Good Morning for a 5K

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Yesterday morning my son and I headed over to the high school for a morning run with a bunch of other people. It was the annual Hearts for Hunger 5K to benefit the Vermont Foodbank. We ran it last year and it was a great event, so we signed up again this year.

It was a chilly morning so we ditched our sweatshirts at the last minute. It was about 52 degrees at start time so it was pretty ideal for a run. My son had asked me ahead of time: “Is it OK if I ditch you?” It was, and he did.

He ran ahead and I lingered in the scrum for a bit. Once I was free to follow my own pace he was far ahead. I could see him pretty much the whole time, and we high-fived as I approached the turn-around point and he was heading back. There was a water station there so I slowed to take a drink. That was my mistake.

I kept getting closer to him the whole way back, but at one point he turned around and saw me. I wanted to catch him. I had a little pride I guess, but he was having none of his old man catching him at that point. He had a little pride as well. We ran uphill and we both were getting pretty hot in the bright sun, but he kicked it in and finished before me.

I was kind of out of gas at that point. Too little sleep (my daughter had a late performance last night in Burlington) will do that. But close to the finish line I could hear someone coming up from behind me. I picked up my pace but he kept coming. So I sprinted across the finish line with him close behind. Then I really was out of gas.

I thanked the guy who tried to catch me for giving me a push. I wanted to finish behind my son to avoid any future ribbing from him. So, we both pushed ourselves and felt good about it and ate a cookie and drank some water. We waited around for the awards and raffle and he took home a box of fudge. It was peanut butter fudge (um, what?) but hey, free fudge.

This was our second 5K this spring. We will do more as they come up. The marathon in Burlington happens Memorial Day weekend. Back in the day that was an annual event for my wife and I. Maybe one of these days we can do it with our kids. That, however, will require I have a little bit more gas at the start.

Icy Running

img_4775One of my goals has been to run more this year. I used to run a lot. I ran marathons and even completed the Vermont 50. That feels like a long time ago now. After back surgery and an early stroke and a few years of aging to boot, I got out of the habit. Not that I didn’t want to run, but I got injured more often and more easily, and running made me too reflective after going to such a dark place with a stroke. But now I am ready to get back to it.

When I was a frequent runner I would track my mileage. I did this for training purposes, of course. Should I get in a longer run this weekend? Should I take a day off? That kind of thing. I also did it for my shoes. I tried not to put too many miles on my shoes to avoid a blow out or an injury. These days, however, I find it better to forget about distance and pace and total mileage. I want to just get out there and enjoy it. I want to simply run.

Many years ago I was surprised, before the start of a marathon, to run into a good friend from college. I knew Pat had become a serious runner, taking on marathons, trying to run fast. He asked me if I had a finish time goal. That year I didn’t really have a significant one–maybe finish under four hours or something. He said to me “I think I’ll try to start out with fives.” It took me a minute to realize he was talking about his pace. He was planning to run an average of five minutes per mile. When you think that way you win marathons. Turns out, out of a field of thousands, he came in fourth overall. Not too shabby.

Afterwards I asked Pat about his training. He admitted that he did not always want to go for a run. Some days it was raining or cold or he was just tired, but he was determined to reach the running goals he set for himself. So he said this: “When I know I need to get out there, but I don’t feel like it, I just get out there anyway.” Always, he said, he felt great once he got going, and especially great when he was done. So this year I am determined to get out there anyway.

Yesterday morning I got out there. There is a beautiful class four road (unmaintained in winter) nearby. It is perfect for a run–through the woods, great views into town, all dirt, no pavement. I have not run on it much recently because it has been snowy or icy and seemed too treacherous. But I have started to run on it anyway. Yesterday morning it was covered in a light snow. This was a challenge as that light snow covered up the ice. Light snow on ice? Not ideal for running.

I picked may through, however, walking gingerly at times. Again, I am not in it for a pace. I just want to run. It was a beautiful morning, cold but not too cold. The fresh snow beautified the brownness and grayness of winter. I sucked in the wintry air and stayed warm by moving. It felt, as my friend had suggested all those years ago, great.

This is a lesson I keep coming back to. Get out there anyway. The road is icy, or it is snowing, or it is hot, or rain pounds the trail–get out there anyway. I carry it over into other realms as well. At work, I have to do something I don’t really want to do? Do it anyway. That chore at home I would rather put off? Do it anyway.

Come spring, lots of people will come out of the woodwork and I will see them running. I will not wait. As long as I don’t injure myself I will get out there whatever the weather, whatever my mood. I know that once I get going I will feel great. Thanks, Pat.

Long Rainy Run

I haven’t gone on a long run in the rain in a long time. Today I broke the streak. I ran eleven miles, hills and cold and all, in rain all the way. This was fine with me. Running in the rain is peaceful, mesmerizing even, and it means I won’t get too hot. Not only did I get in eleven miles but I also hit the 30 mile mark for a week. That also has not happened for a long time. I felt good, although I did run slowly, mentally and physically. But there was one problem.

Once when I ran the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, it rained. Not the whole time and not all that hard, but it was a wet day, rain on an off. At every aid station volunteers hand out water. At some of them they hand out snacks. On this day some volunteers were handing out Vaseline. They do this on sunny days as well, although I hadn’t really noticed it before. It helps with, well, chafing, if that happens to be a problem. I declined the oily goo. Who needs that stuff, I thought.

At the finish line that day I saw a man with a bloody shirt. He hadn’t cut himself. Nothing so easy. The rain had made his shirt wet and his nipples had rubbed against that wet shirt and there were streaks of blood originating from those two points. He had rubbed his nipples raw. That, I remember thinking, looks painful. The thing is, it has since happened to me. Not nearly to that degree, thank Jehovah, but enough that I had to be careful what I wore for a few days. It happened on a rainy day when I was out running for a long time. Kind of like today…

Look, I’m not proud to admit that I have this particular injury here. I can’t say it is embarrassing, exactly, but it does open one up to the possibility of ridicule. Being a tenderfoot is one thing, but a tendernipple? That can’t look good on a resume.

It isn’t all that bad. I’m just a wee bit sore, and I’ll need to be careful what I wear. No heavy duty work shirts on the old bare torso for me. It goes to show how long I have been out of the habit of running. I didn’t even think of the fact that I might run with a wet shirt for, I don’t know, a couple of hours. Sheesh. I’ve got to learn this stuff all over again? I thought I knew how to learn from my mistakes. Apparently not.

I don’t plan to run at all tomorrow. I need a day off and it will give me a chance to heal up, if you know what I’m saying. At least I’m not really injured. I feel pretty dang good, actually. I could run tomorrow if that felt like the right thing to do. As it is, I will stay away from my chosen fitness activity for at least one day. And even if I don’t sleep in later than usual, I may just hang out in pajamas well into the morning. I mean, it will be Sunday, right?

Back at it Then Nothin’ Today

Yesterday I busted out the Camelbak (I had to wash it first, since I hadn’t used it since early summer), figured out what to wear, stashed a Clif bar in my pocket, and ran eleven miles.  Now to some, that may seem like a lot.  To others it may seem like a walk in the park.  It felt just right for me yesterday.  It was not a hot day.  It was 36 degrees when I hit the road.  That made dressing right a challenge.  It wasn’t cold enough to warrant an insulated hat but it was windy.  Would I need a vest under my wind layer?  What about gloves?  I bagged the vest, went with the gloves, and had a great run.

There was a half marathon in Shelburne today. I had considered running that, but ended up bagging it.  The eleven yesterday was the substitute. Well, it wasn’t really a substitute. It was just a longish run on a fine day.  My wife ran the half marathon. I stayed home to bake bread and let my children sleep in. Today was the truly fine day. Can you say September day? My plan was to run a short one today, maybe three or four miles, just to get out there. But with the bread baking and putting the last of the garden beds to sleep and raking and clearing some crap out of the basement and storing the summer furniture and making and apple pie and the rest of it, I just plain forgot. I have been so used to running in the morning that afternoon came and I forgot all about it.

So I got in nothing today. The long run felt good, however. My plan is to do that again next weekend. Sorter runs during the week, then eleven again on Saturday. Maybe I will plan to take Sunday off this time. That means rising early Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. I will take Thursday off since I have to head out to work way early. Then Sunday off. That sounds about right.  I am aiming for 30 miles per week for a while. I may just register for the marathon in Burlington this month, before it fills up. Six months ought to be enough time to train for it, for Mercury’s sake, so I should be fine with that.

Now that I am less nimble–I trained for my first marathon in 60 days–I need to take it easier. But I do not mean to plod along like an old man for the next several months.  Build up slowly so I don’t get injured (again), run the marathon in May, then the Vermont 50 in September.  Sounds like a plan to me.