Friday, July 18, 2014

Dirtbag Envy

Reading AJW's post on called Dirtbag Envy: A Midsummer Night's Dream, I found myself stuck on this passage:
"And that is what I admire and respect about these modern day vagabond dirtbags. These folks who drift from race to race, mountain to mountain, campground to campground. In the absence of small annoyances like jobs, mortgages, student loans, and car payments, these folks can truly ‘run free.’ They can control their lives on their terms and do what they love, day after day, as long as they want to. They truly are, living the dream."
As I sat on a disabled train this morning doing the math on a commute that was moving north of 2 hours one-way, I thought about the tent, pads, bags that sit collecting dust in my garage. This article comes up shining its light on the manic feeling I've had the last few weeks.

Definitely suffering from some dirtbag envy here.

Envy? More like borderline resentment. Every mountaintop lake instagram, every tweet about bubbling brooks burns me up.

I might start sleeping in the backyard.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Remembering Why We Do Some of the Things We Do Which Are Not Always Fun

Today marks the five year anniversary of the passing of James Conlon. He was a good friend. The best from a time when I had many good friends. There for me when I most needed one. I've made a point to try to contemplate James every day since I got the phone call.

I was just home from work, assisting with our newborn deep into "witching hour" howling. James and I hadn't seen each other much since Roman was born. A few quick post-work drinks and one (now) very important visit so he could hold my little guy. We spoke on the phone occasionally and emailed frequently. I knew he was feeling some sort of sickness but couldn't work out what it was. He was back and forth with his doctors but ultimately couldn't find the cause. Then it was over.

This is meant to be a running blog. Stories of my troubles and travails on the road and trail. Challenges around managing goals, training, family, work. It feels weird to write about James here now.

Running is not straightforward for me. It is not always enjoyable. Occasionally I find a moment of success. Every so often I run into an epiphany (though I'm not really fond of the term), but rarely does it come easy. In the act of running I find that I am continually searching. Rarely do I discover anything. When I do happen to stumble upon something of meaning in the run, I can usually point to the moment and say "there was where I discovered something about myself"... but I probably couldn't tell you any more than that. So I go back out again. It is a cycling, never ending exploration.

It was James' death that ultimately sent me down this path.

His passing scared the shit out of me. It was too unexpected. He was too healthy and important to too many people. Me with a new baby boy and all I could think about was that I wasn't a piece of the man he was. I was not healthy. I knew that I had wasted years on nonsense. It took a little while before I started to let the fears creep in that something was lurking below the surface. Out of my control. Some illness, an impending breakdown. Questions about purpose. I could not push it away.

So I started running again. Running hard at something off in the distance, away from things in the past.

When James died I found it easy to pull away from anything that included him. I regret it now. I wasn't moving on, more moving away. Searching. Now after five years, I'm happy that the act of remembering James can continue to inspire me to endure and go on with my exploration. To keep at it.

Keep running.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The next training block

After a pretty stirring fall in a race last weekend (report to come) I decided on a self-imposed week off from running to clear my head and heal my wounds.

Now I'm ready to jump into my last training block before the Wildcat 50k in early August. Three 10.7 mile loops through a pretty jagged and rocky stretch of woods. As I remember it from last year each loop had about 7 miles of runnable terrain with around 3.5 miles of misery in the middle.

So this time I'm taking a slightly different approach to my training plan and data tracking. I'm throwing mileage out the window and focusing on time on my feet and ascent/descent, with planned tempo, steep hiking/repeats, long slow stuff, and some (very) occasional speed work. My plan is to do the next few weeks around 4 to 5 hours, getting up to a few weeks in the 7 to 8 hour range.

I'm going to be standing at work, walking as much as possible, and when I can I will clench my butt while doing mental sit-ups.

I left a part of me on that course last year. I'm looking to get it back if I can.

Even my 5-year old is beating me up the climbs.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Year of Racing Terribly (Part 2)

Came home from work today to chaos.

One of my little guys is slowly recovering from a recent bug (see last post) and had a bit of a set-back. My other little guy has recently developed a bug bite induced wound on his foot that now needs to be treated and tended to. He has a doctors visit at the time of my race.

I thought about downgrading due to my lack of fitness and general instability around recent training. Now I might need to scrap the whole thing.

Not feeling the running vibes right now.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Year of Racing Terribly (or nearly not at all)

I write this having been up for 20+ hours tending to my son in a household ravaged by some vicious little stomach bug. I haven't had time to think about it yet, but I believe I may be fighting the thing as well. And I have a race in a few days.

I feel desperately unprepared for this one. I have miles in my legs but not enough. I have hills that have worn me out and made me stronger, but I question if I've gone high enough. Have I gone hard enough? I'm pretty sure that I have not.

Running provides a much needed outlet for me, a time and place where I can turn off the noise of the world and breath in mental silence. Not every run is a good one physically, but they have all been useful (even the really bad ones) psychologically, spiritually.

But it can sometimes lose it's impact when it is clouded by the guilt around my sometimes not being able to reach my own expectations... set around race specific training and usually the races themselves. This alone can push me to depression when running is supposed to be the thing that guards me from it.

I start to wonder and obsess on how others do it. How do they commute, work, commit time and energy to their families and still find time to be the best they can possibly be athletically. It can get lonely not being able to figure this out.

I'm blessed to have the support of one of the best shoe companies in the market. And I feel guilty for having the opportunity to represent them. Being a part of the Altra Ambassadors allows me to be inspired by a fantastic team of enthusiastic explorers, but sometimes their endeavors and successes make me feel less than.

I haven't trained as much as I would like. I won't make excuses about that. I have barely raced, but hope to pick that up as we go into the summer. I have races on the calendar including a late entry into the NYC Marathon.

I want to turn the year around. I think I may need many more long, quiet runs to figure out how.

Friday, May 16, 2014


Two restorative runs over the last two days have helped to pull me back from my recent bout of running malaise.

Yesterday's run was a quick warm-up to the base of a powerline hill that cuts directly up through the woods to a ridge line. The climb averages around 30% grade. And for me, with no mountains to speak of in this area of the east coast, this hill presents a huff and puff challenge.

I ran up it with all the steam I had. When my stride started to break and hiking would be the quicker option, I transferred to hands-on-thighs power walking.

Got the top, caught my breath for a few seconds then it was a tear-ass back down the slope to do it all again. A few more times and I felt like I had washed myself off. I felt whole again.

I read somewhere recently a line that went something like "you have to go further to discover more." With my running it is pain and the ability to push through it. Too many of the same runs recently have left me feeling like my training was going nowhere, falling flat. I was learning nothing new about myself.

Challenge myself a few times and I feel like it's all coming back to me. Now I want to race again.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Running to get somewhere

It's not often that I get the chance to run as a means of transportation, to simply get from one place to another under my own power.

Usually, I drive to a trailhead, run around for awhile, ending up back at my car. Then I drive home.

From the house, its ever changing loops that take me through new neighborhoods, new towns. But I always end up back in my driveway panting, hands on my knees. Right where I began.

Worse is the dreaded treadmill downstairs. There I claw my way through miles staring at an earth toned-wall twenty inches in front of my face. I will time to move faster so I can get to my predetermined point of accomplishment. There is no physical travel. Just some lit up numbers on a dashboard. When I'm done I turn it off. I've gone nowhere.

But on occasion I remind myself that I can commute by running. At least part of the way. I remember that I can carry my gear in my GoLite pack, change at work before I head out, and get creative with how I get home.

During a treadmill run last night, I was attempting to plan my run for the next day. No matter which way I chopped it, I couldn't come up with the time to get my miles in. Then I remembered. Get off the train a few stops early and run it home. I'm pleased with myself when I can problem solve life's tougher issues.

So I commuted part of the way home with the rest of the workforce. I sat there in synthetic fabrics feeling exposed in my shorts. I always find it awkward getting off a train full of commuters and leaving the station. When do I start running? Right off the train or do I wait until I get to the street?

While others are beginning their short walks to their cars, I tear off out the doors and bound down the road.

There are a lot of runners in my area. Early mornings, post-work dusk runs, those doing their "work from home" lunchtime loops. Everybody understands these people and the madness, the compulsions that push them out every day, rain or shine.

I found today on my commute home that people do not get someone leaving a train to run a distance with a full pack on ones back, with the simple purpose of getting home. I got strange looks and confused stares. Even runners I passes looked confused. It must have been the pack. Why would he be running with a pack?

I like running to get somewhere. It makes sense to me.