Monday, December 31, 2012

The Long Year

I'm working on a post with the same title over at I Did Get Fun. My other blog (one in a growing list of distraction blogs) features my details on raising a very active, inquisitive, sometimes challenging toddler. Not too different from managing my running life.

The long year. It captures all aspects of my life over the last 12 months. Of course I'm aware that the year can be neither longer nor shorter than what the year is. It just is the length of time that it is. On the other hand, the way it feels is the way it was perceived, and it felt long.

I started running again this year. It was hard at first. Then it was fun and exciting. Then I discovered the overuse injury. I recovered, then re-injured myself. Now, as I get back to full health, I spend a great part of every day thinking about and mentally planning my next outing. 

Because of my early-rising little guy (see blog link above), I have found that I have to get out long before the sun crests the skyline if I want to get some time on my feet. With each day it gets colder and darker, so the process becomes more drawn out; 

  • Alarm rings - I fumble with the watch, then stare at the ceiling wondering why I do this. I flash through excuses and reasons to get just a little more sleep before he wakes
  • Run starts - I stagger my way through dressing and shoe tying. I hit the cold air and take off. The first 10 minutes are spent questioning why I am doing this
  • Middle section of the run - My mind goes quiet and I forget what I was thinking. Most likely the only "silence" I will experience all day
  • The close - Run my ass off to finish things so I can get inside. The runners high is a real thing. Sometimes I feel that I could put my hand through a brick wall
  • Rest of the day - Thinking about doing it again

It's the same every time. So, I cannot imagine that 2013 will be any different. In place of the standard resolution setting that comes with the close of each year, this time I am going to focus on a few goals. I have another long, most likely harder year in store for me (and my family). I won't need to stop doing things. I will need to start being more efficient with what I choose to do.

A move is in the books. I am looking forward to our first house in a new town. A trail head sits just a half-mile down the road. But, I am well aware that there will be a significant amount of work ahead of me. This will mean less free time and more lawn mowing.

On the subject of free-time, we have a new one on the way. Raising a little guy has been the hardest, most fulfilling thing we have done together. My wife and I just barely survived our first little bad sleeper. Let's hope that number 2 likes naps.

And in this mix, I want to throw some new running projects. New races and endurance runs to challenge what I think I can handle (now on even less sleep). 

I want to run for LBI, our summer community devastated by Storm Sandy. I want to set a PR or two, and I want to tackle the longer version of Mountain Madness. Going into the race this last September, I never believed I could move for that long over that type of terrain. Now that I know that I can, I want to do it again, and do it over 50 kilometers. 

I want to bring my son into all of this and teach him the trails, get him to love being out in the woods as much as I do. 

I want to find happiness in my job. I will need to find more time, or better use of it, so that I can be there for family and friends.

I want to keep demanding more of myself... keep pushing my limits just out of reach. Hopefully,  I won't find them in 2013.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Runblogger Reviews the new Altra's

Peter Larson from the runblogger site reviews the newest version of the Altra Instict (the 1.5's). I started running in them myself and am becoming a devoted fan. Even more so as we get into the winter months when I need a little more cold weather protection.

While they are not really minimalist, the zero drop and very roomy toe box has alleviated some pretty severe toe blisters that I suffered over the summer. A great shoe. I'm contemplating making these my long distance shoe.

After I put more miles on them, I will work up a review of my own.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Birthday Run

Read an interesting article on the idea of the birthday run. One mile for every year.

As I approach the final five months into my 40th, I've started to get a bit sentimental. Too many years wasted on soured relationships, self-inflicted pain, late career climbing and generally difficult living. 

The pain of the run has helped me clear my mind and settle into middle age knowing that there is a chance for some type of physical and mental redemption. I have been living in repair mode for the last few months, but think I can get there by May.

I will dedicate this run to wasted youth.

Galaxie 500 song below captures it nicely.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

When I'm Older

Interesting new addition from Kilian Jornet.

A weirdly sublime look at a great old runner who can still move like a kid. Inspiring... yet it shows me I have not gone to that place yet. Still too cramped-up with injury.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Figuring Out What to Do Next

Sunset over the bay a half block from the house
I've been blessed to have the opportunity to spend the last 8 summers travelling to Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

My wife grew up there, spending her long summer breaks on the sand, working her first jobs in its shops and restaurants. To my son, it's where we go when it gets warm.  It's where he learned to love miniature golf.
Roman (with blanket) outside the beach house

Now, Storm Sandy has come along and disturbed our world down there. I'm afraid that what we knew, what my wife and son know of the place will be forever altered.

I've spent the last two weeks trying to think about what I can do to help. In my dark, cold apartment I began to put my plan together.

Over the last year, I've run more miles on LBI than any other place. It is flat, straight and boring. Exactly what I've needed to build the mental fortitude for long distance running. Summer running there is watching blurry landmarks miles ahead stay miles ahead of you as you pound away, foot over foot.

So, I am starting to put together a plan. My first thought is and end-to-end-to-end run of the island (36 miles), raising money for a local charity. The challenge I have in this part of the process is determining which charity and when to run it. Most immediate recovery efforts will be completed or at least stabilized before I can do this so right now I'm thinking more long-term in my choices.

In terms of timing, I'm thinking July 4th. We will see. More to come.

Barnegat Light on the northern tip of the island

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mountain Madness (Part 1)

Suffering through Mountain Madness

It has been well over a month since the race, so it's time I finally get this post completed. Now, post-Sandy, I'm writing this from a hallway floor while my computer gets a full charge.

Sadly, since the race, I have not had much time running due to some severe strain in my left leg that is leaving me with significant ITB pain. I tried to take a light jog around the neighborhood to assess the storm damage, but ended up limping home after a mile. Funny, because it was the same thing in the right leg that made me doubt if I could finish the race in the first place.


Since my mid-summer ITB injury with my varied time-outs and re-starts, I contemplated this race as a "test". As my leg healed through the summer and early fall, I tried to build up the base miles, trying to pick up the pace. But I still had this nagging, profound level of doubt about this run. It would be the longest, hardest trek through the woods that I had completed since a dehydrated, nearly calamitous march down a long stretch of the Long Trail 20 years ago.

Two weeks before Mountain Madness (the 25k one), I decided that I would live and die by the work I had already put in. I determined that there was nothing left I could do to make myself more physically ready. I tapered and got some sleep. I didn't wake up at 4:30 am to run alone in the dark. I slept a little more and spent the mornings with my son.

The night before the race, I worked obsessively with my gear, worried that my toes would be torn to shreds, that I would not have enough water if I had to walk some long stretches, and that I wouldn't be prepared to get the calories I would need to keep the wheels from falling off.

By morning I was excited to get it started so that I could see how it played out. The weather was cool and damp. It had rained the day before so I figured it would be wet and slippery.

I had not been to the park before so was surprised to see how hilly it was. Being from northern Vermont, I assume everything below Massachusetts is flatland. So, I still find myself shocked at some of the steep terrain that New Jersey can throw out.

I nervously awaited the start by walking from my car to the camp house on the edge of a small lake. I checked in and made one last run to the car to deposit my outer layers.

After a quick review from the RD, we lined up on the grass and headed on our way. I am not sure why I thought I could do this race.

Next post - a report of my misery.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A much needed rest

Post-race, I've been relaxing for the last two weeks (and working on a race report). Letting everything heal while a head cold passes thru.

Looking forward to Vermont next week. It will be a beautiful time for trails and hills.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Patagonia Marathon

From Gear Junkie, and very brief race report on the recent Patagonia Marathon. After seeing some of the photos, I have to say that this is now on my "want to run" list.

I will get there.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I have a busy schedule.

So most of my running happens well before the sun comes up. Some days, I'm waking around 4:30 to get myself dressed and ready in the dark. I sit on the curb under the street light waiting for the GPS to kick-in. Then I'm off around Jersey City. Sometimes, when I'm feeling lazy, I push the sleep a little further which allows me to run along the waterfront as the sun rises over Manhattan. It is a complete reversal of the late-night person I used to be, but it is worth the fatigue and occasional exhaustion to see what I see.

I have a busy home life, and a work life that I do my best to manage in a reasonable amount of hours per week. My 3 year old deserves all that I can devote to him.

Because of this, I know that I will never have the time to run the distance that I would like. So, I have to learn to run further in the time that I have.

The problem is that I would be considered slow. I have been since I was young.

When my little league team would run drills, our coach would have us run the bases. He used to scream out at me as I rounded second that he could time me with a calendar. I was forever running through quicksand.

When I played soccer (I believe that I was pretty good), I was a "smart" defensive player... never a fast one. I was better at reading a play and being in the right place at the right time. This kept me from having to sprint with the little racy forwards that could easily pull away from me.

Yesterday, I ran my first 6+ mile run with a time under 8 minutes per mile. I still don't believe the watch, but I know the distance I ran and the time in which I ran it. Maybe things are changing for me. As I round the corner to 40 years, I'm finally finding a pace I never could before. Funny that my 39 year old self could outrun my 14 year old self in both distance and pace.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Keeping to Plan

I like a plan. I scope out my running week in terms of miles. Now that I am recovering from a summer of knee pain, I am trying to add small amounts of mile increases on some of my slow runs.

I learned my lesson back in May, when my excitement with my new found love of running had me pushing up my mileage too quickly. Eventually, I stressed out my system and it all fell apart.

10% increases now. Slow build. Listen to the body for sighs of fatigue.

One thing I have trouble accounting for is an ornery toddler who is not too fond of sleeping. Pre-dawn running on 2 to 3 hours of sleep is tough.. more like the act of getting out of bed and starting the process in the dark.

So, I'm off plan today and it will be picking at me all day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Running Through It at South Mountain

By Steve Peterson

Time off from running, even if it is enforced, causes me to stir. When my mind wanders from home life or work, I naturally go to running. Will I feel okay the next time? Will I recover eventually and get back to the carefree runs I discovered around the second month of sticking to it? In injury (and other ailments) one starts to think that you will never be healthy again.

Riding NJ Transit
Having found myself with a day with no parental duties, I decided to venture out to a new bit of land to do some random running around in the woods. Regardless of how I felt a few minutes in, I knew that once I got a mile into the trail, there was no stopping until I was done. Sort of an ass-backwards approach to testing how well my knee would react, but I felt cooped up and crazy.

I was without car, so I ventured out to Milburn on New Jersey Transit. The trail head sat right across the street from the train station.

What I noticed as I walked up the road to the various trails branching out from the reservation parking lot was how hot and muggy it was. The trip started later than I had originally planned and took longer than I thought to get there, so now I was heading out in the middle of the day. I had 40oz. of water, and what looked like no chance to buy more when I got back to the station.

Trail Head
I had no map with me and was only slightly familiar with the trails. I had researched online sites and blogs and found some discussion around the intermittent trail flashes and rocky terrain. I picked a lane and headed up a sloping, rocky trail. By rocky, I mean crushed, large chunks of rock, the type found on railroad tracks. I climbed up and around the largest slope in the forest. When I reached what seemed to be the top, I found a single track tearing down the other side.

After a quick two miles, I re-entered the parking lot. Not what I was expecting.

 I knew I should have headed out on the Rahway Trail that was marked just before the lot. This was a single, mostly dirt track heading into the dark woods. I decided to head down the trail and see where it would take me.

The rough trail turned through the woods, running along small streams and reservoirs. Every hundred feet or so, I would have to look up quickly to scan the trees in the distance looking for white flashes. Occasionally, I lost sight of them and would have to wander through the pine needles to look for the trail. As I got weaker in and more depleted in the heat, scanning became a dangerous game. Every so often, I'd catch a hard toe on some root or rock and nearly stumble into the water below me. In the end, no twisted ankles, but I did get a blackened toenail out of the deal.

Eventually, I found myself hitting the end of the trail (as far I was willing to go). I came out of thick, low-lying bushes and found myself up against a highway guardrail. I guessed that I would have had to cross the highway and find the trail on the other side. Knowing that I was about two miles from the lot,and that I would have to stumble my way blindly through the woods, I backtracked. When I got back to the trail head I was spent. The trails had been a peaceful respite from the city, and it was a pleasure to get out for long periods of time away from anyone. It was quiet out there in the middle of the burbs.

An hour of waiting and two trains and I was home.

The thing I love about running is that every time I venture out, it could be the hardest, most excruciating thing I've encountered, but I get through it. From the first full mile that I ran without walking, to longer distances, cold, dark mornings, each time I get to ask myself "idiot, why not stop?" And each time, I keep going.

A fully depleted, lighter, weaker me

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Joy of Form, The Form of Joy

Happiness is Form

I enjoy watching my three year old run aimlessly, a big grin across his beautiful face.

It could take years trying to learn his form, his effortless movement, his pure joy in running. I will spend a lifetime trying to emulate what I hope he will never forget.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Mountain Wilderness Factor...Do I have it?

By Steve Peterson

From the site, just read an article on The Mountain Wilderness Factor by ultra runner Geof Roes.

Inspirational piece...could be a motivator for me. I have recently had a growing urge to run an ultra distance race in the near future, and seeing that I could be/am considered slow as hell on the road, this gives me hope that I do not have to get used to back of the pack.

Having grown up in a remote corner of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, I'm probably more comfortable in the woods than I am on the streets of the city (where I have lived for the last 15 years). Maybe it would help...we'll see.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Setting Goals

By Steve Peterson

Shortly after I started running again a friend told me to sign up for a race. Put them on your calendar. "They keep you honest", he said.

For someone like me who was slowly building to some adequate level of endurance, they also put a goal out there. I'm not looking to win anything, but do I wish to enjoy myself? If so, then I need to be fit enough to cross the line running, preferably with some wind in my lungs and a smile on my face.

I started with a local 5k road race. It was meant to be a simple goal. Short enough that I could sprint at a decent clip, build my confidence a bit as I got my head around a longer one later in the summer. In my preparation an injury popped up two weeks before the day. I rested some (a forced taper), then hobbled my way through my first race. I loved every painful second of it.

That is why I signed myself up for the Mountain Madness 25k, thinking that this huge jump in distance would definitely keep me on the up and up. I would have plenty of time to train as the race is not until the end of September.

As I am about to enter August, I'm terrified. My injured knee has played out longer than I would have liked. I work and work to get my ITB issue under control but pain still creeps up around the second mile. So my miles went down significantly in July. I got out onto the trail once in the month and it went okay. This bumped my confidence up, but I still have many more miles to go before I get through 15.5 miles of up and down.

This future race is keeping me brutally honest.

As I recover from some necessary surgery, I hope that my knee gets the necessary break. When all is well and I get back to the road and trail, there will not be time to rest and monitor, to break from the path that will get me through 15.5 kilometers of woodsy loops.

I am looking at a fairly motivated ramp up. I will have to force patience on my routine as best as possible so I don't aggravate the leg, but I will have to get my mileage up to a point where I can be confident on the start line. This will all be logged and analysed until I feel like I can finish running. No march of death for me come the 29th of September.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Laid Up and Waiting

By Steve Peterson

When I started running again about 5 months ago after many years off, I dealt with all the beginner walls, and got over each one; the first full mile run (no walking), hitting 2 miles, getting off the mill and out onto the street. I picked up miles each week, keeping pace fairly consistent.

I pushed it. I found a few of those "run forever" moments, where it was a time commitment or the possibility of a growing hotspot that kept me from an otherwise epic run. One day, about 7 weeks back, I decided to stay out. I kept going longer than I thought I could.

Two days later on my pre-sunrise route along the Jersey City waterfront, my right knee became a hot flash of pain that would not let up. My form fell apart and I hobbled home. Stairs were torture over the next few days. Each additional run brought the pain back.

I let up for a few days, then pushed again, finding the same aches and pain around mile 2. I started physical therapy. Things seemed to be getting better.

Then I chose to have an old anemia issue resolved with some uncomfortable surgery. Just when I wanted to be pushing again, I'm laid up and waiting for the pain of the surgery to subside. The pain is making me nuts, but worse is that I haven't run in 5 days. These 5 will most likely grow to 10. And I wait.