Monday, November 23, 2009

Trotting along

Last week, fighting off a cold and still suffering residual back pain from leaf raking, I took it fairly easy running. And so it was on Sunday that I gazed out at the brisk November air and hungered for a nice long run.

And I got one.

I walk to the end of my short side street, and I can turn left or right. I always turn left, and start my run. It runs straight for a half mile or so, and then has a few bends before it connects with a major road. I always turn around in the same spot, before it gets dangerous due to proximity to the main road, and head back along the same road and run past my side street. This completes the first leg of my run. By now I am feeling good; the hardest part of the run is over, not in terms of terrain but in terms of willpower. My body is moving now, my brain has stopped thinking about what else it could be doing, and I've made progress - roughly 1.5 miles of progress, actually.

The next leg of my run starts as I breeze past my own road and then turn left on a different side street, which loops up a small hill. I climb the steep but short hill, and then gently descend back to the street I started on. Turning left here keeps me running further from home and really sets the stage for the second leg of my run. The hill is out of the way, and what I have now is a run alongside a big pond. This is a pro and a con ... on the nice side, it's beautiful. I often see herons, people fishing in boats, wonderful views across the pond, and my mind is at peace. On the bad side, it's a narrow stretch of road with not much room for navigation, and on windy days the breeze coming off the pond can be heavier than you'd think.

A major decision point comes during the second leg of my run. How far do I go? Once I turn around, the third leg starts -- running home. I can stop any time I want, and there's a certain perverse joy that arises from pushing further and further from home. Sunday, I ran as far as I've ever run down that road, up a really punishing hill to another main road.

I turn around and start back down towards home. This third leg begins with a steep and long downhill, which tempts me to run too fast and really pressures my legs. Soon, though, the downhill is over and I'm back by the pond. Running past the pond on the way home is always beautiful but since I know I'm running home now my body starts to think it can get away with complaining more loudly. By the time I clear the pond and enter the final third-mile or so, I'm really ready for the run to be over. The route contains a subtle uphill during that last stretch, which always feels so much worse at the end of the run than at the start.

I turn the corner and begin walking at my own side street. I push the button on the Garmin and it tells me I've done 4.25 miles.

I've run further than that, but not this year. Not only that, but the only way I've run further than that (while living here) is by tacking unnecessary loops and such onto my route. This is the core of my longest running route. If I can do this, I can do the longer version of this run.

It was with a huge sense of accomplishment that I walked up my porch steps and back into the house Sunday.

Friday, November 20, 2009

No news is not news

When someone who primarily writes about fitness stops writing for a week-plus, you would be forgiven for assuming said writer had fallen hard off the wagon and was too ashamed to write about it.

That's not precisely the story here -- there's just not much to say of late that is interesting. I wrenched my back a bit doing yardwork and caught a mild cold, and so my running the past couple weeks hasn't been exactly breaking new ground. I'm still doing okay when it comes to diet, but again, mostly treading water.

Things are going just about as I'd expect them to, given the circumstances and my particular goals.

And while that's not terrible, it's not exactly newsworthy either. And, to be honest, there is some frustration on my part that I'm stagnating. And a bit of a reality check ... this is how easy it is to stagnate. Just a bit more lax and I'd stop stagnating and start losing fitness. Kind of scary how fast it happens.

Now, I could sit here and write about my latest computer game obsession, Dragon Age: Origins. Now there's an area where I'm making real progress ;).

Sunday, November 08, 2009


It's been a bit crazy at work lately, and I've been pouring a lot of mental energy into solving some issues there instead of thinking about my own fitness. With my short-term weight goal achieved and a clear plan for my running, I haven't had the same drive I've been relying on to keep me on track over the past few months.

In other words, I've been a bit slack on the diet end, coming up with all kinds of excuses. The results are speaking for themselves -- a solid week-plus at more or less the same weight, with my trendline beginning to creep into the "gain" rather than "lose."

What's important for me to remember is that while there are numerous "go ahead and splurge"moments scattered throughout the holiday season, the only way to come out of the season with momentum is to treat each such moment as just that -- a moment. If I let them become habits I'm going to starting 2010 headed in the wrong direction.

I write this here, in public, because it's important to remind myself of these things, and what better reminder is there than this?

The situation at work is sorted out. The Halloween candy is out of the house. Distractions should be at a minimum for a week or two....

No runs this weekend; too busy doing yardwork and nursing back pain afterward. My back is a traitor to my cause. Weight this morning was up two pounds from my recent low and 1.5 pounds from my 2009 holiday maintenance goal.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

It feels so good to stop

Neil Peart, when describing long-distance cycling, says it reminds him of a man who beats his head against the wall, and when his doctor asks him why he does it, he says it's because it feels so good when he stops.

There are moments of true joy in running, but (in my limited experience) none of them beat the moment when your run is complete. You did everything you set out to do, your heart finally begins to slow down, your legs understand that you're done abusing them, and the incessant "thump thump thump" noise of your feet hitting the road finally stops. You realize that the thing you were half-dreading is finally over, and you are filled with satisfaction and empowerment.

Some days it feels great to run, some days it feels awful, but it always feels awesome when I stop.

Of course, that only works if you start. It's hard to remind your body of that when you're trying to psych yourself into lacing up and heading out the door....

Update: 3.5 miles during lunch today, longest run of the year for me. Heart rate was higher than I'd like. Splurged a bit on sweets around Halloween but nothing disastrous; just enough to keep my weight hovering around the same number for a week now.