Sunday, April 25, 2010

Slow, but Sure

I've written in the past about running like a kid and I think you 'll see from this post that running is not all I do like a kid. I also watch cartoons. This one is a classic based on Aesop's Fables. Take the eight minutes to watch it. There are so many meaningful lessons in it and the animation is classic.

It actually get's intense at the end. I had forgotten how it ended. I mean I knew who won, but what a nail biter. I was actually thinking "go" in my head, even though I knew what was going to happen.

I registered for Stormy 50 Miler this morning. I hope I run like the Tortoise. Maybe not too slow, but sure is okay.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Golden Ears: 9:00 to 10:01 a.m.

Driving into Maple Ridge the rain just kept getting harder and harder. I knew the Golden Ears run was going to be a mud-fest, but I never imagined it to be what it was. Mud, mud, and mud. What kid doesn't love it though? It was on.
Ran from the bathroom and ducked quickly under the flagging tape and into the first heat. We were off and it was quick. Down to the beach, into our first creek, and I was already self -talking myself out of the groups pace. I backed it off and cruised out the Valley Trail just behind Flight Crew Teammate Jenn Segger. The mud was apparent, but mostly it was just puddles at this point. The mud would really appear on the way back after 300+ runners had worked it into the perfect blizzard consistency. I wasn't sure who to gauge with as we ran with sport course racers too. They of course allowed themselves a bit more speed. Who to run with? Me.(Photo courtesy of Steve Jonathon Ellsion photography)
Across the main road and out of the trails on to Mike Lake Road and I got some legs about me. I started to tick over nicely and reeled in Jenn. It wasn't until we started up Incline Trail however, that I was actually able to make any gains on anybody. I was geared down and ready for a long long climb. Chest high, quick feet, and careful breathing. This climb was taking me up and up and ...what's this, the marshals sent us down to the left? I was confused, but with little time to think about it. Another Flight Crew runner had just started down. It was the Lazy Trail Runner and he wasn't feeling too lazy today. We'd just scratched close to a kilometer off the course and I was in pursuit down the technical steeps of Eric Dunning. Just into the groove and I was spit out onto Mike Lake road again. This was going by quickly and the legs were really gearing up now. The next climb was covered in Sport course runners who were so encouraging. I worked my way by them on the up and was on. Another gear. A quick glance at Menzie Creek waterfall and it was bobsled city down the mud and guts of Menzie Trail, Lookout Trail, and back onto Valley Trail. A few people were still trying to stay clean, but for the most part we'd all conceded to being kids in the dirt.

I came across the finish line in 1:01 and felt bushed. Still solid, but I'd certainly worked hard for my time. The Lazy Trail Runner drew first blood on this race and rolled over the line in just under an hour, 59:30. WOW!
I've been a bit disappointed with my result since the finish, but the more I think about it, the more I recognize that I ran my perfect race. I didn't allow the group to make me do more than I was ready for and I finished strong rather than starting strong and then surviving. Thanks to Coach Phil too, for reminding me that this is not my goal race and I should not be aiming for results on such a heavy week of running. Even if he was lying, I feel better. Thanks, man.


First I hit the recovery water hole across the street from my house and then I apply the weird wooden thing from my kitchen drawer to my muscles. It feels nice when I roll it up and down my calves, quads, and hamstrings and alternate with some stretching. A bit of water might help flush away the muscular blues as well.

Should feel good up Norvan Falls tomorrow.

Looking forward to a long run and maybe a little less mud, even though it was fun.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Target vs. Field

Since my last post, Outside-What a place, I have been super mindful of my focus during running. I posted a short video last week, about nature deficit and toward the end of that video a reference was made about being target versus field focused.

In the spirit of Running Now, my name sake, of course, and being mindfully present while I run, I wanted it to be that I was always target focused, in which I am focused on something very, very specific. It's that kind of focus on anything that keeps a person present. Try pulling a kid away from a video game. That's target focused. Those kids are totally present in that experience and that's what I wanted for me as a presence.

Check out these two photos as an example for runners. Ask yourself which photo would be your field of view? The closer one, because you're tending to the technical slope, or the wide angle because you want to look at the creek and the rest of the forest?

Most likely, as I have found, it's both.

In leading some 5 Peaks Trail Clinics, I have really become aware of what I am thinking and doing while I run so I can share what I know. That thinking, it turns out, has shown me that I am often field focused as I run. This is how I take in smells, sounds, and the beauty around me. Most of us are field focused most of the time in life. Busy lives mean busy minds. For some reason I was a bit disappointed to realize how my mind was open to the field. In watching my nature deficit video again however, I recognized the positive nature of allowing your mind to shift from target to field and back again. The general focus is still running in the woods, for which I am entirely present, but I move in and out of my thinking as the terrain changes from technical to non-technical. The mind, according to Dr.Richard Louv, needs this kind of variable stimulation. In my own words, being too target focused will eventually become a strain on the brain, as will always being field focused. It is the balance between target and field focus that allows us to feel relaxed when we finish a run. As long as you don't go out and write a mental grocery list while running, you should feel a release from the rest of life when you're done. Think about this. When you start thinking about dinner or lunch while you're running, that often tells you the run is over. You have to Run Now.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Outside - What a Place!

Following Orcas in February I slowed things down a little. I eased off the distance and my runs became more about getting into nature and being with friends. These are the best runs. You have the trees all around, dirt and mud under foot, some fresh and crisp air, great conversations, and the carrot on the stick...a post-run java.

In early March I pulled up the icalendar and started poking in Coach Phil's spring workouts. It was exciting, and still is, to see the workouts for the week and check'em off as they're done. Three or four times a week I get out and just do as I'm told, while hoping I'm getting faster and this tuned regimen is working. Several of my key workouts certainly look better already, but a few races will tell the true tale.

Anyway, running recently has become about the workout, and I love that, but this past weekend reminded me again of those less structured days following Orcas. In particular, this past Sunday on which I took a nice easy walk up to the first summit of the Stawamus Chief. It was just me and my round-bellied Lara. The sun was beating down, while a cold Squamish wind forced us to keep moving, and the smell of the just was. I think sometimes I lose sight of why I'm really out there. It's not only to stay fit and be my best, it's that innate draw toward nature, the one I remember so well from my childhood where I explored tree stands, creek beds, and caves all day long. I really did come home when the street lights came on. And when they went off again in the morning I was back out there.

There's something about nature that keeps me happy. I think most people feel happy out there, but often don't stop to notice it. It's not really a workout-runners style to stop along his route and listen to birds or smell the cedar, but try sometime. Most ultra runners would agree that the best runs are long adventure runs with friends and I believe it's because these runs allow you to take time to smell the proverbial flowers. You really can stop and notice how happy you feel out there.

This post actually comes from a strong sense I have that my sixth grade students are not connecting with nature and feeling the happiness I bring to school every Monday morning, after a weekend in the green. Perhaps there's a similar happiness at Metrotown or messaging with friends, but there's nothing like free and unstructured play in nature.

Have you ever heard the term "Nature Deficit Disorder"? It's not an actual medical disorder yet, but the term was coined to describe all that children are losing by not engaging in nature. Richard Louv, the terms creator, defines it as "The cumulative effect of withdrawing nature from children's experiences". For whatever reason, over protective parents, spatial constraints, lack of interest, whatever . . . kids are not playing outside like they once did.

Check out this video and think about it.

Us trail runners, like mountaineers, skiers, climbers, hikers, whoever, really are the kids that played outside all day long. Look at us now. When we're not outside, we're looking outside and wishing we could be there. Nieces, Nephews, brothers, sisters, sons, or daughters...get'em outside. They're definitely missing out on something huge and happy.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Random Easter Post

The bunny arrived at my house at 6:30 am. You're not actually supposed to know when s/he has been, but I knew immediately when I heard my coffee maker working away. In truth, I set the timer the night before, but it really is a wonderful little surprise each and everyday.

After sucking back some liquid, life-giving strawberry, chia, and mixed berry Vega smoothie, with a coffee of course, I darted up to pre-sweep the "My First Trail Race" course. It was only 7:30 so the trails were barren and it was just me and my roll of pink striped tape. Bounding from a tree and then to a bush, like the bunny of the day, I hung tape where I'd like to see it as a runner. Seems like the right thing to do, but I got a little tape happy and ran out. I went back for more and told the race director to send the marshals home - the tape would be enough. I marked it wicked.

It took me about an hour to tape things up and then I met Duncan, and by chance, Brad De Abreu, for a jaunt over to Mount Seymour and back. It was a beautifully, quiet morning out there with sun streaming through the mossy branches and some brisk air to keep things fresh.
Some follow up to last weeks blog, "Running Strong"

I suppose the nature of the word "strong" is misleading. A fellow trail runner with a heap of experience in trail running as well as in conditioning, sent me the following comment:

The one problem I have with what you said is the low weight high reps.... To build strength, you need to lift strong...1-5 reps. However, this type of lifting should only be done at a specific time during the training cycle before the power phase and maintenance phase. I think I have missed the boat on it this year but am looking to truly incorporate it into the plan next year in the off season (I'll make one). I know I need it as I am battling a right hamstring issue right now!

Nicola's so right. I suppose I was being a bit too loose with my use of the word strong. For me Running Strong means being able to maintain your form over distance and through a wide range of terrain. I suspect what I am talking about here is muscular endurance: being able to call upon ones muscles for duration, rather than for maximal effort. I know enough to say her comment is spot on in that the phases are key, but I'm not a personal trainer so I'll leave the rest to the experts. For me, Running strong is about running with consistent stability and free of injury.

Post-blog addition: For more on this check out Nicola Gildersleeve's article in North Shore Athletics' Newsletter.