go after it.  Try something new and totally fail at it.  You’ll never get success until you blow up.  Jump into a Flash Fiction challenge and see how bad you can write in 15 minutes.  Accept a wordmongering challenge from someone, or even throw one out there.  I did that a few days ago for the first time and added over 400 words to a blog post I had been putting off.

Structure

I am not a creature of habit, but I am one of structure. Seldom do I do the same thing exactly the same way.  I have a flexible plan now for my writing, the same way I do for my running.  In transitioning my style of running I knew I had to establish some limits on a weekly and monthly basis.  To go too fast too soon would lead to injury and a much longer transition.  It takes a while to develop the muscles and form.

For writing, I gave myself some targets in terms of words and also made a commitment to try a different style sometime during the week.  I knew that by the end of the week I wanted to have achieved some goals, but exactly how and when I got them was more spontaneous.

Focus on Form

As I said, my early running transition focused on short runs following good form.  If you haven’t tried a new genre, then take it slow.  Don’t worry about word count, worry about quality.  Make sure that even if you write only one sentence, that it is a good sentence. A poet friend of mine (Eclipsing Winter) enters contests and writes in forms that she is unfamiliar with. Not everything works, but I have admiration for the way she exercises her poetic muscle.

I do suggest that you don’t delete, just start a new line and keep the mistakes for reference.  Once you start to get the form down, you can go longer, faster and with more ease.

My initial focus on minimalist running was becoming more “barefoot” aware.  I did a portion of the runs barefoot (it was November and December in New England, so it was a challenge!) because barefoot on the pavement gave the most immediate and effective feedback on form.  If you run wrong barefoot, you feel it immediately.  As the form became engrained, I ran longer distances and less time barefoot.

Outside Your Comfort

As part of the development, you need some stretch goals.  In running, I plan for a run or a race that is more than I’ve ever done or a faster time than I’ve ever done or a more challenging course.  There are many ways to vary the effort to make the stretch goal something that will make you reach further than you think you can.

In writing, your comfort zone might be more than just trying a new genre.  It might be having a different peer review.  Don’t give your work to friends and other supportive writers all the time.  Find someone who you respect but have had little interface with and ask them to review.  Develop that thick skin that will breed confidence in your prose or poetry.  Put yourself out there and welcome the feedback.  Post a sample to your blog and invite people to tear it apart, but be sure to ask them why they don’t like it or where it fell short.  You want constructive feedback.  Ignore the pissants.

Forward Motion

I want to encourage you to keep moving forward.  Another virtual friend of mine (Marissa) has been challenging herself for fitness and improving her self perception.  It has been an up and down roller coaster to witness, but the one thing I see her doing is moving forward.  Any step backward is followed by a couple of steps forward. She makes mistakes, but who doesn’t.

Just as in running, there will be setbacks.  Early in my transition I went out and ran a lot more than I should have.  For two weeks I had massive pain in my calves and it set my transition back about a month or so.  That said, I had capped any individual run at about 10 miles the last few months and was still nursing some achilles tendon sensitivity when I signed up for a Half Marathon.  I ran that last weekend and pushed past the limit I had set.  At home after the race with lots of leg pain I wondered if I was back in the same boat.  But, two days later I had no pain, did several runs, including a 9 miler yesterday, and have reached a new level of readiness in how I feel.

There are times when you have to say, “fuck it”, and go past the limit.  You need the base before you do, but when you have the base, don’t hold yourself back.

Rest

I closing, I want you to recognize that rest is as important as effort.  Yep, the key to development is to find the right space to rest.  In running, it is pretty common to have a rest day where you do much lighter workouts or a different type of exercise to let you leg muscles recover after a hard effort.

In writing, take some time away from the keyboard (or paper) and spend a day reading, but think like an editor.  What would you do differently?  How would you improve the plot or characters?  What has the author done well and why did it work?  You can also watch a movie and think like a screenplay editor, always keeping a critical eye on how to make the work better.  Believe me, it will improve your work.

So there you have it.  I have had the pleasure and good fortune of virtually hooking up with a lot of authors in a forum that I love.  Some are newbie and some very successful.  What I have found is that the ones who keep moving forward are the ones who challenge themselves in lots of different ways.  They build a discipline around that challenge and then work toward the goal.

Don’t stop writing, but don’t just write.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Please, post those comments.  It is all part of that feedback loop!

Being True to You

I hadn’t planned on a post, but a good soul passed on this weekend and it prompted me to write.  His name was Micah True.  Some knew him as Caballo Blanco, the White Horse, from Chris McDougall’s Born to Run.

Micah was found dead out on a trail in New Mexico.  He had gone out for a routine 12 mile run and never came back.  I guess if you have to go, it might as well be doing something you love.

It is probably not just coincidence that I posted a quote of his in my running journal on the day he died.  We are all attached in many ways and his passing was surely felt by many.

I won’t expound my feelings about running.  If you are interested, they are being explained in my journal, jlgrunr.com.  It can be summed up in my tag line “I run, therefore I am.”

What I want to share is something simple.  Micah found truth in running.  I don’t mean he lived a life without ever lying.  I don’t know any human being who doesn’t lie.  Truth doesn’t mean telling the truth.  The truth Micah searched for was something deeper.  It is the kind of truth you have to face when you are running fifty miles in rock lined canyons.  The kind of truth that reminds you that you can do a lot more than you have ever given yourself credit for.

Don’t get me wrong.  He was no profit.  As a man he had his frailties and weaknesses and faults.  In running he found answers.  I understand that because I have often found resolution to problems that have confronted me while out on a run.  Plot lines find their way around roadblocks after a few miles.  Running frees me to think.

Here is a quote from Caballo Blanco that has been pivotal in my transition to a more natural running style.  It is about taking it slow, letting it settle in and then letting it just disappear underneath you as it becomes natural.

Think Easy, Light, Smooth and Fast.  You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad.  Then work on light.  Make it effortless, like you don’t give a shit how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go.  When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget your practicing, you work on making it smooooooth.  You won’t have to worry about the last one—you get those three, and you’ll be fast.

There is nothing easy in learning to run naturally, but there is a grace in the form that feels right.  It has taken me about 200 miles and six months to finally get to smooth.  I don’t really care about fast.  I just want to run.

This quote applies to so much of what we do.  As a writer, the process of taking it slow and letting it become a natural form of expression rings so clear.  You can not force your writing technique.  Like any endeavor, you have to start slow, find your rhythm and build up through repetition and work.  Once you have your voice, you can write well.  But to get there you need to take that first step.  You need to commit.  You need to understand that there will be pain.  But it is all worth it in the end.

That is the truth that Micah True had found.  Like him and so many other runners, movement out on the roads and trails sets me free.  It provides me a sense of truth that informs the rest of my life, most of all, my writing.

He will be missed, but it would be a disservice to his memory to mourn him. Instead, we should celebrate him by recommitting ourselves to our own truths and, starting slowly, learning to master them.

I’ll leave you with a final quote that Micah put on his Facebook page a few days ago.

“If I were to be remembered for anything at all, I would want that to be that I am/was authentic. No Mas. Run Free!”

Micah True – Caballo Blanco