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.

Birding or Running?

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Look for flycatchers and warblers? Or run the trail around the pond?

Now that it is May I am conflicted. The best time to go for a run for me is first thing in the morning. If I go early I have the least impact on my family, plus it just gets done. Putting it off means sometimes other things get in the way. If I go early, I go. The best time to go birding, however, is also first thing in the morning.

At first light the birds start singing their dawn chorus and, right now, the leaves are still not fully formed. So I can hear birds and see them. Migrants are passing through as well, so some birds can only be seen now since they don’t stick around to nest here. So what is a guy to do?

On the one hand I have been running a good amount, and I have not been injured. So I want to make sure I keep that streak going. But it is not easy to run in the morning when I hear all those songs. I hear something different and I just want to stop to find out what it is. And I do. But without binoculars (I am not carrying those on a run) it can be hard to see a little warbler way up in a birch tree. So I get stymied figuring out what it is. That means I am not really getting the most from my run and I am not really birding. I need to pick.

Rainy days in May are good for running, not because they make for the best runs but because it is harder to hear and see birds. In fact, I would have gone running this morning, but I had to take half the family to the airport. That means I did not bird or run. Some mornings are like that. But if it is raining when I wake? Grab the running shoes.

Mostly I need to get out to find birds now. This really is a small window. Soon the trees will be fully leafed out and those warblers will be way more elusive. And those birds don’t sing for long–in a month and a half they will start to quiet down. And those migrants? Need to find them while they are here.

So I need to get in some runs, for sure, but it is May, for goodness’ sake. This is the birder’s month in Vermont. It used to be the best month for running but since I have gotten into birding I am torn. It is a fortunate problem to have, is it not?

Daylight Savings. Ugh.

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I don’t really like to complain. It doesn’t help. It doesn’t make me feel better. It makes me feel worse, in fact. It is petty and a waste of time. Who doesn’t know this? But we all do it anyway. No matter how privileged or lucky we are, we all have something worthy of our complaining. My most recent beef is with daylight savings time.

Twice each year it makes me grumpy. Frankly, I don’t see the point. Over a decade ago the dates were pushed around, the idea being to save more energy by introducing more daylight into the workday. That didn’t work out so well. No one later demonstrated that any energy was really saved. I’ve heard the other reasons as well. Farmers benefit from more light early in the morning, or later in the morning. It isn’t as dark in the morning when children wait for the bus. But really?

Here is what happens for me in the spring. The days slowly get a little longer starting in December. I wait until March for the light to finally drop over the mountains at a reasonable hour. I can get up and go for a run at 6:00 a.m. and not need a headlamp or a reflector vest. I can rise before work and see the day. I go outside in the light before I get ready to head to work. It is a fine thing. And then daylight savings comes along and throws that all off. I hate that crap.

Now, I have to wait many days before the day is light enough at 6:00 am to go for a run. And for what? I just don’t get it. Why can’t we just pick one way for the clocks to be and stick to it? This is the 21st century. Artificial light has made daylight savings obsolete. It is bogus.

Here is something else, from today. I went in early to work with a group of high school students. At this particular school I don’t usually get there until 8:00 at the earliest. I am lucky to have that flexibility. But today I agreed to work with a first period class. So imagine working with a group of teenagers starting at 7:30 a.m. on a Monday. They are sleepy and not at their best. They are sluggish and mentally less sharp than later in the day or later in the week. And then imagine you are starting at 6:30 instead of 7:30. I tried to be lively, but the day was off to a slow start.

I will get used to it. Complaining does not help. I need to adjust. There are many things worse in the world right now (Um, “microwaves that turn into cameras?” Who knew?) I know all that crap. I still hate it. And I will get used to it. I will get used to it and then the clocks will need to be turned back again in the fall. And I will hate it all over again.

Water and Ice

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A few days ago it was warm, so warm that rivers ran high and snow melted and we had lots of water. I walked down to the bridge to see the fields. The river gushed under the bridge. The fields had become a lake. The snowmobile trails were a wash. Just recently we finally had enough snow for snowmobilers to buzz around on the local trails. That afternoon they would have needed a boat.

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Last night the temperature was in the single digits, as it was the night before. Yesterday morning I went for a run. Where a week ago I was dodging mud and puddles and piles of slush, yesterday I ran on frozen dirt. A dusting of snow made the ice patches hazardous. It was a different landscape.

Winter came, then spring came, then winter came back. As I have said, I prefer snow. As many have said, if we have winter we might as well have snow. The sun shines today. The temperature might rise to the twenties. It is too cold for sugaring now, although some sugaring happened just last week. In a couple of days the temperatures will rise above freezing and stay there–too warm for sugaring. Hopefully things will settle out so the sap will run this month–below freezing at night, above freezing during the day.

In a month we will have spring for sure. Today I plan to reattach the birdhouse that fell off its post this winter. I want it up by nesting season. Who knows when that will be there this year? Red-Winged Blackbirds have been back for a week, so it could be here in a few days.

We might get another snowstorm. Would love that, but I’m not confident. Tomorrow morning I will get out and run again. Maybe we have mud. Maybe we have ice. Either way I look forward to getting out there again. Winter and Spring can duke it out. Regardless, I am going to do my thing.

Blue Morning

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I thought just maybe it would be snowing this morning. It had snowed, last night, and there was a fresh inch or so on the ground. A few flurries drifted out of the blue sky but I wouldn’t say it was snowing. I was up fairly early and hoped to run in the falling snow. I went out anyway.

Last night’s lunar eclipse was, well, eclipsed, by clouds. Clouds blanketed the sky. It was still getting light. The sky was sleeping in.

The sky was blue. The new snow, on the fir trees and on the dried flowers in the field, was blue. The snow on the road, yet to be plowed, was blue. It was a blue morning. But I felt good. No blues there. I ran in a cleaned landscape. Crows dotted the sky at the top of the hill. The air was still.

I ran in the quiet, my steps muffled. The town plow scraped the road, coming toward me. I could see it from far off. I watched it stop, turn around at the town line, head the other way. Soon, I ran on the plowed road. My feet slipped where the truck’s tires packed the snow. I ran on. I slowed at the big ash tree just past the intersection, turned back.

I heated up but stayed cool enough. I felt strong. The morning was blue. As I slowed to head up the driveway, it began to turn yellow. I walked slowly back to the house, my breath steaming in the cold winter air.  It would be, I imagined, a good day.

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.

Good Day for Pie

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I’m not talking a sweet pie. I’m talking a savory pie. It was cold today, not freeze your hindquarters cold mind you, but seasonally cold. That means below freezing. It had been in the single digits, a couple of nights ago, and I think the cold I soaked in then has been seeping out of me since. It was a good night for a pot pie for dinner.

I had been building up to this pie, a tofu pot pie. I have wanted to make one for several days now. I even bought some tofu, a different variety than I usually use, you know, to mix things up a bit, and that has been waiting in the fridge for this very pie. Yesterday morning, after the aforementioned cold snap, I ran in the morning. I think it got up to twelve degrees by the time I got home. I was warm enough but a bit chilled. If you run, or do anything outside in the cold, you know what I’m talking about. So tonight, since I could be home early enough, I made the dang pie.

I have written about this pie before, so if you want the recipe (don’t be lazy just bake it already) you can find it here.  It involves a big mess in the kitchen, several bowls, a small kitchen appliance and plenty of dishes to wash. And it takes a while to prep. But, I can tell you, this bad boy is a savory winter night delight. Tickles the tongue with tastiness and fills you right up.

Tomorrow morning I will run again. Maybe there will be some light snow. Temperatures will be in the twenties. Typical winter morning (finally! It has been way too warm this winter) for a typical frozen dirt road run. There is the possibility that I will think about dinner again on that run. I may think about what other comfort food will do me right a couple chilly evenings hence. I may hatch a plan to acquire ingredients and hammer out some more yumminess.

My son was pretty keen on having some ice cream at some point after dinner (my wife bought four pints, unable to resist an admittedly great sale). I made a face at that idea. I was too full. That was quite a while ago now. Even now, ice cream seems like a bad idea. Too much pie. Although, I really do like ice cream. Maybe we can just have ice cream for dinner tomorrow night.

(If you have some ideas for dinner, let me know. It is easy to get stuck in the same cycle of meals. I am looking for hearty no-meat dinners with quality ingredients and some gustatory pow).