Monday, March 30, 2009

Spring is here! And so is winter...

First, let me apologize for the absence. For whatever reason, I couldn't log on to the blog. Then I just became lazy.

Next, let me say I've continued to run, changing routes as much as possible to stay interested while my body resists movement. I've recently started running at Wyandotte County Lake Park, a great park, most of which was built during the WPA. It reminds me a great deal of Kensington but with more hills. And when I say hills, I'm really describing inclines that remind one very quickly about the physics of gravity. WyCo, as the local runners call it, has some great trails also. That's what really interested me in the park.

And therein lies the reference to spring. Two weeks ago, when the boys and I were on break, I spent a couple days running through the woods at WyCo, and the green, fresh smell of chives wafted through the air. Always a cause of redemptive hope, the sight of those shoots punching through dry, dead leaves means only one thing--hyacinths aren't far behind. Nor are crocuses and daffodils. Yes, spring is here, with 70 degree weather.

Unless you're living on the edge of the great plains. Then, in the course of two days, it can go from 78 degrees to a major winter storm, with freezing rain and snow. I did manage to get out Saturday night for a quick two-mile run, all that I could manage in the post-storm winds. The cool thing about that was the sound of the ice-covered branches clicking against each other and the sight of the delicate tree blossoms encased in the same ice with a dollop of snow balanced on each. That was lovely. By noon the next day, all the snow but the snowmen was melted, and today at 4:00 it was back up to 70 degrees.

So come to Missouri to run. But bring every piece of running gear you have. You just never know what season you'll get.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Running with Gene Kelly, Sans Umbrella

If you've ever experienced a Missouri rain storm, then you know the awesome volume of water that can be produced in a short amount of time. If you've ever been out running during one of these gulley-washers, then you know there comes a point when trying to wipe the water from your face is an exercise in futility; when the thought of jumping around puddles to keep your shoes dry becomes pointless; when there are no more high spots on the sidewalks; when the streets become streams and those streams have a palpable current. If you've ever been caught in one of these down pours, you realize there's no point in trying to rush home. You won't get there before your feet feel like you're running in water balloons. No, might as well ride it out. In fact, this becomes the perfect opportunity to revisit your childhood and stomp your way through a drainage ditch. Why not? Can't get any wetter.

Beyond the deluge, beyond the soaked shoes and dripping dry weave, something else bubbles up inside you--any other rational person would be tucked safely inside their warm, dry house. Those rational people might include other runners. Even so, here you are, sloshing through the streets, knowing you're getting stronger. In fact, there's a certain irrational pride that bolsters you, a haughtiness that steels your resolve to finish your miles, to appraise other runners who sit idly at home with a sidelong smirk. There is a camaraderie in the rushed, perfunctory wave between runners on nights like this, a certain gesture of approval and shared "Are we crazy?" An unanswered "Yeah, but isn't it great?"

My shoes will eventually dry out and my hat brim will too, but what I gained is much more permanent. What I gained is the pride in commitment. What I earned was another notch in my "Will I ever be a runner again?" column. What I collected was one more three-miler on my training log, and those curtains of heavy rain only made the miles seem more powerful.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Pain, pain, go away!

When I was in braces, my orthodontist gave me wax to smooth over the rough, abrasive brackets, thereby easing the pain of my cheeks being scraped. I never used it. I guess I figured the sooner my cheeks became used to the pain, the sooner the pain would ease.

Every runner knows that running is painful, some days more than others. And for me, this early in my training, it's most definitely not easy. However, tonight, while I was making my way around my very hilly neighborhood, I just kept pushing, knowing the sooner I get in shape, the sooner the pain will ease. Three miles later, I have a rather nice sense of accomplishment. I even managed some speed work at the end of the run, which has always been my favorite part of running, that elongation of stride, the powerful pump of the arm. Did it hurt once I stopped? Hell's bells, yes. Was it worth it? Like getting your braces off, the pain is always worth it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Felled by Chicken and Dumplings

Anyone who has ever begun the arduous task of getting back in shape knows that the body will be sore--the calves tight, the quads stiff, the hips aching. What I failed to remember was that my stomach also needs time to acclimate. Back when I was a regular runner, I could eat a bratwurst, wash it down with beer, cap it off with a couple marshmallows, and go out for a six miler. No problem. It was as if my gastrointestinal system knew to gird itself against all the roiling. Well, my stomach hasn't caught up to my legs. The other night, after a particularly cold day, I made a great pot of chicken and dumplings. I even gave myself plenty of time to digest it. I went to the Y to run the track, got about two loops from the two mile point, and the heavenly chicken and dumplings morphed into a brick, and, brother, I mean like that! One minute I was grinding out a nice, comfortable cadence, the next I'm hobbled, my posture askew, my gait akin to Vincent D'Onofrio in "Men in Black." And here's the deal--people tend to sympathize with knee injuries and other "You must be a runner" type injuries. One doesn't garner much sympathy from acute gastritis.

It happens.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sparty On!

Who's on top of the Big Ten? MSU, that's whoo!