a blog.

2 years ago

I woke up to pouring rain and the prospect of a long run with friends. Had I not been so motivated by my week-long streak, I hesitate to admit I might have just slept in.

As I round out the first full week of my (underdetermined timeline of) daily running, I admit that it didn’t amount to much besides the effort. At the end of it, I clocked a meagre total of 40.2 klicks in seven sessions, Monday through Sunday. If I add in the two short runs I did leading into this week, the last nine days amounts to closer to fifty, but whose counting?

Well... I am.

The week was a mix of short weekday runs, mostly nestled into the busy work-week schedule. A few lunch runs and a couple evening runs (one with friends at a meetup location.) The weekend was capped off with a pair of rainy, wet trail-ish runs: Saturday solo through the north end of the local creek trails, and Saturday a neighbourhood run that dipped into the opposite end of the same creek with a visit to the graffiti-splattered pass under the freeway. Nothing shorter than 20 minutes. The longest, an 11 klick run with wet, dirty feets.

My goal (unstated until now) is to add two klicks per week to the cumulative total... which coincidentally enough clocks me at (at least) a perfect marathon for week two.

Feels-wise, apart from some stiffness in my legs and back after the week (nothing some stretching doesn’t help) the compound effects of daily running seem to be fostering a renewed energy in both my body and my spirit. It’s as though I’d actually needed this.

Now if only my one-last-still-uncancelled-race would just bite the bullet and admit that it ain’t happening during a pandemic so I can settle into a summer of training for the virtual races which actually will go forward. Inevitability is a pain in the ass.

2 years ago

The first day of June 2020 arrived with a windy, drizzly morning and punctuated by the news that some, but not very much, of the world was starting to re-open. For myself, the first day of June marked the start of week twelve of working from home in the middle of a global pandemic that shuttered the economy and everyday life. Seventy-seven days have passed since normal was put on hold, and we retreated to our houses to wait out the battle between a killer virus, human immunity, and the hope for modern medicine to find a fix.

The simplest way to explain what happened to my training plan was that my plan did not account for the temporary collapse of society.

It was balanced on a knife-edge of opportunity and motivation.

It was powered by schedules that had been fixed to days that had meaning.

It was moving in lockstep to race countdowns and run club meetups and workdays that ended at four-thirty in the afternoon.

The result was that roughly nine weeks in I found myself out for a run, but lost for any reasonable excuse as to why I could barely complete -- what just a few months previous I would have considered -- a warm-up run. It was a bad day, to boot, which did not help, but buried in the blur of frustration and shame of having lost -- more, sacrificed -- my hard-won fitness to a virus I didn't even have was the notion that there was still a piece of this under my control.

Intense training is never easy, else it would not be labelled so. And running a minimum distance every day -- every -- single -- day -- make no mistake, is most definitely intense training.

Stuck deep within the commitment to put in distance every single waking day is the counter-punch to otherwise lacking motivation. Opportunity is forced to meet a goal. Schedules are managed around the run and it never matters what day it is when every day is run day. It is it's own goal, with it's own driving forces, and the result is time on feet adding up to accumulated training.

The first day of June 2020 arrived and I went for a run on my lunch break. It was sunny, but cool, perfect for a light run. It won't be perfect every day in June, but there will be a run to do.

2 years ago

The COVID-15 is a real thing, and working from home has derailed my finely tuned eating routine leading to some lost ground in the healthy living strategy that allows me to run successfully. This is a series I'll be writing over the next few months as I try to set some rules and strategies around a healthier lifestyle.

It sounds obvious, but I need to cut out the workday snacking.

When I'm at an actual office, out of the house, stuck at the top of an elevator ride or the near end of a long walk or the back of a coffee line, second thoughts about stuffing something quick into my mouth have time to germinate, grow, and blossom. When a pantry stuffed with chips and cookies and leftover pizza is a thoughtless few steps away, those second thoughts are still rattling around as a handful of seeds as I'm wiping the crumbs off my hands.

Motivation is largely about decision-making. Deciding to do something is the hard part. Much has been written about the idea of decision-fatigue and the notion that the human brain has a flexible but limited capacity to make decisions, particularly tough ones. So, days full of stress or packed with lots to think about, tend to result in over-eating -- not because of the stress, but because of the vacuum that the stress leaves behind. Stress eating is often just the inability to decide a better option because the brain is out of decision power, and the easy default option is to revert to our baser instinct of stuffing more calories in our mouths.

The pandemic has been nothing if not stressful, full of complex anxieties and subtle decision-making. My personal experience has been days filled with long working hours, responding to multiple requests from business colleagues who were flung into complex and urgent roles. It was lots of thinking, and rethinking, and making decisions on the fly about important things that affected a lot of people.

Food was simple. Eat. Work. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

And that while at the office I was leaning on the crutch of having the real barrier of having to wait for an elevator, or stand in line at a cafe, or walk to the food court, at home that crutch was suddenly gone and I never replaced it.

So rule number one for this the first week of my COVID-15 reset, is kill the workday snack-athon. Between breakfast and lunch, no calories consumed. Between lunch and dinner, no calories consumed. The reward? Successfully pulling through a week of snack-free working means I can enjoy a guilt-free dessert on Saturday evening.

Decision made.

2 years ago

Not that I was registered for the Boston Marathon, but as it was announced today that for the first time in it's 124 year history the Boston Marathon has been cancelled and will be run as a virtual race, I'm sitting here pondering what exactly that means for the Chicago Marathon scheduled for a month later. That one I am registered for.

Cancelled or otherwise, I think the biggest gift to runners right now is just certainty.

Training for a marathon is not a casual endeavor for most of us. For me, running Chicago in October will mean cranking up my training to full steam in the coming few weeks and then sustaining and building on that training for the following four months. It means eating differently. Living differently. Scheduling my schedule-less life around long runs, then really long runs, then stupidly-long runs as September hits. It means a lifestyle change at the best of times, and in the middle of a lifestyle crisis a fundamental mental shift in the daily routine.

To say that we're all living a lot differently these days and for the foreseeable future is a crazy understatement.

To say that adding marathon training into the mix could be an emotional tipping point for many, myself included, is not an exaggeration.

So, simply knowing would be nice. Not for the money. Not for the planning. Not for the effort. Just for the certainty. So, Boston-bound runners have a bit of stability right now as that pressure has been vented. I'll be tracking my social media and email for the next couple weeks to see what my own near future looks like.

2 years ago

I started to notice the change in tone a few weeks ago.

I've been using Strava as my go-to run tracking platform for about 5 years, and in that time I've done so almost exclusively as a mooch. There was a short stretch when I paid for a minor upgrade, but I cancelled out of that shortly after. But clearly, for most of the time I've been using it I've been doing so for free.

Which is great and all, but the world has changed: pandemic economic realities, a shift in the notion of what it means to provide a service for free, and the shift to ad-supported everything. In amongst all that, Strava seemed to have a tonal shift towards that of almost-everything-is-free to the-stuff-that-costs-us-most-is-now-premium-content.

These are the warning shots of a company running out of cash.

Uploading a few megabytes of GPS run data each month is cheap for them.

Processing billions of GPS data point to provide route analysis, segment comparison, and activity breakdowns is computationally expensive -- and cloud providers like AWS and Google are starting to crank up the costs of these services.

So the tone shift is one of trying to keep as much free as possible (which seems to linger in the domain of storage and social services) and get some people to pitch in for the computer power. The too long didn't read version of this is that I like Strava and if a few bucks a month keeps it going for a while longer... then I wanted to subscribe and pitch in. That, and my running world has almost completely collapsed in the last six months, I'm not sure I can deal with another big change anytime soon.