Tag Archives: training

A “Humorous” Run

Today at my club’s usual Wednesday “6@6” run – 6 miles at 6 a.m. – it was just me and one other runner. The other Wednesday regulars were either preparing for a marathon, or recovering from one, or nursing various injuries.

Along the way my companion, an instructor at the University of Michigan, told me about the class she was preparing to teach that day, on Shakespeare and the use of “humors” in his comedy. Back then it was popular “knowledge” that the body consisted of four humors: blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm, and that one’s personality, as well as physical health, were determined by the amount, and balance of, these humors. For example, a “choleric” state was caused by an excess of yellow bile, while “melancholy” by black bile.

My running companion explained that Shakespeare used the “humors” to model his characters. Women were considered “colder” than men, and thus less complete. But if they got “too hot” they would be aggressive like men, which that age definitely did not like. (Thus, in Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio decides to tame Kate by removing some of her heat.)

You could say that I “saw the humor” in this, and wondered out loud why it was, then, that women had the babies, and maybe it was men who were actually the “incomplete” humans. Yes, we agreed, it was as illogical back then as it seems now.

I was fortunate to be raised in a household where the equality of men and women was a given. Never did I doubt that my sister, or any girls, were inferior in some fashion. And I made sure my daughters were raised the same way. Yet there was one big difference: my wife returned to work after our kids were born, and my mother did not. She had planned to leave work and be a housewife as was traditional to that period, but hearing her boss tell her not to expect her job back rankled. Yes, they could do that back then.

We still have a long way to go to give all genders and  ethnicities the equality and respect they deserve, but we have made some progress over the last fifty years.  I’m grateful that my daughters have less of a glass ceiling to break through. In running, too, much more attention is being paid to top female runners, as it should be.

Now lest I end this post with you thinking I’m some kind of enlightened being, or pompous ass (or both), there is another connection with all this to the morning’s run. For I’d done a tempo run the afternoon before, and was looking forward to an easy pace. But my companion took off at her usual healthy pace, and we ran at about a minute per mile faster than I’d wanted to. It was tough, but I stuck it out.

One reason was I enjoyed her company and wanted to hear more about her teaching experiences and challenges. But, alas, there was more. As much as I wanted to slow it down a bit, I just couldn’t bring myself to ask her to. I don’t care if you’re half my age, I’m Jeff the indestructible!

Yes, I have plenty of room for improvement, too. Maybe I should eat more Good Humors.

Recovery, and Recovery from Recovery

It’s been eight weeks since I finished the Burning River 100, and overall, my recovery is mixed. The first four weeks went well – deceptively well, I told my coach.

What do I mean by “deceptively,” I hear you ask? I mean that physically, my body was telling me I was ready to get back at it – full speed training. It was trying to tell me that just one week after I finished. But I learned better – the hard way, naturally.

In both my first two 100-milers I felt physically ready to resume training one week after finishing. I went easy on the running, but I was back in the gym on my regular schedule. And in both cases, I paid for it. One year I was doing some weight work – presses or such – in the third week, and suddenly asking myself why I was feeling so goddamn weak? The wave of fatigue lasted a week.

Rest? Hah! I got stuff to TRAIN for!!

So I know it takes me six to eight weeks to recover entirely from a 100-miler. But for a couple of reasons, this time is different. The second four weeks, far from ramping my training up for my next ultra (a 55K in mid-October) have been more like stagnation.

One reason is my lower abs, which continue to be frustratingly mildly sore. Not like a few months ago, where it really hurt to run even a short distance. But it has never healed completely. Even a full week off of running didn’t help. So, after consultation with my trainer, we’re shifting the focus of my gym work to “rehab” which basically means we’re working to keep everything loose and manage the pain rather than try to get rid of it.

And for the past month, I’ve had unpredictable swings in energy levels. There are days I feel like there’s very little in the tank. Sometimes a run will recharge me, and sometimes not. Sometimes naps help, and sometimes not. Frustrating. I seem to have good energy for the races I’m working, at least. Good thing, given this month was Dances with Dirt – a 15-hour day – and Run Woodstock, three days of nonstop Zero Waste. It’s rewarding, and I get lots of appreciation, but it does suck me pretty dry.

Did you know I have groupies? I do now!

Finally, there’s a family medical situation that is not going well. We’re releasing the news slowly, and probably won’t be doing much social media. I’ll share more about it soon in this blog, however.

But I don’t want to make it sound like things are rotten all over. There are things to look forward to, and I’ve got races to run. And I’ll be telling you all about it here. Thanks again, readers! I love you all.

Getting Ready to Burn that River!

The Burning River 100 starts dark and early (4:00 a.m.) Saturday morning. And I’m ready to get my body on the trails.

Do I feel like I’m optimally trained for it? Depends. It’s been three years since I last ran a 100+ mile race – the Veterans Memorial 150 in 2018 – but it doesn’t feel all that long ago. And I’ve run two ultras already this year, a 100K and 50K.

Main issue is I’m coming off some strained lower abs that just would not get better, which reduced my running volume a lot. But I kept at in the gym and substituted bike rides, and right now I’m feeling better physically than I have in many months.

As for preparation, I’ve probably overthought it. All I really need to run the silly race is a good pair of shoes and a socially acceptable minimum of clothing. The aid stations are close enough together that I don’t need a crew or to carry a lot of gear. Temps promise to be warm, too, so there’s little risk of going hypothermic like I did at the Grandmaster 100K, even if it rains all night. Which it might. But I have two drop bags with dry clothes, first aid basics, and extra salt tablets JIC.

Below you can see what I’m planning to wear at race start. I prefer triathlon shorts for long events because their compression fit reduces chafing, and they dry quickly when wet. Calf sleeves help with circulation and protection against thorny shrubs and the like. I’m trying out the Injinji individual toe socks instead of taping my toes. They’ve felt fine in test runs, and should reduce blistering. The towel can be soaked in cold water and worn under my hat when it gets warm in the afternoon.

As for shoes? A toss-up. I’m planning to go with my New Balance 880s, which are more for roads, and see how it goes. Mainly for comfort reasons, and that there isn’t a crazy amount of elevation gain. I have actual trail shoes in my drop bags in case the trail conditions need them.

If anyone reads this in time and is interested in my real-time progress, you can find me on the RaceJoy app. Look up Burning River (in Ohio), and select bib #136 to track. Cutoff is 30 hours, but I hope to be done well before then.

Finally, one might wonder why I put myself through all this. I’ve been asked this many times, as you might imagine, and I don’t have a clear, coherent answer yet. But this T-shirt below is as good a reason as any, IMO.

Turnaround

Yesterday I went out to Chelsea for my assigned tempo run. Being winter in Michigan, it was cold, and I ran the first half uphill into a stiff headwind. It had the makings of a real suck. But the sky was blue and the sun was shining after weeks of miserable gray, and when I turned around and headed back, things felt so much better. All in all, a pretty good run.

And a pretty good analogy, in my mind anyway, of recent happenings in this country.

Now I’m not going to say that the entirety of the last four years was one big suck for me. Quite the contrary. My wife survived cancer, one daughter got married, and our other one got engaged. And I had a number of memorable adventures which I’ve written about previously here.

But on Inauguration Day I felt very much like that tempo run turnaround point. The wind had shifted and the breathing got easier. It had gotten so bad I stopped listening to the news, so I wouldn’t have to hear about the latest crazy-ass thing our then occupant of the Oval Office said or did. Believe what you like about our new commander in chief, but he has a brain and a heart, and cares about more than himself alone. I feel so much better about our country. And, apparently, so does most of the rest of the world.

I hope this gives us all a chance to pause and reflect on where we need to go as a nation, and how we should behave toward each other. Whether you’re liberal or conservative, let’s talk, and I will listen and ask questions. We don’t have to agree, or even like each other, but we need to understand each other so we can all learn and make ourselves and America better.

Burning Man. The ultimate “get along” experience. Everyone should go once.

I run in Michigan winters because it makes me stronger, and helps me achieve my goals. Maybe we had to go through a period of adversity to remind us that democracy cannot be taken for granted, and getting along with each other requires active engagement. I have to hope we emerge stronger as Americans because of it. That remains to be seen, of course.

But for the moment, I’m happy to breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the sunshine.