Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Young Self, You Made a Monster

Al's note: I have been having trouble sending RWA to those of you that subscribe by email, so I'm trying some tricks using paperclips and gum and see if that works. I apologize if you get this post twice - Al D.

"Where'd all the days go, when all we did was play? And the stress that we were under wasn't stress at all, just run and jump into a harmless fall" - Paolo Nutini

One day recently while having one of my solo run-arounds, my mind, as it usually does, started to wander. Here I am, a runner for 35 years and numerous marathons and ultramarathons, a runner who still likes to just get out there in the rain, heat, cold (ok, not so much the cold), and all kinds of conditions just to get in my fix. I was wondering on this run, how did I get in this way? I don't mean how did I start running, but what formed me to want to live part of my life outside, running up and down hills, on the roads, on the trail, sometimes for hours at a time.

Have you ever wondered about how the experiences you have as a child form what type of adult you become? Me neither, until this run where it just popped into my noggin. As I grow older, I begin to sound and act just like the stereotypical grandfather...I don't mean complaining about everything in site and passing gas all the time, but having some strong opinions about the world that surrounds me. I keep having the thought that the youth of today is going to hell in a wheelbarrow. I know it's not true, or even 50% true, but for goodness sake, so many kids today are so reluctant to get off their butts to do something physical. On top of that, we live in a world that protects kids from doing anything dangerous or allowing them to get themselves into situations that they have to figure out how to get out of. They can't play with anything sharper than a ping-pong ball or anything smaller than their foot!

What I remember of my young childhood, or what I perceive I remember, was playing all the time outside. In the summer, or on Saturdays, I would go out early in the morning, meet friends, and "mess around" all day until it was time to get home for dinner. Some days, we would play baseball, football, or soccer, but most days were spent playing games we made up as we went along. Games that would begin as tag would evolve into some form of tackling each other until you got your friend in a hold that he couldn't escape. Bike riding would become this mad dash down a hill on a road until you made a hard right into the woods at full speed and see how far you could get before you smacked into a tree. The further you got, the more adoration you got from your friends. I can recall jumping off this 100 foot cliff (probably 20-30 ft) onto the soft dirt below. The object was to see who could jump the furthest from the point at the top of the cliff you took off from. Probably explains a lot about the ankle problems I have today - can't even jump a log on the trail. And races...we always had races - bike races, running races, tree climbing races. No rules, just "I'll race you to the ____". Of course, this usually began when you were already running someplace, so the guy who called the race usually got a head start, which was ok because things always evened out and you got left in the dust just as many times as you were the first to kick up the dust.

So, how does this tie into my running self? Does the type of play you have as a youngster smolder until one day it becomes the type of play you have as a full-fledged grownup? I'm 67 years old and my play is to lace up my shoes and go for a run for a couple of hours down the road or through the woods. Sometimes I run down a singletrack and smack into a tree. Sometimes I jump over streams to see if I can get to the other side dry. Sometimes I "race" myself or my fellow runner, though you'd be hard pressed to actually say I was racing. If I didn't play as a child, would I be playing now? If it wasn't fun then, where would I be now? What kind of future are today's kids being pigeon-holed into with more video games, more social media relationships, more homework, and year-round organized sports. Oh, I know these kids will turn out fine. They'll learn that sharp things cut and hot things burn. My world was different from my child's world, and his is different from his child's. But, don't you think that so many aspects of your childhood mold your adult self? I do, and I think one of the biggest reasons running and me have this bond now is because we had this bond a long, long time ago. Yeah, it was different. Yeah, it was the same.

Maybe I shouldn't write RWA sitting on my deck on a hot summer day with a good, cold beer by my side, but this idea spawned in my head on a run, not from the heat or the beer. I've said many times in these blogs that running is a part of me. I used to think it was because I had nurtured it in all these years that I have been running, sorta like a good habit. But, now I think that fire was sparked many years ago when I was running a block, not a mile. Jumping over a cliff and not a log. Running with friends and...well, thank goodness, I'm still doing that.

I'll see you on the roads and trails - AL


"One child lost is too many. One child saved can change the world"

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Young Self, You Made a Monster

"Where'd all the days go, when all we did was play? And the stress that we were under wasn't stress at all, just run and jump into a harmless fall" - Paolo Nutini
One day recently while having one of my solo run-arounds, my mind, as it usually does, started to wander. Here I am, a runner for 35 years and numerous marathons and ultramarathons, a runner who still likes to just get out there in the rain, heat, cold (ok, not so much the cold), and all kinds of conditions just to get in my fix. I was wondering on this run, how did I get in this way? I don't mean how did I start running, but what formed me to want to live part of my life outside, running up and down hills, on the roads, on the trail, sometimes for hours at a time.

Have you ever wondered about how the experiences you have as a child form what type of adult you become? Me neither, until this run where it just popped into my noggin. As I grow older, I begin to sound and act just like the stereotypical grandfather...I don't mean complaining about everything in site and passing gas all the time, but having some strong opinions about the world that surrounds me. I keep having the thought that the youth of today is going to hell in a wheelbarrow. I know it's not true, or even 50% true, but for goodness sake, so many kids today are so reluctant to get off their butts to do something physical. On top of that, we live in a world that protects kids from doing anything dangerous or allowing them to get themselves into situations that they have to figure out how to get out of. They can't play with anything sharper than a ping-pong ball or anything smaller than their foot!

What I remember of my young childhood, or what I perceive I remember, was playing all the time outside. In the summer, or on Saturdays, I would go out early in the morning, meet friends, and "mess around" all day until it was time to get home for dinner. Some days, we would play baseball, football, or soccer, but most days were spent playing games we made up as we went along. Games that would begin as tag would evolve into some form of tackling each other until you got your friend in a hold that he couldn't escape. Bike riding would become this mad dash down a hill on a road until you made a hard right into the woods at full speed and see how far you could get before you smacked into a tree. The further you got, the more adoration you got from your friends. I can recall jumping off this 100 foot cliff (probably 20-30 ft) onto the soft dirt below. The object was to see who could jump the furthest from the point at the top of the cliff you took off from. Probably explains a lot about the ankle problems I have today - can't even jump a log on the trail. And races...we always had races - bike races, running races, tree climbing races. No rules, just "I'll race you to the ____". Of course, this usually began when you were already running someplace, so the guy who called the race usually got a head start, which was ok because things always evened out and you got left in the dust just as many times as you were the first to kick up the dust.

So, how does this tie into my running self? Does the type of play you have as a youngster smolder until one day it becomes the type of play you have as a full-fledged grownup? I'm 67 years old and my play is to lace up my shoes and go for a run for a couple of hours down the road or through the woods. Sometimes I run down a singletrack and smack into a tree. Sometimes I jump over streams to see if I can get to the other side dry. Sometimes I "race" myself or my fellow runner, though you'd be hard pressed to actually say I was racing. If I didn't play as a child, would I be playing now? If it wasn't fun then, where would I be now? What kind of future are today's kids being pigeon-holed into with more video games, more social media relationships, more homework, and year-round organized sports. Oh, I know these kids will turn out fine. They'll learn that sharp things cut and hot things burn. My world was different from my child's world, and his is different from his child's. But, don't you think that so many aspects of your childhood mold your adult self? I do, and I think one of the biggest reasons running and me have this bond now is because we had this bond a long, long time ago. Yeah, it was different. Yeah, it was the same.

Maybe I shouldn't write RWA sitting on my deck on a hot summer day with a good, cold beer by my side, but this idea spawned in my head on a run, not from the heat or the beer. I've said many times in these blogs that running is a part of me. I used to think it was because I had nurtured it in all these years that I have been running, sorta like a good habit. But, now I think that fire was sparked many years ago when I was running a block, not a mile. Jumping over a cliff and not a log. Running with friends and...well, thank goodness, I'm still doing that.

I'll see you on the roads and trails - AL


"One child lost is too many. One child saved can change the world"

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Me and The 10,000 Hour Rule

"At first people will ask why you're doing it, but eventually after the hard work pays off, they will ask how you did it..." - Steve Prefontaine

While looking at some of my awesome adequate pitiful statistics on Strava, I wondered how much of this is really meaningful. Except for those extremely frustrating occasions when my Nike+ Sportswatch doesn't makes friends with my personal running satellite, I download my runs to Strava (I hate the Nike Website). Strava will track all types of numbers that have to do with your run, and probably none of it has helped me become a better runner at all, but sometimes it's fun to look at.

Years ago, I used to be almost obsessed with getting in the miles, so that's what I would look at most. Could I get in my arbitrary weekly/monthly quota? Several years, I ran over 3000 miles, averaging better than 50 miles a week. Holy cow! That's a bunch. My all-time weekly high was 108 miles. Nearly killed me...did it in July...in Alabama...running to and from work from my home to downtown...over two significant mile-long hills each way. Yeah, did that once!

Now, when I download my runs, I still look at miles, but mostly as an interesting curiosity. I only run 4, or occasionally 5, days a week. I average about half of those "glory day" mile totals. These days, I like to look at elevation gain because I run about half my miles on trails over hill and dale and because I have no idea how to measure dales, I keep track of the hills. When I struggle through a Sunday run on roads with my non-trail running friends, I usually mention that I ran trails yesterday - "How far did you go?" - "Well, it was only 12 miles, but it had 2500 ft of elevation". Deaf ears...means nothing...may as well have told them it was 25,000 feet. But, I follow it. I know several thousand feet climbing will knock me on my can the next day! The time that used to get me 20 miles on the road barely gets me 10 miles on the trail now, but I usually don't keep close track of how the hours pile up.

In Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, he repeatedly mentions the "10,000-Hour Rule", claiming that the key to success in ANY field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. This nonsense controversial idea has been pretty much disproven, but seeing that he is one of my favorite authors, the premise has stuck in my mind. So, as usual during my solo trail runs, like this morning, I got to thinking. I began to wonder exactly how much time I spend running. Do I really spend that much time preparing for the "events" I choose to do? I know I get up early in the morning for just about all of my runs and I feel like that's pretty doggone dedicated to do that, but how does my training fit into Gladwell's "flat-earth" theory?

So, I consulted Professor Strava. Last year I ran 1370 miles in 303 hours. In 2012, I did 1424 miles in 290 hours (sigh! I know, slower!). So, in 2 full years, that's 2794 miles in 593 hours. I'll save you the trouble...it's 12:42 min/mi - hey, those hilly trails slow me down!!! Now, looking at elevation gain, in the past 18 months, I've climbed over 119,000 feet...That's over 4 times from sea level to the tip of the summit of Mt Everest! Still, even with the elevation excuse of slowing me down and adding to the "hours" spent running, the 300 hours per year average is not really that much of a dent in the 10,000 hour rule, is it?

I began running obsessively regularly in 1978 and have since run over 80,000 miles. Now, I was faster "back-in-the-day", so why don't we say the 36 years all averages to about 9:30/mi. Let's see, applying my New Jersey education, 9.5 x 80,000 = 760,000 minutes divided by 60 = 12,666 hours!! Obviously, this is well and above Gladwell's threshold for excellence! So, why am I so damn slow and always finish in the buttend of races? Yeah, yeah, age...blah, blah, blah. Ankles from hell...blah, blah, blah.

So, while I plodded around Oak Mt, I realized that the 10,000 Hour Rule doesn't just require lacing up your Hokas and moseying down the trail or road. Learning how to improve any skill requires top-down (brain-feet) focus. We have to strengthen the old brain circuits and build new ones for a skill to become sharpened and improve our outcome. It requires paying attention. When practice occurs while we are looking at the scenery or talking to our friends about that & this, the brain does not rewire the relevant circuitry for that particular routine, in this case, running up the Yellow/White connector. So, what happens is that each time I hit that Y/W connector, I huff and puff, stop and take deep breaths, slowly step over the boulders, and generally don't practice attacking the weak parts of my running. Daydreaming defeats practice. Complacency defeats practice. And yes, things like age and ankles defeats practice. But, paying full attention is what we have to do for everything to sharpen us into that "success" that Gladwell proposes in his 10 Grand Rule, not just simply putting in the time.

So, although I've worn down hundreds of pairs of shoes past the magic 10,000 hours, what Strava doesn't tell me is how many hours were actually spent focusing on those skills in order to get the most out of the vehicle I carry around. Oh, I wish I could run the hills just a little better, but you know, my mind was wondering on the trails this morning because it was warm, it was raining, it was quiet...yeah, that's fine with me. Do I really want to make work out of it? Nah. Maybe in the formative years, that's fun, but not now. Maybe I didn't use all those hours to it's utmost to achieve "success", but I did OK. For now, as Popeye said, "I yam what I yam".

I'll see you all on the roads and trails - AL

"One child lost is too many...one child saved can change the world"

Monday, July 14, 2014

Jabbering On The Trails

"A long run is easy until it gets hard" - unknown, but well known to experienced endurance athletes 

Man, it is hot out there. There being Birmingham, Alabama...in July...where it's supposed to be hot. I used to relish running in the heat, but as I get as old as Methuselah, the heat melts me down pretty quickly. Actually, yesterday, I ran better on the very hilly trails of Oak Mountain than I did this morning on the flat roads of Homewood. I was a wilted cowboy when this one was done. I'll never be ready for winter, but I won't argue with a little cooler weather.
Today, while running with Moha on the roads, Ken joined us in the middle of his 2nd 20+ miler of the week. Ken's one of these runners that just runs until he's tired and then checks his watch to see how far he's gone. Anyway, me and Moha were bantering back & forth and Ken said "Is this how it goes on for hours on the trail?". Well Ken, yes it does. Here's just some short snipets of the many conversations we had huffing and puffing and hammering up and down the hills yesterday:

Moha: We didn't go up this hill last week, did we?
Me: Yes we did.
Moha: I must've been in better shape last week.

Talking about James Durant, a local runner. I was mentioning that he's a very good runner -
Me: You know, he's a year older than me (68) and he'll finish the Hotter 'n' Hell race an hour faster than us.
Moha: Yeah, but he doesn't have your bad ankles or my big belly.

Both of us love soccer and Moha was trying to convince me that soccer is really catching on here in the states -
Me: You're full of baloney Mo. Soccer will never catch on. Folks won't support it here.
Moha: Oh, it's very popular. People in Atlanta support their team a lot.
Me: They don't even have a team in Atlanta, except maybe a women's team.
Moha: Yes they do. I remember seeing them when I lived there in 19...
Me: STOP right there. You're argument just fell apart. 19?? was at least 15 years ago.
Moha: Well, IF they had a team, they would support it

Standing under Peavine Falls, which is no more than a low-pressure-garden-hose trickle due to the lack of rain -
Moha: Can you drink that water?
Me: Yes, you CAN drink that water. How much toilet paper did you bring?

Coming out of the trail and onto road for maybe 20 yards to hit the Green/Yellow connector trail, we encountered the transition area of the popular Buster Britton Triathlon going on -
Moha: Now I have to suck in my gut
Me: Yeah, like that's gonna happen!

Just recently got my new Hoka Bondi 3's after 4 pairs of Bondi 2's -
Me: I don't like them as much. The tongue is not padded, the loop on the heel is too small to fit your finger(s) to pull the shoe on, the cushioning doesn't feel as soft, and they just seem more cheaply made.
Moha: Anybody else complain?
Me: Well, I went on line, but I couldn't find anybody else complaining.
Moha: So, shut the hell up!

Moha was recalling the recent Peavine Falls race on July 4th, an 8.2 mile race, 90% on road, last 10% on a twisty trail-
Moha: I came out of the trail and there was this guy just ahead of me. So, I ran as hard as I could and passed him. I was feeling good and then the son of a b*t*h passed me right at the end. Should have beat him.
Me: But you didn't
Moha: Nope.
Me: So, shut the hell up!

Just as we're finishing up our run, we come on the road to the parking lot and I noticed the gate to the Peavine Road is locked -
Me: Why is the gate locked?
Moha: I don't know. Why do you think it's locked?
Me: I just asked you because I didn't know
Moha: Do you think it's locked to keep cars from going on the road?
Me: Um, I would guess that's the point.
Moha: I wonder why they would lock it.
Me: Geez!!

Near the end of the run, coming down the Tree Top Trail -
Moha: How much more to go?
Me: A little over a mile
Moha: We're there, brother!
Me: Yep, we're there.
Moha: If we're there, why do we have to keep running?
Me: Excellent point. Keep running

And that's a piece of how I fill up two and half hours of running with Mo. Runs like this weekend I feel like an ice cube melting in a coffee pot, but laughter will get you to keep moving forward. So, yes Ken, this IS how it goes for hours on the trail when I run with Moha. Now, if I can just get these dang legs moving a little better. Next week....yeah, that's it...next week.
I'll see you all on the trails and roads - Al


"One child lost is too many...one child saved can change the world."
 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jabbering On The Trails

"A long run is easy until it gets hard" - unknown, but well known to experienced endurance athletes

Man, it is hot out there. There being Birmingham, Alabama...in July...where it's supposed to be hot. I used to relish running in the heat, but as I get as old as Methuselah, the heat melts me down pretty quickly. Actually, yesterday, I ran better on the very hilly trails of Oak Mountain than I did this morning on the flat roads of Homewood. I was a wilted cowboy when this one was done. I'll never be ready for winter, but I won't argue with a little cooler weather. 

Today, while running with Moha on the roads, Ken joined us in the middle of his 2nd 20+ miler of the week. Ken's one of these runners that just runs until he's tired and then checks his watch to see how far he's gone. Anyway, me and Moha were bantering back & forth and Ken said "Is this how it goes on for hours on the trail?". Well Ken, yes it does. Here's just some short snipets of the many conversations we had huffing and puffing and hammering up and down the hills yesterday:

Moha: We didn't go up this hill last week, did we?
Me: Yes we did.
Moha: I must've been in better shape last week.

Talking about James Durant, a local runner. I was mentioning that he's a very good runner -
Me: You know, he's a year older than me (68) and he'll finish the Hotter 'n' Hell race an hour faster than us.
Moha: Yeah, but he doesn't have your bad ankles or my big belly.

Both of us love soccer and Moha was trying to convince me that soccer is really catching on here in the states - 
Me: You're full of baloney Mo. Soccer will never catch on. Folks won't support it here. 
Moha: Oh, it's very popular. People in Atlanta support their team a lot.
Me: They don't even have a team in Atlanta, except maybe a women's team.
Moha: Yes they do. I remember seeing them when I lived there in 19...
Me: STOP right there. You're argument just fell apart. 19?? was at least 15 years ago.
Moha: Well, IF they had a team, they would support it

Standing under Peavine Falls, which is no more than a low-pressure-garden-hose trickle due to the lack of rain -
Moha: Can you drink that water?
Me: Yes, you CAN drink that water. How much toilet paper did you bring?

Coming out of the trail and onto road for maybe 20 yards to hit the Green/Yellow connector trail, we encountered the transition area of the popular Buster Britton Triathlon going on -
Moha: Now I have to suck in my gut
Me: Yeah, like that's gonna happen!

Just recently got my new Hoka Bondi 3's after 4 pairs of Bondi 2's -
Me: I don't like them as much. The tongue is not padded, the loop on the heel is too small to fit your finger(s) to pull the shoe on, the cushioning doesn't feel as soft, and they just seem more cheaply made.
Moha: Anybody else complain?
Me: Well, I went on line, but I couldn't find anybody else complaining.
Moha: So, shut the hell up!

Moha was recalling the recent Peavine Falls race on July 4th, an 8.2 mile race, 90% on road, last 10% on a twisty trail-
Moha: I came out of the trail and there was this guy just ahead of me. So, I ran as hard as I could and passed him. I was feeling good and then the son of a b*t*h passed me right at the end. Should have beat him.
Me: But you didn't
Moha: Nope.
Me: So, shut the hell up!

Just as we're finishing up our run, we come on the road to the parking lot and I noticed the gate to the Peavine Road is locked -
Me: Why is the gate locked?
Moha: I don't know. Why do you think it's locked?
Me: I just asked you because I didn't know
Moha: Do you think it's locked to keep cars from going on the road?
Me: Um, I would guess that's the point.
Moha: I wonder why they would lock it.
Me: Geez!!

Near the end of the run, coming down the Tree Top Trail -
Moha: How much more to go?
Me: A little over a mile
Moha: We're there, brother!
Me: Yep, we're there.
Moha: If we're there, why do we have to keep running?
Me: Excellent point. Keep running

And that's a piece of how I fill up two and half hours of running with Mo. Runs like this weekend I feel like an ice cube melting in a coffee pot, but laughter will get you to keep moving forward. So, yes Ken, this IS how it goes for hours on the trail when I run with Moha. Now, if I can just get these dang legs moving a little better. Next week....yeah, that's it...next week.

I'll see you all on the trails and roads - Al

"One child lost is too many...one child saved can change the world."



Monday, July 7, 2014

Karma on the Trail

"Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated, and drunkenness sobered, but stupid lasts forever" - Aristophanes, Greek Playright

So, this past weekend, me & Moha ran the Oak Mountain Hotter 'n' Hell course AGAIN, trying to get comfortable with the constant ups and downs of going over Johnson Mountain, up the one mile BUMP Trail, down into the Peavine Gorge, climbing out of said gorge, soon climbing up the 20+% grade of the white/green connector, dumping out onto the rocky Green Trail downhill, and finally trudging back the final 1-2 miles to the beginning. And that's loop ONE! Ok, the total 2 loops is only 18 miles (David Tosch "miles"), but there is no way you are crazy about doing loop #2 after winding up at the aid station/finish line after loop #1. But, in three weeks, I plan to do it, as I did last year. I'm getting older and definitely slower, but it does please me that I continue to get out on these trails and try to push all the juice out of the lemon.


But, in addition to getting slower, I seem to be getting more cranky. Now, granted this was the July 4th weekend, and I'm sure that there were a lot of "cityfolk" on the trail over the holiday that thought it would be a good idea to go see Peavine Falls. Ha, that's a good one! First of all, it's a pretty strenuous trek to get to the falls and I'm sure there were many well-meaning "hikers" that reversed course halfway up, and another group that literaly cried when they got to their destination, because due to the lack of rain around these parts, Peavine Falls has been reduced to no more than a very small trickle. Now, for any trail runner climbing down the gorge, this was still a welcome site because the water is ice cold...OH YES!!! The hell with Giardia, I'm dousing myself with this stuff!


OK, so what do I have to be cranky about? It was the disgraceful amount of trash littering the trails. Every week, I'll pick up a few Gu or candy wrappers, or Honey Stinger/Powerbar wrappers (which I know can only be bikers...no self respecting trailrunner can down a Powerbar on a run!). But, this week was crazy. By the time I got to the Treetop Nature Center 8 miles into the run (the 1st trashcan), I had my pockets and waterbelt stuffed with 4 waterbottles, including a 32oz Gatorade bottle, wrappers of all types, plus a large Potato Chip bag! Moha had his pockets equally filled too. I know it wasn't the bikers, because we weren't on the Red (bike) Trail TOO much. And it wasn't trash from the Peavine Falls Run July 4th, because that's 90% on road. And I doubt it's from any trailrunner, because we do respect the trails. Under no circumstances are you allowed to litter. Period. You carry it in, you carry it out. We all know this. In a race, the items you take from an aid station are fine to take on the trail with you, but you keep your garbage with you until you see the next trash can. There is a zero tolerance policy here. Littering is unacceptable. As this sport grows, this is one sure way to ensure races get cancelled by state parks. But, I guess all we can do is police ourselves.


I am amazed by the growth of trail running lately (especially thanks to BUTS in the Birmingham area). We have many new runners joining our races that have never run trails before. In October, the SouthEastern Trail Series will have another free race for Birmingham Track Club members. Last year, it was incredible how many showed up. And they all loved it, despite David Tosch's attempt to discourage them with his usual up-the-mountain/down-the-mountain course. Those of us that have been doing this for a while must serve as a mentor to new trail runners. New trail runners may not know the rules. Tattoos are not a rule...facial hair is not a rule! But, trail running is a different culture than road running. In road running you’re not expected to carry your own water bottle. It’s ok to throw your cups on the ground during a race. In some cases, new trail runners may not know the rules of the trail. It’s our job to coach and mentor.


Birmingham has great trail systems all over the area. It really pained me to see the trash on the trails this weekend. We are fortunate to be able to run in great places. But as this sport grows, each and every one of us has a responsibility to leave only footprints.


As I get older and slower (and more cranky), I keep telling myself that I have to look for all angles to keep myself going. TAKE CARE OF THE TRAILS AND THE TRAIL WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU.


I'll see you on the roads and trails - AL


"One child lost is too many...one child saved can change the world"

Saturday, June 7, 2014

My Running and Blogging...Like Google Search, It's Loading Slow!

"There's no such thing as writer's block for writers whose standards are low enough" - W. Stafford, writer


This morning, on an incredibly humid morning in Birmingham, Alabama, me and my buddy, Moha, went out to Red Mountain and had a very pleasant run for a couple of hours on the trail. No falls. No snakes. Lots of laughs. We met some trail runners we had never met. And, I discovered a new favorite Gu flavor...Chocolate Peanut Butter!!! Yes, even better than plain, old Peanut Butter.


Now, wasn't that interesting? Of course not. One great thing about blogging about running is that you always feel there is something new to say. There's definitely a symbiotic relationship between my workouts and my posts. One inspires the other. And, I have a bunch of thoughts rattling around in my head that I'm sure you're just itching to hear. But hold on a second...maybe you're not itching to hear these rattling thoughts after all. How interested are you in what I think? You have to admit that it's a leap of faith I take every week or so that what I put down will actually hold your interest longer than it takes you to find and hit the Delete button. There is NOT always something new or interesting to say. Every blogger likes to to think he has the hook in every reader that has read his or her mental meandering, but the fact is that that intellectual thunderbolt is not always there for the blogger and boom!...you've lost your readership.


This blog started as way to capture my singular experience as I ran over 3 decades up hill and dale from here to there. Marathons and ultramarathons. Roads and trails. From my young self to my current older self. I didn't want it to be simply a chronicle of my training and racing, but rather a reflection of how running changed my life, how my views of running had changed, and most importantly, how these scattered thoughts might relate to you. Many times I write "It might just be me, but..." and then I get a ton of comments saying, "No, it's me too!". That is always comforting. But, you know, I haven't got a ton of comments yet saying "Yeah, my trail pace has become slower than a slow boat to China too", I'm sure you'll let me know it can't be just me.


Seriously, by shear stats, and word of mouth from my very kind friends and family, I've discovered that many other people relate to the site. I recently checked my traffic and saw that Running With Al has had almost 40,000 page views since I began posting four years ago. It's awfully hard for me to believe that I have 262 subscribers that get RWA delivered to their already crammed mailboxes every week or so. I have readers in all 50 of the United States, and most astoundingly to me, I've had readers in 89 countries. I understand there are about 204 countries in the world, so I guess I have to send a few cold posts to folks in those countries to boost my stats. Yes, I know 90% of these readers don't say "Oh yey, another RWA has arrived" and devour it word for word. Sadly, most readers probably hit that handy Delete button before even opening it, but for those that do read it, I honestly thank you. And just a word that I'm sure is universal...all bloggers are voracious for comments, so please don't hold it in. Let me know what you're thinking. How else do I know you're reading?


Obviously, this week is what is commonly called a blank slate as far as an interesting subject is concerned. Hey, this happens in running and blogging. I love to do both, but each effort is different. Like the song, "Somedays are diamonds, somedays are stone". Thanks for reading.

I'll see you all on the roads and trails - AL



"One child lost is too many...one child saved can change the world"