Monday, April 21, 2014

Running Journal 15

This is a make-up post, since I didn't get around to writing last week, though I did get around to running. Therefore I will make it brief, although the weekend included complicated highs and lows culminating in a satisfying, slightly longer five-mile run/jog.

I had another optical appointment Friday afternoon, so I skipped out from work a little early and got fitted for new frames. Since there was daylight and good weather, I went for a decent bike ride and felt good. The weather on Saturday was even better, so Gven Golly, my earth mother wife, and I went out to a farm over near Hoover and brought back two loads of nice, ripe horse manure for the garden. Then I went to Clintonville to help Zelda and the Pattycakes move freezers, coolers, mixers and other equipment out of the bakery for the crew to put in a new floor the next day. A day full of hard work and fun.

The Java Central posse was in fine form on Sunday morning, but I was shocked to get the news that Rev. Todd Anderson has been re-assigned to a Methodist church in Hilliard, OH, and will be leaving Church of the Master next month. I am unsure what my next church-related move will be and skeptical whether his successor at Master can hold a candle to this rare and gifted teacher. So I muddled through the day, did a little yard work, and jogged over to the high school track in the waning daylight.

I kept it slow, as usual, and walked 100 meters every half mile or so, eventually losing count of my laps at around 16, so when I got home an hour later I figure it was about five miles at a 12-minute pace, give or take. Not too bad, and no pain to speak of.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Running Journal 14

One small step for Sven, a giant leap for Svenkind.

Still running only once a week, but now I'm actually running. Not just jogging, and not a heel-toe simulation of running that's more like a fast walk. If you have ever run, you know the difference. And if you have ever been a runner, you know the difference makes all the difference in the world.

For the record, people who know about these things says it takes seven years to become a runner. Many people run once in a while, and some run with regularity for a while, but it takes consistent workouts for years to rebuild the muscles, bones, joints, neurons, and cardio-vascular system into those of a runner - cell by aerobically fit cell.

So you don't become a runner by walking or jogging, although (cliche alert) you have to walk before you run, and you don't become a runner in 14 weeks. But if you're a former runner who didn't even know if he was capable of running, it's a small breakthrough to go from a slow but satisfying jog to a slow but distinctly different phenomenological experience of running.

I think the weather had something to do with it. It was so nice on Saturday that I went for a bike ride before dinner, and I'm convinced that cross-training is magic. The weather was even nicer today, and I went directly to the high school track instead of up the bike trail. Maybe that was the secret ingredient: warm weather and the cushioned surface of the track instead of snow and ice on the asphalt bike trail. It all adds up.

The high school soccer team was having an informal practice, but they didn't bother me and I didn't bother them. Staying in the outside lane, I let my legs call the tune, and after a slow warm-up lap, I walked 100 meters and felt refreshed. Another slow 100 meters and I began to stride out a little for the next 100 meters, slowed to a jog for 100, picked up the pace for 100, and then walked 100. 

This quasi-Fartlek workout felt great, so I settled into a comfortable pace alternating between a slow jog and a less-slow jog that I'm defining as a 'run'. Based on that idiosyncratic logic, I am now running. Ask me in seven years if I'm a runner yet. 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Running Journal 13

One step forward, two steps back. And vice versa.

Start the weekend by seeing the eye doctor, then go for a bike ride. Pay some bills, eat some pasta. It's Friday.On Saturday, do your chores and get a haircut. Make a crock of bean and bacon soup. Watch basketball. It's the Amerikan way. Sunday starts with a batch of bread, a cup of coffee, and a surprising conversation with my posse at Java Central. Rutter's Requiem at Church of the Master, fixing the fence back at the shack, picking up sticks to stack in the back, and finally go for a run.

Remember Fartlek? It's a kind of workout where you start running slowly, gradually build up speed, and  then slow down just long enough to restore your energy and build up speed again, then repeating that cycle lap by lap. My knees and calves were giving me all kinds of mixed messages right from the start, so I let myself into the high school track and minded my own business while the lacrosse players finished their practice and the soccer players started theirs.

Quarter mile jog, 100-meter walk, quarter mile jog, 100-meter walk. Do that six times and feel great. Indulge in a long, slow stretch and a Guinness stout with broiled salmon, sweet potatoes and broccoli. It's not the distance or the speed that matters, it's just the right balance of short duration and low intensity that makes a good workout.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Running Journal 12

Ho hum. Another week another four-mile run at 12-minute pace, another good stretch afterwards, this time made remarkable by my cat, Lamar, taking a special interest in my hands while I lay on my back doing long, slow, circular shoulder rotations. Must be the qi streaming out of limbs from pent-up energy in tight core and leg muscles.

The only noticeable difference this week was a longish bike ride yesterday (it's good to cross-train) and a need to walk part of the way back today (calf muscles tightened up). I am drawing no conclusions from either bit of evidence, and it was a boring way to end a boring weekend of college basketball on TV.

How could that be? When every team, favorite or underdog, Kentucky or Wichita State, plays the same inside-outside offense, attack the rim and kick it out for the three-pointer, and March Madness looks a lot like American Idol. I think I'll leave that simile alone.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Running Journal 11

A break in the weather, a four-day weekend, daylight savings time - sounds to me like a recreational running opportunity. And I have reason to be grateful for the renewed ability to run - okay, it's really more of a jog - without knee pain. So why do I feel like I'm stuck at four 12-minute miles?

Is stuck too strong a word? Maybe I've plateaued, found a rhythm, established a base, or some other euphemism for stagnation due to running once a week. At what point does a groove become a rut? And everybody knows that nobody improves much by working out once a week.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's better than nothing. I could have been sitting on the couch watching basketball. Sorry, that line doesn't work on a phys. ed. major. However, I acknowledge that the quality of those four miles is getting better, and I'm doing it on dry pavement now, not six inches of powder, and I'm steadfastly resisting the urge to stride out faster and farther and do some real damage. So I guess I'll take it, all 48 minutes of it. 

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Running Journal 10

Pausing from watching the Happy Oscars on TV to report that my tenth week of running has been a reality check, reminding me that whatever I think is going on, something else entirely is going on.

It was a good day, really, no complaints, mostly, and yet, since I'm here to tell the truth, as I see it, let's try to get it right. The results are uneven at best.

Java Central was even more alive than usual as a communal coffee experience this morning. More conversation than reading, more serious human contact than studying the textbook, and maybe it had something to do with my ordering the chocolate bacon donut instead of the poppyseed muffin. Or not.

But because I had started the a batch of bread and a crock of soup ahead of time, I was right on track by mid-afternoon, when the bread (whole wheat, walnuts, a banana, a pear, homegrown peaches) was rising, and the soup (adzuki beans, parsnips, onions, celery, tomatoes, fresh ginger) was simmering nicely by the time I got my Norwegian butt outside to shovel the sidewalk. And shovel I did, getting a nice workout for both the right side and left side, both upper body and legs, both aerobic for cardiovascular endurance and anaerobic for quick bursts of power.

With that warm-up, I put the bread in the oven and stepped outside in running shoes, giving myself an hour to slowly, slowly run/jog up the bike trail on a nice, fresh three-inch cushion of snow. And it's a good thing it snowed today, because my knees were feeling it from beginning to end, just a dull ache in both knees, not a sharp pain, clearly not a crisis, but a concern nonetheless. So I persevered through the two miles up the trail to Maxtown and the two miles back.

At the end of the day, it was just another dues-paying run. No particular "flow" experience, no athletic or somatic epiphany to write home about, and when I got back to the house it was time to cool down, hydrate, take the bread out of the oven, stretch, and ice the knees. No regrets. I'm glad I took the time to shovel more than I absolutely had to, glad I cross-trained and paid it forward. All those small decisions all day long entered into the outcome of the run, and it was alright.

Reward: a vodka tonic, a fire, a nice dinner, and the self-congratulatory Oscars, in the year of being happy in spite of it all.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Running Journal 9

I ran twice this week. That's a breakthrough, by the way. Up to this point in my new, life-changing practice of running, I've only run once a week, so when I got home from work before dark on Friday, it was a novel experience to change clothes and go for a slow jog to the pond off East Park St. in the warm early evening.

It took awhile to warm up the muscles and joints, regardless of the fair weather. My mantra is: Take it slow. And so I did, taking an eternity just to get to the pond, about a mile away, but then it got a little more fun on the soft footing of the trail, circling the half-frozen pond on a mixture of fine gravel, snow, ice, slush, mud, a nice boardwalk, you name it. So I took my time and got back in about 40 minutes, less mileage than usual but that's okay, since we're breaking new ground here.

I felt so good, I suggested going out for pizza instead of ordering in. We tried out a new restaurant, Carsonie's, down south on Westerville Road, and it was another new experience. According to my amateur ethnographic observations, it's an old Westerville hangout, full of DeSales graduates from the latter half of the 20th century, a too-loud sound system playing top-40 hits from that era, and an promising menu of pizza, beer, and calzones.

We ordered a medium veggie pizza and an appetizer, waited half an hour, nothing. Then they brought a pizza with the wrong toppings, promised another one with what we ordered, but forgot the appetizer. Long story short, we eventually got the pizza we asked for (in a box), a couple of Deviant Dave's IPAs, and an order of meatball sliders, all for free, plus a gift certificate to say they want us to come back.The Deviant Dave's was pretty good, the sliders not bad, and the apologies from multiple waitpersons were effusive.

Saturday morning, Gven Golly and I walked over to Church of the Master for a lecture by Otterbein professor Geoffrey Barstow on Buddhist meditation. Barstow has studied Tibetan Buddhist texts and practices for several years in Nepal and brings first-hand experience to the Western, Christian academic setting. His talk gave the local community, right there in the Fellowship Hall of the Methodist church, an even-handed and non-judgmental description of Tibetan Buddhist training that cut through its exoticism and mystery.  Of course, you can only go so far in an hour and a half, but I was glad we went.

I spent the afternoon washing the truck, cleaning out the garage, and fixing the back gate. We had (free) leftover pizza and fresh guacamole for supper, built a nice fire in the stove, and talked to my Dad on the phone.

Sunday morning seminar with the regulars at Java Central was exceptionally lively, and it's a good thing because the annual Children's Sabbath at Church of the Master was an ordeal of saccharine sweetness. I escaped to go home and do laundry, sweep the den, and bake bread. It was nice enough outside to follow through on the nice, clean garage by cleaning out the carport and reorganizing some lumber in the woodshed. Not that any real work will get done, but it feels good to have stuff in order.

With the sun sinking near the horizon and bread loaves rising, it was now or never, so I put on my running clothes and retraced my muddy steps to the pond.

It didn't go smoothly. My knees balked at the effort. A big black dog charged down a driveway on East Park St. to warn me away from his territory, but he stopped at the curb, I only flinched for a second, and I lived to tell the  tale. I repeated my mantra and focused extra attention on lifting the knees, which seems to increase the bounce from a short, toe-first stride, slow as it is. The thing is, speed does not matter. I'm just out there learning how to run again. Ask me in seven years if I'm really a runner.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Running Journal 8

Conditions were not ideal, and I almost didn't go, but now that I'm in the endorphin zone, I am here to testify, brothers and sisters, that even if the temperature is in the twenties, there's a bit of a wind, and that Bartleby the Scrivener inside is saying, "I would prefer not to," go outside and do it anyway. Run, walk the dog, ski, snowshoe, bicycle, build a snowman, whatever it is, (with apologies to Nike) just do it.

It had been an okay day so far, a medium red-eye and a bagel at Java Central, a little conversation with the regulars, mostly about books because they seem to think I 'm all about books, and it was Mike's birthday. Another atypical Sunday at Church of the Master was focused on Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, paramilitary displays of flags, marching, images of war, "Onward Christian Soldiers" and the whole nine yards of God and Country and Leadership. There was also a perfectly lovely piano solo by one of the Girl Scouts.

So I stopped at Java Central on my way home and handed Andy, the barista par excellence, the insert from the church bulletin about an upcoming series of lectures about "Buddhism in a Multi-Faith World" by Dr. Geoff Barstow, Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Otterbein University, because I knew from a previous conversation that Andy was interested in Buddhism. Then I went home, ate lunch, read the paper, checked Facebook, and watched the Michigan State game. Ouch, the Spartans lost one at home to Nebraska.

It was not a busy day. Gven and I discussed which week in August would interfere least with our rec center teaching schedules, and I emailed the caretakers at Thayer Lake to book a cabin. I did manage to get outside for a while, did some Basic Movement in the shelter of the woodshed, which brought me to life a little, and carried some firewood inside. That little bit of warmup probably got me going.

Running was improvisational. I didn't want to go east on Park St. to the nature preserve, because then I would come back against the wind. Then I departed from my usual route up the bike path, because the asphalt was icy, and headed west on Home St. past the Otterbein track, which was locked tightly, and meandered north and west past the baseball and softball fields to the cross-country course down the hill toward the Community Center, made the turn at County Line Rd., and came back a different way than I went out.
I had forgotten to put the knee brace on and didn't miss it. I was surprised how good it felt in my legs to take short, high strides and softly strike the ground with the toes, but I had to resist the urge to go faster. It's a little like a Fartlek workout, but without the sprint between the slowdowns, just nice and steady, with the focus on form, not speed.

I got home in about an hour, so I'm guessing it was five miles at a 12-minute mile pace. That's a mile more than last week and no pain in the knees, so I'll take it. The cool-down was great, lying on my back on the bamboo mat upstairs, stretching and generating lots of ideas about things to do on our vacation in Michigan.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Running Journal 7

So I missed a week, and I wasn't sure whether I could sustain the bit of momentum gained from the first six weeks of running once a week, for what that's worth. And apparently it wasn't that big a deal, because to my relief all the moving parts seem to still be working.

Or maybe it was just a superb job of preparation, warm-up, and execution. For future reference, I suggest the following:
1. The day before, ride your bike from the car repair shop to the bank, to the barber shop, and home. Act nonchalant, like you do this all the time in February, even though you're taking your life in your hands with Saturday morning drivers crowding the right lane up and down route 3 in Methodistville. Which means you are a badass on wheels, yo!
2. Do it again, but in reverse, this time against the wind with the temperature dropping at the end of the day, to go pick up the car at the shop. Above all, act like it's nothing. Your old-dude super-coolness will take away some of the sting of the 900 shekels you just paid to have your brakes fixed.
3. Observe your highly disciplined training table regimen: have a drink, build a fire in the woodstove, eat a nice chicken dinner, and watch a movie with the wife (Jim Broadbent is masterful in Mike Leigh's "Another Year"). 
4. Next morning, drink three cups of strong coffee, making sure you are never far from a restroom as you make your way to Java Central to church and home through the snow.
5. Find time, preferably in the middle of the afternoon while the sun makes an appearance, to shovel the fresh, weightless snow, demonstrating once again how to be both macho and righteously Midwestern.
6. Pausing only long enough to put the bread in the oven, stride out the gate and across the park to the snow-covered bike trail. Please note: by "stride" I mean take a lot of little tiny steps with no regard whatsoever for speed. Going faster is NOT the goal. On the contrary, move slowly up the trail, across College Ave., Broadway, and County Line Road to Maxtown concentrating on knee-lift and toe-strike, resisting the urge to get there and back sooner rather than later.
7. Ice the knee in question while lying on your back, stretching neck, shoulders, back, hips, ankles, and everything in between. Hydrate with Columbus IPA (blue corn chips with sour cream-horseradish dip optional). 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Running Journal 6

Good news, good news.

I ran 4 miles, and my knees didn't hurt at all.

It was not an ideal day for a run, but I think the 8 inches of snow that fell in the last 24 hours was actually an advantage. I mean aside from the fact that it gave me a reason to go outside and shovel fluffy white powder not once but twice during a single weekend. Several inches of soft snow underfoot was the perfect cushion for a nice, slow jog up the bike trail and back.Rather than being an encumbrance, it actually freed me up to run with almost no impact on the joint.

Common sense and a healthy dose of paranoia still dictated an hour or so of stretching with an ice pack strapped to my right knee, followed by a vodka tonic for additional pain management. You can't be too careful. 

The fact remains that once a week is not a workout schedule that will build strength, endurance, speed, or aerobic capacity. You know what? I don't care. I'm able to run. At least when there's 8 inches of snow on the ground. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Running Journal 5

Good news, bad news. Beautiful sunny day in January, although it's a bit cold, I'll take it. Had a nice walk to the cafe and church in the morning, only took half an hour to shovel the walk, and the rest was gravy. Read the paper, finish the book I've been reading for an eternity, start another book I've been itching to get into, and it's even better than I anticipated. By 5 o'clock I realize it's now or never, so strap it on and go.

Heel and toe for the first half mile, just trying to get into a rhythm and not do any damage. Once I'm warmed up, I switched to a toe-heel gait, totally different but pain free, so I just stayed with it for another couple of miles, cautiously making the turn to come back and staying on the soft surface of grass and snow every chance I got. Tuna half miles with no pain to speak of, again, I'll take it.

Cool-down was great, with an ice pack on one knee at a time, lying on my back on the mat upstairs, rotating both hips outward and inward, rotating both ankles in circles to release the leftover effects of half an hour of effort and let the muscles and joints recover. Actually drifted off into a nice nap for a few minutes, got up, got dressed, came downstairs, started a fire, mixed a drink and made guacamole before dinner.

After the endorphins, the fact remains that running once a week is not enough to have a training effect, and I have to find a way to get my New Balance butt out there more often. As in work-life balance, as in leaving the office at 5 like regular, rational people. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Running Journal 4

The break in the weather offered me an opportunity to run, so I couldn't pass it up. It was warm and a bit raining today after several days of intense cold that coincided with a week of long workdays with little respite save eating and sleeping, so I was due. The sun actually came out a couple of times. In Central Ohio. In January.

So it came as no surprise that my knees hurt as I slowly - slowly - jogged up the bike trail, but it did surprise me a bit that the pain did not go away, as it did the last time I ran, even though I took it slowly the first mile, hung a right at Old County Line Road, and took care to alter my gait every half mile or so, and tried to be patient. No luck. Maybe less distance more often would ease the transition for my medial collateral ligaments. Cut it short at about 2.5 miles at roughly the same pace I've been running, 12-minute miles.

Maybe the cool-down will help. Ice pack on both knees and some moderate stretching for hips, back, and shoulders, but less lateral rotation to take the stress off the knees. As my own doctor, I prescribed vodka and orange juice, crackers and brie, and a turkey burger. Then I watched a pretty good movie with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, "Admissions" with elevated legs on the coffee table, and noticed that my knees don't hurt. Note to self: repair torn ligaments with a screwdriver.