running & racing.

Running. Training. Resting. Repeating. And generally over-thinking my runs since 2008.

running (noun)

fast feets

Some of the words I post here are about running races, training for specific races, or specifically about racing.

more feets.

2 weeks 1 day ago

It was backwards day yesterday, it seemed.

After being unable to run without pain for over two months, I smacked a two and a half klick knee test run around the local park and felt good afterwards. A couple hours later I went to the pool, and after fighting with the crowds I bailed early when they called a code brown and vacated the lanes.

Good run. Bad swim.

But it begs the question: what now?

I'm loving the swimming routine. I'm feeling stronger, I've lost about five pounds, and it's kinda this forced solo activity. It's great to run with friends, but you can't really chat and swim (at least not effectively) so it's perpetually going to just be my own thing. It relies on having an active rec centre pass, of course, but that's a low bar right now.

I haven't replaced running with swimming, but running has been my go-to fitness routine for over a dozen years... except when it hasn't, like for a month after covid and then a sequential couple more months with a knee injury. I'm still imperfectly aware that full recovery from wrecked MCL could last a couple more months, but that run yesterday gave me hope that I could at least start the long slow climb back to recovery after an effective three month break.

So it begins.

Right?

Um. Right?

This means I need to plan out a new plan, and climb back onto the platform upon to which I'd climbed a couple months back when I declared on this site that I was going to "refresh" everything... just before that plan refreshed me right in the knee.

A regroup is in order. But a carefully planned regroup.

4 weeks ago

It's been nearly two weeks since I updated, but it hasn't been due to lack of effort elsewhere.

I've had a nice little nine day vacation from work wherein we went to the mountains and did a couple hikes and some kayaking.

We ate some good food, but burned a lot more of it off in the wilderness.

Then we came home for a couple days, got some yard work done, went to a local festival, and I continued my solid swimming progress with a couple more one klick sessions at the pool.

And on my last day of vacation I went to watch the marathon.

Watch.

Not run.

I'm not running yet.

Well.

I'll get to that.

We were standing around the finish line for a solid three hours, watching the winner break the course record for the marathon, watching the half runners stream in, the full runners trickle in a little more doggedly, and then the tens leave and return, some with epic times.

It was the first running of this race (in which I've made a few memories myself over the years) since the pandemic shutdown.

And I got to watch it.

Watch.

Not run.

It's a sad sort of place to be, watching others do this thing you should be able to do were it not for some limiting factor. And I know it's a temporary pause I'm in with this knee, but having shelved my involvement with our little Adventure Run Summer club and now fully and completely missed our flagship local race. Ugh. It's like a big old anchor has been wrapped around my right leg joint and dropped into the abyss.

And after nearly twenty klicks of various holiday walking and hiking in and around the mountains, then a bunch more steps back home, the knee while still achy and at times twinging, is definitely improving and healing... so much so that on my morning dog walk earlier today I did a little test. I ran about 25m. Yeah. Twenty five whole meters. Testing it out.

And?

It wasn't bad.

It didn't hurt. It doesn't hurt now an hour or so later.

I'm not ready to head out on a ten klick run quite yet, but I think in a week or so, maybe sooner, it might be time to try a lap around the park. One klick. Just to trial the progress.

It's not a marathon, but it might be just as satisfying.

2 months ago

This past Sunday morning I was standing at the finish line of the Sinister 7 Ultramarathon waiting for the last of my participating friends to finish the 100 mile slog through the thirty-hour mountain race.

I had opted to crew, not run. Granted, an important job, but one designed to help someone else run the race. Driving from station to station, lugging water and food and spare shoes in plastic buckets with a hand truck, I'd seen hundreds of ultramarathoners challenge the insane course ... from the comfort of my lawnchair.

To be fair, even if I'd wanted to run I probably could not have managed much of a sincere effort anyhow.

I've slowed in the last few months. I've got a knee that's been bugging me for weeks that would have sidelined me even if I was otherwise race ready. And worst of all, I seem to be struggling to expel the last of the COVID from my lungs even six weeks after peak infection. I had tapped out three klicks into a ten klick neighbourhood run just about ten days ago, coughing and hacking and trying not to simultaneously pass out on the side of the road and scare all my friends into thinking I was spraying virus into the air. (I don't think I was.)

It's a tough place to be, knowing that I should be able to do these things and also knowing that the reasons why are partly beyond my control by then too, something that I could overcome with a bit of grit.

But grit is sometimes hard to come by, and even tougher to keep hold of. It takes something that I can't put my finger on, a kind of single-minded insanity of pushing fearlessly towards a goal that is little more than a moment in time and a state of being.

A couple weeks into summer, a few days after spectating and crewing a world class ultramarathon in the mountains, I see a bit of that grit poking out of the ether and daring me to grab hold of it before it vanishes again. And so I've tried to do so. I've pinched a bit of it at the tips of my fingers and I'm pulling at it, trying to pry it loose and get a better grasp of it all.

What that means in non-metaphoric language is that I've done three (plus one) things.

One, I'm updating my gear. I'm in the market for a fresh set of shoes. I bought a new run watch yesterday to replace my (still good but waning battery) old one. And I'm figuring out what else I need to carry me through a new training plan. Technology and kit are not vital, but they are motivators for me and will get me out the door.

Two, later today I'm going to buy a rec pass. In the months before COVID struck and shut everything down I had bought myself an annual membership to the local municipal recreation and fitness center. Three months into that pass, I never went back because everything slammed shut. I'm going there later to reactivate my membership and start swimming and cross-training on the regular.

Three, I've decided to think differently about races for a while. This is a two part "thing" in that (first) I'm swearing off racing (at least planned racing) for the rest of the calendar year. No more signing up for such and such in 2022. If something happens to pop up and I get a free bib or an undeniable invite, sure I may race, but (second) I'm going to focus my training on rebuilding not on goal times and distances for a race for a while.

And "plus one" I've done this. THIS. I started a new category on this website to write about it, record it, and (assuming more than a few people are reading it) have a bit of public accountability. Keeping track, measuring goals, and thinking them out in words and numbers are something I've always done, and I don't think success will come without it again.

That's the first bit of my recovery and rebuild plan, my first tenuous grip on the elusive grit. It will grow and expand and change and adapt. Certainly. But for now it is enough to start me back towards something ... at least something that isn't watching the running from a lawnchair.

Let's go.

2 months 3 weeks ago

June 23, 2022

Each summer for the last few I’ve hosted a small adventure club for a group of my running friends. We call them Adventure Runs, though running occasionally turns out to be only a minor component of the adventure.

So…. once again it is summer, and once again yesterday morning I posted our secret meetup location in our chat server, anticipated all day long, then finally after work ended for the day drove to the secluded parking spot and waited to see who else showed up.

adventure journal

It had rained all afternoon.

Not just rained. It had poured, complete with thunder and lightning, clacks of huge rain droplets batting against the windows and sending coworkers on our video meetings running off camera to close windows and comfort pets.

At 5pm we were texting back and forth about whether to delay our running plans.

But by 6pm the sunshine was back and I was lacing up my trail shoes and trying to remember exactly how to navigate the city streets to where I’d agreed to meet up for a local adventure.

The thing about trying to find interesting and unique places to run in the suburbs of a big city is that we really have just two choices for trails that are not of the well-maintained asphalt or crushed shale-surfaced accessible recreational locales: we either need to drop into the river valley or we need to find a bit of wilderness trapped between the cultivated corridors of roads, housing and shopping malls.

A dozen years ago a major infrastructure project resulted in the city building a ring road encircling a major part of the established city-proper. The road itself is almost eighty kilometers long with access points into and out of town every three to five klicks, and while in most places it snakes by the clusters of houses with naught but a bit of grassy ditch to separate the two, there are huge swaths of road anchored inside what’s called a transportation utility corridor (TUC) where clearance has been maintained to build roads, power transmission lines, and oil pipelines.

I was also acutely aware of a spot not too far (but not easily accessible) where a particularly interesting swath of TUC had been combined with some natural preserve, an old, blocked off access road, and an interesting destination at the end of the connected trail.

into the woods

On any given summer day, the trail that led from the quasi-parking lot to the east access of the locally famous “graffiti tunnel” would have been a moderately challenging bit of dirt-based single track weaving through and around eclectic landscapes crushed between a busy highway to the south and a winding high-watered creek to the north.

An hour after our quadrant of the city had been doused in an afternoon summer storm, those same trails were glistening and muddy, the tall grasses were hung heavy with rainwater, and the protruding heaps of clay silts that marked the marshy landscape near to the creek were more slippery than had we been running on our familiar winter ice slicks.

As we descended into this twisting, wet, and perilous collection of intersecting trails, each of the seven of us often veering off course to find a bit of path we were individually more comfortable with, a mix of caution and excitement bubbled through the group.

At one point I stopped abruptly with two of my companions close on my heels, slamming on my brakes in the wet mud and barely avoiding stepping on a medium-sized garter snake soaking up the sun on the middle of the path. I shooed it away and “stood guard” as one of my ophidiophobic running mates inched by and squealed in fear.

familiar destinations

More tall grass (hiding nasty ticks!)

A scramble hand-over-hand up a small, nearly impassible hill.

A leap of faith over an ant hill the size of a small car.

And wet feet all around, even though we never did get very close to the creek at all.

While the west side of the graffiti tunnel is accessible from a gentle gravel path connected to some of our local neighbourhood running routes, the east side (separated by a muddy creek) is only found on foot by following the two-and-a-half klick route through the trees and grass and wilderness-laden ditch through which we had just run.

We ogled the years of overlapping graffiti that covered the old pedestrian underpass (yet to be connected to the trail system-proper even eighteen years after it’s installation), took a bunch of photos and selfies, and then contemplated our alternate routes back to the cars… ultimately deciding to face the known perils of retracing our steps back rather than trying to find a simpler (but far longer) route home.

It is almost a rite of passage for a guy who plans crazy running routes to listen to the grumbles and complaints, cursing and swearing of those silly enough to follow him into the wilderness.

And it is certainly rewarding to lead all of those people full circle to their cars and to realize that every single one of them just experienced something they’ll remember for long after we’ve all gone home and washed the mud from our ankles.

4 months 2 weeks ago

May 1, 2022

To close the daily running loop, in April I started a little challenge to myself to run every day... to streak.

It lasted sixteen days.

Not long. Not terrible. Not exactly one of those "guy runs for two years" stories, either.

On day fifteen I did a long run and my calves cramped up something fierce less than a kilometer from home. I had to hobble a bit, walk and stretch it out, before slowly resuming my creep back to the house. Something was off.

Streaks push you to get better, but when they push back it's worth asking why... and stopping for a bit.

A week later I was sick with what seems to have been COVID, though no positive test to correlate with the long list of symptoms I was feeling. Chances are the end of my streak had more to do with rest than infection, but both those things together meant I ran a mediocre race and have taken a few days off in the meantime.

May is looking to get back on track again tho, with the four days per week schedule leading it all, and I'll be creeping up to the start line of my May race a little more traditionally.

5 months 2 weeks ago

About a year and a half ago I adopted a puppy.

Pandemic puppies were all the rage for many people and finding a dog to adopt was likened toy rushes at Christmas, but for us it was hardly a rash decision. We'd been plotting for years, and attempting to figure out how we would find ourselves a good opportunity to reintegrate a dog into our lives a few years after our previous dog died of a late-in-life heart condition. Puppies are a bit of a full time job. Training, caring, and generally looking after the curious things for the first couple months almost requires a work sabbatical. Working full time downtown while living in the burbs was not going to provide such an opportunity easily.

As it turned out "not easy" meant a global pandemic, and amidst the countless negatives and tough things that happened, we found our chance to bring a dog home.

Working from home for an indeterminate amount of time seemed a bit risky, but as it turned out eighteen months of puppy training and habituation followed a Miniature Australian Shepherd joining our family before the day finally came that we had to start migrating (at least part time) back to the office.

The timing to turn her into a running partner was a little less cooperative.

By the time she hit the ripe old age of one year, or about the time that most vets and blogs seem to converge on their advice on when it is ok to start a running program, the summer was just wrapping up and we were more concerned with her spaying surgery and follow up recovery than we were about getting her out jogging the local trails.

Winter was cold and icy, so that didn't seem ideal as an introduction to my favourite sport.

And now finally, it is spring. She's comfortably past the age of concern for starting such a program, yet still young enough to take it up with ease. I while I've been impatient, she didn't know what she was missing... until Saturday.

This past weekend, a couple days ago now, I laced up and looped my faithful dog into her harness. We stepped out onto the clear sidewalks running alongside the grassy parks, and ... ran three klicks.

Run one. It begins. I'm aiming for three days per week, though I think she'd go every day if she could. I think I may have unleashed a monster... metaphorically speaking.

time on feets

A kind of blog, I've written about a number of running topics over the years and each year seems to have a different focus, flavour, and tone. Everything gets compiled into one big long read, or ends up that way at the end.

even more fast feets