a blog.

2 months 1 week ago

Sunday Runday, and on our morning ten kilometer trail run everyone seem to want to talk racing season.

Except there is no racing season.

Twenty-twenty-one is a racing write off.

Or… it would be if it wasn’t for virtual races.

Virtual racing. Oh, those virtual races. And why?

Last year as the pandemic picked up its pace, another one of those little oh-yeah-and-that-too inconveniences was the cancellation of a bunch of running races. I was registered to run at least four big races, including the 2020 Chicago Marathon.

None of them happened.

Well, none of them happened as planned.

Over the course of the summer, as the clock ticked onward, each race in turn became a virtual race instead of a real one. No, we can’t bring five thousand athletes together on a crowded street, so, here’s what we’re gonna do instead…

Keep the spirit. Run the distance. Submit your time. Get a shirt and a medal in the mail. Virtual racing was the consolation prize for a lost season.

And I too ran a few virtual runs. A trio of half marathons. A few ten-k socially distant weekend excuses to meet up with my friends and celebrate… something. I don’t know exactly what or why, but hanging onto something seemed important.

Winter came and went.

Then the emails started appearing…

“Such and such is going virtual this year.”

“Join us for a virtual race.”

“We can’t run together but we can race virtually!”

The dissonance rings in my heart something like this: I want to race and support the races but I’m finding it tough to reconcile another season of pretending. I want to be motivated to train for long races, but paying a hundred dollars or often more to run through my own neighbourhood and get a t-shirt and a medal through the mail doesn’t seem like the way. Not this year. I want back that feeling of participating but I’m done settling for participating from afar. And I would rather delay bigger gratification for a while if the only other option is a virtual one.

On our morning ten kilometer trail run everyone seem to want to talk racing season because a bunch of them have been signing up for local and international virtual races. I’m going to keep running with them, but unless something dramatically changes I think my next race season will be 2022.

4 months 2 weeks ago

Sunday Run Day and for the first time in two months I took part in a group run with a small cohort of friends.

Our locality has been on pandemic-related lockdown since late November, and all my runs have been solo. But COVID-related hospitalizations have been down. New case numbers have been declining. And the doctors say we can ease gently away from some of the stricter restrictions… like avoiding all non-essential personal contact. In other words, we can run together again.

Of course, it also happens to be that we are in the middle of winter. In the middle of a cold snap. In the middle of temperatures averaging minus twenty and offering up moderate quantities of snow.

Over a series of early morning text messages we pushed our usual eight-thirty meetup time by a couple hours to tempt the sun’s generosity. Also, given that it’s been months since we’ve seen each other in person, it was decided that a location more interesting than the regular high school parking lot was on the table for debate.

Luckily I never take my grips out of the backseat of my truck in the winter, and when we converged in a river valley parking lot to engage the single-track snow-bound trails therein I easily added some necessary traction to my street sneakers.

Some winters I splurge and buy myself winter trainers. They are extra grippy and have a bit more insulation. It makes it necessary to get out into the rough for longer, colder runs for a season or two … y’know, to justify the cost.

But in a pinch, a pair of, wrap-on traction grips will substitute.

We ran.

Into the trails.

Across a bridge.

Into a meadow.

Up and down, left and right.

Between towering poplar dusted with snow.

Eight kilometers later, twisting and turning through trail packed by a hundred other feets and a few dozen fat-bike tires, threaded between fresh knee-deep snow, we had logged the first group run of 2021.

I missed those.

4 months 3 weeks ago

It’s Sunday Runday, and I’m going to stay in and ride the stationary bike.

I woke up and looked at the temperature as I was letting the dog out at 6am. It was twenty degrees below zero with a brisk wind.

Also, it snowed. Snowed lightly covering up the layer of glassy ice covering a double-digit percentage of the sidewalks.

And… whimper, whine, whimper

The truth of it is I wouldn’t have run today anyhow. Injury happens. It happened to me. And even little blips, like when you slip and slide on the ice (but don’t fall) and crank a muscle in your lower back and no matter how much you stretch it and work it there is a angry little knot there that is going to take a solid week to go away before you can stand up one hundred percent straight again. Oh, and don’t muck with back injuries.

It’s Sunday Runday, and it’s my double-excuse day.

Too cold.

Too injured.

Too much of an opportunity to get on the bike and do some low impact cross-training instead of running outdoors in the ice and snow and wind and cold.

5 months 1 week ago

Sunday. Run Day.

It’s lonely out there on the trails these days.

I laced up and logged a quick eight klick run through the locals this morning. The snowy paths were worn down with thousands of footprints. The crisp air was calm but dry. Stragglers from another universe were out walking their dogs.

For the last decade I have run almost every Sunday morning.

For the last year, company on those runs has been sporadic or limited at best.

The pandemic gave us a summer of cautious gatherings. This was followed by an autumn of wary runners. In turn, that was followed by a strict lockdown with little tolerance for mixed company.

So I run alone lately.

Others bend the rules. Only a little, true. But bending is bending.

Running solo is lonely, with just the trail, your thoughts, and maybe some tunes. Eight klicks is well under an hour of action, but as the year presses on and the prospect of actually training kicks into full gear, those eight klicks are going to need to stretch to ten … fifteen … then over twenty. Twenty klicks is an easy two hour run.

Two hours of solo running is lonely.

So lonely.

And my motivation is fueled by good company.

But bending is bending.

1 year ago

As we approached the final stretch of our “long” Sunday morning run, I joked with LH that I could probably stop and walk the last half a klick because I’d hit my weekly goal.

In the end, for week two of consistent daily running, I clocked 42.9 klicks cumulatively... so... marathon?

Of course, the problem with having friends who run, and running friends who post on Strava, means that no matter what one accomplishes there is always someone who does us all one better. So while I was quietly celebrating a twelve klick morning jaunt (my longest in weeks, sadly) and crossing the Sunday virtual finish line of a week-long goal of a mere week-long marathon, SK for example, posted that she met her weekly goal of a hundred klicks, and then some. Or take AG, who moments later posted that (after running a meagre seven klicks with us on Thursday) had run all night (last night, finishing about the same time we were strolling in from our 12) and completed an 88 klick (yes, eighty-eight!) city-traversing epic run... through a thunderstorm.

Well, damn.

Not that it matters. I logged seven days, met my personal goal, and sat down to have a hot coffee. I learned long ago that as soon as one starts comparing oneself to other runners... well, it doesn’t go over as well as some more motivated, after-school-special types would suggest. Usually I just feel like shit and forget that (as I’ve said a hundred times) for every person who is faster, there’s ninety-nine others who are sitting on the couch at home. I ran 42.9 klicks more than any of them this week.