October 14, 2014

Good time

From Breaking Madden, the internet's best football videogame comedy series:
Running is awesome if you don't have access to a bicycle. Or maybe you do, but you want to see less of the world and have a bad time.
Sometimes it's nice to remember that this hobby is still a powerfully silly indulgence, to most. But powerfully silly is still powerful, in its way.

I run a lot, and my routes vary basically not at all. I run on a treadmill by choice several times a week even when the weather is perfect. It would, in short, be hard for a runner to see less of the world than I do, and yet I nearly always have a good time. Because, while I enjoy quality trail and mountain porn as much as the next person, the act of sustained bipedal self propulsion is itself so satisfying to me as to require no accompaniments, no additional stimuli.  

People ask how I don't get bored and I say there are three steps a second to focus on, which is almost too much action to process. Then there's all the shit in my head, which, well, that's irritating often enough, but never boring. 

I have not, to my knowledge, changed any minds. 

But there is a dog right now trying to wrestle with my foam roller, and that's ok. 

October 8, 2014

Springs eternal

My first and thus far only attempt at a road marathon was this spring, and it sucked.

Or rather, I sucked. And as such, it sucked. Let's not blame external factors when my inability to hold pace - or even to hold myself together - covers things nicely. Causation should be kept in the right order, and I fell apart. I ended up running, jogging, the sometimes even walking my way to like 3:25. (I honestly don't remember the exact time and I don't want to look it up.)

Talking about that with some folks today, and it struck me that I need to fix that. ("Need", yeah, I know.)

I'd like to jump in to Kansas City or Wichita this month but I haven't quite had the time to rebuild the fitness I had pre-injury or get my iron levels up above par. (That, sadly, takes months.) Also, I'm broke, and marathons are expensive. Cheap sport, yeah, but not free. So it goes. Injuries hurt fitness and the wallet, because medical bills are a bitch. Again, so it goes.

But spring is months away and has marathons of its own. Iron levels should be replete by then, and of course I'll keep training, because I'm a raging addict who does nothing but run, really. If I'm being honest, there is a part of me that hopes those two things act synergistically and produce something of a tangible "jump", rather than meager gains. Anecdotally, it does seem correcting anemia does that for some. But to be honest, not for others. While it certainly is wishful thinking on my part, wishes do sometimes come true. In any case, it's enough time to achieve the same fitness I had this spring, which - even if I'm not a step "faster" - should produce a much faster marathon time. (The calculators all swear I'm comfortably under three hours! But, I mean, fuck them.)

So here's my motivation then, which I've been missing, of late. It's based purely in negativity, sure, and people will say that's a bad thing. But it's worked for me in the past. To the extent that I've had success in running, it's almost always come from a desire to correct perceived failures. (That, and the fact that I simply enjoy the act. These do seem like contradictory notions. I know. It's strange.)

Light on specifics for now, of course. Hopefully by then I'll be unbroken - or less broke, relatively - and be able to pay someone/something to help with this. Training will emerge from random 70 mile weeks, and fitness will be gauged from real workouts and shorter races. I'll show up healthy, confident, focused, and ready to execute.

And then, I won't fuck it up. (Hopefully.)

October 5, 2014

Running this morning and a couple music things

Was going to race this Saturday, but slept in, saved my money. Felt good about it and ran about 10 at about 7 this morning with some folks. Not a "race effort" but enough to make me feel like something other than a lazy ass for doing neither race nor long run this weekend.

Thus, motivation to run (kind of a lot) remains very high. Feeling great. Feeling fit. However, motivation to race is still very low. I'm not sure what to say about that because I'm not sure how I feel about it. Fine? I guess. Certainly cheaper this way. And axiomatically, doing what I enjoy is enjoyable. So there is always that.

There is also this, a shamelessly theatrical - nobody really does the corpse paint/pretend satanic gimmick anymore - bit of blackened death metal that would make for excellent pre-race music, could I muster the desire.
The opening riff has been my favorite thing in music for a month or so now. The entire album, perhaps owing to the mainstream fame of the lead singer in his home country of Poland (he's dated a pop star and is a judge on their version of The Voice... which is amazing) is actually quite accessible and eminently listenable, at least as things called The Satanist go. Very well produced, with hooks, choruses, and such. Very much the antithesis of Behemoth's earlier black metal work in that regard, and yet a natural evolution if you've listened along the way.

Going more for a "back to a past that never quite existed" approach is XTRMST, which is the more famous half of AFI (the lead singer and guitar player), a band that was once a west coast punk outfit, but became briefly quite famous as a sort of glam/goth/rock hybrid. (Thank MTV2 and Guitar Hero for that, I suppose.) This is the straight edge hardcore band they never became, chaotic, chuggy, shouty, and harshly judgemental. (They really don't like meat or alcohol.) The entire album isn't out for a couple more weeks, but it too will probably make great pre-race music in the future.

September 29, 2014

Monday things that are mostly not running, then yeah, running

Lost dog posters strike me as the most effectively tragic short stories. In another life I would like to be the Sherlock of lost dog cases. I think that would be the most good I could do in the world.

Bottled water is an absurd waste of resources, and not really ecologically justifiable, but I do buy it anyway sometimes, because we all have our private failures. Sparkling mineral water is specifically mine, because I'm that kind of insufferable person. Today, the cashier asked me if it was vodka. I told her no. She asked if I drank, which seemed a step too far, probably, but I told her it had been a few years. She asked why and I said apathy. That's a strange answer, she said. I agreed but said some things just happen but most things just don't.

Gap is running an ad campaign basically promoting wearing black shirts(?) and I am a little too seduced by it. I wore a black shirt and black jeans today - both from Gap - but I did not look like a model and it did not tastefully rain on me.

Getting gas today, the cashier offered to me, unprompted, that she hoped I was staying in school. I told her that I was 26 and done. She said that was good because I wouldn't want to end up like her, working at a place like this. I told her I actually liked retail, did it for a while post college, and didn't consider it a step below anything. All jobs are kinda stupid, I said. She just said she had made a lot of mistakes. She seemed pretty down about something specific and a lot of things generally but I didn't know what to say so I got my gas and left.

While running I went by a new restaurant around 7 that really isn't that new and should have been busy since it was dinner time but nobody was there. One server looked very bored and I felt bad for her and also for the owners, because I run by this place a lot and it's always desolate. A lot of money and a lot of work and it seems like it's going nowhere.

I watched the news. A lot people are being killed. Perpetually.

This is every day, basically. Not specifically. The details vary. But you look around and you see people and things which are to you set pieces and the most minor of details but are entire lives in reality, whole existences equivalent to our own. And I think about those things. A lot. Can't help but look at a line of people in a grocery store and wonder how they got here, if they're happy. It's their whole life going on right now, after all.

I realize that sounds neurotic. Hell, I realize it is neurotic. And I realize too that this all sounds negative, perhaps a bit depressing. But I don't feel negative, nor depressed. I wonder why not sometimes, if being a generally pleased, positive person is blatantly irrational. And then I wonder if irrationality necessarily conflicts with rightness, and whether those two things can be quantified to any meaningful extent, thus making the basic calculus even possible. If the nature of each is truly unknowable, then...

Which is where I'm getting back around to the two hour jog at the end of the day. It doesn't fix any of this, and I get that. But it fixes me, and I get that too. Turns down - if not off - the neurosis, puts me in the present, in myself. Just run. And it feels good. And that's it. It doesn't matter. It doesn't have to. Just step, step, step. Breathe. Sweat. Burn. Self immolate and grow back stronger.

September 28, 2014

< 2:03

Dennis Kimetto is good at running.

I will probably never run a 4:41 mile. I will certainly never run a step further at that pace. 26.2 miles of it defies comprehension.

Hence "good at running". Superlatives fail. As they must, when faced with truly elite athletic performance.

I tried to explain the speed, the distance, and the combination thereof to some non-running friends tonight. Failed, mostly. Hard to explain that pace to someone who's never run a step of it.

I can, however, tell you that Kimetto is a faster distance runner than Dungeons and Dragons rules allow for, in humans without magical aid. Ergo, he must have had his Adidas +2 Racing Flats of Speed. Which, if you're reading, Adidas, I would buy so many pairs of any shoe named that. Just so you know.

September 25, 2014

I ran in Hokas

Tonight. Cliftons. Hoka's "racing flat".

A six mile test run, one of quite a few available via the local running store.

Can't really write a review based on one run, but I can say that I really liked them, so much so that they'll very likely be my next purchase.

Light (7.9 oz). Low (4 mm drop). Soft, but not so much as to compromise stride mechanics or turnover. The whole thing was sub seven pace, and the shoe never felt in the way or lacking in response. In truth, it felt faster than the Saucony Kinvara and New Balance Fresh Foam, both of which we've test run'd recently.

The real fun though - and this is kinda the point of the soft foam/rocker combo that Hokas are known for - was found downhill. Hit 4:30 and 4:13 pace VERY BRIEFLY down some of KU's steeper offerings, and if felt pretty damn effortless. Just stay loose, keep a good cadence, and let the shoe turnover.

I did find the heel fit a little sloppy, and the laces came untied near the end. The rocker profile also made for a funny sensation while standing around and walking, like your body really wanted to roll backwards. Of course, it is a running shoe. My biggest worry would be that the soft foam, most of which isn't covered by any rubber, would wear very quickly.

So, a large pinch of salt considering the sample size, but I could see the shoe being very useful for daily plodding, tempo efforts, and races longer than 10K.

For reference: I'm currently running mostly in the Adidas Boost 2, with some shorter work in the Mizuno Wave Universe 5 and Saucony Hattori. Before my stress fractures this year, I was a much more committed minimalist; but I've learned to embrace cushion since. I did a test run in the Bondi 3 previously, and hated it. So this could perhaps be the Hoka that unites the die-hards with the holdouts.

September 23, 2014

4 x 1

I wrote rather extensively yesterday on the pleasures of the run as a tour, the bipedal equivalent of a Sunday afternoon country drive.

I do have to say, though, that I'm enjoying my recent commitment to track work. Nobody ever told me it was this fun. Perhaps because they don't think it is? Certainly possible. There's a beautiful rhythm to be had though, in cruising around a 400 meter oval, bounding along on a surface that feels made for the task... because it is.

Mile repeats today. Something about that distance and that pace that just invites a sense of flow, of speed without strain. Wanted to run all four at six minute pace, but by the fourth, I felt far too curious what a harder effort would yield. So I gave one, and found 4:54 on the watch. (This is a good how to/why concerning different paced mile reps. Assuming you don't just want to do my usual "whatever the hell" pace.)

The sun had set, the rain fell lightly, and lighting danced between clouds. A lovely night.

And I felt pretty damn good. Pretty damn perfect, really. The sort of sensation you'd like to bottle up and save for races. (It does so rarely happen that a race feels like a best possible effort.) Like there was a perfectly linear relationship between effort and pace, such that going faster was only a question of willing it. (I think El G's world record is safe though.)

Of course, the satisfaction I derive from such nights is so significant as to render races almost beside the point. Another instance, as mentioned yesterday, that I'm more concerned with chasing down certain sensations than times.

Feeling good feels good. How's that for philosophy?