Saturday, December 26, 2015

High on Running

A friend who happens to be a non-runner asked me what the runner's high is really like. This caused me to do something quite unusual: stop and think.

My gut reaction was to retort with some sort of smart-ass remark, since that's how I respond to most serious inquiries about running. But something stopped me this time: I didn't have a good real answer to reply with on the heels of the smartie one.

I answered, "you just feel real good." And then, realizing that that wasn't very satisfying, went on to say that it's caused by endorphins being released into your bloodstream, affecting your brain. "Kind of like heroin," I said half-jokingly, even though it's true.

I went on to say that running provides a general sense of well-being, and that I always feel better right after a run than before. But the times when I've felt truly great - enough to notice and contemplate - have been truly rare. They've definitely happened, but not often at all.

In order to add some research to back up my explanation about simple feelings of well-being as well as occasional euphoria, I found this Runners World Article that explains things quite well. And this one from Scientific American also provides some good information.

All I can add is that it seems to occur in the late stages of a long, hard effort, and yet in my case, it's rare and always seems to happen unexpectedly. But as with some of my best runs - and I'm sure this is related - those rare occurrences are so wonderful that any possibility of more keeps me coming back and trying even harder.

No, *You* Are

This is a bit of a postscript to my post, To the Nines, Again. It was only a couple days after the post, and I met Debbie Scheel for an early morning run in the cold rain. She wanted to run ten miles in order to satisfy some mileage goal she has for the year.

I didn't want to get out of the car. The rain was coming down hard, and it was 50 degrees. But that's the good thing about having training partners: they get you out the door on days where it would be way to easy to stay inside.

As always, once we got moving, the rain didn't bother us (hardly) at all. But here's what did:

We were arriving back to our cars with our Garmins informing us that we'd run 9.77 (hers) or 9.83 (mine) miles. Debbie just ***assumed*** that I - or any rational runner - would run another quarter-mile in the Wal-Mart parking lot in order for their Garmin to register a number in the double digits.

But I didn't; I stopped and just watched her run that extra little bit. Just before, we'd been discussing who was the most obsessive-compulsive / anal-retentive / just plain crazy, and she dared me to quit. So quit I did.

"Isn't this going to bother you for the rest of the day?" she asked. "Nope. I'll be just fine," I answered. "Well it'll bother me!" she said.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Change of Plans

I was three minutes into my Christmas Morning run when the change of plans occurred. I went West (on OH-303) instead of East. And I didn't come back... at least not until I was done.

Back in the 1990's, we would often come from Michigan to Ohio to visit during the holidays, and on most of those occasions, I wind up doing a long solo run on Christmas Day. Where would I run? When we stayed with Debbie's sister and family in Brunswick, I would run either over to Hinckley, around the lake and back, or else I would go West. Way west.

Those long runs bring fond memories. It was often cold and nasty (this was Cleveland in late December, after all), and I would run 20 or more miles without water or other nutrition (it was the nineties; I didn't know any better). Yet I immensely enjoyed the runs on those deserted country roads (it was early on Christmas morning), and I haven't forgotten them.

Fast forward 18-ish years.

It's 46 degrees Fahrenheit, and that's quite possibly 46 degrees higher than some of those long-ago Christmas runs. I don't worry about my pace; that's guaranteed to be slow - significantly slower than those runs from my younger years. I'm more concerned about going the entire way without water, nutrition, or access to a toilet. Almost all my long runs these days are with friends, and exactly all enable some sort of pit-stop capacity. If I run alone from home, I will make sure that there's water along the way, or more likely, a plan to return home for said pit-stops every 6 miles or so. Prior to the Plan Change, today was going to be one of those days: do three to four 6-ish mile loops, returning home after each one, and/or do some 1-mile loops wound Brunswick Lake with access to a water bottle and some gel. These days, everyone - especially me, knows that you can't run 20 miles without water and some kind of calories. Or can you?

Onward to the West I run. Past Marks Road, past Columbia Road, past Valley City (Frog Jump Capital of Ohio!), past Lester, Station and Erhart Roads. Farther west than some of those other long runs. I turn South onto Cowley Road, and then back East on Law Road. As it had been all those years ago, St. Martin of Tours Church is well lit, and is a beacon that's visible for miles. After a little zig-zagging, I turn Southeast onto Abbeyville Road until I get to Lager Heads Restaurant and brewery, where I turn East onto Hamilton Road.

I look at my Garmin for only the second time. I know I've been going slow, but I'm enjoying this - possibly as much as those long ago long run. The reason for the glance? I know that it's a long five miles home from here, and I learn that I've run 14.79 miles to this point. Happy that I didn't notice the overall time or pace, I make the beeline for Shortstack (my house's name) that I'd hoped for.

After running in the darkness for all these hours, it was a different sensation to see the first hint of daylight whilst heading north on Substation Road. I hadn't seen very many cars during the entire run, much less any pedestrians or other passers-by. But here I come from behind, up to a man walking his dogs. I say hi as gently as I could so as not to startle him, but for some reason, startle him I do - he nearly jumps into the ditch on the side of the road. I say that I am sorry, and he seems fine, so on to Shortstack I go, finishing in 20.17 miles and a painfully slow 3 hours, 37 minutes.

Was I thirsty? Hungry? In need of a bathroom? Yes, yes and yes. But am I glad I did it? YES!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

To the Nines, Again

A few months back, I wrote a post called, To the Nines. It's mostly about how nine-minute pace has sort of become a new standard as a pretty good training pace for me. It's probably about some other stuff too, but as with a lot of my posts, all-in-all, it's kind of hard to figure out what the heck it's really saying. Along that same vein, here's another post about nines, but this time from another angle. I think this other angle may be in the sixth or seventh dimension. Further such analysis is left to the discretion of the reader.

I am finishing my ten-mile park run and turn into the office parking lot when I spot Dave Gajewski getting out of his car. I jog over to him and stop my Garmin. As we're talking, I glance at the watch and see that I've run precisely 9.99 miles. Almost without thinking, I am about to reach down and start the thing again in order to run another 0.01 miles over towards the building. But wait! I have to consciously stop myself, almost in the fashion of Dr. Strangelove.

For almost no reason whatsoever, I decide that today I am stopping at 9.99 miles, and that is the way this particular run will go down. To ensure that the event has a witness to verify its authenticity, I show Dave my watch. "Look: 9.99 miles, and I'm stopping right here. I'm not going to run any further. This is it. No more. Not a single step. I could, but I won't. No sir." I may have rambled on for even a few additional sentences. It's a good thing to have a witness.

I've had my Garmin for nearly a year now, and it's amazing how it's changed my mileage mindset. BG (that's Before Garmin), I would only record miles rounded to whole numbers. 5K, 10K, Half and Full Marathon races were problems, since they aren't whole amounts of miles. If I was doing a Half-Marathon for example, I would need to jog 0.9 or 1.9 miles as a warmup. 0.8, 1.8, or any amount with a 0.8 attachment would work for a 10K or Marathon.

How did I know how many miles I'd run? If I could, I'd use, my car's odometer or any other known way of measuring the distance. Tracks always work. If nothing else could apply, I would estimate my pace and extrapolate the distance from that.

How accurate were those methods? Not too awful. Most of the time. By and large. For the most part. Of course if there was any doubt, the benefit of that doubt would be me. In other words, there may have been just a little bit of rounding up.

All this comes to mind as I finish my Saturday long run with Larry and Christine Orwin. My total for the day is 19.71 miles, giving me 59.69 for the week.

Does it bother me that I could have fairly easily bumped those totals up to 20 for the day and 60 for the week? Not one bit. Nope, I'm fine with the numbers as they are. It's fine to have nines in the distance totals instead of zeros.

Who needs zeros anyway? Nines are fine. Really.

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