Thursday, February 27, 2014

My Morning Fight With Good & Evil

“Morning is wonderful. It's only drawback is that it comes at such an inconvenient time of day.”
Glen Cook, Sweet Silver Blues

Some of my patients often ask me about my running when they see some of the trinkets I might have innocently hanging in my office, or when I slyly slide a comment in that I'm a little tired from running 15 miles yesterday. Recently, when I told a person that I run at 4:30 in the morning they said they wished they could do that and I'm fortunate that I find that an easy thing to do. I didn't correct them (how can you explain voluntary suffering to a non-runner?) but it made me think about what I do to maintain a consistent schedule of running.

I used to run every day at noon for probably 25 years or so, but then the location of my job changed, and suddenly I found myself without a convenient shower. To me, returning to work at 1:00 sweating like a hot pig in July was fine, but my higher-ups felt this might be a roadblock  to proper patient care, so I was forced to alter my running schedule. I tried a few times to run after work, but that was a complete disaster. I mean, there were all these distractions, like the paper, the TV news, a beer, plus another shower and dinner after the run, and Boom! all of a sudden it's time for bed. 

So, around 7-8 years ago, I switched to a morning runner to get it in before work. The weekends are no problem, never have been. I do my longer runs then and seem content to get the run done and know I can relax afterwards. But, two mornings a week, I do the before-work thing. Now, don't get me wrong, I have grown to absolutely love to the solitude of a run before the sun comes up, but dang it, every morning, when I wake up, I know I'll need to talk myself into my daily activity. Oh heck, actually it starts the night before and each of the times I'll wake up during the night, I have to say "YOU HAVE TO RUN IN XXX AMOUNT OF HOURS". I lay out my clothes the night before so all I have to do is turn the alarm off, grab my pile of clothes, and get myself dressed. Yeah, that sounds easy. But, it seems EVERY morning while I'm brushing my teeth, there's this constant battle between Good and Evil. Staying in bed for another hour sounds SOOOO good. But I want to run. This epic daily battle starts with guilt. I know that if I give into the desire to rest I'll regret that decision for the rest of the day. I mean it will eat at me and drag me down in everything that I do. Not to mention the 10 pounds I will automatically gain because I didn't run for 45 minutes. It's a slippery slope and inconsistency only makes it harder. When I went out this morning for my run I knew that I'd be facing more than sleepiness once the first slap of chilly air hit my face. My stupid Nike+ doesn't particularly like to sync with those distant satellites while I'm still in the house, so I have to stand outside like an idiot standing in a freezer, hearing (I'm sure) my watch laughing until it feels it is appropriate to yell "READY". The starting point was 20 degrees and the wind probably pushed it down to 50 below! Ok, that's an exaggeration on the wind chill, but I really hate cold weather. I almost always listen to music or podcasts when I run solo, so this helps to deflect that stiffness that my legs like to exhibit a mere 20 minutes after waking up. So, down the familiar streets I go until my requisite 4+ miles is done. Some runs are slow as all get out, and some are a little faster than slow as all get out. This morning was the latter, so I was happy I ran (as I usually am). 

The crazy thing is that although every run is not something to write to grandma about, I ALWAYS feel better when it's done. And the crazier thing is that before the first step of that run is taken, I KNOW I'll feel better when it's done. That part is learned, but unfortunately, not ingrained. I don't spring out of bed every day in anticipation of my running experience. There's a figurative wall to climb to get out the door. Sometimes that wall is so high it seems impossible to breach. Most of the time (not ALL the time) I figure it out, even if I have to trick myself into doing it. But I know that the only way my collection of race numbers and medals and just pure satisfaction of still being able to get out there will grow is to do what I do each morning I've made the pre-decision to run. Good will most of the time win out over Evil because Good is in better shape than Evil! Plus, that 1st cup of coffee at work tastes so good. Oh, and then there's those crazy patients..."Did you run this morning?". What kind of an answer is "No, I slept in."?

I'll see you on the early roads - AL
"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Running Three Times Around the World

“Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.”
― Bernard Berenson

Are my running numbers that important? I guess they are because I always download my data from every training run I do. I can take the information that's somehow stored in that computer thing strapped around my wrist (Nike+ Sportswatch) and even though I have to export that info to other sites to see everything (because the Nike site really, really sucks), I enjoy looking at what I've done on the road and trail. Do I ever use this information to help me run better? Not really. Do I say, "man, I was tired in December. Let me look at the log and see if I ran more than the experts say I should."? Nope, never do that. But, I am a big fan of looking at totals and then move on. I know that most people are happy to estimate the distances they run, but I need to know exactly what I've accomplished. I mean, I have to measure every course, every run, even if I have run that same course a thousand times. How will I know if that 4.1 mile course is STILL 4.1 miles? And for some reason, I'm an elevation freak and think running vertical does more for building endurance strength than just about anything. Anyway, I look at that.

I can look at last year and see that I ran 1353 miles, which is less than half of my total in my heyday (haha, my heyday). My pace is faster than a turtle trapped in a tar pit, but it's a ton slower than the good old days. Of course, I'm doing a lot more hilly trails the past couple of years and that has slowed me down (yeah, that's it...the trails...the hills). I can look back and see I averaged close to 4 days a week, again less than the 6 I used to do. But, I've found that if I want to keep up a fair resemblance of what I consider running, I better show up a reasonable number of times per week regardless of the present circumstances. I still run longer than most folks say they get tired driving which is all well and good if I were running somewhere where I'd normally drive.

So, what does this have to do with me running for the past few decades? Here it is in a very BIG nutshell. Thank Goodness this has been a "taper week" for the Mercedes Marathon, which in itself is hilarious that my training schedule actually has a "taper" built into it. Anyway, Birmingham was socked in with a couple of Winter Storms this week that curtailed my usually monster running schedule. I posted a photo on Twitter of one of those info signs that goes across the Interstate saying "Winter Storm Warning from 6pm Monday to 6am Thursday". I don't live in Minnesota, I live in Alabama! So, back to my story - Because we didn't have to report to work until late morning on Thursday, I managed to get out on the thawing roads for a short jaunt. Not a great run by any means, but during that little, flat, wet, non-interesting, time-consuming run, I crossed the 80,000 mile mark of miles run in my lifetime...well, since running became an integral part of my life in 1978.

That's a heap of miles. More than three times around the fat waist of the Earth. Ten times through a hole down the center of the Earth that would lead to China and back. Eighty times to run up to Boston to see my Grandkids. Ok, enough of that nonsense, but it is a long way mostly done on asphalt for the first 20 years and about evenly divided between the dreaded road and the much more ankle-agreeable trails since. I've done it in chunks from one mile to 111. On the flat lands and up Pikes Peak. In the stifling heat of Mexico and the bitter cold of...well, all cold is bitter to me!

So, this weekend I'll traverse the 26.2 miles of the Mercedes Marathon for the 13th time and it will be my 139th marathon or longer. About probably 60-70% of my runs have been done in total solitude, but, I must say, my most enjoyable of those 128,000 kilometers (doesn't that sound MUCH longer?) has been the constant interaction with friends new and old. And I have a pretty sure idea that I haven't met all those friends yet, so you know what? I'm going to keep going, keep adding on those miles, and most importantly, keep literally running into these friends. As the most interesting man in the world might say, "I don't always run with somebody by my side, but when I do, they are all friends". Run strong my friends.

I'll see you on the roads - AL

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