Why I Run: Curiosity

Curiosity of a huge tree

Are you someone who gets bored easily? I am. There are endless skills to learn, games to play, and projects to pursue. Yet, I have this strange habit of enjoying the planning and daydreaming of some complex thing and then feeling bored with it once the proof-of-concept passes. To stick with something, I need more than the passing interests. I need a driven curiosity to explore the limitations.

Shapes

I’ve often pondered the difficulties of having no reliable vision. To rely on the sense of touch to evaluate the size of a thing and guess at it’s shape. If you are handed a small ball, you instantly recognize the sphere. But it you place your hand out and feel a large surface, it takes more consideration. Is it at an angle or have a curvature? Where are the edges? What texture is it and can that help estimate the other features?

A large surface vaguely perpendicular to the ground could curve on an axis side to side, like a cylinder, and have a rough uneven surface, and you may think that is a tree. But what of a particularly large tree? I have seen trees whose trunks larger than some houses. It may then seem to be as a wall as the curvatures is so subtle. Yet, if you follow the wall, inevitably you would get the sense of turning in your movement. But until you went all the way around and found some element that you recognized, you might not be sure that the edge wasn’t just a bit beyond. That edge is the clue to be sure it is a wall, and that certain returning curvature the best support that it is a tree.

I often talk to my work colleagues and some of our customers about ‘feeling out the edges’ of this or that concept. It may be the rules of a game, or the conceptual space of a program. Sometimes I try to ‘feel out the edge’ of a community. And the above thought experiment is what has created that part of my language. I consider it very natural to look for the edges on unfamiliar shapes so I can plot them out. That is my curiosity.

I Want to Know it All

Perhaps it is a funny way in which my mind works. Or it may be a common ailment that most people keep put away from polite society. Endlessly and ruthlessly curious, I love to think on the complex. Even when it is of such complexity as to overwhelm or evoke pain at the handling. I love to run little simulation in my mind and test concepts in a system. Sometimes it is orderly, but most often it is a flight of fancy. But, once I find an edge, or I tire of looking, boredom sets in.

Not always a deep sense of boredom, but boredom with the shape of the thing. If I have found the edge, I am eager to move on. There are so many things in this world to experience and know. Some, I do wish not to experience for one gruesome reason or another, such as falling into a wood-chipper. But so much else is offered by this strange world, that I can’t help but want to get the basics and then fly to the next related, or unrelated, thought and explore it.

What About The Running?

It is a fair question as to what I am getting at here. At the root it is simple: What can be done? I once could not run beyond some basic attempt at flight from mortal peril. Today, I am pursuing ambitious running goals. Last year, I felt along the shape of running and my goals and thought that the half-marathon may be the edge. I got through it and felt certain for a moment that I must have found that edge as I trundled across the finish line all fury and desperation to be done. But, with a little rest and thought, I decided that that clearly wasn’t the edge of this thing.

There are people who have done amazing feats with their feets. Boston Qualifiers, sub-4-minute miles, 3100 mile races around a single city block, crossing the continent in a race, and so much more. And here when I first started this I thought I might be getting a little silly at wanting to run over 2000 miles in a single year. Still, I am pushing my own envelope, of flesh and air, and I am still curious as to what the end shape will be. I have a curiosity as to what this bio-mechanical apparatus can experience and do when asked ever more of it.

Digression into Story-time

I’m also curious about others. I was running yesterday on a mid-week long run, taking advantage of these spotty warm days, when in the middle of mile 9 a gentleman with at least 10 years on me came barreling past wearing a green race shirt. I’ve been out enough to recognize the signs of experience, and he was clearly a running veteran. So, I fell in behind him as best I could maintain to try and match his footfalls and watch his form. I wanted to learn all I could. I wondered, as he steadily pulled ahead of me despite my efforts, how long had he be running and what keeps him going?

The path I run crosses a couple roads and as we approached one such intersection, he was happily ahead of me enough that when the light shifted to allow our passage, I never broke stride to slow down. Coincidentally, four gentlemen, in formations of two, between green’s age and mine where coming up the road to turn onto the path. Green pulled right on ahead easily and as the formation turned onto the path, I slotted in right between the two pairs by blind happenstance. I can tell from my Strava that one of them was Tim and another Roger after the fact, but on the run I just settled in to this position and tried to maintain it.

Keep Up!

There is an interesting subtle pressure present when running around the same pace as others without planning it. With a pair only five feet ahead and behind me, I had to maintain pace discipline. And they were faster than me, if for no other reason than I already had 9 miles under my feet and they were relatively fresh in their runs. For around a mile, they unwittingly pushed me closer to an edge I was looking for. It was great.

I could hear them chatting to each other just over the sound of my earphones, which I admittedly always have too loud. I thought hard about dropping one or both earphones out to say hello. Reflecting on it I should have, but I had a real fear that any attempt to speak would kill my ability to keep pace with them, defeating the purpose. There also was a bit of a socially anxious sense that I had just inserted myself, literally, into their formation, happenstance or not, and felt perhaps best to keep quiet anyhow.

I think I can send them a message on Strava, so now that I am reflecting on it, I’ll say hi. Let them know I am talking about them with the world, ha! After about a solid 8-minute mile, I peeled off for some much needed water. I also had to head back towards my starting point as my running time was about up for the day. I’m now curious about them. How long have they been at it, why, and have they found their edges?

What About You?

Do you have curiosity driving you to explore something? Is there some other force that has you pushing to the edges or looking for the next thing?  Or should I be just reading about all those who have found the edges of what is possible for the human form and just cheer them on? I’d love to know what you think.

Humility, Hurting, and Healing: Dealing with Injury

IT Band Syndrome Injury Diagram

Humbly, I must first apologize

I made a commitment to posting regular blogs on here regarding my progress towards my ambitious goal to run 2017 miles this calendar year. I recently got a nagging injury that sidelined my progress and I stopped posting. As of today, my last post was just over three weeks ago. Anyone who was following my progress has probably considered that I’ve given up. Abandoned this project. I have not, but I have disappointed myself with that pause. I am very sorry.

No Excuses

At the end of my first week, I ran 15 miles on a small indoor track. In the process, I started down an injurious path. I pushed myself through the last 20 or so laps that day despite a pain growing in my right knee. Maybe I was pushing too many miles too quickly. Perhaps it was the noticeable inclination of the turns on the track. Either way, my long beaten shoes were a factor. I didn’t pay attention to what my body was telling me and pushed it in bad ways.

I followed that week with a fairly steady schedule, but whenever I had particularly cold runs, that pain would creep back, and I would try to ignore it. Finally, around the first week of February, I had two excruciating and short runs that was more than I could ignore. My right leg had what I’ve internet-diagnosed as IT Band Syndrome.

Pains Make No Gains

Imagine, if you would, spilling a pot of boiling water on the outside edge of your leg. That is effectively flared up IT Band Syndrome. The tendon that runs down the outside of the leg and connects the muscle groups of the thigh with the tibia just below the knee is the IT Band. When things go wrong that band of tendon can rub back and forth over the bony structures of the joint causing internal friction and inflammation of all the tissues in the area. The joint doesn’t hurt, or click, but the area just on the outside of the joint, and running up the leg, burns.

What’s more is that most tendons stretch well and can be loosened this way. The IT Band is a resilient sucker though. Because of it’s location, it is difficult to find movements that actually stretch it, and it is a strong powerhouse of a tendon capable of withstanding a lot of force without deforming. This causes IT Band Syndrome to commonly be a lingering and sidelining injury, ending running careers.

Searching for Solutions

After my excruciating experiences, I decided to try resting the injury, but that would mean no running whatsoever. When I had just posted an article about taking control by running I must relinquish that control. There were other factors going on in my life as well and between them all, I was stuck in something of a dark rut. Cold weather, injury, hectic real and mental life. These all pushed me back into bed at every opportunity.

I look for help, but my options are limited. For reasons I won’t get into, a physician isn’t available to help me, so I am left to my own devices. I purchased new shoes and tried to run in them with mixed results. spent two weeks hobbling around with a knee brace half the time, hoping it would help. Finally, I expressed my vexation on Facebook to friends and family, and finally got sent in a direction that my previous research had not yielded.

Push It, Push It Real Good

My cousin, Sam, pointed me to this Youtube video, which explained some of the mechanical functions of the IT Band. While I couldn’t quite manage the movement he demonstrates in the video, the mechanics gave me an idea. In the video, he describes how the muscles from the hip down to the knee are all pulling on the IT Band in various ways. Tightness in the hip and glutes can pull on the whole system and make the tendon too tight, leading to the injury. Thus the answer seemed straight forward enough: beat the holy hell out of those muscles.

So, I did. As best I could, I administered massage and pushed on the muscles of my right leg until I was sore in arms and leg for a whole new set of reasons. As I tried to study my pain and lamented my lack of progress in running, I noticed another pattern that emerged: my pain flared on frigid days. On more tepid and comfortable days, I could go much further and at a much better pace.

Recovery? Seems it.

While I’ve been admittedly wallowing and frustrated, I’ve not given up on my goal. I will just need to redouble my effort, reevaluate my plan, and recommit to the parts I let languish. Such as this blog. It pains me to let people down, and I also expect a lot out of myself. It is not acceptable to me to not meet the commitment of providing thoughtful and consistent content here chronicling my journey. Likewise, I found resting a tough pill to swallow, even if it was for the right reasons. There is no excuse that would satisfy me.

As of today, I think I’ve made the majority of my recovery. I was able to do over 11 miles today and plan a long run in what promises to be beautiful weather on Friday. I will need to be careful to work around any cold snaps that this winter and spring still has left for me. Additionally, I need to continue the therapeutic muscle releasing massages to head off bad flare ups of the IT Band pain again.

But, in the end, I think I’m back.

One Week running 40.75 Miles. So many to go!

Inside Running Track

One week and over 40 miles down.

And it is only the beginning. I didn’t quite hit the 43 mile (69km) ‘typical’  week goal, but I’m good with what I did this week for a few reasons.

It’s been really cold.

And I’m prepared to run in the cold, but my phone isn’t. When my phone decides 50-odd minutes into a run to give-up, that really disturbs my flow. It appears that my phone isn’t going to do well when the temperature falls below freezing. With some careful fumbling and awkward running, I can cradle the phone in between my layer to warm it, kinda. Not ideal.

Speaking of layers, I’ve got clothes to run in cold down to 20°f (-6°c).  Even that wasn’t going to pass on Friday when it was 9°f (-12°c), a respectably miserable wind chill, and a long run to tackle. I was already behind from missing my Wednesday afternoon run and losing portions of my runs to phone crashes. It was time to take a drastic action.

Getting an inside track

Friday was my long run, and the (hopefully) coldest day of the year. It was no secret as the weather forecasts saw it coming as a huge contrast against our unusually warm mid 30s. Cold like that is an obstacle to me. Do not want. I took to problem-solving. Luckily, in my Facebook a week or so ago, I got served an ad for Promedica Wildwood Athletic Club.

They are located literally around the corner from the park where I do most of my running. Being familiar with where it was, and the Promedica name being a prominent healthcare provider in our region that I’ve even looked to work for, I checked them out. Thursday night, I filled out an online form to get in touch with them. Friday morning, I got a call from their Manager, Clint, asking me to come in and try them out. They had a really nice, though fairly small facility. A lot packed into a compact footprint. My interest was upstairs.

Running in circles. Or ovals.

As I came up the stairs to their indoor track, the small size of it really hit me. One mile on this track required 14 laps. That is around 377 feet per lap, and I have 15 miles to cover. My phones GPS didn’t get along with the steel and concrete structure, but at least with the track, if I kept count, I could track my distance.

While the temperature was comfortable enough for shorts, the track has its drawbacks. For one, running in one direction the tilt of the track near the corners made for some uneven impact on my right leg. My knee felt that difference over the trails and paved surfaces I tend to frequent. Secondly, it was tedious. I’ve ran on indoor tracks before in my dabbling years as the University of Toledo has a nice Rec Center. I know from that experience that I can’t keep count well without a trick, so a trick it was to be.

Using a combination of a memory peg system and mental imagery, I ran that 377 foot loop 210 times. Each lap was mentally different as I imagine the surreal to keep mindful of my lap number. I was carrying scythe while running through a desert fed by sand falling out of a hourglass sun for lap 87. When I made it into the 100s an extra sun or moon was in the sky. The number 2 is a clothes hanger, or as I’ve worked it by relation, a coat. All through the twenties I wore many odd and fanciful coats. It was odd, but it relieved boredom and kept me mindfully aware of my lap count. Whatever works.

A busy couple weeks ahead

This week has some special events at work this weekend that may play hell with my schedule, but with any luck the weather will lean warm and I can get some extra miles in here and there. I have my first race of the year, Dave’s Ten-Miler, in just two weeks and while I don’t realistically plan on running with the pros, I do plan to test my own speed and improvement at it. I would also love to network with some of the area runners. My schedule is odd for many of the running groups I know of in the area, but I’d love to know more faces at the races.

Always improving. The site I mean…

You may find some things have moved around on the site, and that’s intentional. As I pursue this project, I’m learning more about WordPress. As I learn and have time to experiment, I will be constantly improving this site with little functions and features. If you haven’t seen it already, I’ve split log posts and blog posts (need to work on that wording…) off into separate pages. I’ve made the homepage static with a progress tracker at the top. I’ve also planned a couple more pages that need me to do more writing yet.

The Learning Curve: Starting, Running, Recording, and Sharing

Starting

Today I learned…

Everyday of this year is going to be a learning experience. When you take on what is a big challenge for you, you can’t help but learn every step of the way.

The people who care

I tried to generate some interest in meeting up for my New Year’s Day run that got my official mile count underway. There was no surprise that only three people turned out to cheer me on. I have a lot of support out there, but it takes a lot to go out in the early cold on a holiday after late-night celebrations. More people will join me as the weather improves and my goal reaches more ears. But, this first run will stand out in my memory for a long time because it was the beginning. And it was real bloody cold waiting for folks to show up!

Moving through the cold

Continue reading “The Learning Curve: Starting, Running, Recording, and Sharing”

First 6 miles down!

First, a huge ‘Thank You!’ to everyone who came out to support me and cheer me on. There weren’t many of you, but there never is at the beginning of something difficult and wonderful. I’ll write up some further thoughts later.
 
Got the first 6.2 miles out of 2017 recorded. My phone crashed before my last loop, so the Mapmyrun app I was using missed 1.3 miles. I know that is about the right amount because my less-accurate but reliable Fitbit Charge2 was active as a backup and that squares with the listed distance of the loop. Only 2010.8 to go!

The Challenge: Running 2017 Miles in One Year

Last year, 2016, held some personal victories for me. My proudest is the loss over 50lbs, 8 inches off my waist, and running in my first ever half-marathon. I owe a lot to running, a habit I cannot allow myself to lose. I plan to run in the local spring marathon, the Glass City Marathon, in late April, but it that goal seems too easy for me to be deeply challenged by it.

Enter 2017 Miles.

My goal for the year 2017 is to log at least 2017 miles of running. I hope to do it in various places and with various people and to share my thoughts, progress, and tips with the world at large while I do.

What does 2017 miles look like?

Continue reading “The Challenge: Running 2017 Miles in One Year”