Saturday, December 21, 2013

That's a Wrap

"To possess one's own experience rather than be possessed by it, to live one's own life rather than be lived by it-in time to become all you are" -Dr George Sheehan from "Running & Being"

The morning started like many others recently, rolling over in bed, sleep still stinging my eyes as I searched for the motivation to leave the warmth of my quilt.
So I made a deal with myself, I turned on the Grateful Dead album 'Without A Net' and told myself that as soon as the song 'Althea' was over I had to get up and that's what happened, running tights, jacket, hat, mittens and shoes on quickly and out the door into the chilly December air.
The day before I plowed through the snow and slop for 9.5 miles, and today was going to follow it up with an easy five around Calhoun that would put me over the 1,500 mile mark for the year.  That was an unofficial goal but one that I was now excited about accomplishing, a byproduct of staying healthy and motivated much longer than I had in years past.
As my feet searched for footing, sliding through the loose snow on the greenway, I thought back over the miles of this past year, many along this same path, Calhoun, Isles, Harriett, Cedar, Brownie lakes, I have run them so many times I know all the distances and how to string together 5, 7, 10+mile runs whatever I needed on a certain day.
Picking my way slowly on to the path by Calhoun the Nike+ voice broke through the Dead in my headphones 'One mile completed, time 7:59' and I flashed back to a run months ago in similar conditions.  Slipping, sliding through the snow I had started out with no particular route in mind, and frankly no idea how long I wanted to go. 
I had looped Calhoun, headed to Cedar, then up over the railroad tracks to the dirt path that leads to Brownie, a light snow began to fall, the sky steel gray, the ground a dull white making finding footing pretty difficult, but fun.  Smile on my face, Railroad Earth in my ears, I hopped back onto the Cedar Commuter trail after circling Brownie, headed down to the River, into North East, back over, through downtown and then towards south Mpls, snow still falling and starting to accumulate, getting a little nervous, I hadn't brought any water as it was winter and it tends to freeze and I was getting hungry.  Wandered down to the Salvo bridge and onto the greenway, finally stopped at the bike store there to use the bathroom & get some water, chatted with the person behind the counter and headed out, making it home with 20 miles banked but more so a chance to see all the different areas of Mpls via foot in beautiful falling snow. 

'Two miles completed, time 16:01' said the voice, nice to have the distraction of my head phones something I have been straying away from more often lately.  Enjoying instead the silence that winter brings how the snow mutes everything from cars to your shoes hitting the dirt or pavement.  Reminded me of being at the Cabin this spring, polishing off a cup of coffee and heading out the door to finally do something I had been thinking & talking about for years.  Running down to Honeymooners Bluff, I headed out and was surrounded by silence, my feet hitting the dirt road the only sound as there was still a lot of snow up there, running down the road which was absent of cars, seeing huge moose prints in the soft dirt shoulder. 
Pounding up the stairs cut into the back side of the bluffs, my breathing turning to panting, skipping over the stones along the path and finally making it to the top, looking down at the frozen lake from a few hundred feet up.  Eating a power-bar while enjoying the view before heading back home for a total of 14 miles with lots of evidence of Moose but no sightings, until days later in my car (which was okay by me) 

"Morning!" boomed the voice of a runner, startling me out of my daydream, his face covered with a mask and hat, only his eyes visible, I smiled and answered the same, always amazed at the number of people out running in the Twin Cities no matter the weather.
Made me think of the people I have met along the way, the running community is a relatively small one and the Ultra community is even smaller, you constantly run into the same people at different races.
Like Paige and Aaron Reeves, two people I have gotten to know quite well after meeting Paige at a Triathlon years ago and running into them at other races, this year pulling into the Afton parking lot for the 50K only to have them pull into the parking spot right next to me.  Great people who are doing great things, or Jim and Val a couple I cross paths with at races and in random training runs through the woods, always recognizing them by their gait.
And it's not just the new people I have met but using running to reconnect with old friends like Greg, Mitch, and Cano guys I haven't seen in years but now we spend time running races, talking training, nutrition and planning adventures.
Getting to spend time, whether on the roads or in the woods, with my brother's Alex and Paul, having my Mom, Dad and Gramps on the sidelines cheering, and all my other friends and family who put up with me complaining about how tired I am, while in the same breath talking about how great that last run was and how I have so little time and how hungry I always am...
Not to mention all the gnarly folks I see at races year in and year out but have not gotten to know outside of a shared conversation at some point in the race, the 60 year old men and women who are my inspiration, passing me because they never make a mistake and are just steady and even all the time.
"Three miles completed..." the voice interrupted my thoughts again, the south side of Calhoun, I looked towards the downtown Mpls skyline thinking how lucky I am to live in a major city yet just blocks from my apt I can circle these beautiful lakes, and blocks from my office downtown I can hop on a path along the river that makes you forget you are in the middle of a major metropolis.
I had now crossed the 1,500 mile mark for the year, my hamstrings feeling a little weak from pushing through the snow the past few days, not to mention the first cross country ski session of the season a few days back. 
Chill in the air wasn't bad but my mind did drift to a warm apt and hot coffee that I knew was waiting for me, plus a day off today which, after working until 1am the night before, meant a nap in my chair at some point.
But rest and relaxation has never been my forte, instead pushing until the body gives out and exhaustion forces me to the couch has been my recipe...though in recent years I have tried to take the advice of many a veteran runner and 'listen to your body' taking breaks as preventative maintenance instead of crashing and having to rebuild.  That being said active recovery is much more up my alley, taking days off running, but spending them skiing, biking, hiking, lifting, or just moving.  Like I was today, these were probably junk miles, tough to do anything really serious when the footing is so bad out there, but just moving makes me feel good, which is why after the Surf The Murph 50K when I told myself I would take November off I knew I was lying...tough to stop moving when you're so used to it.
"Four miles completed..." this run was almost done, circling off Calhoun and back on to the Greenway to head towards home, always a bummer to end a run (well not always but more often than not) and for weeks now I had been telling myself once I hit 1,500 for the year I was taking the rest off, be it a week or a day whatever. 
But as glided down the semi-plowed path I didn't think so much about the end of the run, but more about when the next time I could get out would be...

"Five miles completed, time 40:52..."

Final Race Notes for 2013
April 20: Hyland 50K - 5:21:14
May 5th: Lake Minnetonka Half -1:39:09
July 6th: Afton 50K -7:14
July 27th: Voyageur 50miler -12:28:41
Sept 21st: Patagonia 63K -7:05:20
Oct 6th: Twin Cities Marathon -3:52
Oct 26th: Surf The Murph 50K -6:22:53 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Piles of Miles

"Do not follow where the path may lead.  Go instead to where there is no path and leave a trail"
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

A busy summer turned into a busy fall and suddenly its winter without any warning...Been meaning to write a race recap from the Surf the Murph 50K but honestly there wasn't much to write about.  It was dark and cold when we started, I met up with my old buddy Mitch at the start, totally expected him to dust me as I was running my third marathon plus in the past five weeks, but he was coming back from an injury and we just settled in and spend the next 6:22 keeping a steady pace, and catching up on everything that had gone on in the years since we had last seen each other.
There was never a moment of doubt about finishing, there wasn't any sort of adversity, we just settled in and rolled along happily from aid station to aid station, seeing his wife and kids from time to time, grubbing on cookies and candy, catching up on people from grade school and high school, as well as sharing stories of races run since then.
The weather couldn't have been better, beautiful sunrise, warm temps as the day wore on, soft trails, rolling hills, great convo, and it was the perfect way to wrap up a long summer of running.
Once we finished, and headed our separate ways, Mitch with his family, me up north to my good buddy's house to help him cut down trees at his new place, I had some time to reflect on the past five weeks....
Going to Chile, the whole experience, my body somehow recovering on the fly in order to run the Twin Cities, the support of the crowds, blasting from that right to work, watching the Lynx win their second WNBA Championship in three years, wrapping up the parade and trophy presentation by getting up at 430 and bombing up to my cabin with my good buddy Sparky for a quick weekend hiking and canoeing, blasting back in time to get him to the airport, then turning around to run Surf the Murph. 
Whenever I feel like I am too tired to do something or too lazy, or busy, I only need to remember that stretch, riding a wave of good vibes, and adrenaline to undertake a string of adventures that seemed out of reach and make them all happen.
After spending that next day cutting down and clearing trees at my buddy's place, I decided to take the rest of the month off and start training again in December but a funny thing happened when I got home...I just felt really good and didn't feel the need for an extended recovery, instead I just kept running, sure I had some knots and soreness to work through but my body just loved the feeling of being in motion and so I kept right on rolling, and last week added up my mileage for the year shocked to find I was closing in on 1,500 miles run.
The past few years I had topped out around 1,200-1,300 and always in the back of my mind thought 1,500 would be a cool milestone but after the fall season I always just fell off and didn't get out much.  But this year I was able to keep it going and now am less than 60 miles from accomplishing that goal.
I have run through everything the past 12 months,  snow, rain, heat, mountains, woods, downtowns, good times, hard times, bitter cold winds, and swampy humidity, run with a clear head and a full heart as well as a full head and a heavy heart.  Every step taught me something, showed me a little more about myself or my surroundings, opening my eyes to what is possible and how the only limits we have are the ones we place upon ourselves.