Monday, December 30, 2013

Don't post this, for it is embarrassing

Another week of scanty running, but hey, it's the holidays. Driving, family get-togethers, delicious varieties cheese-foods, and reflection on another year past.

"I'll start training after New Year's. It's not a resolution though, because it just happens that I'll have about 16 weeks to train and taper for this ultra that I'm doing in April. That's a good training block"

I thought I was being original. I pulled the same shit on myself last year with Umstead. Zane Grey shows quite a bit more promise of being a fun challenge. 8 loops on a flat gravel road was about as fun as counting to 48,000 while taking sandpaper to my forehead: Certainly tough, but not necessarily fun. "The toughest 50 miler in the US" has a little bit better ring to it. Mountains, technicality, beauty, and a new place to check out is an exciting idea. Now, how do I get my ass up and training?

After yet another transfer of colleges, and a move back to my Alma-mater in Kalamazoo, I'm hoping for a bit of a rhythm as I try(again) to start preparation. Daily runs, if not doubles, should build the legs back up to some sort of fighting shape, even if I'm far from any substantial climbs needed for a mountain race. My home environment, even if it was extremely comfortable, lends itself better to eating and laying about than it does running. I seem to be the only one affected by this, as my parents are both busy, productive members of society. I'm still optimistic that I'm a work in progress in that regard.

This mentality, this pattern that I have, frustrates me sometimes. I realize I'm likely to be a victim of my own lack of motivation, and also my impulsiveness. Is an admission of this a sign of humility or the creation of a self-fulfilling prophecy? I wonder how likely am I to be right if I valiantly stand up and shout, "this is my year!" Is it unwavering confidence that helps us transcend our own mediocrity, or is it being aware of how likely we are to fail?

For this answer, I can pull a memory from my childhood. Growing up riding things with wheels and engines made me familiar with broken bones(9 if you don't count fingers), bruises, and scars. The fun things, like riding a motorcycle over a log that spans a ravine or skipping a snowmobile across a pond, are often the things with the smallest margin of error. I remember one time in particular with my dad on our motocross bikes. He had been riding for years before I was born, and rediscovered the sport when I was old enough to get a full-sized bike(almost- I had to use a box, stump, or log to actually mount it). The only way across a creek was a handmade wooden bridge that had to have been less than a foot wide. I shut my bike off and yelled back, "It's too narrow!" My dad replied, "How wide are your tires? How much room do you need? An inch is as good as a mile." After enough time, I realized that worrying about the possibility of failure is only useful in that it helps us appreciate our accomplishments(and the accomplishments of those we care about).

I'll never forget that because it's true whether I need to hit a goal or avoid a misstep. An inch is as good as a mile. Look forward and accomplish. Stop too often to look down, and end up in a cold, muddy creek with a 250cc Suzuki on top of you. The risk of failure makes the payoff greater, and the fall never hurts as badly as you think it will.

That little rant came out of nowhere.

This week, I shit you not, I didn't run a step until Thursday. Kelsey came up North to visit and we trudged around in the snow on the trails and nearby dunes for about an hour.

Friday was kind of a half-assed hill repeat session in Kalamazoo alone in the dark. Short bursts of high intensity, ten repeats, very short rest interval

Saturday consisted of a bright and sunny change of pace. The cold weather broke and we enjoyed some warmth and traction. 4 miles.

Christ. I spend more time writing about training than actually training. I've got "management material" written all over me.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Monday- No. Up for approximately 36hours after a red-eye from San Francisco. No jogging.

Tuesday- Finals day. Incredibly not fun. Water aerobics(yeah, I still do that for now) and 3 miles of jogging in the dark. Actually a little sore from 23 miles of mountains. "pacer soreness" has a slight sting of guilt to it.

Wednesday- 7 miles - 1 hour at Muskegon State Park. About 6 degrees on Lake Michigan's shoreline. I plodded along and enjoyed the cold. Winter running is fun in its own way. That being said, being stuck in San Francisco wouldn't break my heart until I ran out of money.

Thursday - 3 miles - Quick jog from home. Still cold.

AM- 3(?) miles with Kelsey and Cohen at the Arboretum.
PM- 1 mile balls out barefoot through the snowy streets of Grand Rapids because whiskey and Evan made me.

Saturday - No running, just a few hours of downhill skiing. Really fun outing with Ryan and Nick, but I think the thought of skiing to a place sounds even more appealing. Fantasized about attempting a cross-country ski race this winter. Still, "skating" from place to place gave my arms and legs a workout I guess.

Sunday - 3 miles with Cohen(Kelsey's Great Dane).

A super impressive 19 miles this week. I guess logging them is a step to realizing how lazy I've gotten.

AM: 6 Jog around the streets of Kalamazoo rather aimlessly, except I was in search of toothpaste.
PM: 3 Arboretum Trails with Kelsey and Cohen.

Water Classes, and nothing else. Some random push-ups, pull-ups, and squats, but mostly just out of boredom.

Slept late.

Squats, lunges, etc. as a warmup, then a 5 miler around the house. First time I've opened it up on flat roads in a while. I wore the Garmin(mostly because I was paranoid about missing a phone call) Averaged a 7 minute pace in hardpacked snow on the side of the road, including warm up and cool down. Heh. Being out of shape is balanced out by fresh legs.

3-miles - A pretty nasty ice storm blew through and laid down a 1/8'' sheet of ice over everything. The roads were as slippery as wet glass, but my carbide-tipped strap-on spike things allowed me to get some miles in. Driving to the nearest trail head wasn't worth the risk. Shit, I must be getting old.

2 hours - 9 miles(?) - A run that actually evoked some thought:
I drove West to Muskegon State Park, my favorite spot to run when I'm home. Sand Dunes and Gulf Coastal Plain are a very rare eco-system that I've been fortunate enough to enjoy since I can remember. As I ventured down the scantily-salted backroads to the park, I wondered what the trails would be like. I anticipated knee deep snow and high-stepping it through others' tracks, and a blanket of white covering my home trail system. When I arrived, I was surprised(not sure why. Probably because I don't think very hard). I wasn't just the only one there, but I found no tracks. The dunes weren't covered in snow. They looked like
 it had missed the Western-facing sides entirely. What was there, however,was a thick layer of clear ice that could support my weight. What is usually difficult to run because it constantly gives way is now more difficult because itfsd doesn't give an inch.

Even a grade this slight required no sled for a bruised ass.

Maybe it was just being a little hungry, or maybe the caffeine. This slow, methodical stomp up and down ridges between two beautiful lakes felt perfect. It was cold, slippery, dangerous, and unforgiving. Water sat beneath the ice in some of the lowlands. As I dug my crampons(Why do I even own such things?) into solid ice on my way through a chest-deep cornice on the back of a dune, I felt like me. I sat up there in the wind and watched tugboats drag a ship through the channel. Some deer managed to find traction and wind through the trees, nearly invisibly.

It may be too much for a simple person like me to understand, or maybe I think about it more than other people. Maybe it's just part of the human experience. I find myself preoccupied with where happiness comes from. Of all places, why did an overwhelming rush of happiness show up here on this day? I'm not particularly fit. It was cold. I was alone. I could barely get out of my own way on the trails. The sun was nowhere to be seen, yet I felt the way I've felt in the Rockies, above Lake Tahoe, on the West coast, in the Appalachians or outside of Flagstaff.

Have I rekindled a love with the Midwest, vowing never to leave my home and forsaking all other places? Of course not. I could interpret this as a nice, quaint, "home is where the heart is" sentiment and stay here. I could also accept the ubiquitous notion that happiness will find me as long as I'm open to it. Follow intuition and think before saying no.

Frozen fingers and typing a blog post on my phone in a coffee shop has me all over the place. Blah, blah blog.

4 miles from home at 11:30pm. Easy flat run for no reason other than enjoying the quiet snowfall.

30ish miles on this week. That's a little better.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Log the slogs. They'll turn to jogs.

I've barely been updating this thing. After a hiatus from real training(okay, I seldom train) and life changes that just don't seem suitable for "real time" updates(a book about how seemingly sad things can turn out beautifully, surely). I think I'll start documenting miles on this blog again. I, for some reason, loathe the use of social media as an exercise log. I don't give a shit if "Hobby McJoggerson ran 10.526 miles and felt 'meh.'" Why is this? Do I dislike people that remind me of my own narcissistic tendencies? I roll my eyes at people who know what all the elite ultrarunners are up to according to as I secretly wonder when the hell Tony Krupicka is going to update his damned blog. Yeah, I'm a hypocrite.

I had the pleasure of attending the TNF EC 50 mile in San Francisco this past weekend. I accompanied my girlfriend, Kelsey Gray, as she tossed herself into the mix with the best ultrarunners around. She had an incredible run, and I'll let her tell the tale in her own time. From a fan/pacer/cheerleader standpoint, this was an incredible experience. I saw an area of the country I've never seen before, enjoyed some quality travel time, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing Kelsey run the latter half(ish) of her race. She impressed the hell out of me, especially on the downhills. She's tough as nails, and pretty damned polite even when she's in pain.  I'll hang around for more fun/laughing/adventure/de-mirroring of rental cars if she'll have me.

Enough gushing. I'm grossin' y'all out with my being all affectionate and what not.

obligatory Golden Gate Bridge photo.

Nobody fell off any cliffs, which is nice. 

Twin Peaks. Giant City.
I've been saying that the trip to California and subsequent pacing duties would be the kickoff to real training. 5 hours in the mountains isn't to be fucked with when you're "soon to be in shape." I've got about 4 months. Or is it 5? I'll say 4, so that I don't continue slacking.

Training for this particular journey will require a little creativity. Pacing at TNF will likely be my sole mountain run before heading to the Highline trail. How does one cover 11,500' of technical climbing and descending when living in the midwest? Running mountains would be the best thing because it would train specific muscles, build strength in specific muscles and be more fun, but such is life.
What does one need to run fast in technical mountain trails?
-Leg Speed
-High VO2 max
-Leg Strength
-Enough fast twitch muscle to dodge rocks.

A list titled "things I need to work on" would look a lot like this, so I guess I'll have to take some sort of "cross training" approach. I need power, but sustained power for climbing. I need strength, but sustained strength to bomb long downhills. Fitness is fitness, and I think I can attain it if I keep moving and remember to run fast.

Ah, fuckit I'll just run a lot with a lot of people and do hill repeats.

Oh, right. The documenting of miles. I'll do that next week.

Keep your heads up.

Precarious and Precious

"Do you know what happened?"
"You had a seizure. We're going to the hospital."

If you know Kelsey Gray, you know she's sarcastic more often than she isn't. On a normal day, I pride myself in being sharp enough to keep up with her wit. Facetious or not, I had no answer to her question. This day doesn't count as normal. 

It took a day or two to remember the mundane details leading up to one of the weirder events of my life. Even so, there are some gaps. It was a typical morning: wake up, lay in bed, drink coffee in bed, contemplate eating, and hop in the car to find a trail instead. We decided on the Arboretum trails just outside of Kalamazoo. A short trail system within a short drive of town, it's a great place to ramble about for an hour or so. Decent hills, some switchbacks, and even some pleasant views of a small lake. We pulled in, and started the slow, groaning jog as we shook off the dust from waking up at the crack of 10am(or whatever, I don't remember). 

We ran easy, chatting and laughing and talking about pretty much anything but running, as per the unwritten rules of jogging. 

I vividly remember standing on an overlook. A typical Michigan overlook that doesn't really overlook anything. 

I remember stopping at a bathroom.

I remember jumping over a guardrail that separates two sections of the park. 

The only things that stand out are memories stopping to look around. I felt calm, like I was right where I was supposed to be. A displaced feeling that had been nagging me had finally subsided.  

"I have to stop. I don't feel well."(That's right, grammar police. "well")

The next memory is of walking with my arm around Kelsey. I just assumed we were enjoying each other's presence as we walked to the car after a run, and that I was keeping her warm. She gets cold easily. 

She was holding me upright, and I had no idea. The more I ponder this fact, the more evident it is that realities in our minds can be inverses of  absolute truth. With each passing year, I become more trepidatious about about what I know, and more driven by what I feel. There are certain things that will never falter. 

We made the drive to the hospital, and calmly walked in and explained what happened. My mother, sister, and 10 month old niece came down just to see that I was okay, as did Kelsey's mother. 

Scans and tests at the ER showed no signs of seizures or abnormalities of any kind, and neither have follow-up visits to my primary care doctor. 

Other than a spotty memory, I'm fine. I've done runs of varying lengths and intensities and continued life as usual.

Vasovagal syncopal episode. Good, there's a name for the random thing that happened to me with no specific cause. I'm as guilty as anyone else of using medical terminology as a soothing way to say, "fuck if I know." Many have suggested that I hadn't eaten enough. When I heard this, I was insulted. I have a degree in exercise science. Telling me "your body needs food to exercise" is like telling a mechanic to put gas in a car's tank. Well, I've been a mechanic. I've let a fuel tank sit bone dry as I scratched my head with the hood up. Sure enough, I've lost weight.

I thought I was walking casually with a girl in a park. I was. Sort of. I've been wrong before. I'll be wrong again. Questioning things doesn't show a lack of faith. Taking things for granted, however, does. I've learned to feel free to change my mind. When we live this way, it isn't a lack of commitment. Those we love can rest assured that we haven't grown complacent. I collapsed in mud and didn't know which way was up, but knew who I wanted to be with.

Reality can change. Don't speak in absolutes. It's a surefire way to end up eating your words. This experience taught me for the nth time that life can slip away if you let it. Don't waste it doing things you don't want to do, or feeling ways you don't want to feel.