Monday, May 6, 2013

1st week of May, 2013: Inspiration in Sand

AM: 4 miles. I seriously hate getting out of bed when I don't "have to." Great little wake up jog once I finally got outside though. 2 out/2 back on the dirt road with one hill. 7:28 pace overall, mostly offset by the 6:40 outlier 3rd mile. research paper and test prep session later...

PM: 4 miles. Full stomach(sweet potato chips, bananas, oranges). Gravel road, trail, and pavement. 7:12 pace overall, pretty evenly paced throught.

8 miles on a monday. Better than the usual goose egg I've been doing every monday this semester.

One day of focused running, and I already feel better about myself. Such a simple thing that I've been overlooking.

7 miles - Hills. 3 mile warmup on the xc ski trails, then technical hill repeats. The thought of charging up a road hill just didn't sound fun, so I ran up hills of various grades, but they were either sand/roots or sand dunes that took 1-2 minutes to climb. After the last one, I stood up straight, and promptly plopped onto my ass. May have farted. Jogged the flat trail back to the car and headed to work.

Workouts like this are humbling reminders of the how much fitness I have to gain before I can feel confident in my jogging abilities.

4 hours of water classes.

6-7 miles - a hilly jog around GR with Evan. As is usual in this case, Evan put a hurtin' on me. He's tapering for the Kzoo marathon, and is ready to run like hell. First three miles at around a 6:40 pace, then we cruised at a slower pace as I shuffled a few steps behind.

These are the kind of runs I need, in moderation. I tend to be a bit soft, especially on solo road runs.
EDIT: Evan ran a 2:55 in the heat and hills of Kalamazoo this weekend, setting a 1 minute PR. Amazing feat.

PM was an intro to slacklining with mile munching monster monkey Mikey Jae. Definitely a cool summertime activity; a fun way to improve core and leg strength. If anyone could be the first to run 26.2 miles on a slackline barefoot while juggling clubs and eating bananas, it's Mike.

2 miles - 15 minute run right after waking up. Didn't even put my contacts in, and headed to a small trail loop down the road, ran it, and came back.

4 miles of barefoot hiking with Sam at the State park. Pretty relaxing, but hilly. Training? Not really, but enjoyable.

4 hours of water classes.
5 miles - Slept in. Flat jog around the block. Started slow but felt like trying to crack 35 minutes after a couple slow miles(~9:00 each) . The watch ticked over 35:00 with about 200m to go. A good lesson in running hard after hope is lost. Running a few low sixes was encouraging, even if it hurt a little.

Impromptu sand dune 5k in the tomorrow.

5k race - Earth, Wind and Tired 5k. Muskegon State Park. Somewhere between those obnoxious tough mudder/warrior dash/shock-your-private-parts-with-a car-battery-while-you-get-hit-with-foam bat races are my new favorite races in the whole world. The course is 99% sand, and about 1% flat. I'm fairly certain that I've run 5k mountain courses faster than this event. When one pushes off of a rock, it pushes back. Push off of a sand dune, and it just gives way. It also starts and finishes on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. This cool event deserves a little write-up of its own.
This is about 1 mile of the course. Photo taken this Fall.

9th overall with a time of 30:05. With regard to local races, I find myself at the mercy of whomever shows up. Sometimes, I get lucky and snag a win in spite of being unworthy of any kind of elite status. This time, a fantastic group of elite cross-country skiers came over from Wisconsin(the Cross-Lake Ferry was one of the sponsors for the event). They all ran fast, well-paced races and claimed the top 8 spots. I really admire people like this that dedicate themselves to athletic excellence, and long to emulate it in my own way.
"Must. Puke. Now." After this, I took a dip in the lake, ate 5 bananas, and had 5 beers. Nice little Saturday Morning.


Since most of my racing in the last couple years has involved galavanting across the country, my parents have usually seen my running through the lens of either Sam or Jason Robillard's camera. This time, even though it's just a local 5k, they saw me doing what I love doing, and are still support me as I creep up in the age groups(I keep forgetting that I'm not in the 20-24 bracket anymore). Seeing my dad standing on the top of one of the final sand dunes was pretty damn cool. He smiled, waved, and told me I looked like shit, reminding me the greatest of friends always know just how to communicate.
"Hold the bone" jokes aplenty, with or without banana.
I always wondered what these boxes were for as they sat by the luge.

The best part of this race had nothing to do with my experience, but the vicarious thrill I got from my family. Sam, with only a couple weekly runs under her belt, placed in the top third overall. Her tenacity never fails to impress me, even if it sometimes leads to argument. If she turns into a runner after such a success, then that's cool. If not, that's cool too. Being married to a normal person will keep my head out of my ass.
A section of smaller dunes toward the end of the course.

Samantha levitating in to a finish.

My cousin Andy was the one who, at the last moment, tagged me in a facebook post about this race. We signed up on a whim along with Samantha, Candace and Kimberly(everyone was impressive on the course). I hadn't seen Andy since our family Christmas party, and that was kind of a blur since Scott family Christmas parties involve kegs of beer, billiards and J├Ągermeister. Had he not greeted me first in the parking lot, I might have walked right by. After commiting to get fit for a few months, Andy lost an incredible amount of weight by way of diet and exercise alone. He stood there with his beautiful family as a 6'3, 180-ish lb athlete. Placing 28th out of 150 runners, he didn't do well "for a big dude," or any other caveat one would add, but just plain did well, simple as that. No asterisk. It was a true accomplishment. His family was proud, and his daughter held up a sign that she painted as he finished his first race. His wife, Karen, hugged him excitedly as he came through the cattle gates. It's more than a race. It's a celebration of a better life, and I was inspired.

I needed Andy to remind me of why I run. Medals and t-shirts and free beer and sweaty people are awesome and everything, but there's something else brewing inside of us. In a state that's not exactly known for its fitness, I see determination and toughness that can't be matched. We can get healthy. We can lead better lives for ourselves and our children. In a world where running as fast as your legs can carry you is entirely optional, it takes initiative to start gaining momentum. The whole point of competing is to find something inside of you that you knew was there, but needed proof. Yes, it's okay to seek validation, as long as its from yourself. I only believe in what I see. We've got nothing to prove to anyone else, but everything to prove to ourselves.  
finished in the top 20%, even after stopping and dumping sand out of his shoes.

I saw my running family all over this course too. Stuart, Ryan, Rick, Julie, and Mark all volunteered on the course and helped keep everyone from getting lost in the sea of sand between Lake Michigan and Muskegon Lake. Nature can make amazing things, and the human spirit is one of them. We're facing a time when that spirit is being tested, and 150 of us turned to sand and hills in search of...whatever it is.

A week of jogging wrapped up rather nicely. Super low mileage, especially considering that I've run 7 times in 6 days. I guess it's all good, especially considering the fun I had.

Jog on, Joggers.

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