Rain in my hair, don’t care

As I walked into the kitchen at 6:15 this morning, I heard the cat yowling for his breakfast rain pounding on the roof and came thisclose to going back to bed. Especially since last Saturday’s six-mile run and Tuesday night’s four miles were … unpleasant. Aside from the pain, I’ve been favoring my left leg, so I’m running more on my forefoot than usual and everything is just a little off.

But Thursday, I got a new pair of shoes–the next version of the ones I’ve been wearing–and maybe kinda sorta felt a little improvement on a two-mile test run. So, perhaps I was overly optimistic to think anything would be different today, but I went anyway.

It was 46* (and still raining, but lighter now) as we headed out. In my head, I was hoping for six miles, but continuing on this overly-optimistic theme, I really wanted to make it seven. I mean, the Austin half is coming up fast–pretty soon I’ve got to decide if I can put in enough training to finish that race. But I promised myself I’d go further only if my knee was feeling good. I figured I’d know by the second mile–that’s when the last couple of runs have fallen apart.

Clearly my endurance has taken a huge hit since running a ten-miler, then two 5K PR races back-to-back-to-back in November. So I plodded along a minute per mile slower than usual for a Saturday run. But aside from that, I felt closer to normal than I have in a while. My strides were more even, my foot striking less gimpy. One mile, then two. Still good.

At the mile three water stop (which would also be my turnaround for six miles) I could see the roof of my house. Part of me was tempted to duck through the gap in the fence and go make a coffee or something. But even though I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop (so to speak) and the gimpiness to return, I actually enjoyed being out there–in the rain and cold and wind–because I could.

So I kept going another half-mile, for seven.

One of my friends turned back at three, and the other two got ahead, planning to turn around at four. I stopped and stretched my hamstring at 3.5, watched the steam rise off the pond (it had been nearly 80* most of the week), then headed back. Slowly, but still mostly normal, with just a little hamstring achiness every so often. In those middle miles, I walked a bit now and then (because endurance) but generally maintained a steady, albeit glacial, pace.

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The wind picked up on the return trip. My headphones died the last half-mile. I couldn’t keep up with my friends. My new shoes felt too tight and I kept having to loosen the laces to get them just right. But you know what? I DID NOT CARE.

I had hoped for a half-assed six-miler and I got a solid seven miles. Rain nor cold nor gloom of night could keep me from my appointed rounds. And afterward, foam-rolling felt a little easier. Hell, walking felt a little easier. In fact, the rest of the day I felt no residual soreness at all–for the first time since Thanksgiving I ran pretty well, then moved around completely pain-free afterward.

That’s not to say after our post-run coffee celebration I didn’t sit on the couch watching Netflix, warming my toes by the fireplace. But I did it comfortably.

 

 

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Rainbows and silver linings

Right before we left for South Padre, I got a call from school. I was given a choice of three classrooms–none of which was the one I’ve occupied since 2006–and needed to move my stuff ASAP. Since I was gone the rest of last week, it had to be Monday. I was not looking forward to it.

I recruited some NJHS volunteers, and in about two hours we had almost everything packed. It looks much worse than when we started, but that’s because the contents of nine bookshelves and a cabinet filled up about 25 boxes scattered around the room, in addition to everything I’d packed up for summer. I have a lot of stuff.

I’m dreading the work involved, but in the end, it will be a good move–I’ll have a newer classroom with a lot more technology, and I’ll be right across the hall from the other two 7th grade Language Arts teachers. So… silver lining.

Like last Monday’s post-core class run. The one where we felt like we were running in an oven with a hair dryer blowing on us. I started dreading this week’s version around 2PM yesterday.

I’d just walked in the door for core class when the skies opened up and dropped a monsoon-like rain on Central Texas. It rained on and off for the next hour, but when S and I walked outside to run, we both groaned. Humidity, emerging sun, ugh. But really, it wasn’t that bad. Temps had dropped 15 or 20 degrees, and it was still drizzling a little.

I’m slow in the summer–I generally run by effort, not pace. But most of my weekday runs have averaged in the high 11-minute miles (not including multiple water breaks) so it was a nice surprise when we ran three miles straight through, with our last mile in the high 10s.

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We only stopped once the whole run–to take this picture.

These little summer showers and brief respites from the heat always remind me that running will get easier in the fall.

More silver linings.

The Windy, er Rainy City

Since Saturday, we’d driven through five states and slept in three cities. So on Tuesday, I took a break. Well, I still managed 24,193 steps, but I didn’t run.

Wednesday, though, I took advantage of a cool, rainy morning in Chicago. When I left my hotel–well, once my Garmin finally got a signal–I wasn’t sure where I was going or how far, but I had a vague idea of a route in my head. I headed over the river, dodging puddles and the occasional early commuter. The tall buildings threw off my Garmin, which told me I ran my first mile in 8:16. Uh, no. I felt good in the rain, but it was still rain, not magic water.

Turns out, I couldn’t run through Grant Park because preparations were underway for the upcoming Taste of Chicago festival and the whole thing was fenced off. I ended up running around the outside of the park, then through Maggie Daley Park (and its cool serpent-like bridge over Columbus Drive) and Millennium Park back to the hotel.


I ended up with five miles–although to get the last .25 I had to circle the block around our hotel. But the cool rain made for such a pleasant run that I didn’t mind. Like my first mile, though, my fifth showed a pace too fast–and apparently I fell into the river more than once. But my run helped me pre-atone for what came next: a trip to Wrigley Field.


I think it’s going to take more than five miles to atone for our post-game deep-dish pizza dinner, though.

OKC + Thunder

After sitting in the car for the better part of seven hours last Saturday, we reached our first destination: the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. The museum–housed in the former Journal Record building which was across the street from the Murrah Federal building–is extremely well-done, informative and somber both for those who remember the April 19, 1995 bombing, and for those too young to have seen the original coverage. The tour starts with an audio recording of a municipal hearing that began at 9:00 morning and ended two minutes later when the bomb went off. One of the final displays is what’s left of one of the building’s rooms, the museum built around the rubble.

Outdoors is the memorial itself–a reflecting pool and field of 168 empty chairs, some child-sized–built on the site of the Murrah building. Some of its original foundation forms the back wall, and a surviving tree stands between the museum building and the memorial. It’s beautiful, and so sad.


From OKC we drove another two hours or so to Tulsa, a city that surprised me with its combination of restored old buildings and innovative new ones. We stayed in a hotel formerly known as the Atlas Life Insurance building, an art deco structure dating back to the 1920s. After dinner with some friends we wandered around downtown a bit–the area was almost completely dead on a Saturday night–and decided that Tulsa now is a lot like the Austin of twenty years ago when we could drive downtown and find free parking.

Sunday we woke up to a rainy morning, but that didn’t keep us from our run. We headed toward the Arkansas River and the local running and biking trail, but as we ran the rain picked up into a full-blown thunderstorm. We ducked into a hotel for a moment, and when it looked safer we resumed our run. We made a wrong turn and found what we think was the most likely place in Tulsa to discover a dead body–an underpass between the OSU medical center and the old Route 66–but quickly corrected our mistake. By now the rain was coming down in torrents, and for a moment when I heard a siren I wondered if some neighbors had called police on the crazy people running in the rain.

After a little more than a mile, we reached the river trail. The path is divided–one lane for cyclists and one for runners. There was zero traffic, but I loved the concept. So many times on the BCRT, a much narrower space, cyclists come flying up behind me with no warning, and there isn’t a lot of room for both runners and cyclists going each direction. But here, each group can coexist peacefully and safely. And since it was rainy and cool, I pretty much felt like I could run for miles. Glorious.

We only ran about half a mile along this path before we reached a sign for the old Route 66. We stopped and checked out the old bridge (closed now, even to foot traffic) and eventually ran across the river via the pedestrian route. The old structure resembles Austin’s Congress Avenue bridge, but unfortunately here they’ve built ugly utilitarian bridges on either side of it, so its beauty is mostly hidden.


The rain eased up as we retraced our steps back to the hotel, and we ended up with 4.2 miles before loading up the car for another long day on the road.

Next up: St. Louis, MO

Exercise, therapy, and a shower … All at the same time

Halloween. Valentine’s Day. The week before Spring Break. 

These are times that try men’s souls a teacher’s patience. Add in thunderstorms, several “sorry for the short notice, must do this today!” requests, SXSW, and a bunch of schools dismissing early on Friday, well, things were crazier than usual all week. 

So even though it was drizzling and traffic was hideous, I drove out to the trail on Thursday to burn off some stress. No cars were parked at the trailhead, and the first mile I encountered not one person. In fact, by the time I turned around at 2.5 miles, I’d only passed two runners. Yeah, it was wet and about 60*, but I didn’t expect to be able to count on one hand the number of people out there. 

The rain caused the creek to swell, fed by waterfalls and runoff channels. Bluebonnets began to bloom (although the grounds crew had inexplicably mowed over a swath of them) and a large crane-like bird stared at me as I passed. 

 
On the way back, I passed only a few more people. Two runners, a couple of walkers, and a cyclist. But it was truly the quietest I’ve ever seen the trail. Yeah, my shirt was damp and my shoes got a little muddy walking back to my car. But it was cool and pleasant and it felt good to be out there. Refreshing, even. 

Let’s be honest though. I still needed a shower when I got home. 

Less unpleasant than I expected

Today’s ten-mile run had every reason to suck.

It was raining and 37* when I left the house. My car taunted me by playing “Walking on Sunshine” on the radio. My hip (I’m going to keep calling it that for convenience) still feels funky. I’ve nursed a bad-run hangover since Thursday’s turkey trot. And the route was one I don’t particularly like. Remember that cold, solo 14-mile run where I got caught in a downpour the last three miles and two cars stopped to see if I wanted a ride? Same route. Same weather. So I was not in a great frame of mind when we headed out.

The rain had stopped, leaving us with only a little drizzle. I wasn’t confident it would hold off for our whole run, but it was a start. Then, after the first mile, I realized that my hip felt … less bad. I’d been given the okay to try ten miles as long as I never felt sharp or increasing pain. It started out as more of a dull ache and pretty much stayed that way.

At some point it occurred to me that my lack of energy on Thursday could have been related to my having blood taken on Wednesday morning. I don’t know how much they took (I can barely stay conscious, let alone watch how much they’re siphoning from me) but it would make sense. I mean, I was fine on Tuesday night and drained (haha) on Thursday. I ran slowly this morning, but it felt better than my last run.

Just short of three miles, we made the turn to follow the sidewalk path alongside the highway. We’d gone approximately twelve steps when we stopped to zip up jackets and put on gloves. The highway formed a wind tunnel, sending 37-degree gusts into our faces. Ugh.

At the bottom of the hill we crossed under the highway and continued along the sidewalk. Still into the wind.

At the next intersection, we turned left. Last time I ran this route, the sidewalk continued around the corner and along this road, well, for miles. But some unfinished construction had chewed up the sidewalk and shoulder, leaving us to run in the road along a relatively blind curve, for 100 yards or so.

We jumped back off the road as soon as the sidewalk resumed, and I tried to block out the view in front of me. This route runs straight along this road for several more miles, and although we weren’t going that far, I still hate the monotony of this section.

When we reached five miles, we stopped for a breather. I looked for my inhaler and could not find it. I’d remembered taking it out of my backpack and I thought I’d put it in my jacket pocket, but it was not there now. Gah. I’d either left it on the shelf back at Rogue or I’d lost yet another one while running. Fortunately I wasn’t desperately in  need of it at that moment–it just might have helped me breathe better in the cold.

I remember starting my watch again as we began the return trip, but about a quarter-mile later it buzzed, alerting me it was about to go into power saver mode. Which means I had not in fact restarted it. That’s what I get for trying to work it through my jacket and shirt sleeve, I guess.

Back across the no-sidewalk section, through the wind tunnel, up the hill, then a hard-earned water stop. We were kind of slow coming up the last hill back to Rogue, but other than the typical ten-mile-run soreness and a minor ache from my hip, I felt okay. Ready to get out of the windy cold, but okay.

All things considered, it was quite a bit less unpleasant than I had expected. Now I can justify sitting on the couch, watching football and eating Thanksgiving leftovers.

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Official change of seasons

Yep, we’ve officially moved from air conditioner season to heated seats season.

And ark season, apparently.

This is the sports park we often run through:

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This morning’s route was supposed to cut through the sports park to the lake park, but the whole complex has been under water since last weekend’s flooding, and from what I’ve seen on the news, it will be a while before it’s cleaned up and re-opened.

That respiratory thing I picked up right before last week’s race got worse before it got better, but by today I felt mostly normal. Still had a bit of a cough, but nothing that would keep me home this morning. I planned to take it easy though–the schedule said 8-10ish miles, but I opted for six. Two ten-mile races in three weeks and some funky breathing told me to take it down a notch. A couple of other folks were planning six as well, so we headed out together.

It was drizzly but not too bad. Even though it was about 55*, I skipped the jacket and the hat, figuring if it stayed like this, I’d be too hot. And if it started raining, that stuff wouldn’t help me much anyway.

My hip twinged a bit the first mile, but it loosened up and felt mostly okay after that. But then my stomach started feeling weird, I coughed a bit, and I started to question my ability to run four more miles. I slogged on, up into the hilly neighborhood. By the halfway point, it had passed and I felt okay again.

And then the rain picked up.

For the next three miles, rain pelted us steadily and thoroughly. Occasional gusts of wind blew rain right into my face. My clothes and shoes were quickly soaked–I think I carried about five extra pounds via rainwater by the end. Brings new meaning to the term water weight! So while I only ran six miles, I think I should get credit for like eight when you consider the cold and rain, yes?

On the drive home, I passed the entrance to the sports park, still barricaded. If the water had receded at all since Tuesday, this morning’s rain flooded it again.

Go home, El Nino. You’re drunk.

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Hope the ark has heated seats.