Monday, February 28, 2011

Simple, really

The whole point, then, is to fit this relentless forward motion that always winds up in the same place it started into a life worth having. This is very difficult to pull off in reality. It can be a fine line between heaven and too much of a good thing when it's the same time upstairs AND it's cold outside. A lot of it is just piling on.

However when we do pull it off there comes that time when we are able, if only for a few fleeting moments, to understand all of the riddles of the universe and communicate, collectively and individually, with all of God's creatures. Yeah it's pretty sweet.

Most of the time, though, we just cling to the memory of those moments--we know (or at least strongly suspect) that we once knew everything there was to know even though we cannot for the life of us remember any of it right now. We remember what it felt like to know, or at least we think we do. Probably we make these things up after the fact for the sole purpose of giving ourselves something to feel nostalgic over so that we will keep on going out there looking for that moment of total clarity that may never have existed in the first place.

And then one day the sun shines warm on our faces and the air feels fresh in our lungs and we are strong, awake and alive, and we don't need any reason or memory of better times because this right now is its own motivation and even if we could we wouldn't want to remember any other time or place or thing. It's a simple world. At least we think so.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Slopping along

The weather hasn't totally sucked for a few weeks, the days are getting slightly longer and brighter and the snowbanks have retreated to just normal sized so that you can actually see to get out of your driveway. So it was a bit of a buzz kill when I awoke to see a fresh blanket of plowable snow on the ground. Mark had texted me last night, "snow in the am, run in the pm?" and even though I didn't really think the snow would be sticking (wrong) I agreed so the plan was to meet at noon at the high school.

I had to pick up the girls from indoor lacrosse before heading out an so with little time to spare, I took the shortest route over to the high school, which put me there at about 1.75 miles. It was still snowing. For the first time in months I took my Garmin because I knew with the snow we'd be wandering all over the place looking to stay off busy roads and the thing started chirping at me with the low battery signal almost immediately. Sweet.

As I was running across the field house parking lot I saw a runner in a yellow top come out from behind a snowbank and start jogging up the road away from me. I yelled, "Hudson!" and Mark turned around. About a minute later, Dan jogged up. We headed up toward the northern end of town, winding through neighborhoods and back roads, trying not to get killed by snowplows. The roads were a mix of wet pavement, slush and snowpack and my legs were soaked within the first 2 miles of the run.

I had jogged over to the high school at 8 pace but as soon as Dan and Mark were involved the pace immediately dropped to low 7's and while that's still in the easy range for me, it's definitely the high end of easy and with wet shoes and cold legs any kind of hills put me into a little difficulty. To boot, I was wearing my heaviest trainers, which were even heavier now, and Mark and Dan were both in racing flats. So while I was originally thinking 15, as I got into the run and got colder, wetter and more weary, just getting to 13 to make 60 for the week was starting to look pretty good.

After looping around on the northeast part of town for a while we made our way back toward the high school and I was getting close to 10 miles in at that point. Mark and Dan were going to do some up tempo loops around the high school campus but I was ready to head home so I left those guys and wound my way over toward the west side and home, taking a few turns to make sure I got in at least 13. As I was going up Hillcrest, just around the corner from my house, I heard the watch beep for 13 miles and so when I reached the top of the hill I stopped and walked down the little slope to my house. Even though it was squawking low battery a mile into the run, the little old Garmin held out the whole way and so now I have this nice, pretty map of the run.

I got in and went straight to a warm shower--do not pass go, do not log your miles, do not eat or drink anything, just get under some hot water.

That's three 60 mile weeks in a row and it's starting to come around. Hopefully I'll get the urge to race soon but as of now I'm not feeling like it would be worthwhile. I'm leaning toward not running New Bedford at this point as I don't think it would do much for my self confidence but there's still a few weeks to decide so we'll see.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A different kind of winter racing

When I was a kid--maybe 10 or so, I don't really remember--my Dad went away to Alaska for a month and a half for work. He and a group of his colleagues from the Air Force geophysics lab at Hanscom traveled up to some place north of Fairbanks to launch rockets in the winter time. I remember he got all kinds of awesome winter gear like a huge down parka and pants, a big furry hat, some Sorrel boots, big mittens and all kinds of other stuff because they were going to be working outside at night.

While he was up there he and his buddies entered and won an outhouse race. They built a working outhouse from scratch, put skis on it and rigged it up so a couple guys could pull using ropes and harnesses, a couple guys could push from behind and one guy could sit in the outhouse (I think that was a requirement) and then they raced the thing some distance over snow-covered trails and roads, FTW.

I never forgot the name of it because in addition to a trophy with a guy panning for gold on top they got t-shirts. That yellow Chatanika Days Outhouse Race t-shirt later became mine. When I got older I wore it as a running shirt, eventually cutting the sleeves of to show off the guns. It stayed in my rotation for a long time until it was so full of holes that it just faded away and went to t-shirt heaven the way a good t-shirt does.

The Chatanika outhouse race totally exists to this day. For some reason while out on a run just now I thought of that outhouse race and so when I got home I Googled it (how awesome is the internet?) and what do you know, I found this video from the 2007 race. I love the cheesy soundtrack that gives it a sort of early Warren Miller ski movie quality. Enjoy.

If I can dig up a photo of me in that t-shirt, I'll post it here later.

Friday, February 25, 2011

This is when you know

I was talking to Mark, Dan and Chris (the RTC crew) last night as we were getting ready to go for a run about how on Tuesday I put up a random goose egg. I had been feeling run down for a couple of days so when the alarm went off at 5:30 I turned it off and went back to bed thinking I'd try to squeeze in a few miles at lunch or that night. Then of course I had a crazy day with work and by the time I got home and got the little ones to bed bed it was 8:30pm and, well, you know.

So there I was with a zero on a day that was supposed to be a big mileage day trying to do the math to get to 60 miles for the week because I was just starting to feel like a runner again.

There's a time and a place for arbitrary mileage goals and right now is the time and this is the place. So I'll get it done.

Today I had a pretty busy day at work, ran 7.5 miles and never left the house. Miracles of modern science. It's supposed to be a nice weekend and I might try to get in a good long run on Sunday...I'll probably need the miles for 60 anyway.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Four hundred words a day

It's not like I'm going to count words but I've decided I'm going to try actually updating this space every day for a while. Why 400? I have no idea. When I was in 9th grade my English teacher had us write 500 word "themes" every night for a week or so and I found that a challenging exercise. 400 is less than 500 so it should be easier.

Today I ran twice and later went to two different bars to spend time with two different groups of friends.

The first run was a short little shakeout this morning: four and a half miles of easy jogging as the sun came up. It was cold. I went a little later than normal because I was only going for such a short run and as I was coming back up Woburn St. almost home I was passing the commuters walking to the train. They looked cold but hopeful--we're on the other side of winter now--it's all down hill from here.

The second run was Thirsty Thursday with the boys. Tonight we had Mark, Dan, Chris and me. We ran a 6-ish mile loop out to the Wood End School and then did some pickups back and forth on Birch Meadow Drive with a half or three quarter mile cool down. We all ran together on the wood end loop then sort of did our own thing on the pickups. 9 miles or so in total.

It being Thirsty Thursday we headed to Grumpy's afterward, but it being Mark's birthday the wives joined us...well all the wives but mine since Gina and the girls are up in York visiting my sister. Still, a good time was had by all, even me, the 7th wheel.

After Grumpy's I headed up the road to the Moon to hang out with some old friends. Jon and Kim were in town from Philly and were hanging out in the Cougar Den with a bunch of friends. It was fun to see old friends and realize we're all dealing with the same things, really. It's kind of odd to go bar hopping in Reading by walking from one place to the next. It was snowing when I came out and walked down the block back to my car.

I'd be no good at bachelorhood, really--I miss the girls already. It's too quiet around here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

At least January is over, right?

This morning, as I am fortunate to do often when I don't have to leave early for meetings, I walked my 8-year-old daughter to school. We slogged through the mush up our hill to Prospect Street and down Oak instead of our normal route, down the hill and over Summer Ave. That's because Summer Ave is basically impassable to pedestrians right now.

It occurred to me as I watched this cute little bespectacled girl in her pink hat and snow boots weave between the stationary parade of SUVs and minivans stopped on Oak Street and scramble over snowbanks bigger than her with her giant backpack slung over both shoulders that we've talked enough about the weather this winter. At a certain point, you just have to get on with it.

In January I saved a lot of money on dry cleaning because it seems every meeting was cancelled. I spent more time on my crappy old treadmill in the basement than I'd want to in a whole year, but I had a crappy old treadmill in the basement. I've spent hour upon back breaking hour shoveling snow that will eventually melt anyway, but hey it's cross training (or something.)

I'm fortunate to have a job that I can do from anywhere, a 10MB Internet connection right to my home, a laptop and an IP VPN phone. Best yet I somehow managed to run 241 miles in January (which might not sound like much but is my biggest month since last September) and only took 1 day off from running in the last 45. Tonight's Thirsty Thursday workout might feature crampons and an ice ax but it will go on, and the post-workout beers with the boys will taste good. Spring will come, and there will be races--and I plan to be ready.

I think I even see the sun peeking through the icy gray sky. See? Things are looking up.