Trail Falling

I’ve been on a bit of a blogging break, so I apologize to my dedicated follower(s?). I’ve still been running, but I haven’t trained for anything nor raced in quite a while, so not much went on while I was busy not blogging anything.

Though I haven’t raced recently, I’ve still had some interesting runs. One that comes readily to mind is a trail run at Bear Mountain with my brother. Well, trail “run” might be a bit of an exaggeration. It was during one of the snows in NY this winter (so that limits it to what, two days?), and my brother and I drove up to Bear Mountain planning a three hour trail run.

By the time we got there there was about half a foot of snow on the ground, but we headed up the mountain anyway. The first part of the trail isn’t too technical, but we eventually saw that running would be utterly impossible. Roots and rocks were invisible under the snow, and we were slipping everywhere. We made it to the top of Bear Mountain, somewhat disheartened that our run was obviously going to have to be cut short.

However, instead of taking the hike of shame back down the way we came, we decided to take a fairly technical way down, one with lots of bare rock faces. We had no illusion of running anymore, and figured we might as well have some fun, having driven all the way out there. Well, fun we had. I am not exaggerating when I say we essentially slid on our butts more than half the way down the mountain (more accurately, we were doing a sort of backward crab walk to control the sliding). We got in maybe 20 minutes of actual running that day, as opposed to the planned three hours, but I don’t know if I’ve ever had more fun on a run. I think we should dub what we did “trail falling;” it definitely wasn’t running and calling it hiking is a stretch too.

Anyway, I do have a couple of races coming up. I’m racing the Cherry Tree Ten Miler in Prospect Park this Sunday, which I’ve done before and is a fun race. I just hope the water at the water stops stays liquid this year. I suppose it’s a sort of twisted incentive to run fast- reach the water stops before the water all freezes.

More excitingly (in my opinion), I’ve signed up for the Bear Mountain Half Marathon (part of the Northface Endurance Challenge). Granted, it’s the race for us wimps who don’t want to train for a 50k or 50 miler, but it should be pretty tough regardless. I run there a fair bit, but I’ve never raced there, so it should be an interesting experience.

 

Running Loving and Driver Etiquette

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a few interesting encounters on my runs. During one, I was apparently very popular with the elderly lady demographic. I received waves and smiles, and after a car turned into my way without looking an elderly woman nearby became very upset with how inconsiderate drivers can be. I guess I’m used to being harassed by Long Island drivers because I hadn’t thought much of the incident, but the support was nice nonetheless.

On another run pretty late at night a driver passing by decided to blast his horn at me as he approached. I was all the way on the left side of an empty road, wearing a long sleeved white shirt, and the car was going slowly after a nearby stop sign, so it was definitely not out of alarm from seeing me. This being the case, and having had previous bad encounters with nighttime honking (one incident left me with a sprained ankle), I decided to grant him a certain hand gesture. Suddenly, from across the street, I heard someone yell out to me “I love you. Really, I do.”

I looked around, startled, but didn’t see the caller. I’d like to think I was being supported once again against rude drivers, but I suppose it could have been for any number of reasons; perhaps my stride was very graceful that night. Alternatively, it wasn’t directed at me at all, but that is not a possibility I’d like to consider.

On the topic of inconsiderate drivers, I’d like to supply the driving public with a few tips for proper runner-driver etiquette, most of which should be self evident but apparently to some people are not:

1. Do not scream out of your window at runners.

For some reason I am subject to this on a fairly regular basis. Words of support are of course appreciated, but guttural screams and barks (literal barks- speaking from personal experience here) are not appreciated.

2. Do not honk at runners.

Unless you know them and are going slowly enough to be recognized (I hate wondering if I was supposed to know who that was who just honked at me), please resist the urge.

3.  And most importantly: Do not run over runners.

I suppose this one speaks for itself.

As a corollary to Rule 3: When backing out of a driveway, check the sidewalk. Way too many times have I nearly been run over by suburban drivers who don’t expect pedestrians on their quiet street.

Stupid Run=Awesome Run!

It looked so miserable outside today that I nearly went to the gym to run on a treadmill (mine is broken). The idea of running through rain and slush just did not appeal to me for some reason. But I eventually decided to go for it; it wasn’t too chilly out and I wouldn’t be running that long.

Here’s how the run went:

Mile .01 (sidewalk in front of house): “Whoa, that’s one big puddle. Damn, my socks got wet. Well, it can’t all be this bad.”

Mile .3: “Hmm, I’m almost at the point where my clothes cannot physically absorb any more water. I suppose it can only get better from here.”

Mile 1 (running consistently through over-the-ankle puddles): “Ha ha! This is so stupid, it’s fun!”

Miles 1-4: “And to think I almost didn’t go on this run! This is freakin’ awesome!!”

Awesome it was. Now I just hope I don’t die of pneumonia from all that awesomeness.

Reasons NOT to kick large rocks during runs

1. It hurts like hell.

2. It’s really, really stupid.

Do you really need any more?

In fact, you probably didn’t even need any. But apparently I did. Because tonight, on a nice 5.5 mile run, I decided to be a good Samaritan and kick a piece of concrete off a path I was running on. I do this occasionally, because I always get images in my head of bikers flipping over the rock or old ladies with walkers tripping and dying if I leave the rock in its place.

But this rock was no pebble. It was a sizable chunk of concrete, and I’m surprised it even moved when I kicked it. It hurt quite a bit, but thanks to the cold it was numb for most of my run. I just got home, and I can practically see the toe (it was the big toe) swelling up as I type. Ouch.

Well, despite my utter stupidity, I did have a great run in the end. I had planned a 4.5 mile but ended up adding a mile because I felt great. Of course, if I hadn’t done that, I would have missed the area where I kicked the rock, so in retrospect it might not have been my best move…

Strange Runs

Strange things seem to happen to me on runs.

Take today, for example. There I am, running along past some stables, when I approach a young girl and a man I assume to be her father. As I approach, they both begin to run in my direction.

A joke, perhaps, to run like the runner? I thought so at first, but neither of them were cracking a smile. Maybe they were just rushing? But no, I looked behind after I passed them and they had immediately slowed to a walk.

Maybe they were just rushing to get out of my way, but there looked to be quite enough room for all of us.

Either way, it was quite strange.

And that’s not the first time I’ve had people accompany me on a run. A few months ago, I ran past a group of teenagers who were just hanging out. Apparently a couple of them thought it would be good fun to run with the runner for a few minutes, with intentions not entirely clear to me. Maybe they were on the track team and were challenging me to race them or something. Who knows with those young hooligans today.

But anyway, after a minute or so of running with me, they bid their goodbyes, I flashed them a thumbs up, and we parted.

And then there was that time I was running next to a rather busy road when I hear someone repeatedly honk me from behind. I look into the car only to see a person I do not recognize in the slightest. He waves to me with a big smile on his face, clearly expecting me to recognize him. I am fairly confident we have never met.

I’ve had people honk me for no apparent reason (one such honk gave me a bad sprained ankle, check out The Race That Just Was Not Meant to Be for more on that story), but this didn’t seem like that. Maybe this guy was just very over-friendly to runners.

But honks aren’t the worst I’ve experienced on runs. I’d have to say the strangest thing that has ever happened to me on a run was being barked at. Twice. By a human.

Yup, some guy drove by and found it amusing to bark, literally bark, at a random runner. And then, I kid you not, he turned around to do it again.

Some people need to find hobbies.

Sorry, Geb!

Was it the way I waved? Or the tone in which I yelled out “Go Geb!” Or was it just a coincidence?

The odds are overwhelmingly in my favor that it was a coincidence, so I’ll go with that.

What I’m referring to is the 2010 New York City Marathon, in which world record holder Haile Gebrselassie dropped out due to a knee injury. I saw him about a mile before that, and cheered him on. While my cheer may not have caused Geb to drop out of the race, it is still pretty cool that I got to see him. And if it’s true that he’s really retiring from running (as per his announcement following the New York City Marathon), then I saw him before the last competitive mile in his incredible career.

And an incredible career it was (or, hopefully, continues to be). If you check out his Wikipedia page, you can see the ridiculously long list of records he has held. And in the case of the marathon, still holds. 2:03:59 is probably not going to be broken all that soon, unless of course Geb comes out of retirement to astonish us all (hint, hint, Geb).

But if this really is the end to his professional running career, then I would like to recognize one of the greatest runners who ever lived, Haile Gebrselassie.

Oh, and Geb, if it was that guy at around mile 25 who somehow caused the injury that ended your career, sorry about that. But can I still get your autograph?

Breaking News: Geb may not be retiring! According to The New York Times, he is reconsidering and may run in the 2012 London Olympics.

By the way, this is not actually breaking news at all. Well, it’s breaking news for me, because I just read it, but Geb actually said this just a couple of weeks ago.

 

My Latest Not-Too-Bright Running Idea

I wanted to do a speed workout tonight, and nothing could get in my way. Not the fact that I was exhausted or that it was the middle of the night. Or the fact that it was hot and sticky outside. Or the nontrivial issue that my running shoes were quite literally torn apart after a recent trail running experience (coming soon to the blog).

The first problems were more inconveniences to me than serious obstacles; I could put them aside if I was determined enough. But the problem of my sneakers was a bigger issue, and I gave it some thought. I knew I could still run in them; last night I ran 7 miles (accidentally: I missed the turnoff in the dark that would have made it 5.8 miles instead) at a decent clip in these very shoes. But speedwork is different, and I knew that shoes in such disrepair would only slow me down.

Given the facts, what would you do? Accept a slow speed workout? Not do it at all? Well, bravo, you are a sensible person. I, however, am not.

When faced with this quandary, I saw only one viable solution: Run barefoot.

I’ve considered purchasing the Vibram Five Fingers; I have no abnormal obsession with the conventional running shoe. I’ve been told that barefoot running is good for your form and healthy for your feet. So, I figured, why not give it a try now?

So, with remarkably little preparation, I was ready to go (most time spent preparing for a summer run is on the shoes, after all). And so I went. Out the door and onto shockingly uncomfortable concrete. I headed to the street for a softer surface and rationalized my barefoot running by telling myself it’s beneficial to have a nice slow warm-up. Considering my pace, that must have been one super-beneficial warm-up.

I reached the track and expected to feel relief as my feet land softly onto the lush, wet (did I mention it had just poured?), shock-absorbing—

—disappointingly hard track.

It hurt. But, this was my choice, and I was going to stick to it. Well, the running barefoot on the track lasted only a couple of laps: soon I was only doing the sprinting on the track itself, and everything else on the inner grass.

About halfway through, upon stretching my quads, I looked at my feet. They seemed a little worse for wear. In fact, one of them seemed to have a deep gash with possibly a rock or other sharp object still inside. I didn’t even notice the monster blood-blister that was forming on my big toe.

The truth is not always pretty.

I suffered through the speedwork. My splits, as you may imagine, were not great, but surprisingly not that far off either. But my stupidity tonight taught me a valuable lesson: Don’t run on a wet track at midnight without shoes or socks. Stick to the grass.

If there are any Calvin and Hobbes fans out there, such a lesson may remind you of one of Calvin’s self-taught, ridiculously specific lessons (I believe it concerned deranged mutant snow goons).

As a testament to my stupidity, an open cut on my toe just stuck to the floor and I had to yank my foot up, creating a despicable squelching noise. And on such a lovely note, I leave you.