Out of A Running Slump, Onto the Roads and Trails

Running is depressing me at the moment. I had a triumphant weekend, with a successful ten mile run Saturday and a successful fifteen mile hill

Barton Creek Greenbelt
Barton Creek Greenbelt

run yesterday. Today, I find myself once again rebelling against running in the cold weather that returned over night.I’m back to where I was last Thursday, when I aborted a run at its inception, went home, and finished off a bag of Tyrell’s sweet chili and red pepper chips. As I polished off those chips, I read an article about ultrarunning in the Trail Runner Inside Dirt that arrived in my email box that afternoon. Although, as one person stated in the comment section that follows the article, training for ultras is somewhat unstructured, I’m pretty sure that no one would suggest foregoing a run to stay home and eat a bag of chips as part of a successful training strategy for an ultramarathon, which is my ultimate goal (believe it or not!).

The problem is that we’re having another (really, honestly, super) cold snap. The temperature warmed up quite a bit Saturday and Sunday, which is why I had good runs over the weekend. I did manage to make myself run in the bitter cold last Wednesday, the first day of our most recent arctic front. That day I ran on the river in Austin before driving to San Antonio, even though the temperature was in the thirties and the cold wind made the wind chill factor even lower. I was uncomfortable at first, but I knew I would warm up tolerably for the short run for which I had time. I also knew I would feel better after my run, for having run, than I would feel if I skipped it just to avoid discomfort.

I’m not sure what happened to that woman who triumphed over her resistance to the cold run that day. I must have left her in Austin. The next day, after checking the forecast for the day, I decided to run about 2 pm. According to weather.com, the sun would be peeking out by that time, and the temperature would rise to about 40 degrees (from the 28 degrees with 19 degree chill factor at the time I was looking at the weather). Apparently, weather.com lies. As the morning hours passed, I began to suspect that the forecast was incorrect. The sun stayed stubbornly behind a cloud, and when the time came for me to prepare to run, the temperature was 30 degrees with a 23 degree wind chill factor. Even so, I pulled on my long compression-fit pants and a long-sleeved compression-fit shirt, pulled a knit cap over my ears, looped a scarf a couple of times around my neck, grabbed an extra pair of gloves, and then a pair of black socks for my feet. Yes, I actually covered my bare feet against the cold. I drove to the Stone Oak area so I could include those hills in my run: specifically Tabernacle Hill. I pulled on two pairs of gloves, put the socks on my feet, secured my scarf, tucked my hair up under my knit cap, and stepped out my car to begin my run. Continue reading “Out of A Running Slump, Onto the Roads and Trails”

Xero / Luna Huaraches: A Review (Updated Xero Review)

View from Eisenhower Tower 1
View from tower at Eisenhower Park

Last year I wrote the review (below) on the Zero huaraches I fell in love with. Unfortunately,

the Xero’s had a problem that make running on trails in the hot, humid Texas summer difficult: they lack surface texture necessary for keeping feet from slipping around in them. I like the Xero’s, I really do; however, I just cannot run well in them with my sweaty wet feet sliding around as I run. I turned to Barefoot Ted’s Lunas, the Leadville Pacer, which are made the monkey grip technology. The surface of these huaraches are textured for better traction. These huaraches are make running with wet feet much more manageable. I’ve been running trails in these sandals since last October and haven’t had one problem with my feet slipping around on the sandal’s footbed. For people who run in climates that don’t generate a lot of perspiration glow when they run, the Xeros may work just fine. For the rest of us, however, the Lunas’ monkey grip technology is necessary to prevent the slippage of sweaty glowing feet!

If my toes could sing, they would have been singing with joy when I wore my new custom-made Zero huaraches on an inaugural run on the unpaved trails at Eisenhower Park. Since that day seven years ago when I took off my running shoes and threw them away (well, actually I donated them to Good Will) to finally liberate my toes and feet from their culturally-imposed imprisonment, I’ve worn nothing at all on my feet when I run on paved surfaces. My feet are always joyful when they move me, unshod and unfettered, along streets and sidewalks. I do love to run unpaved trails, as well, and my trail running makes my feet, and thus my trail runs, a little sad. These trails in Texas are technical, with rocks, sticks, tree roots jutting up everywhere from the dirt. Running these trails barefoot is hazardous (although I know a barefoot woman in Boerne, TX, who does run some of them without any foot covering at all). I have run some trails in mountains in states other than Texas and because of the more gentle nature of those trails, I can run them with bare feet very easily. Here in Texas, however, I simply have to wear a little something on my feet when I run unpaved, technical trails.

Inaugural Xero Huarache Run Continue reading “Xero / Luna Huaraches: A Review (Updated Xero Review)”

“What Would Meghan Arbogast Do?” Age is No Excuse for Diminished Running Performance

“Our plan had been to run together for hopefully a couple of hours. Amy and I are similarly enough paced that it made sense to stay together as

Meghan Arbogast - Picture from sacramentorunning.com
Meghan Arbogast – Picture from sacramentorunning.com

long as possible. Working with someone on a flat paved long straight road has a lot of appeal, especially if there is any wind involved. Before long we were clicking of 7:07 miles. We didn’t need to run that fast, but we were comfortable, and I use my heart rate monitor during races to keep myself in control. For the first couple of hours it was 155 or lower, which was right on target for a sub-8 hour day.” (Meghan Arbogast, “Tokyo Shibamata 100k 2013,” Racing Through My Life)

“Even leading senior athletes can be subject to some of the fallibilities of age. At the New Zealand masters championships, I listened to a vigorous discussion between two upper age-group 10,000m contenders, tough runner talk about how hard and tactical their race had been. They sounded just like two competitive 25-year-olds – except that they couldn’t remember the names of any of the other runners. “ (Roger Robinson, “New Research on Older Runners,” Running Times, March 20,2013)

Perhaps the most worrisome thing about aging is the forgetfulness that creeps up time and again. These days Phillip and I will sit down to watch a movie that we think we’ve never watched. Partway through the movie, something will seem familiar; one of us will ask the other if perhaps we have seen the movie before. A few scenes more, and we’ll realize that yes, we have watched the movie before. Between the two of us, we’ll start to piece together the movie, remembering something or other that will come up in later scenes. Then one of us will ask the other how the movie ends, and neither of us will be able to remember the ending, so we forge ahead through the entire film just so we can see once again how it ends! Other smaller memory lapses are nuisances, such as those times I walk into a room to get something, but forget what I went into the room to retrieve. I listen to radio shows and read articles that cover issues such as recognizing the difference between normal age-related forgetfulness and more serious causes of forgetfulness such as Alzheimer’s disease. I carefully note the symptoms of each and measure my (or Phillip’s!) moments of forgetfulness against the list just to reassure myself that we’re merely dealing with the natural progress of aging. Continue reading ““What Would Meghan Arbogast Do?” Age is No Excuse for Diminished Running Performance”

When the Runner’s Mind Balks: Failure as “Temporary Unsuccess”

“The pain is the reality but your mind can inspire you past it. I look to the countryside, music, and art, to help inspire me.” (Yannis Kouros, “On the Trail with Yannis Kouros,” Running Times)

“Fail, it’s not in my dictionary. I’ve got a good dictionary up there and the words ‘fail’ and ‘failure’ have been ruled out for years. I don’t know what people are talking about who use that word. All I do know is temporary non-success, even if I’ve got to wait another 20 years for what I’m after, and I try to put that into people, no matter what their object in life.” (Percy Cerutty, qtd in “Herb Elliot on Percy Cerutty,” interview on Radio National, 5 Jan 2001)

The weather has turned hot, already. I missed the best of the late spring cool weather that always seems to surprise those of us who live in South IMG_0865Texas. Every year, March offers South – Central Texas runners cooler, more comfortable running weather than November does. Without exception, the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon, held mid-November, is a hot, uncomfortable race to run, even to the point where the announcer warns participants pre-race that it’s not a day for a PR. Runners, while waiting in their corrals, are warned to hydrate well and pace accordingly in the humidity and heat. Race volunteers stand just inside the finisher’s area, handing out cold, wet towels to over-heated race finishers. Yet every year, March ushers in cool, breezy weather so much more pleasant that of November that my runner friends and I wonder (repeatedly) why that big race cannot be moved to March.

March in San Antonio / Austin is a lovely month, and the temperate weather usually holds out until mid-May, with only a day here or there to remind us of the brutal summer conditions that lay ahead. This year I was rehabbing my calf tear during the temperate months. I made my slow, deliberate return to running in May, but at that point my running was still rather restricted. The increasingly warm, muggy weather wasn’t an issue until this week, when my longer distance runs coincided with our first temperatures in the mid to upper nineties. Continue reading “When the Runner’s Mind Balks: Failure as “Temporary Unsuccess””

A Joyful Return to Running

“Humans aren’t built to sit all day. Nor are we built for the kinds of repetitive, small movements that so much of today’s specialized work demands. Our bodies crave big, varied movements that originate at the core of our body.” (Scott Jurek, Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God. bullet proof coffee 3
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
(Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur”)

Ultra-runner champion Scott Jurek (whose autobiography is an extremely inspirational and interesting read, even for those of use who vehemently disagree with the ideas about diet and nutrition he espouses in the work) is correct: human bodies do long for big, varied movements, and when one is used to moving – running! – for miles every day, for long periods of time outside the house, a sudden halt to that activity brings her shock at first, then disbelieve next, then finally a reluctant, depressed acceptance of reality. At the moment when she realizes that she really, absolutely cannot run for an unspecified period of time, a sort of panic takes over. How, she asks herself, will she replace that movement: that activity that releases such endorphins into her being, and releases her into the world as well? Should she do upper body and core work at the gym, where she will be surrounded by television screens showing CNN or music videos? Surrounded by people plugged up to machines that merely mimic running – not even truly moving – while they remain plugged into their various personal technological devices? Where, in the gym, are the trees?

McAllister Park
McAllister Park Boardwalk, N of Tobin Trailhead

Continue reading “A Joyful Return to Running”