Monday, December 28, 2015

Back in the Saddle

Took 10 days off. No running. A lot of eating, especially sweets. Not much of anything athletic. Did work a lot so that kind of filled up the no running spaces. Gained a little weight. And by about the 9th or 10th day I was climbing the walls, ready to lace up the sneaks, and let her rip somewhere.

Got a brisk 6 mile run in today, most of which was back on the Carolina Beach State Park trails. Legs were a bit creaky, and my left ankle felt like it wanted to roll a few times, especially in the real loose sand near the Cape Fear River.

But it was great to be back out. Hammering some miles out as the last vestiges of daylight slipped away, and darkness fell gently upon the island. I forgot how beautiful the aforementioned Cape Fear River can look, like it did today beneath a low hanging dome of whitish grey clouds which served to blur out the far shoreline some.

I saw a green light attached to a post along the water and thought back to a night run me and Natasha did out past Airlie Gardens... when we saw a solitary green light across the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway and I said it reminded me of one of the quintessential scenes in the Great Gatsby. And she shared that for her the run was like being in a Lewis Carrol book.

I hadn't thought of that since a night maybe two years ago when I was out on a run...

How the memories will come back to us suddenly and seem so tangible, the intensities of which can almost put us in a queer trance like state that we momentarily lose any semblance of time and place...

Meanwhile our bodies, so conditioned to the movements churn forward step after step after step...

I got out the woods and onto the dark, wet streets and headed home on the some of the same roads I've trod hundreds of times, but with a bit of a tingle in my bones. For I hadn't really left, yet it was good to be back.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A run with a friend

I had planned to take as many days off as I could after last Saturday's race, and 4 mile run with Rick afterwards around Greenfield Lake. Partly to give my body and mind a little extended rest, and also in the hopes that my lower leg/ foot aches could clear up some more. Ideally two weeks off with no running, to follow the advice many college and high school coaches prescribe their runners. But... this is much easier said then done, and truth be told volume wise I have not run that much since the end of summer, though the intensity has been fairly moderate.

However, the point of this rest or reduction in running is also to kind of reset and recalibrate my "running soul" as we head into a new year. Ripe as always with new challenges, ambitions, plans, races to be run... where we kind of take the long view as runners surveying the vast frontier that stretches far, far beyond the horizon. Infinite paths and byways will inevitably greet us on our pilgrimages into the next calendar year. It's exciting, fresh...and sweet like the dew lying atop springtime's green grasses.

First though winter awaits. For some of us it's another foray into the teeth of marathon training plans as we eyeball the Big Race in March or April.  For others... it is hiding indoors and patiently waiting for mother nature to thaw. While we get in some runs here and there, perhaps on the weekends when we can actually find some daylight to run in.

Yesterday I got a text, and then a phone call right as I got home from work from a friend I've known for going on a decade now. They wanted to run... so I said sure I'll be over in a few minutes.

We went for an easy 5 mile run, most of which was on the trails in the Carolina Beach State Park. It was a gorgeous mid December day, sunny skies and temperatures feeling balmy in the 60s. In general, as humans we tend to sometimes not see what may be going on close by to us in the internal lives of others... unless it concretely manifests in the external world of which we happen to share with them.

There's something spiritually magic at times about a shared run. Barriers which may hinder open and honest communication tend to fall away.  Our own inhibitions about revealing our true selves seem to slowly melt as the miles slip by. And to sort of borrow a saying from commercial culture, what happens on the run stays on the run. Without either party ever having to acknowledge as such. For we runners all know this is to be inherently true.

After I got home I was so glad that I went on this seemingly innocuous run. Glad that I didn't rigidly stick to some arbitrary run schedule I had formulated for myself.  For I felt like I was at that hour in life, right where I was supposed to be.  Hopefully, I got to be a good friend.

Monday, December 14, 2015

William H Craig 5k

Rick, my Dad, me, Jeff post race

Ran the William Craig 5k race in Wilmington Saturday December 12th. Came in 1st place with a time of 18:57.  Once again several of the Cape Fear Flyers kids I help coach ran well; in fact the Club had many PRs set, as well as awards won. Including Sarah Martin who was the 2nd overall Female, and coach Amie who was the 3rd overall Female. Coach Jeff took home 2nd overall Masters Male.

But aside from the individual hardware, it was a great capstone to a magnificent XC season.  Many young kids, 6, 7, 8 years old who could not even run say a quarter mile back in early September, completed their first 5k races. The smiles become infectious, and serve as a continuous reminder to why as coaches we put in the time and energy to do what we do.

Running is a gift that we need to regularly give away... in order to keep for ourselves.

To serve out of love, is a topic I frequently think about, and at times discuss with others. Or to sort of flip it around, if I (or others) serve while getting paid, does it diminish whatever spiritual purity that is inherent in any free exchange?  Read an excerpt in a popular running blog of which I can't recall, where either the author or a guest took the position that all running coaches should be paid. That since at any level, where time is being given and services are being rendered, one should be compensated. In principle, I can find some common ground and agreement. However, if the argument is furthered to any and all other sports (what is the difference between running and soccer, basketball etc?), a lot of money that is essential (and usually donated) to turn the lights on, purchase the equipment and uniforms so kids can actually play, will be going to persons who coach.

Food for thought, as I see both sides of it. And will perhaps cross such bridges in the future if I continue to develop my own personal coaching career. And I don't profess to be saint either.

Back to the race... I went out fairly quick to get ahead of the large field of 1,200+ runners, many of whom were kids participating with their respective schools in the Girls on the Run and Stride programs. (which are fabulous at introducing and subjecting kids to what we hope to be the joys and camaraderie of our sport). Found myself in 4th place about a quarter mile in, while running about a 6:10-6:15 pace. Made my way steadily up and took over the lead between the 1/2 and 3/4 mile mark... and once again was on my own leading a 5k race.

Felt pretty good throughout, but not outstanding. Didn't have my top end gear, and I think the 20 minute or so delayed start to the race, combined with warmer temperatures that approached 70 served to knock down most competitive runner's times a tad. At least that seemed to be the consensus of those I talked with after the race. Splits were pretty even: 6:01, 6:06, 6:04. Once again I got to "follow the bike." This time being ridden by a young woman who had to also periodically clear the sidewalk of outbound runners and walkers while I made my way back inbound during the 3rd mile.

Was great to hear a myriad of voices young and old shouting encouragement as I ran towards the finish... while trying on some level to soak in the fleeting moments of local fame... as I assiduously pushed though the inevitable pain. Yes, sometimes we get to play the hero in our own stories.

I raced the race. The field, the course, the elements, the intangibles. I even gave a small wave as I ran through a crowd of people lining the finishing chute in the middle of the soccer field at Legion Stadium. After I got done and gained a modicum of composure, I turned back up the course and cheered in my friends and the kids I'm blessed to be able to coach. Little 7 year old Hannah was puking her guts out in the last tenth of a mile... yet she kept running, amazingly. And was rewarded w/ a PR and an AG award. My Dad finished strong, and was happy afterwards to be out racing again, taking on the spirited over 70 crowd.

The stories go on and on, we all have them... and love to share them with each other afterwards. Running may be an individual endeavor... but it is truly a We sport.

Start of the race

Top 3 Overall Males

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Peak week.

Last XC practice of the season Monday night on the Ashley HS track. I got a bit nostalgic on the drive in through the grounds...the complex of schools, ball fields, playgrounds, etc, has truly become like a home away from home to me. But I (and we) will be back again soon-

Cutting the volume but keeping the intensity.  Reading some old blog posts by Coach Jay Johnson how we should refer to this period not as tapering, but as peaking. I think in this case the name we give it has a psychological underpinning in that peaking connotes a proactive action; whereas tapering seems to suggest something more passive.

Nonetheless, we ran 2 x 800m at 5k pace or slightly faster, with 2 minutes of recovery on the track. Followed by 5 x 100m striders on the football field, goal-line to goal-line. I like the idea of going slightly faster than race pace. For one, it should make race pace on race day seem a tad slower. And two, most kids want to a wail a bit on a short number of reps, so it's easier to let them just air it out a bit, within reason.

As I told Owen, who's leaving Thursday for USATF XC nationals in New Mexico, don't leave your race on the track here tonight. Which he didn't.

Took off Tuesday, and ran 4 miles Wednesday which included 4 x 400m at about 5:50 pace on a :30 second rest cycle. Felt alright... trying to prime the pump for Saturday's 5k race at Legion Stadium in Wilmington. Will run a few easy miles Thursday and add in some fast striders, then take off Friday. Excited that my Dad is coming up to race as well, and Paul and his family will simultaneously be running a 5k up in Pennsylvania. The unofficial Franklin Township Road Runners Club lives on... almost twenty years later.

Run on my friends.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Sharpening the Spear

Last hard workout for the Cape Fear Flyers XC season last night. Told some of the runners I coach that the workout of 200s was like sharpening the end of the spear, getting us primed for the last race of the year the following Saturday. Fortunately the rains held off, but I was prepared to run them personally even in a downpour.

My own mentality being colored from finishing the book Racing the Rain by John L. Parker. Informative prequel to his seminal running novel Once a Runner published back in the late seventies. We get to see our hero protagonist Quenton Cassiday coming of age, and how he eventually found his way to the sport of running.

"The guy in Kansas will coach me through a local proxy who lives in a shack in the jungle without electricity." Quote from the novel referring to Archie San Romani, a champion miler in the thirties from Kansas. It's a dream of mine to one day write fictional literature, based off my own experiences, that may fire someone's imagination, and excite their running passions in a similar way that Parker's words have done for me the last several years.

But back to last night, I ran with Owen and Zac. Averaged about :36- :38 per 200m, on a quick rest cycle of about :40. Controlled, hard running... repeating it over and over again. Reminded them a few times (and by extension myself) to take them one at a time. I told them going in it would be a tough workout, and it was. But they and I handled it well; with the dedication and attention that runners who are serious about competition need to possess. We can't shy away from the pain on such days, we need to embrace, and become comfortable being uncomfortable.

Talked to them afterwards about taking ownership and being accountable in their upcoming races. We have to go out and earn our race result... it's not going to be handed to us just because we have done all this work the past few months. Concepts I picked up on from listening to a recent Steve Magness and John Marcus podcast.

Plans are on the table for our season end party next Wednesday night. The calendar has flipped to December; darkness swallows up the days a little past 5pm.  The end of one season though is always a bridge to the next one. Though there is still work be done the next 10 days.