A fresh pair of runners that are probably going to be my trusty companions through 42.2 km of New York asphalt.
The thing about buying new running shoes, is that they are either awesome — or they are $150 bundles of regret after you’ve worn them once or twice.
Running shoes… FOR EVERYBODY!
My cameras, my running shoes, and my hammock.
Charting and mapping my virtual run for 2013. From the corner near my house to the Great White Norths of my own beautiful country, these are the klicks I might have run had they been strung end-to-end from the first of January to the end of December. Brought to you by the magic of obsessive data tracking, GPS technology, and they letter Y.
I admit that haven’t been giving much love to my running-interested readership who are still devotedly following my progress on this blog. I’ve had a crazy series of weeks and when I have found a few moments to pen out some patter on the pitter of my feets, it’s usually been destined for publication over on FEETS dot CA.
Unfair, I know, but I’m nuturing that blog with the careful due and attention it requires to get it off the ground, and well… this one ain’t going anywhere for a while. So, how abouts that?
But no fear, I’ve adapted and modified my latest run-blog post for this site, adding a few bits more of of nuggety-good information for just you… yeah, you.
Even though I haven’t posted an update in a while — as the title of this post suggests — I’m still pounding out the klicks on the trails, even more so in many cases, and logging distance at a pace that is almost exactly on track with my calendar year, virtual running goal. This puts me on pace a mere seven clicks behind where I want to be.
You maths nerds out there can divide the year into roughly 365 x 4.11 km runs and calculate that if I was doing three-hundred and sixty-five equal runs, one per day — which I’m not — I should have clocked 460.3 km as of this writing.
I haven’t. I’ve clocked 453.3 km.
I’m so close. And would be sitting just fine if it weren’t for the crazy weather and a chest cold a couple weeks ago.
Fret not, however. Having just roughed out my training plan for the rest of 2013 and leading into the Dopey race next January, I should clear my 1500 km calendar goal by, say, 700 km. Or, that’s what the plan says, anyhow.
The virtual run, so-called, has me charting up North of Slave Lake and High Prairie, way up in the boonies of Alberta where I haven’t been in years.
My first half marathon of the season… year… well, since Vegas, anyhow, takes place in just a little less than two weeks. At least three of the fine folks from my running club are joining me on the RunWild course in St. Albert, Alberta on the first Sunday in May. A bunch of others are headed off to Vancouver. Long-story-short our months of scatter-shot training will be paying off in a mere thirteen days.
We ran a half marathon.
We ran a half marathon on Sunday morning… give or take. I clocked my own personal distance at 21.15 kilometers out on our meandering Sunday long run. My training time — with all the standard street lights and stopping to navigate factored in — was roughly equivalent to what I ran in Vegas last December. I’ll take it. Though considering how bagged I felt in the day following, I think I might need a confidence booster for the marathon push which starts…
In Nine Days
The marathon training season officially kicks off on May 2. Through a series of events that I won’t detail here any more than I already have in other posts, I ended up putting my name forward — somewhat reluctantly, but fully committed-ly, whatever that means — to lead the clinic for the marathon. I won’t go so far as to say I’m instructing it (though that is what the title would tell you) if only because (a) I know the plan, the schedule, and have a good idea of the effort involved but (b) it’s my first marathon, too.
…just a group-leader-plus.
I’m calling it, sort of, a group-leader-plus.
That said, it’s not boding well for the clinic-proper: folks are already dropping out in the nine days leading up, mostly due to nagging injuries. So, at the end of this thing, I may just be leading myself and a few dedicated others who would be running it clinic or no. I hope not, but.. hey… what are you going to do, huh?
I broke down and did it. After being firmly connected to the same size, of the same brand, of the same line of running shoes for nearly six solid years, I went in to buy the latest edition of “my shoes” and — uh — I didn’t like how they felt.
It just happens. Maybe I’ll write something about shoes in the near future, but right now I’m just feeling a bit of unceremonious doubt connected to not being able to swap my nearly-depleted pairs for their fresh cousins, and instead moving to a completely different style, different brand, and… well, that’s life, I guess.
As a result I find myself the latest member of the colourful shoe club. Every pair of shoes I’ve owned for the last six years has been the standard white with a splash of colour in the heel or the swipe or the logo. My new shoes jump right into the newer trend and embrace it full on: red and orange checked Mizunos.
No one is going to miss me running towards them this summer.
It’s not about the feet. It’s about where the feet are standing. It’s about remembering where we’ve been. It’s about taking the moment to pause, to look down… before looking back up and keeping on going forward.
I quietly started another 365 photo project, though this one is a little less serious than the last. On January first, I was standing amongst the clutter of cleaning up from the holidays, pointed the camera at my feet to capture the moment, and the thought occurred to me: I used to take a lot of feet photos.
It’s not about the feet, though, is it?
Way back I started this whole random photo, RandomFeets project. It was a whim.
It might have been something mundane, such as where I was standing on the LRT platform waiting for my ride to work on January 2, the second day of the year but somehow I had drawn the short straw and was back to work already. Or it might have been something interesting, such as on a tropical beach or queuing for a ride at Disneyland.
By the third of January, when I caught myself snapping yet another camera phone pic, this one of something so seemingly ordinary as riding the escalator home on a Thursday evening, it occurred to my project-hungry brain that while an artistic photo-per-day project requires skill, patience, and a heck of a lot of planning, the same did not hold true for a daily foot photo.
And there is something about the foot photo that holds an artistic appeal in the collection itself. Particularly the whole of it. The chronology of the ordinary.
Daily photo projects imply a skill at capturing images, but a chronology of feets pictures is more of a media adventure and only partly about the images.
I mean, I may have only been hanging out at the library with my daughter on the fourth of January, but that right there is a kind of symbolic moment captured in a literal stance. It is a capturing of the ordinary.
And there is something subtle and unobtrusive about just aiming the camera down and clicking off a shot.
No one notices. No one even glances askew, particularly in the days of ubiquitous camera phones.
And by January 5th, whilst snapping pics of yet another crazy, off-beat project, I nabbed yet another feets shot and — five for five on the calendar — realized that I might just have a new photo project on my hands. And isn’t that what I was pondering just a couple weeks ago?
Perhaps some rules are in order?
First, I think is context. For example, every photo needs to have a little bit of text to go along with it. Some will be self-explanatory in the future, but many will not. It is the collection and the accompanying text that will be the ultimate product. This photo from January 6 of me on a tiled floor is very random… that is until you realize it was taken shortly after brunch at the Hotel Selkirk in Fort Edmonton Park at the opening day of their new Sunday brunch. For this reason, a regular blog update, explaining each photo is probably in order.
Second, the camera is irrelevant. Anything that snaps a picture will do, really. After all, it’s less about the quality than it is about the story. In fact, in many cases, a smartphone picture will be the best option.
Third and finally (for now) just a hint towards variety: it would be very easy to snap the same photo every day, me standing on a train platform (which I do every day) or like this photo from January 7, earlier tonight, when I was out taking the dog for a walk (something I do very frequently as well.) The challenge will be in variety.
And thus… one step at a time: share and enjoy RandomFeets Two. Read along with the (hopefully) frequent updates. Play along and snap your own interesting feets pictures. And remember to look down once in a while: there’s got to be a metaphor or a lesson in there somewhere, right?
The “week of lists” continues as I dive into my fitness hobby of choice: running. I don’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said so instead I’ll just point out some of the things I’m personally getting mixed messages about thanks to the vast array of clinics, books, magazines, websites, and anecdotal advice from fellow runners. If there is a metaphorical ‘fence’ for any of these, I’m pretty much on one side of each contradiction — so make up your own mind and don’t listen to me. I’m just ranting about:
1 : Cotton
Perhaps just chalk this one up to out-of-touch race organizers, but the practice of giving racers who’ve signed up for a race — costing, nowadays, usually a $50+ fee — a “free” t-shirt — a cotton t-shirt — that they encourage runners to wear WHILE running, baffles me. After the athletic-wear companies have pampered us with ongoing advances in technical fabrics, those light-weight, chafe-free, moisture-wicking garments of running magnificence, there likely is no way I’m wearing a cotton-polyester blended, be-logoed t-shirt on ten klick fun run. Ouch. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for advertising.
To run every day or to not run every day? Some say yes. Others? Ooooh, rest, they say. Don’t push yourself. Running every day, we’re told, leads to injuries… which I suppose makes sense. I don’t know where to look for research on this, so I just tried it out — for a while — and ran every day. And then I got a lot faster and stronger. But that’s me… just my story. And it was hard work. There are lots of schools of thought on running every day, I guess, and most of them say “don’t push yourself” — and all the while the elite runners are going hard and strong three-six-five. I mean, I think maybe you need to work up to it but don’t discount it entirely… or at least talk to a doctor first?
3 : Technology
I go flipping through a typical assortment of running magazines and this struck me on a recent issue of [Magazine Name Not Really Important]. On one page there was an article about the over-use of technology in running. On the facing page there was an ad for some new GPS watch. On the next page there was an article about putting your heart-rate monitor away and just listening to your body. On the facing page, there was an ad for a new running watch that tracked heart-rate. And so on… this went on for a few pages. Now, either the editor was asleep at the wheel, or the guys writing the copy don’t agree with the guys paying for the copy. Just saying. Which is it? But I do like my GPS watch.
4 : Stretching
I’ve taken about fifteen running clinics in the last four and a half years and every instructor quotes a different bit of advice on stretching. First it was the controversial practice of “cold” stretching before a run versus “warm” stretching after a run. Then for a while I had an anti-stretching evangelist teaching a clinic who claimed he’d never stretched in the last five years and encouraged us to avoid it too. Then there was the pro-yoga folks who’s answer to everything was “you need to do yoga.” And now I’m with the uber-stretchers who spend half-an-hour after a run doing these impossible-to-emulate deep stretches on the pavement in front of the clinic store, getting their clothes covered in dirt and dust and leaving sweaty-bum-prints on the concrete. I’m confused. So I usually just do a few quick standards and go home.
5 : Over-training
This is sort of like the “run every day” question of earlier — but a little more subtle. Over the years — but more so lately — I’ve encountered a whole series of well-meaning advice-givers who are all up on the perils of “over-training” in running. Don’t push yourself. Set your pace to this exact speed. Don’t go too far. Rest when you need to rest. You’re going too fast for THIS particular training day. STICK TO THE PROGRAM. Actually? It’s the Gospel According to John (the Running Room folks know of whom I write.) It’s not John’s fault, of course. It’s just his program. A good program. And he’s built a business around it. But there is a cadre of folks who treat it like the bible of running — and those who, well… not so much… and with more under-their-breath four-letter-word replies than I’ve included here.
6 : Racing
“If you’re not training for a race, why are you running?” The mantra from so many sources is GOAL-setting, and in running the ultimate goal is a race, right? Well, that’s what you’d believe too if you paid attention to the ads, the pamphlets, the clinics, the… this… that… everything. I have mixed feelings about races. They do tend to make you run faster and give you a medium-term goal, sure, but at the end of any race you’re stuck with this one-off time, a single-run assessment of your ability on that given day (as opposed to a collection of training runs — TRAINING runs — that measure progress over a span.) And, to boot, you never end up running with friends — the running buddy thing always evaporates when the gun goes. It’s just you and the road. Often, I’d rather keep it social, actually, and do a leisurely jaunt around the neighbourhood. Forget the races.
7 : Shoes
And then there were shoes. The only topic that comes up on virtually every single long-ish run I’ve ever done: shoes. New shoes, shoe fit, shoe brand, shoe style, the tightness of your laces, support versus motion control, training shoes versus barefoot-style shoes. The only topic I dread more is male-nipple-chafing. I mean, I’m not surprised shoes are so controversial: there’s money in shoes and it’s the one piece of equipment EVERY modern runner needs at some point — and according to the “experts” multiple alternating pairs with tracked mileage for maximum injury protection. I have lots of shoes. I have a brand. I even have a preferred style. I’ve bought into the hype, I guess. And speaking of that, I should really go shoe shopping here soon…
I’m not much of a hot weather person. And actually I’d very much rather be a bit on the cool side, a couple of degrees below that standard definition of whatever room temperature happens to be. A little bit of chill in the air is just perfect for me.
But the problem is that I live in a climate that has quite a bit of seasonal temperature fluctuation. At the extremes we dip to the bone-chilling, skin-numbing cold of the mid-minus fourties Celsius in the heart of winter — and then into days of blurring, sweating, sweltering hot with temperatures in the high thirties or occasional low fourties (Celsius again) in the peaks of summer.
I have a rule that I generally follow when I run: the fifteen at fifteen. I take the outside, ambient temperature and add fifteen degrees. The resulting number is an approximation of what my personal temperature feels like after about fifteen minutes of running (though, these days, fifteen minutes is barely a warm-up.) So, as an example: when it is a pleasant ten degrees Celsius outside and I run, then after fifteen minutes it feels like about twenty-five degrees — or just cozy and a bit on the warm side. When it is -20C outside, and sinking towards the lower limits of where I usually stop having fun with running shoes on, then fifteen minutes into things it feels like five below zero: chilly, but pleasantly and even refreshingly so. Now, if you’re still following with the math, when the outside temperature is thirty degrees Celsius (such as it’s been on and off for a few weeks now) then on a summer, Sunday morning, the sun beating down and all that, and we start our long (often ninety-minute-plus) runs you can probably guess where I’m going with this: fifteen minutes into, things suddenly feel like a sweltering forty-five Celsius in the sun. For those still thinking in that other temperature scale, that’s about 115 Fahrenheit. In the sun. Running. For someone who does not like heat.
I tend to get a little punchy.
It is in those heat-stroke-inducing moments of delirium that I dream wishfully of gloved fingers huddled together and wrapped inside my palms for warmth in those first few minutes of a bitterly cold run. It is in those sweat-pouring-from-my-brow moments that I long for the brisk winter air washing over the few square centimeters of exposed forehead peaking from out from between my toque and scarf. It is in those foot-sweating, toe-chafing, blister-inducing moments that I recall the sweet sounds of fresh snow crunching under my feet. I dream of winter. In my mind I sing odes to winter. I curse the summer heat, shake my fist at the sun-heated-asphalt, and take another weary step closer to shade.
And then swear to never run another step in this heat. I swear it every single time, but then a few days later… repeat.
I should run more in the summer. The streets are clear. The grass is green. The flowers fill the air with pleasant aromas that wash over our faces as we trod on by. I really should run more, but my biggest excuse is the hot. Just the hot. Hot. I hate the hot. I loathe the hot. And on those days filled with so many too-hot-to-be-alive moments, I hide in my cool basement trying to forget the guilt of not sweating on the hot streets, and maybe even counting the days until the leaves start to change and the frost… well, I’ll shut up now.
For the entire month of June I’m planning on writing a series of blog-a-day posts based on a set series of open-ended questions to myself. This is one of those posts.
June 1st // Something You Have Decided
Of course, I would have started with something difficult, wouldn’t I?
Decision is such a specific word, yet it can encompass all manner of things. For example, I decided to have cereal for breakfast this morning because it was easier than getting out the toaster. Or, I decided to stop at the bank earlier because I was out of cash and figured I was going to want lunch later in the day and all the really good food is sold by people who can’t be bothered with debit card transactions for some reason. I could also note that I’ve decided to start blogging again — something I’ve already written profusely upon — and it being the first of June today I am obviously closing in on a whole month since making that decision. But something tells me, having pieced together these questions quite recently, that these types of decisions are either too simple or too meta for this particular project.
Instead, I’ll explain about the walk I went on yesterday with the dog.
It was not a particularly interesting walk other than three simple confluences of reality: (1) my ankle issues that I supposed were caused by running seem to have more of a cause-effect relationship with the orthotic nature of my everyday shoes, (2) the sandals I wore walking were aggravating said ankle, and (3) the City had just swept the asphalt trail around the perimeter of the park that the dog and I generally use for walking so they were nice and clean, free of almost all debris. So, sore ankle and clean sidewalks underfoot, I pulled off the sandals and proceeded to walk most of the kilometer loop around the park barefoot. The ankle felt great, though the soles of my feet were slightly grey at the end.
So, what have I decided from this adventure? Well, obviously, new shoes are in order. And I have decided that perhaps I’d like to buy-and-try a pair of those barefoot shoes that have been all the rage for the last couple years. What? You haven’t heard of barefoot shoes? One company, Vibram, that manufactures is described by Wikipedia along the lines of “…footwear [that] has thin, flexible soles that are contoured to the shape of the human foot, including visible individual sections for the toes. Vibram FiveFingers are meant to replicate being barefoot and allow for the natural biomechanics of the foot to work.” Though, whether any of that is scientifically proven aside, my own recent experiments in personal orthotic choices leads me to think I might benefit from some barefoot-ish walking. Thus, I’ve decided to hunt out a pair of these shoes and see how they fit my lifestyle for the summer.
And that’s that.