Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Phoenix

In my never-ending quest to find irony and meaning in the random coincidences of life and running, I herewith submit this little tale of my running here in Phoenix. And my running in general has seen a rebirth from the ashes of injury and failure.

Granted, I’d been starting to get better anyway. And granted, I did all right – better than expected, even - at the Run with Scissors Marathon the other day. What’s rising like a phoenix, however, is my overall fitness. I know this because I was actually able to run again the very next day after scissors. It was an easy five-miler from my downtown Phoenix hotel and over to a small park, and it wasn’t super fast, but I felt surprisingly well – sore, but well - much better than I’d have predicted.

For my second run in Phoenix, I ventured out a little further. It’s always a challenge to find the best places to run whilst on the road. I usually start by looking at google maps. From this location in Phoenix, things didn’t look all that promising; no long bike trails or large parks nearby. Last time I was nearby, it was in Scottsdale, and there were some very nice areas to run there. Here there only appeared to be major roads and traffic. Sidewalk running on downtown city streets is okay – it beats not running at all - but I can think of better things. I did a lot of back and forth, up and down, zigging and sagging, yin and yang, dipsy doodling, etc., all around North Central Avenue. In spite of myself, after nearly an hour of wandering, I actually did find something.

It was a bike trail along a canal. Or maybe it was a Phoenix style river. It wasn’t a bad place to run at all. Unfortunately, after only a couple of miles on that path, it was time to head back. This run was somewhat slower than Monday’s however. That may be because of the aimless wandering. It turns out that that bike trail meanders all across the city.

Now for the third and final run, I finally had a destination. I’d go east on Thomas, catch that same bike trail, follow it northwest, and then come back on Central as I did yesterday. I managed to do just that, for a run of about ten miles. Just like Tuesday’s run, this wasn’t quite as many as I’d wanted. But like Tuesday, I ran out of time. And gumption.

The perfect weather here in Phoenix – extremely clear, with low 60’s for these early morning runs, and upper 80’s for highs - is in stark contrast with the devastation caused by storm Sandy in the east. The difference is almost surreal.

So yes, I’ve risen from those ashes. I’ll need to rise further as I get back, but that’s another story.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My Run with Scissors

Finishing in the pouring rain - Photo by John McCarroll
When the race started, the trails were cold and damp, and there was a slight breeze. The other runners and I....


There are just too many race reports that proceed sequentially from start to finish. Once in a while I get a wee bit creative - or, you could say, brain rattled - and try something different. One such example is my Cleveland Marathon Report, which was written in backwards order so as to have a happy ending. Other times I've started the report in the middle of the race and worked outwards.

For this report I'll just provide a bunch of totally random thoughts, just as they appear in my brain in order to rattle around. How and why they get there, and who puts them there, is a mystery.

- Run with Scissors is Roy Heger's and Shannon Fisher's baby. It's a double marathon, marathon and 10K, all on trails within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I count myself as one of the many who have an undying love affair with "our" National Park. Even in the cold rain, wind and gloom, the park's beauty is the star of the show. It's breathtaking.

- I saw Josh Stucky at the first aid station, which was about 6 miles, roughly one hour into the run. We had talked the previous day about how muddy the trails would be, and so he asked how they had been so far. "Not nearly as bad as I expected," I answered. After only few steps past the aid station however, I learned how much I had just lied. There was an unbelievable amount of mud and muck. And it was only beginning. I'd had no idea how muddy these - or any - trails could get.  From that point on, they were almost unfathomable.

- There is drizzle, there is light rain, there is heavy rain, and there is windy rain. We had them all. Oh, and did I mention that that rain was cold? Rain and 60 degrees isn't so bad. Rain and 42 degrees - colder than it was at the start, certainly is bad. Throw in darkness, mud and more mud, and you get the picture,

- All that slipping and sliding around take a huge toll on the body. Especially an old one like mine. By about mile 20, everything hurt. I caught up with Jim Fisher, and we walked and jogged together a bit. He was hurting too. We had run the whole thing together a couple years back, and here we were doing it again. That other time we'd planned on doing the double marathon, but dropped down to the single after being totally spent in the five hours and forty minutes that it took us. This time we were not even thinking of such a thing. One muddy marathon would be plenty today, thank you.

- The volunteers were great, as always. It's hard to describe how much work they go through, and the ones who do ultras do it for a whole lot longer. Cold rain and wind doesn't make it any easier for them. But there they were - doing everything possible to make the runners' race experience as good as it could be. And while I'm at it, let me also say that my hat's off to RD's Roy and Shannon as well. No one does it better. Okay, just one more thing. I've said this before, but here it is again: ultrarunners are the best people, period. It's so good to see them all out there, many of my best friends, running or volunteering. They're the best.

- How come I keep referring to this as an ultra, even though this here single marathon is only 26 or 27 miles? Because it is; that's why. If you have done RWS, you understand.

- I suppose I should wrap this up sometime, so here goes. I picked it up a bit after I'd run with Jim for a mile or two. I was still hurting - in every way you can imagine - when I finally got back to the Pine Hollow Aid Station. I was 5 hours into my run, and the portion from the start/finish to here had taken me an hour in the darkness. But the way back was shorter. I finished in 5:26 - 14 minutes better than last time. I suppose you could say it was a PR!... At least for this course.
With Jan Roe and Jill Kahle - Photo by John McCarroll

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Thousand Mile Journey

Yes, of course you know about that. It begins with the first step. But this really isn't about running. At least not yet.

We got the call a little before midnight. It was Barry. Veronica's water had broken, and she was in labor. This was two weeks early. Debbie had planned to be with them when the baby arrived. She had a flight booked one week before the due date so that she could get there in plenty of time. Baby had other ideas.

By 12:45 am, we were on the road. The plan had been for Debbie to stay with Veronica and Barry for a month or so as to help out. I was to pick her up the weekend prior to Thanksgiving. Now we needed to get her there as soon as possible so that Barry could be present for the birth. Otherwise, he'd have to stay back home with little Malcolm. As it was, he did drop Veronica off at the hospital. Debbie doesn't do well driving in the dark; that's why I was taking her.

Along the way, I stopped to get some dreaded gas station coffee. I don't usually fool with the stuff, but this was a necessity. I got a gallon (or so it seemed), figuring that I'd make up with quantity what the stuff was lacking in quality. This didn't work. It was the most foul tasting stuff ever, and on top of that, it didn't even work for me. I was still sleeping along side Debbie who was doing likewise for the entire trip. Remember the National Lampoon's Vacation scene?

We did make it in one piece, but alas. We were an hour or two late. Vincent Charles Dancer had already come into the world. I got a short nap, went to visit Mom and Baby, along with Debbie, Barry and Malcolm, at the hospital. All were extremely fine. And so, having done my job, I began the long journey back home. Yes, it would be another 500 miler. All the same day.

For some reason, that part went okay, and I was able to be home and in bed by about nine pm. Now that was a long day.

Now the running part. Of course I'm a bachelor once again. Nothing to do but run, right? Well there is work, including preparing for a presentation and class at the ISMA7 conference in Phoenix. But being a bachelor, even though I don't recommend it, is somewhat good for running. Not that I recommend such a thing. In fact, I really can't wait until Debbie gets back.

But I am running more. And slightly better. This trend had started a couple weeks ago anyway. Now things are picking up even more. Too bad Shannon Fisher may ruin everything. She cornered me and made me sign up for the Run with Scissors trail marathon for tomorrow. If that doesn't ruin me, nothing will.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Glutes Aren't Firing

And this is causing my hamstrings to do all the work. And this is causing - or, better to say - has caused my piriformis syndrome, otherwise known as "runner's butt". I found all this out by seeing a sports medicine professional. The good news is that I'd been feeling a bit better anyway, and I'd started running again. Now, with some good exercises to do, I'd say I'm definitely on my way back.

But it's a long way back. 10-mile runs now feel like my 30-milers of only a couple months ago used to. I'm only doing 25-25 miles per week. Maybe this week will be better. This is going to take a while.

One thing I'm trying this time is to bring the intensity along with the increased volume. This is because when I used to do only the latter at first with the former coming later, I'd invariably become injured at that point. Maybe this will work better.

In the words of the horse in Animal Farm, "I will work harder".

Hinckley is Back

Okay, okay. Hinckley never really left. But a lot of us did; we hadn't been meeting there for our Sunday morning runs for quite some tim...