State of the Running

I spent 2015 developing what I don’t think I’ve ever truly had before: a training base. Dailymile kindly sent me this summary of my walking + running mileage for each month, starting in January when I walked two miles a day and ending in December, when I did three runs each week (7, 4, and 3 miles) and walked three miles on each non-running day:

bar graph of mileage, rising from 61 in January to 116 in December.

(I was sick in November and didn’t feel like trying to catch up, what with Thanksgiving and all.)

I called a lot of December fingernail mileage, as in I barely clawed my way through it each day. Once I spent an hour walking through hallways at the university because it was raining and I needed to stay dry for an office party. Once I got dressed for my long run as soon as I got up on my day off, and still never dragged myself out to do it, and then had to rearrange the rest of the week to make it up. I thought I would probably quit or take a break in January. But it felt wrong not to walk on January 1st… and run on the 2nd and 3rd… and I’m still going.

I am proud of this, after so long being perpetually undertrained for races, so much starting and stopping with running. But I don’t really know what I want to do with it.

Walking is easy. It makes me happy, gets me out in the daylight, and often I can do it with Sanguinity. I’ve been hankering to go hike at Silver Falls pretty soon, because we haven’t been there for years, but even our one-mile walks to the library and my commute miles have an obvious payoff in how I feel.

I would not say I’ve been enjoying running, particularly. Every single time it’s hard to get out there, and I’m glad when I’m done. Is it the cold and the rain? Is it that generalized “resistance” that doesn’t mean much of anything? It is hard to tell.

I would be happy to drop any individual run, but not running in general, apparently. When I have dropped running, pretty soon I started dreaming about it.

I don’t really care if I get faster, and going longer doesn’t appeal to me much either– more time away from home and all the other stuff I love to do. Races aren’t appealing to me right now. I guess I’ll keep this baseline for a few more months and see if spring and summer feel different.

And keep inching up the walking, because I love to walk outdoors and look at trees, and it’s fun to see the bar graph grow. And it injury-proofs me for the running.

My next run has built-in motivation: I got new shoes this month!

blue Mizuno Wave running shoe

Aren’t they the prettiest? I keep making Sanguinity admire them.

snow day!

fir trees at Mt. Scott Park with snow on the ground
no longer samesies

Portland woke up to an inch or two of pretty, powdery snow! In the afternoon it started turning toward freezing rain, and the university just notified us they’ll open two hours late tomorrow, at ten. Good job, weather, at stretching out the holiday that last little bit.

I decided to walk to the community center and do my run on the treadmill. And, since I had to carry my running clothes anyway, why not carry a swimsuit and visit the pool and hot tub afterward? This turned out to be a great plan. The ellipticals were full, but I was the only one treadmilling. I called Sanguinity when I had two miles left to go, and she joined me for the pool part. There were empty lanes in the lap pool! The changing rooms weren’t all wet, because almost all the kids were playing in the snow instead of swimming! We didn’t even have to wait to go down the water slide! And there was plenty of room in the hot tub to stretch out, while looking out at the fir trees.

It’s also a good day to curl up and read Yuletide stories. Two I enjoyed from kidlit fandoms:

running resolution

I came up with a New Year’s resolution that felt satisfying as soon as it occurred to me: I want to finish the Portland Marathon this year without knee pain.

My knees have never kept me from finishing a race or an event, but they’ve slowed me down, and are definitely my weak point. Pain-proofing them will involve a little weight loss, strength and flexibility work, steady and abundant mileage, and maybe a backpacking trip in early September. :D

I’m starting from sedentary-ish, a mile’s walk daily and four miles’ walk/run over the weekend. It feels like very little, but that’s good. I still need to figure out the plan for strength and flexibility training.

Also, I don’t know if it will stick but today I went to dailymile and entered my two walks so far this year and looked at what people in Portland were up to. Feel free to friend me if you hang out there! I’m trying to convince my brain that working out and being active is the norm, by showing it people all around me doing it.

squirrel pee and alder borer

Remember how a few weeks ago I was yearning for something new to happen on my way through the Reed canyon? Yesterday I had just come down the slope from the street to the canyon floor when the bleeding-heart plant next to me started rustling. I leaned closer to see what little critter or bird was in there, then saw that the noise was coming from water drops hitting the leaves. It was a cloudy, still morning; had a rain shower started? But when I looked up, all the droplets were falling from one tree branch. I stepped back to get a better look, and confirmed: I’d almost been peed on by a squirrel 30 feet up. So that’s new.

At a trail junction a mother and daughter were staring at something I couldn’t see. “What are you looking at?” I stage-whispered, not wanting to blunder through and scare whatever it was. It turned out they were looking at the thimbleberry bush right in front of them, where one of these perched on a leaf:

None of us knew what it was, but the internet told me later it’s a banded alder borer. (Photo by Patrick Loes for forestryimages.org.)

When I passed the bee tree, it was very active and I could smell it! Like honey plus sap.

A kingfisher flew down the canyon on the other side of the water. I was looking through gaps in the greenery and couldn’t see it for long, but I could hear that rattling call that I always try to remember for the future.

Last weekend I hardly got out for exercise at all, and it made me restless and moody. I realized it was like I was tapering, but there wasn’t even a race to give it a point. Also in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading race reports with renewed interest. I think I’m ready to–and need to–ramp up the running again. Sang is going to be working most evenings for the next couple of months, so I have all sorts of plans for after-work writing and workouts. We’ll see.

Yo Mama’s noveling, rain running, and a fine weekend

Yesterday afternoon was rainy and I hadn’t been out of the house all day, so I walked to Yo Mama’s Coffee & Tea House for some writing time. It’s fairly new, over on 65th and Foster, and I liked it as soon as I walked in. Tall wooden booths with good lighting, laid-back music, and good food on real dishes for reasonable prices. Tasty hot chocolate, too. I will never forget you, Bubble Bubble, but my mourning period may be at an end.

I am starting to pull together my next long project novel. Just starting. I am not really sure how to do that, without overrehearsing or overdetermining or scaring it away. But without underworking it until it withers and dies, either. I have a couple of glimpsed characters and maybe a setting, that seem like they might be amalgamated. Other things will present themselves to be added in, and the energy holding them all together will somehow be the aspect of the story that makes people say, “It was very, um…you,” when they read it.

I haven’t decided whether it will be a NaNo project. I will set up a word counter for it, but I don’t know if I am willing to risk rushing into 50k words of crap. I suppose that over the next six weeks I’ll see what the momentum looks like and how much time I’m managing to give it without NaNo to boost and contain it.

Today was my first run in the rain since I don’t know when. Warm, off-and-on rain, so it was fine. I ran down to the college track and trotted around while the Ultimate Frisbee teams warmed up for their games, and listened to Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents. My September mileage as of today pulled ahead of August’s total mileage, so my plan to run/walk more miles each month is working. I hope I can keep it up as the weather turns and the days get short.

It’s been a good weekend, also featuring a leaky toilet repaired before the subflooring rotted, and a surprise visit from Evan, who was able to join in our celebratory lunch. Sang and I will finish the night off with purple peppers and jalapenos from the garden, stuffed with cream cheese and roasted in the oven, and eaten while we watch Friday Night Lights and share a beer. I am so lucky.

Reed campus report

  • a mallard hen with a batch of five tiny beeps! It seems late for this. And, further down the canyon, one beep on its own, ignored by all the adults. I hope that has a happy ending.
  • ripe salmonberries in the canyon. Someone else had been at the thimbleberries up by the track, so I just smelled the roses.
  • the swingset has shiny new chains. Putting the seats at adult height is easy on the legs but makes for a short pendulum.
  • a CSO riding a Segway!

My four-mile run felt awesome. I’ve been running in NB790s, a minimal shoe I bought on super-sale when New Balance quit making them and then let sit in my closet. So far so good. Low mileage is fun. I think I’m going to enjoy every stage of my running comeback. Maybe that’s why it took me about seven years to get to a 50-mile event? Who knows how long it will take me to get to 100. But the scenic route is better than guilt and frustration, for sure.

Here’s something I never would have believed as a child: I’m seldom tempted by garage sales anymore. I have enough stuff…even books.

Drifting away, and climbing trees

Yesterday morning I went for the first run in a long time. I realized when I pulled my water bottle off the shelf that it had been a long time since I’d held it in my hand or filled it with water! (Then I realized that weird black stuff had spotted the inside, and I found another bottle.) I did four miles omg. Could be I’m back to running and still on my way to 100 miles. Not this season, but maybe next year. If things go great this season, maybe I’ll try for 50 miles at Autumn Leaves. Hard to know.

It’s so easy to drift away from things. In high school I was a musician, getting first chair in statewide orchestras and working up short piano recitals. There didn’t seem to be any difference between me and the kids who went on to be music majors and professionals. But once I went to college I didn’t audition for anything, didn’t play anything on the piano that I didn’t already know, and pretty much left performance behind. I don’t really know why.

And so with running. After recovering from the PCT 50-miler, I never got back in the groove. Then the winter weather made it very easy not to run. I missed it sometimes, I guess, but not enough to pull on the tights. I could always walk instead, in my regular clothes and carrying stuff if I wanted. I still don’t know that it’s not just a fair-weather blip that’s got me running again. Have I tipped over the line of doing what it takes– for example, running on workdays when time is tight?

I was grateful to read Evan’s post today about the “I just HAVE to write!” crowd. Because that’s not me either. Weird but true: the thing I am most disciplined about is going to work at my job to make money. If I’m low on energy, running and writing and most other things (not reading though, hmm) fall to the wayside, but I almost always still catch that bus downtown to the office. I often wonder what it would be like for writing to be that bottom-line for me.

Makes me glad for those one-time fun things that I don’t have to worry about or get attached to– like goalball, and tree-climbing! Last Wednesday, Elizabeth and I finally cashed in her Christmas present, a one-day tree-climbing class out at a farm in Oregon City. I didn’t know if there would be other students, because since I’d signed up the website had changed and it seemed to be just the lead guy doing stuff on his own now, but there were six of us students. Plus a French intern who had only been immersed in English for a couple of weeks and asked charming things like “comfy, that okay to say in a class? You should be comfy?”

We got to climb almost first thing, supervised and using ropes they’d placed before we got there. Then with that out of our systems, we learned knots so we could run things ourselves. Oh, knots. I’d seen many of them before, but knots and card games don’t stick in my head for long. There was lots of cheerful “good! Untie it and tie it again!” from the instructor.

We picknicked out of the breeze, and strolled around. It was cool and overcast, and the ground was muddy. One student’s car had gotten stuck on the way to the grove. We were sharing the field with cows, but they stayed picturesquely in the distance. The trees were oaks, a hundred years old or a little more–not common to find a whole grove of them intact so close to Portland.

After lunch we learned how to throw a thin line over a high limb, with a little weighted bag, and how to replace it with the real rope. Then we got to climb one more time, on ropes we’d placed ourselves. Here are E and me (I’m in purple, with my helmet ridiculously askew, I know!)

Three of our classmates were coming back the next few days to learn how to move around in a tree and from tree to tree; they’d be sleeping in hammocks aloft at least once. I know I’d love that “spiderwebbing” part, because it’s really fun to stand and move freely on the limbs knowing your harness will catch you if you fall! But I was fine with calling it a day and driving home for pizza. Hello, sore muscles!

by 10 a.m.

We have a new rule at our house, and it is this: on weekends and holidays, Holly has to be playing outside by 10 a.m.

If this doesn’t happen, then most likely I am simultaneously reading the internet and thinking “I should go for a run,” in a more and more anxious, stubborn, and crabby state of mind. And not getting my daylight fix. And then I’m snapping something like “No, the oven is on for a reason,” while my family slooowly backs away.

So today I got out for my run very close to 10 a.m., and it was sunny! Sunny and muddy. On the boulevard in Eastmoreland I saw some huge five-toed footprints that I finally decided had to be from Vibrams. I predict lots of kids looking for Bigfoot in Forest Park after they see tracks like that.

Westmoreland Park was partly flooded, not that it bothered the ducks, geese, pigeons, and gulls. In case you’re wondering if birds yawn, I totally saw a gull yawning.

Today I met the roof guy and wrote him a really big check. And tonight my IPRC class starts up again. I’m going to go pack my lunch and get ready for tomorrow; it will be bedtime by the time I get home.

Memmmorry!! (you know…CATS)

At about eleven this morning I sat bolt upright on the couch. “I have to go to Ken’s and take care of the cats today!” I said to Sanguinity.

Now, Ken and Dale only left on Friday afternoon, so yesterday would have been the soonest I’d go over there. It’s fine to wait til today because they are cats. But, I did not think of Loaner Kitty and Hermi-1 once yesterday! I mean, what if they just hadn’t popped up in my brain for several more days? It seems unreal, and not like me.

I’m going over there when Sang comes home from work, with the car.

Not a lot to salvage from this day, but I did complete my first long run of the year. Six miles, for a Week One total mileage of fourteen. It was fine. I ran around the college track and listened to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. It ended just when it was time to head home through the canyon.

I’ve walked through the canyon four times since the turn of the year, starting on New Year’s Day. I half wish I had an internet project going, posting photos every x interval and so on, but 1) I don’t need another internet project, and 2) maybe I want my acquaintance with the canyon to be more quiet than that, a gradual accretion of knowledge and familiarity. Oh, and 3) my camera is kind of big and I’ve never been that diligent at carrying and using it.

But here’s a photo from New Year’s that shows the general look of the canyon this time of year. For today, add a pair of diving ducks and the sound of Canada geese overhead, then the cawing of crows.