Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cross Training and Date Lines

A shadow of my former self.. Arizona desert in the AM.
So I find myself at that age where you never bounce all the way back. You just do your best with 85% and a Walgreen's Rewards frequent shopper card. You can get pretty far, with lowered expectations and a basket full of Tiger Balm, Moleskin, and Halloween candy. I gimped through the summer and finally decided I had rested enough. Returning to arch support, I find myself able to run. While barefoot walking and even standing left me crippled for days, a 2 lb, 28 mm heal-to-toe drop Saucony, propels me to speeds approaching 6.6 mph relatively pain free. 

My arches are still week. My latest barefoot experiment, performing a motorcycle valve clearance, ended in a three day limp. Suddenly, standing unshod on concrete for 5 hours is out of reach? So maybe running Umstead marathon, months ago, under trained in minimal shoes caused a few lingering issues. But that's ok. I'm embracing the role of a minimal heretic. A barefoot backslider. A perfidious Paleolithic. I love the idea of healthy strong feet. And getting kicked out of grocery stores without shoes on indulges both my freaky and rebellious streaks. But the quality of my clay appears wanting. And the theology isn't worth the sacrifice for me. 

Its back to high heals. Mizuono Waves, Asics Nimbus, Brooks Glycerine, Saucony Triumphs. The big ones that would challenge the most experienced exotic dancers. My closet is going to suffer. 20 pairs of minimals were evicted and three cobwebbed pairs of neutral plus moon boots emerged from under my bed for the first time in four years. Barefoot Josh may issue a foot Fatwā, but I'm willing to risk it. I might need training wheels, but I'm finally running semi-regularly now. And a full 2 inches taller.

This taller version of myself can participate in my favorite American tradition. The collection of little red squares on Garmin maps. I may not be the fastest person in the world, but I'm diligently working on my world footprint. 

a policy of extending one's red squares and influence through running: or mostly running with limited walk breaks if the terrain is really difficult. 

Still limited to a single continent. Hawaii and New Zealand belong to Oceania.

To punish my wife for eating the last of the Lucky Charms, I took her on a three week touring trek of Arizona, the north island of New Zealand, Hawaii, and Las Vegas with only a backpack and a 27 lb carry-on. Cleverly disguised as a combination birthday and anniversary celebration, my secret campaign for tiny red square neocolonialism launched just as my range slowly edged back toward 5 mile runs. My squares were getting crowded, it was finally time to break out of North America.

My rules of engagement are as important as they are arbitrary. To qualify for my map, Garmin recorded squares must:

1. Be a minimum of two miles. 
2. Be run. (With the exception of pausing for a picture, or when safety dictates. Or to consume any food item discovered on said run. Or for amazing views. Or when a bear has the right of way). Pretty much run the whole time, except for times when not running.
3. No HR monitors. Other than the camera and the blood sugar meter and the candy to treat low BS and the passport and/or travel documents and car rental keys and hotel keys; no distractions.

I've marked my territory in some semi exotic places. And gathered gps data. I've run to a glacial summit in the Canadian Rockies, run it's American counterpart in Montana, the Strip in Vegas, across Bermuda, parts of Cuba, Texas, Florida (several at the Mouse's house), a few states on parts of the Appalachian trail, near a few Great Lakes, the Big Apple, and several exotic parts of Durham. I've missed a few. Tragically, my Iceland trip preceded my first Garmin 205 Forerunner purchase by a few weeks, and once I forgot my watch entirely on a work trip to Illinois. My coastal highway tour of Highway 1 and parts of Cali, and Oregon were all surgical boot and no GPS. With few exceptions, though, the Garmin is packed immediately behind my diabetic supplies. 

Running a new city or trail exhilarates me. Its such a personal way to see a new place. The slightly dangerous parts are second only to the private views in permanently etching the experience into memory. I love running with a passport. I love being warned about high bear activity. Or snakes or criminals or police or whatever new thing could get you. I laugh a lot on these runs. Their tough too. The most beautiful places are all uphill and on uncertain terrain and a lot of them have flying criminal snakebear cops. I've had a few close calls. I ran out of water on my glacier run 4 miles away from the trail head and came back beyond dehydrated and more delirious than usual. (Why didn't I put some snow in my empty water bottle at the top?) I've found myself pretty lost occasionally. Hundreds of ankle rolls and many near misses in foreign traffic add to the excitement. Every near miss just enhance the waterfalls, mountain views, herds of wild horses, sailboats, eagles, and once, a naked sunbather. Vacation runs are the only runs I've found more fun than races.

So, my AZNZHILV (Arizona New Zealand Hawaii Las Vegas) running recap and gps red square press into new red square territory:

My company invited me to The Boulders Resort in Carefree, AZ. Carefree other than snakes, coyotes, 110 degree temperatures, and frighteningly high restaurant prices. The opportunity for this leg of the trip arose after I had already purchased and scheduled parts of our anniverbirthday. In spite of the logistics involved reworking the dates and fees for airline rescheduling, we decided to work it in. There really was not much choice. I had no red squares in AZ and I've always been a sucker for a good business meeting. 

I enjoy seeing new places. Its kind of my wife's and I together thing. To maximize my meager means and thereby my exposure to new places and experiences, I tend to sleep and eat frugally. Penny goes along with it mainly because I hide her wallet in the morning when I wake up early for a run. My philosophy always spends money at the spa, then sleeps at the flea bag hotel. Buy a nice souvenir, dine on cans of tuna and trail mix smuggled from home in the luggage. This place was decadent almost to embarrassing and set a horrible new precedent. Here, our bathroom and closet were about the size of my bedroom at home. The minibar was stocked with Ketel One Vodka! My money prefers Popov cut with paint thinner. Afraid to temper our upcoming airport hotel experience in Vegas and to avoid taking on airs, I sagely suggested we sleep on the floor. Penny declined.

The hotel facilities lavished the traveling cross trainer. Hands down, one of the best equipped gyms I've seen. I found it on our second day and used the free weights, row machine, and a self-spotting bench press that allowed me to finally safely max out on weight. The outdoor bug splat shaped pool had a single Olympic lane down the middle. You did have to multiply your laps by 1.15 to take into account swerving around the slightly inebriated obstacles that kept drifting into the lane. The skinnier, less visible, revelers caused me the most issue, as my goggles did not make the weight cut off for luggage and were left home. Overall a very successful cross training outing, with the exception of my new found awareness of what drunk, wet, lane drifting, hairy man feels like. 

Selfie Rock.
The two desert runs I squeezed in were just shy of amazing. Both were taken early in the morning in exhilarating low temperatures. The 4 miler, interrupted by a few pics and a bunny, was long enough to end pretty warm. I discovered a trail ending in a steep climb up several stacked boulders. The second run ended in an OJ Simpson speed chase as 9 hot air balloons drifted toward me. (only neunzig luftballoons shy of a pop song?) Best of all, no snakes. But I did find a skin, to add to the danger flavor. Overall, my first desert runs were beautiful. The colors and shadows were in constant flux, the cacti made it feel authentic, the odd shaped stacked boulders lent a whimsy to the landscape. I did leave with the feeling that desert runs 3 through infinity will likely feel pretty similar. 

New Zealand arrived three flights and a whole in the wall Vegas hotel layover later. The nastiest leg was a 9 hour 20 minute hop where I lost the last of my flight phobia to shear monotony. Though now, I am terrified of coach airplane seats and I strongly suspect a newly developed pretzel bag allergy. My recollection of this part is pretty hazy, due in part, to insomnia, Olde English 800, and a handy Clonazapan prescription for anxiety. In total I flew, bused, delirium tremored, and hobbled for 36 out of 48 hours. The end arrived only after bending several laws of the space time continuum. At some point I crossed the international date line and finally landed in NZ when Elvis was still a delivery truck driver and phones were tethered to a wall. I arrived at our hotel about 12:30 AM. I think it was 5:30 pm, Tuesday July 34th in Raleigh. I combed my teeth, brushed my tongue, and passed out for a period of several moon cycles. 

After emerging from a refreshing coma Penny and I toured the city of Auckland at an airplane seat crushed hip flexor tame 2.8 mph as we re-acclimated to the world of bipeds. We got a set of wheels in the form of the popular Nissan POS SE (I don't know what the SE stood for) the following day and began a whirlwind tour of the North island. Our second day awake delivered us to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. I'll try to spare the travel details and focus on the running highlights. If you wish to know about glowworms or any part of any of my vacations, just ask. I will happily treat you to a 6 hour slide show with interpretive dance of the local customs. These caves were formed from water flow, and other than the glowworms were pretty much just caves. I found the area surrounding them to be magical. 

The whole island is volcanic and the lush green it mothers could make Ireland jealous. The caves butt up to a hiking trail that weds farmland and a lush jungle environment. I convinced Penny that this might be the only trail in the country and left her in the car for a brief running exploration. (Relax she had a book, and I left the windows cracked.) I started running through Jurasic Park like trail for a mile and suddenly stumbled through a few lingering ferns into Kentucky (a more beautiful, less methamphetamine ridden Kentucky. Just focus on the green rolling hills.) One of the most beautiful runs of my life. Too amazing to spoil with bloginess. The pics follow. They can speak for themselves. Or let the Hobbits try.

I managed a total of 4 NZ runs. The green blanket above, and two through cities, which though fun, were not overly remarkable or unique. The last trek was a safari of fun, overreach, exhilaration, and near disaster. On the waning days of our NZ leg I found a trail through the rain forest. 

The Bay of Islands on the northeastern side of the island are in a tropical zone that border the coast. Our hotel, the Copthorne, resided adjacent to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. The Reservation of the Polynesian decedents include some jungle trails. I found one at 7:15 PM and assumed I had about an hour until twilight faded into night. On an island without snakes, what could really go wrong? The rain forest trail ranked as nearly magical. The earth was teaming with life. It felt primordial. I quickly lost myself in the soft dirt and green fauna. Even the trees seamed sentient. A dazzling sunset, a waterfall, and a huge jungle chicken combined in awing and overwhelming my better sense of time. Sometime later, I regained my awareness and turned back in the faltering light. My Garmin battery failed when I was just under 2 miles out from trail head. Playing jungle scientist, I discovered the effect of diffuse light on subcanopy trails. My thesis: it gets damn dark fast! It went from funny to serious pretty quickly, but I had my headlamp and I reigned in the pace to account for roots, poisonous frogs, super occult chickens, and cannibal snares. 

A quick selfie pic by an ancient tree became exciting when something overhead started a growl-snarl-yelp-howl. I made a quick last minute will and testament on a close to full speed run. I am uncertain as to whether the legality of an iTouch video made in a foreign country at 10 mph would have held up in our court system. But upon further review, I do know that I successfully gave away my dignity in that video. I arrived at the trail head about 15 minutes after nightfall. Delighted, charged, piqued, anxious; alive. My last NZ run has become the standard for adventure to beat. Its going to be pretty hard to beat mystic yelping giant chicken jungle trail with night chase.  

Just 4369 easy air miles later. We were back in Hawaii. I managed 2 runs in 3 days. For one I conquered 90 flights of steps (6 up and downs in the hotel) for a very not very picturesque Hawaiian concrete landscape view, but it ended on top of the hotel roof for a pretty spectacular finish. And then I had a touch of inspiration insanity. I left my hotel early and ran to Diamond Head Crater. I arrived soon after it opened and before it filled with cameras, water bottles and general public. Public admission without a vehicle is only one dollar. The aerial view of Honolulu, stoking of ego, and the value of a taxi ride saved made the venture as profitable as it was scenic. When added to the miles already covered over the Auckland volcanic field, the emerging fiery volcano pattern reminded me of the Greek Phoenix mythology and my own recent running resurrection. Its been a long slow climb, but I think am starting to feel my wings flex again. Of course, that got me thinking about the University of Phoenix and then I thought about the time I waste on game apps. Could I have achieved a Master's in the amount of time I wasted on CandyCrush? Then I remembered where I was and tried the view again. Just under 6 miles and another beautiful vista enjoyed. 

The Las Vegas Strip provided the venue for the final leg of my three week running tour. I totaled 26.9 total run miles over some 25,000 total traveled miles. A record either in covered ground or my longest time for a marathon yet. I liked the way the numbers worked out. Another marathon still seams pretty far off into the future, but the upcoming Medoc 10 miler trail run seams doable. I am so much better rounded as an athlete (or at least an amateur, approaching 40, with athletic tendencies) than I was when I ran my best time at the Disney Goofy. My body certainly looks healthier. I lost that heroin chic, starving puppy body type that the 5 marathons per year were perfecting. Its of great interest to me what the results of a stronger more well proportioned me will produce when I finally get back to the marathon + distance. Look out front of the mid-pack of the masters age group!

Rotorua Museum, NZ
NZ coast on a morning run.
Best reason to run.

Polynesian geothermal spa. Second only to beer for reasons to run.
Speedo drag suits, second only to thongs for indecency.  

Morning run, ended in a traditional  Burger King and this giant Kiwi.

Diamond Head stairs leading to the crater's peak.

A few more stairs to the top.

Honolulu selfie from the top of the crater.
Diamond head.

Staircase vistas.

Hawaii from the top of the Shoreline Hotel Waikiki.
Serendipity, Las Vegas. The third best reason to run.


Friday, September 13, 2013

A Slightly Incoherent Running Manifesto and Summer Recap

Lake Treadmill. 
Parallel to my legion of fans and popular world view, I generally picture myself as a long running, hardcore, off road, ruggedly handsome, rich, Patrick Dempsey haired, slightly eccentric (in the rich tradition, not the homeless man in tin foil hat, holding a cup of cat milk tradition) adventurist with the balance and grace of a leopard and the common sense of Ben Franklin. Over these last summer months, long running was subtracted from that image. The other attributes remain mostly accurate. 

I've switched back from minimal to arched footwear, iced, stretched, massaged, rolled, and slept under Feng shui'd magnetic crystals. I'm still unable to get over 6 miles without causing massive swelling to the 1st metatarsal on my non-surgery side. That quickly stresses the tendon and I get PF pain from the joint to the heel. My whining always showed stronger than my running.

After my T1 (yeah #1, USA USA) diagnosis, running became my vehicle to keep my insulin resistance low. Ridiculously low. I'm almost off the scale. Less resistance, less insulin injected. And God knows how much baby powder and horse laxative the chef's at Norvo Nordisk add to their proprietary rapid insulin recipe. 

Restricting the medical jargon to a minimum: Whether generated by your body or big Pharma, insulin is a hormone with inflammation properties. Inflammation makes heart attacks. Heart attacks suck. Its also the vehicle that delivers honey bun to your midriff. Mmmm honey bun. Insulin is similar to Glenfiddich consumption. A small amount is essential to life, but too much and you'll wish you were throwing up over the backyard deck. So easy on that mixing bowl of twice baked potato bagels and the bottomless trough of fried dough.  

The most important thing Wilford Brimley taught us, after Quaker Oats are awesome and its inadvisable to practice law in TN, is that Liberty will conveniently ship all the diabetic supplies you could desire right to your front door. Good news really, my pharmacy is almost 0.6 miles away. I don't recall him mentioning the often better than medicinal results of exercise and diet. 

As a carbon based life form I love carbohydrates, as a human I love to overindulge. So its a struggle to strive for carb consumption below 100g per day. When inactive, each gram raises my blood sugar about 4.5 points, peaking around 95 minutes after eating. I'm nervous when my BS gets over 140. (Blood sugar not Bulls%$t. My bulls%$t integer is way over 140). These targets translate into a Subway salad (11 grams) consumption rate that would make Jared blanch. 

The thing is I like grapes, pineapples, pizza, Chinese, Mexican, Italian food, Lucky Charms and donuts more than a registered sex offender like's a white cargo sized van full of candy. Bad example, I would appreciate a van full of candy. Any of these foods spike me into unacceptable BS levels, unless I'm working out. When the body exercises all those muscles suck up (more technical medical jargon) any available glucose from the blood stream. You get really insulin sensitive when taxing the body. So much so, that a healthy anatomy cuts its insulin production nearly in half to compensate. Its harder for me to cut injected insulin, so I eat my way to balance. I'm usually the only one at the food tables before a race starts. 

I know, a lot of words, but I wanted to outline my motivation. I have found running to be the most effective form of exercise for BS control. Following a marathon, I can eat nearly anything without consequence for almost three days. Directly following my new career as a full time insulin injector, I became reliant on my mileage as my primary diabetic control mechanism. A great tool, but when your only tool is a hammer you eventually f&$# up your thumb. This blog has churned out more injury than races. At the start of this summer, my hamstrings and calves were so tight, from repetitive stress issues, I couldn't touch my ankles. Toes were out of the question.

Limited to infrequent 5 milers for the entire summer, I was forced to find alternatives to replace my usual 100-150 miles per month. My cereal addiction depended on it. I went kicking and screaming. For me, running trails is fun, biking more of a corporeal punishment. But, I found that a summer spent cross training provided some unanticipated benefits. Flexibility improvements and a more balanced physique brought me new insight. I'm not measuring my body in minute miles anymore. Fitness consists of a balance of stamina, strength, and flexibility now. And while my ability to churn out endless 9 minute miles (never near an age group winner anyway) has slightly diminished, I can easily turn lights on and off with my feet now, freeing up both hands to carry extra stuff. Boasting a 33 percent increase in strength, I am almost as buff as Roger Rabbit. 

The point of all this, if any, is that running became too key a component in my life. I ran through injury. I ran at really dumb times (the summer at lunch time, then back into khakis for work comes to mind.) I started rubbing my hands together and cackling over garmin charts. (Although in this community that behavior qualifies as mostly normal). In my experience, most runners are at peak health 50% of the time and gimpy 60%. It mirrors an addicts behavior.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the rest days I cannot change,
The courage to change the tapers I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

So this entry is a brief overview of my summer cross training. My running methadone. I'm starting to slowly mix running back in now. I signed up for Medoc's 10 mile option. I may never get the full mileage back, but I'm not losing sleep over it anymore. Every time you run out the door may be your last run. Its still my first physical love, but its not the only one anymore. When it comes to exercise, I get around.

I made Group On my first stop. I sampled everything with an elevated heart rate and measured it in beats per dollar saved. Hot yoga, curling, swim lessons, sausage grinding, whatever. Especially if it offered a few weeks access to facilities. My biggest score, Triangle Rock Club, mockingly located in Morrisville, became my favorite. Forty bucks knocked down to $20 with an online coupon, bought me a training indoctrination, free equipment rental and unlimited visits for two weeks. And they have a decent gym. Two weeks, for anybody without Popeye's forearms translates into about 4-5 visits. I had to have a little extra recovery time for muscles toned only carrying 20 ounces of Hammer Perpeteum at a time. In one nook, suspended from the ceiling, they have a small area with a long pipe that you can try to advance yourself on hand over hand. Super fun and my favorite part. I liked this place so much I considered paying the monthly $60 fee and making it my new physical cornerstone. But we've been down that road. Three months from now it would be a blog about forearm surgery.

I took my limp to its logical fashion conclusion and tried pirating for awhile. From SC I repossessed one of the kayaks given to my family as a Christmas present a few years back. She satisfied my exacting criteria, the red schooner fit into my company truck with an extra inch on the windshield and rear hatch sides and my family had tired of moving around her to gain access to their shed. Lake Crabtree is merely 14 minutes from my house and the easiest access point to water larger than my bathtub available. Cardio without leg involvement gives the kayak high marks and I found it pretty fun. Though, I outgrew Crabtree rather quickly. Hugging the shoreline, the entire circumference is slightly less than 5 miles. I found myself circling a time and a half to twice to complete a good 2 hour paddle. I rechristened the pond lake treadmill. With highways on both sides and bordering a walking trail, your never really away from it all. Eventually, boredom overcame good sense and I ventured into the two restricted channels. Past and under the mysterious highway overpass, I found only shallow still water and an ornery turtle. I'll keep the vessel in my x training repertoire, but a new water discovery is essential for next year even if it requires further portage. Extra gold stars for exercise with the best suntan. Frowny faces for every time I had to check under the seat and the bow for spiders or snakes. (I store the boat in the crawl space under the house.)

The Morrisville Aquatic Center performed swimmingly as a key element in running replacement therapy. In compiling this, it appears that most cross training leads in someway through Morrisville. Reasonably priced at $6 per day for a "non-resident" like myself. (I guess that's better than illegal wader.) The pool is uncovered in the summer and boasts a blow up dome over the fall and winter months. Like the Silverdome, only 200 times smaller. The facilities are fair. Aged but well cared for, they match me well. The pool is only 25 yards. Yes, that is correct, 70.5 laps to the mile. And I am only really proficient in the sloth quick breast stroke. Thank you small town Indiana high school. It became my habit to swim a mile or slightly over, (9 laps breast every tenth lap freestyle,) then hit the onsite weight room. Great low intensity HR zone 1 and 2 workout. The weight equipment fulfills all of my needs (i.e. its mostly very heavy). Good cardio equipment, although I tended to avoid it on non-legs day. They also have included classes. Pilates, Yoga, Spin. I think I even saw a karate class. Could have been just a random guy in a kimono. I'm still using the aquatic center months later and will probably keep it as an adequate, but extremely unsexy pillar of my training. I do my best to brighten the place up with my extensive speedo collection, but I'm only one middle aged person. I can only do so much.

Courtesy of the pay per view feature on Time Warner Cable, I was introduced to yoga. I followed the yoga for runners 30 minute episode, until it was etched into my muscle memory. TWC has since replaced it with yoga for golfers. I'm convinced yoga for billiard players and finally yoga for puzzle enthusiasts will follow. Combined with some advanced stretching, this new discipline has brought the most balance to my exercise regimen. It effects blood sugar levels extraordinarily. A half an hour yoga session performs almost as well as a run. Big bonus on the lack of perspiration. Yoga barely qualifies as a glisten, where a heavy run literally leaves its mark in dry salt on my forehead. Your new flexibility rocks. Think about all the new sex moves you can attempt now. On the other hand, your masculinity factor is unlikely to pass the Susane Summers mark. Downward dog in running tights and a head band is really hard to pull off for the male sex. And don't even get me started on finding leg warmers in manly colors. You finally master the abilities to try the Kama Sutra's Wheelbarrow Handstand position, if only the woman in your life was not laughing so hard at you. 

All summer I averaged 30 running miles per month. A long way from my nearly 200 mile December two years ago. The climbing, kayaking, swimming, yoga, biking, ellipticaling, free weights and Quidditching were more than enough to replace the lost miles. Honestly, I feel a lot better. Its nice to be sore in new places. At my highest mileage, my legs would always twitch as I fell asleep. In retrospect that seams a bit unhealthy. I'm a long way from marathon capable presently, but my world didn't end. And I don't look like I so desperately need a meal in the next 30 seconds. My chest is almost 3 inches bigger (although still only an A cup), I can bench 225 (two 45 lbs on both sides which looks really cool), I can carry two suitcases through most airports, I can swim 1/110 of the way to Cuba and if I drop a quarter I can pick it up without bending my knees. The foot is still jacked up, but I'm pushing it gently. 

Medoc is just around the corner. I haven't been over 4 miles in months. On paper, I can make it if I add 1 mile per week. I think I'm going to try it. If I can't make it, maybe I can wrestle Medoc instead. If its too far to run, I'll walk. If its too far to walk, I'll sit. I've added to my mantra. I used to tell myself, "Push the envelope." 

Now I tell myself, "Push the envelope. Don't be stupid." Its a big world, if your injured (and most of us are or will be), go find a good Group On. Now excuse me, its time to get my mileage up.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Whitetails 5k run

Breaking with  my established stylebook, the
remaining pics are displayed at the end of  the article,
rather than intermeshed throughout. In the event your
reading at work, or you recently ate.
How does the adage go? Desperate times call for desperately stupid measures. I have not reclaimed balanced running since my Umstead marathon debacle. The plantar fasciitis twinges on my surgery side leg responded well to immediate rest and icing. Two weeks out of running shoes satisfactorily banished the arch pain. Then with abecedarian irony, I injured my 1st metatarsal on the opposite foot in a crash landing while bailing out of a handstand. I was trying to cross train! Maybe a nice stationary bike would have been a more age appropriate response?

I like a lot of things about distance running, especially trail running. The mountain vistas, a chance meeting of a doe and her fawns, the subtle hues of sunrise, the shocking temperature drop running by water at night, the alone time in your own head, endorphin highs, a connection to the very earth your treading. But most of all I love the oddity of trail runners. I rank their freakishness factor just ahead of an Athens Halloween block party and just behind a Kansas City S&M party. So maybe its not the peaceful miles of only regulated breathing, uninterrupted by cellphones, FB notifications or McDonald's commercials. Maybe its the tutus, tattoos, home brews, sardines and pickles. And I would confidently wager a medium sized ultra boasts more cross dresser's than the Bay area on a Tuesday. I know there is some vanilla out there, but face it most of you are vaudeville strange.

Presently, I can just manage 3 miles. Over 4 miles guarantees limping for a week. But my aberration index is nearing a PR. 

(X * aberrancy) + (Y * miles) = bliss.

If the miles are down subtract no divide, then carry the 3, no wait there is no 3. Never mind, my math skills are declining in a linear relationship to my Garmin GPS use. 

I decided to end my injury streak with a streak. The Whitetails 5k run is my second nude run. I ran the same race two years ago, before I entered the blogosphere. Also it was a time in my life when I possessed too strong a sense of decorum, to publish such low brow adventures. My recent running decline has left me with less to blog. And the high quality of so many other running online journals have done a better job depicting their adventures than my vocabulary and writing salary allow me. Time to borrow a page from publishing giant Hugh Hefner. And those pages are in the buff. (Don't panic, just like Hef I am wearing a robe and smoking a pipe as I type.) 

Wow. Ok. So I had some words saved up in my works. Sorry for the Russian novel introduction. And PLEASE take this opportunity to click on an advertisement. I will make $00.0003 and I can't wait to see what advertisements Google pairs with this entry.

The Whitetail 5k is held annually at the White Tail Resort (A Family Nudist Community) in Ivor, VA. A resort established in 1984. A much free-er and breezier 1984 than George Orwell envisioned. Allowing for coffee, bathroom stops, and bouts of prudence, the 7 AM registration (just didn't feel like the kind of race you pre register for), required a 4 AM start from Durham. I have over 250 running social contacts from FB and various other running group publications. Surprisingly, I departed alone. Brief (get it? brief, while talking about a nudist colony) moment of honesty: I wanted a win. Really, how fast can aging hippies and the overly tan run?

Despite my GPS's constant insistence that I take smaller and narrower roads, the drive was no more nerve racking than my usual pilgrimage toward a trail race. I arrived right on time for registration, even a few minutes early. I gained a good half hour packing for this one. The final approach brought me to the main gates via a long gravel stretch that ended in an imposing wooden gate and fence, marked only with a modest sign. A small intercom speaker and button instructed visitors to ring. I rang and spoke one of the stranger sentences of my adult life, "Is this the place for the naked race?" Reminiscent of the scene in King Kong, the gates opened inward. I hoped for an experience better than Fay Wray's.

I was directed to park and head to the main office to fill out some paperwork and provide ID. Not required for most firearm purchases, but apparently birthday suits are not constitutionally protected in VA. The feeling that I had to deliver a speech for school, but forgot to wear pants dream deja vu started at about this point. I felt a bit awkward in cargos and old race shirt amongst the very naked colonists. It felt like a library (with a small gift shop)/information booth, but the nice lady at the computer, the man taking a photo copy of my driver's licence and the couple browsing sunblock had not a pocket between them. They finished checking me in and directed me toward registration at the outdoor pavilion.

A lot more skin out here. Maybe 50 hides milling about. I stopped by the car and took my clothes off like a band aid. (Quick and with minimal hair loss). The approach to registration mirrored the usual, with the exception of a much longer line. Their were only 6 people in line, but the space between each of us was proportionately respectful to the awkwardness. My turn arrived quickly enough and I received my (ready for it), race T-shirt. No bibs. Not even a number to hide behind. I had been hoping for something like #8375093275. When you cross the finish, they record your time on a note card and you add your name and then drop it in your age group category bowl.

If you find yourself clothed and outside on just too many days of the year, this race is part of a series. One of the middle calendar events hosted by B.A.R.E. (Butts A’runnin Race Enterprises). They put on a great race. More than adequate snacks, water, clear course markings (1 mile loop, repeated), and free grounds access for the rest of the day. The course starts near the office, runs through the semi-permanent community (trailers/mobiles), enters a wooded trail, then reenters the community. Many of the locals were out with great enthusiasm and cheering. Some provided additional water and treats. Maybe, the best crowd participation, outside of Disney Marathon's paid cheerleaders, I've ever seen. And of course, at Disney most characters wear pants.

The director lined us up by pace expectation. Much to my dismay, the aging hippy to average 5ker ratio was the opposite of my expectation. Nobody lined up for the 5 minute mile pace, but the 6 minute group was fair, and the 7 min coral was overflowing. I lined up with the 9's and hoped I was being humble. I targeted 7:45, but was secretly hoping for sub 7:30. My soft tissue may be in poor shape, but I've kept my cardio up on the elliptical, swimming, and bike. Its a flat course. 

Line up was uneventful, but with a noticeable lack of pre-race stretching. No lunges with the goose pimpled crowd. The other dismaying ratio showed in the M to F count, roughly 117 to 1. OK not quite that bad, but I am confident that the female sex is, in general, more demure than Renoir suggested. Not great for ambiance, and even worse for my age group chances.  

The start was a simple, "go". We went out FAST. I usually do, but the pace was a bit unprecedented, even for me. At heart, I am wound pretty tight. The free spirit stuff is always outside my comfort zone and I over think everything. I had practiced on the treadmill at home to make sure the mechanics were possible. (Room darkening shades: Your welcome neighbors.) I thought the practice would negate the nerves, but not so much. Running 6:37 per Garmin with the lead pack at the 1/3 mile mark was way outside of my abilities. 

I settled down about the same time we entered the trail section. Pretty rooty through this 1/3 mile. It rained heavy the previous night and this part of the course was all mud. Finally, some cover, at least from the mid calf down. We exited the trails and back to bridle-type gravel road for the last 1/3 of the first mile. Everything turned automatic for me for the next mile. The nuts and bolts of extended streaking are surprisingly user friendly. Let's just say there is a rhythm to the workings. Honestly, thanks to Nike and modern fabrics my everyday running gear barely outweighs my au natural state. I was done with bashful and into racing mode after a half mile. On strictly journalistic intention, I did interview one of the more amply equipped female racers in the Jacuzzi after the race. Apparently their race equipment causes more of an issue. Sports bras were well represented.  

The last 3/4 mile was rough. The too fast start and the adrenaline rush took their toll. I faded pretty hard and the front runners were nothing but a dust cloud ahead. I had nobody reachable in front, but my rear felt exposed. I had a tail in my wake from about a mile in and they were closing. Still holding out for an age group place, my shadow was undoubtedly a M 30-40 years old. I managed a kick for the last 150 yards and he finished just behind me. First throw up finish in 2 years! Thrilling to finish strong, but disappointing to discover that apparently, my stripped form makes me sick. 

Definitely, threadbare training, but I did manage 3rd in my age group. And they did go 3 deep with the awards. Hoping for a medal, or better yet a sash of some sort, the award proved a poor cover. Third is a certificate for a free entry back to the nude commonwealth!

Just like every other race ever run, the after phase was mainly carbs, awards, and hanging out with every body else. Slightly different, I have never witnessed so much eye contact after an event. The after access to facilities made a nice bonus. The place is really well equipped; indoor pool, outdoor Olympic sized pool, Jacuzzis, tennis courts, showers, considerably sized outdoor chess set, fitness room (yikes!), and restaurant (Try the lobster served outside of its shell). Next time I will call ahead and schedule a massage session with the onsite masseur who books up early on weekends. 

Its a good time and completely tame. Makes for a great story when your one upping somebody at a dinner party. The aerodynamics all but ensure a PR. Go try it out, but seriously don't wear the heart rate monitor. This is really the race to try without it. Don't get caught in the bum's rush, sign up today. 

My new favorite race shirt. Breathes well.

OMG! No life guard on duty.

Really difficult to choose pics for this write up.
For those of you easily nauseated, do not scroll
down any farther. I'm talking to you Jim Wei.

Happy tea pot. Not that kind
of happy.
Full moon at morning, take warning.

Third place age group. Its the start of a new streak!


Monday, March 4, 2013

Umstead Trail Marathon 2013

I explain to Brandy Burns why bagels are the most
delicious of all the breads. Photo: Harold Hill. 
Ticked off or Batshit crazy? This wardrobe dilemma crowded my thoughts and Facebook traffic 2 weeks before the 10th annual Umstead Trail Marathon. Each year the marathon's shirt and finisher's pint glass immortalize a creature from the park in the form of a sketched relief. Annually, a mysterious cabal of Cardinals, Illuminati, The Black Hand and Freemasons elect the design under the cover of darkness at a local Applebees. With great daring and deranged disregard for personal safety, AC detailed the esoteric process in his Running Down blog. (Pursue the link before he and his blog are disappeared forever. I suggest an anonymous IP address from an internet cafe under an assumed name. Don't forget to take your coffee cup with you. Don't leave fingerprints).

Heiko falls victim to bat peer pressure.
Local Facebook trail runners leaned liberally toward the 2012 bat. An Umstead technical shirt flash mob is something to behold. Made up of tens of runners, it can easily block out the sun and has been rumored to consume beer at an alarming rate. I earned the infamous lime green tick shirt and complimenting chalice 2 years ago at my Umstead Trail Marathon debut. Last year's UTM marked the first marathon distance race I singed up for, but did not complete. I took a single ceremonial step before mounting my bike. I did receive my blue bat shirt, but spent that race pedaling gels and waters around the course to the two able legged runners. 

AC is Fonzarelli's biggest fan and the lone tick.
By my deliberation, I earn full license to the bat shirt only after completing the marathon distance while wearing (or at least toting it in my waistband) the blue Chiroptera. My tendons were real tweaky on the right side. Odds of a full 26.2 finish figured at slightly better than winning the beauty contest in Monopoly. I couldn't risk an insult to the Tick with a DNF. And as Batshit crazy more accurately matched my demeanor for this year's running, I went with the 2012 shirt. Anticipating likely failure, I complimented the tunic with a pair of black running tights effectively shrouding my 26.2 and Hermes wings leg tattoos. Unhappily, this maneuver unintentionally answered the circumcision question with every picture of me at the race now posted on the internet. Kilts are demure in comparison.

Sorry ladies. He is married.
326 days ago, I scheduled the first available surgical slot following MRI confirmation of a brevis tear in an attempt to make UTM2013. I have not run 26.2 miles since October 15, 2011. In the last 30 days I have run 98.9 miles. In the previous 30 days I ran 38 miles. My surgeon estimated I could likely complete a flat marathon 12-18 months from the procedure. I translated this complex medical jargon to, "you should run a trail marathon with some singletrack in a year" (I did take the very reasonable liberty of rounding 10 months 3 weeks up to a year). My new trail name: Excuses. 

Barefoot Josh and his patented baby food fueling strategy.
The mind is willing, the body is old. My cardiovascular is close to fully restored (thank you elliptical), my tendons and soft tissue are in tip top condition for at least half of a 400 meter, and I am almost 100% delusional again. Steve, my father-in-law and eminent sage of North Carolina's inner banks, recently awoke from anesthesia to remark, "If your going to be stupid, you'd better be tough." I have adopted this philosophy as my mantra. It may be my next tattoo and I will never have to cover it in tights. I tweaked my right leg pretty good 2 weeks out from the race. A combination of many miles and little sense. My ankle hurt, but only when walking or sitting still. It almost went away when running. Two nights before the race I tried 2 flat miles on the treadmill. My wife noted my off balanced rhythm from downstairs. I admitted my over trained condition and made a solemn oath to my legs that I would not attempt the full distance this year. I compromised with a new set of goals. Best case: half-marathon. Realistic case: run all of the singletrack and walk in. Worst case: run 3 miles and wait for the Moe's burritos to arrive.

Lynch mob.
It is widely known that my leg oath's are my bond. With a stalwart resolve and great prudence I arrived at camp Lapihio promptly to proclaim my intention of dropping early to the park's inhabitants (mostly trees, but a few volunteers were nearby). Fortune smiled on me and I jumped at the chance to procure an additional tick shirt from 2011 in my size. Cognizant that I could not finish the 2013 race, the purchase would serve as a replacement trophy for the day's DNF. And as I plan to be one day be buried in that shirt, it felt savvy to have a spare for the trails. For its tenth anniversary UTM 2013's great animal reveal was a large headed duck on day-glo orange for the men. Pink for the woman. I rested easy and my avowal remained iron clad. Had AC gotten his desired opossum, I might have crawled for the finisher's mug. 

Brandy makes the turn at this year's strangely shaped orange cone.
The first glimpses of lunacy did not present until I witnessed the finisher's china at the lodge. True, the pints were adorned with a large headed duck, but they had a large 10 marking the anniversary and they were tricolor. That is right black, orange, AND blue. I immediately wanted one. By now, other runners had trickled in, some competing in their first marathon (awesome job Iris). Many with more grievous injuries than I. Pretty sure I saw an eye patch and one guy looked like he had a battle mace  protruding from his torso. A few were hideously handicapped. Scott Lynch succumbed to plague, he ran following a night of norovirus (congratulations on a new PR Scott! If you subtract portojohn time Scott won the marathon by over 2 hours). Complaining about my paltry tendon issues came off pretty lame in comparison. One woman near the fireplace burst into flames. She was not dropping. I slowly started to cross my fingers and reconsider my present abilities.

The call to the start interrupted fireside socializing and we made our way into the cold. As my more ambitious friends strategically positioned themselves near the line, I sought out some prettier faces who were likely too polite to ignore my chatter. I maintained a 9:45 pace for the first few miles, while Brandy B. tried to get away from me. After she slipped away, I managed near 11 minute pace with Sherri through the singletrack. My course knowledge advantage allowed me to keep up until we entered the bridles on Reedy Creek and then I did some alone miles. 

No expense spared at UTM. French waiters refill
 your water glass at every turn. 

I was able to maintain an 11 average pretty easily, including frequent walking breaks and blood sugar checks. An extended stop for vasaline repair on my left foot at the Graylyn aid station still left me with a sub 5 time. With only the bridles ahead and feeling not too gimpy, I went completely mad and decided a 4:45 - 5:15 finish was very reasonably achievable. The cardio felt great. I did not wear a HR monitor because I wasn't going to finish, but I'd estimate bpm at a super comfortable 70% of max. Maybe lower. My iffy tendon was ok while running, a tad twingy while walking. Easily solved, just run more. I began to believe in an Umstead miracle. Just like 1984 all over again, but without all of the hockey players and USA chants. I might have chanted USA a little bit. 

The rabbits.
With 2 Turkey Creeks ahead, I wasn't quite a fanatic believer yet. I had some new glimmerings of faith (definitely not reason), but I wasn't ready to give up on pork or don a burka yet. I kept the 11ish pace up and really concentrated on keeping my form balanced and hopefully, less likely to cause any damage. I had played a little on some of the singletrack downhills and really opened up the throttle once or twice. Now, I shortened my stride and went automatic. Outbound on Turkey Creek remains my favorite part of the race. It is inspiring. You pass the halfway point, you see all of your friends again on their return, you still feel strong, and by now you have probably forgotten about Cedar Creek. I knew there was a boost waiting ahead. I was told they had coke at the turn around aid station, but it turned out to be the cola kind.

Call her Steak sauce. Type A Type 1.
The assent up Turkey Creek (it ascends in both directions) was a who's who of everybody faster than me. One of my favorite parts of trail running, no one cares. Following only swingers, the Danish, and drunk Amway salespeople, trail runners are some of the nicest people on earth. Even the leader's will drop a nod of encouragement at you between breaths and many of the peak trained will still stop for a hand of cribbage (but not bridge. Nobody plays bridge anymore). They will even save you a burrito at the finish. I saw everybody on my way out. Too many to list here, just read the finisher's list. 

Boom! Pow! Biff! (stomach gurgle). To the
Bat cave.
After the turnaround, I began to consider the pros and cons of each beer as a finisher's pint first test. I had it down to either Guiness or Blue Moon when I got the first twinge in my left arch. At first, I suspected some sort of squirrel hijinks. The bushy tailed rodents are not above messing with your footwear when you are not paying full attention. I untied my shoe and re-laced with a little extra room. This bought me a few more miles. Around 19.7 miles, a nail was driven into my left arch. Even walking, every time the body's most amazing spring compressed I felt a stabbing pain. My calm and entirely composed yelps attracted the attention of James, a bike volunteer and harbinger of doom. I stopped and massaged the arch for awhile, hoping it was just a temporary 30 minute cramp. We decided to walk to the 20 mile aid station and reassess. Jame's tri training shows in his amazing bike balance at speeds well below 1 mph.

James, my escort to mile 20 aid station and harbinger of doom. 
My lurch into the mile 20 AS pretty much restored my original more reasonable goals. I was just shy of 4 hours with only 6.2 to go. I only needed a 3 mph walk to beat the last cut off and finish at 6 hours. 4 out of 5 pirates can handle that pace. I knew I would replay the events countless times in my head while drinking out of old finisher's mugs. Amazingly, this was my first bout with a plantar fasciitis issue. I think I have sampled most of the other injuries. It surprised me occurring on the left. That leg has been pretty stable, even though its my surgery side. In sober retrospection, quitting was the only option (I am writing this 2 days later with my left foot submerged in ice water). Also, the call of a free Gator ride in Umstead offered its own siren temptation. A quick jaunt to the start assured a still warm finisher's burrito.

Why do I insist on running with frozen peas?
Unfortunately, the UTM committee protects itself from lollygaggers looking for free golf cart rides. To ensure that lazy runners don't abuse the race's infrastructure and medical assets, a complex shaming ritual has been implemented. I was quickly provided with an ice pack, directions to the finish, and unlimited well wishes. After several minutes, a sprinkle of whining, and some expert limping, the volunteers ascertained that I was not physically able to make the finish on my own. Responsible for keeping the park pristine as a condition of hosting the race, they called in for further instructions on how to properly dispose of my carcass. A biker (I think they called him "the cleaner") was dispatched to verify my lameness factor. He briefly considered letting me biodegrade, but decided against it as too time consuming. I was deemed an eligible candidate for shaming and extraction.

Doug Hensel's chauffeur service for slack runners.
The Umstead dishonor ritual tilts toward PSYOPs, more than physical torture, as you have already demonstrated physical pain. The aid station enlistees and 2 bikers formed a circle around me. They held hands with me in the center. Somebody was chanting lightly in Latin. I was forced to renounce the duck. They were going to shave my head, but abstained as it is presently only milometers high. Several small children threw Oreo cookies at me. Everybody symbolically turned away and the cleaner demanded the surrender of my race number. I believe it is to be burned later and then never mentioned again. Disgraced and not requiring immediate medical attention, I was asked to wait near the shame tree until transportation arrived. 

After a half hour passed, Doug H arrived in a horse drawn cart to transport me to the start. Actually, a horse drawn cart may have been slightly faster. Doug was in charge of breaking down the aid station and returning its many pieces to the start. He was driving a 1985 stolen red Chevy, loaded with runner's booty. Food, tables, water, signage. Irene Ryan was sitting in a rocking chair over the cab. He found room for me near the passenger seat and we jumped in line between 2 police cars and farm traffic. Skipping Cedar Creek, I was within 3.5 miles of the start by foot. To cover the distance outside of the park by roadway, we drove almost 13862 miles. Thanks for the ride Doug! On our journey, we got pretty close talking the day over by the fire at our campsites throughout the month or so it took to return to Lapihio.

Sally is so bad @ss.
Factoring out some small exaggeration in the timeline, I was able to finish just before Brandy B. Of course, the use of any red pick up truck to cross the finish disqualifies a runner. So she did beat me on a small technicality. I finally got that burrito. Even quitting at 20 miles, my insulin sensitivity was great. I witnessed Iris cross the line for her first marathon finish. That first time energy is always rejuvenating and contagious (hopefully unlike Scott's norovirus). Its always awe inspiring. I watched Sally chomp down miles on her way to the hundred again this year. A month ago, I would never have believed I would be satisfied with a 20 mile finish at UTM. But slowly, even I am capable of some perspective. A year ago I took one step. Six months ago I was still fresh out of a boot. The year of the duck left me unable to finish because of OVER training. What a gift to be able to over train again. I am grateful and a little smarter than last year. I will stretch, I will ice. I am taking the next 2 weeks off. I scheduled a mountain climbing class to keep me distracted. I hear by publicly make a solemn oath of no running to my legs for at least a fortnight. And its common knowledge that my leg oaths are sacrosanct. Please, if you see me in the park off of a bike before the ides of March, feel free to forcibly escort me out. It should be easy, presently I have little to no lower leg strength.

Anthony Corriveau finally gets his Opossum
A quick note on Jay's after party. Even without a qualifying finish, I was invited in a reporting capacity. His house is very convenient to the park. He live's under one of the larger trees on Ebeneezer. I got my annual Blue Moon (like a real boy) and 2 glasses of red (Though they did make me wear a pink duck shirt while drinking the wine). To spite Scott's PR and his GI tract, I had my 2nd serving of black beans in the form of the best pork chili I have ever tasted. (4 times in one day Scott! You may be faster, but my legume records will stand for decades. Moe's burrito, Chili at Jay's house, Nachos with black beans and jalapenos for dinner, and left over Rick's Diner black and butter beans for late night snack.) Thanks for opening your home Jay. Although, I did make the rather disturbing discovery of your pasties stash when opening cupboards in the kitchen searching for a mug. Best, AND LAST, Umstead marathon WITHOUT a finish to date. 

This homeless park child beat me to the finish.

Galloway cheer leading section.

Jay Spadie (on Turkey Creek return), faster only because of the the aerodynamic properties of pasties. 

Diane models a stress fracture, JoAnna's tights by Vera Wang. Hydration system by Jimmy Choo.

Duck it! Denied.