Thursday, July 23, 2015

Eating of the Mileage

It's been an exciting and intriguing few weeks in the ultra world...
Hardrock and Vol State have held the rapt attention of many, while the Race for the Ages, Leadville, and UTMB loom ever so enticingly on the horizon.
It's easy to fall into the trap of feeling a little bored with the daily grind, to lose sight of the all-encompassing experience inherent with something as seemingly mundane as a daily afternoon run, the simple eating of the miles.
Aerobic base-building, eating up all the long, slow miles one can get, has never been the most glamorous, sleek, or sexy part of a running cycle, at least at first blush...
But it has a way of endearing itself if given a chance...
Neighbors greet, drivers wave, even once-barking dogs now lazily trot up for a pet and a friendly sniff; all have come to recognize us as part of their environment after a while, just as much as we come to recognize them as a part of ours.
The eating of the miles has transitioned from simply being a part of a process as a means to an end, to being a goal unto itself.
That's not to say that goal races and events are to be abandoned...
The eating of the miles is still a part of that process of preparation, and races are undeniably exciting events to those who are prepared...
We've just got to keep some perspective on the joy that can be found in the systematic eating of the miles.

I'm anxiously awaiting my next ultra, but I'm also pretty stoked about getting to run this afternoon, too...

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Running With the Rain

The rain looked like it might hold off; even if it didn't, conditions were as close to perfect as they get around here, so with shorts donned and shoes tied, the run was underway.
The first few miles went by as they often do, joints gradually loosening and muscles warming to the task.  The pockets of rain in the area had chilled the air noticeably, providing an ever-so-slightly cool feel and sweet smell.
There's irony in the fact that for a sport so inherently internal and mental, it's the external and physical world around us that can create such a rich and nuanced experience time and time again...
A car making an overly tight turn brought reality back into focus a few miles later; ultras gone by and yet to come, adventures planned, and people loved had been the dominant thoughts for more than a few minutes by this point...
...funny how that rich and nuanced experience provided by the external physical had allowed for a fully captivating internal odyssey...
Sooner than expected, the run had come to an end.  The rain finally started, and with it, the rest of life that is so paradoxically enhanced by the run's temporary escape. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Running Respite

More often than not, the world at large acts intent on showing us the worst it has to offer.

The news is rife with riots, wars, disasters, and hate.  Those in power (and those wishing to appear in power) seem dodgy at best and downright subversive at worst.  The people we know and love are, well, people, complete with all the imperfections unfortunately inherent with membership in humanity.
But there is good in this world.
In fact, there is quite a bit of good.
The news will often hide it, those in power (and those wishing to appear in power) try to exploit it, and the people we know and love sometimes overlook it.
But it's still there.  Persistently, constantly, unrelentingly there.
We just have to be able to see it.
It would be silly to try and state that running is ultimate mechanism by which we see such goodness, but it would be equally silly to simply dismiss the notion that it is a lens through which we can view the world.
In a time of 24-hour news cycles and hyper-connectivity that never allows for time to process, running slows things down and unplugs us, letting us wade through the cacophony that has been blasted into our minds.  The simplicity of taking the next step, combined with the beauty of the environments around us has an amazing ability to lift our spirits and let us see the wonder and the majesty that is our world.
What's more, running is one of the few facets of life that we can almost totally control.  We control when we run, where we run, how far we run, how fast we run, etc., etc., etc., and perhaps this control of something as seemingly trivial as running can help us get a grip on those parts of life with a little more gravity than putting one foot in front of the other.
Maybe we have a skewed perspective, and maybe the benefits are a bit overstated...
...but maybe we would all be better off if more people would go for a run...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ease of the Difficulty

Running has a way of invoking a strange flavor of nostalgia.
Most aspects of life can generate some moments of reminiscence, but the act of running seems to allow a contradictory, almost paradoxical set of circumstances to come to the fore.
Yesterday's run wasn't particularly long and certainly wasn't particularly fast, but it was rather warm.  Having not been training with any real rigor over the last couple months, the heat was enough to provide a non-trivial amount of difficulty, both in terms of the run itself, and in terms of simply getting off the couch and stepping out the door.  At the end of the run, however, as is typically the case, the enjoyment of such exertion had become the predominant point of note of the run.
That's not to say the physical difficulty was lessened, and that's not to say that the mental challenges associated with starting and continuing the run were in any way nullified or forgotten.
It's simply to say that somehow, after stepping up to face the challenge, an inherent comfort with that challenge seemed to manifest itself.
The extrapolations of this realization apply to much more than a mere Monday afternoon run.  Hard workouts, road races, marathons, ultras, they all present their own unique challenges and difficulties.  They all require some level of stepping up to the proverbial plate, but they also seem to allow, even provide, a certain serenity once undertaken.
Truth be told, this concept of tranquility within a challenge reaches far beyond running itself and into many aspects of life in general.  Burdens are not necessarily lessened, but once shouldered, are somehow more manageable if simply allowed to be.
How to get to the point of quietude within hardship is still something of a mystery; the miles and miles of running over days, weeks, months, and years are definitely a large factor in the running subset of this idea, and presumably, the day in and day out plugging away at any aspect of life could provide the requisite analogous experiential base upon which to build such a remarkable form of nostalgia.  Knowing, understanding, and remembering tests of yore are surely how this comes to be.
The mechanism of it all is perhaps difficult to decipher, but once achieved, how remarkable of a catharsis can be provided...
Any challenge could be easier to face.

The ease of the difficulty makes itself known.
The ramifications are truly fascinating...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Priority Propriety

There was a time when others might bestow the title of "runner" upon me, whatever that actually means, and there have been many times when it might actually have been accurate.

Such a title might be stretching the definition of the word if used to describe my running habits of late.  One or two (or no) runs per week certainly falls short of the "serious runner" standard, and hardly even qualifies for the much dreaded "hobby jogger" handle.

But that's alright...

One of the lessons that we (or at least I) have been fortunate enough to learn is that of priority propriety.  To be sure, there was definitely a time when running occupied a priority tier unbecoming an activity of such necessary frivolity.  To my former surprise, life is rearranging these tiers.

At a group run last night, it was good to see and catch up with running friends.  It was good to stretch out the legs and feel the lungs burn a little.  It was good to hear everyone's excitement about his or her next big event, goal, or aspiration.

But it was also good to remind myself where my priorities lie.  I certainly am on the lookout for the next big event for which to train, but perhaps an even more exciting aspect of looking for the next running event is that of piecing into the puzzle of the rest of life.
I'm excited about getting back into a training schedule, both as a scalded-dog racer and as an observational outdoorsman.  I'm more excited about the people, places, and things that will come into my path during the course of this training schedule, both because and in spite of it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Realization

Joints ached and popped with the too-sudden start that generally results from being in a hurry.

The hectic outset predictably devolved into a rough, awkward, disjointed run, punctuated by needless near-misses with rolled ankles and labored breathing unwarranted for such a trifling pace.  The humor of the situation didn't really present itself until after the second or third instance of a mental breakdown almost being caused by fully law-abiding drivers calmly passing by.

I just had to laugh.  It was ludicrous.  With only a short run left and hours before any obligations, I only had myself to blame for any consternation, and upon very brief further examination, any stress in the moment was simply a fabrication of my pointlessly hurried mind.

This run, as are many others, was explicitly intended to be a carefree and relaxing time, a bright spot in the day.

But this run, as are many others, had been sullied by the rest of the day's concerns forcing their way into its mental sanctuary, and consequently manifesting themselves in a very physical way.

Every now and then, we've just got to step back and realize the ridiculousness of our own self-imposed dire straights.  With this realization often comes the grace required to allow for those runs that we so often wish we could convey to others, but for which we have no words.

At least in this case, the realization predictably evolved into a smooth, collected, rhythmic run, punctuated by subtle delights and hidden nuances inherent with such pastime.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Run in the Rain

The light rain hitting my face was more of a simple observation than an annoyance.

Truth be told, a single iota's worth of planning could have prevented it by simply looking at the forecast and packing a hat to wear.  Oh well...

All other aspects of yesterday's run proved quite pleasant; a slow-moving cold front provided light rain for most of the day, which cooled things to an almost ideal temperature for an easy run after work, and, as occasionally noted with early-morning runs, such conditions effectively greyed-out the world around me, which in turn provided a feast for the other reactively-heightened senses.

Wandering thoughts were occasionally punctuated by momentarily noticing a fat drop from a tree amongst the nearly mist-like rain, or taking in the smell of the perfectly cool-not-cold rain.

Soon enough, those same thoughts would meander away from the external, only to be brought back by another minor incident of note, the cycle repeating time and time again.

The current faux-taper for an upcoming race ensured that standard achiness, stiffness, and concern for pace were at least somewhat abated, and therefore allowed an even greater freedom to enjoy the moment.

These are some of the most fleeting and most enjoyable runs we get, if we simply allow them to be.