Thursday, June 30, 2011

Waylon Jenning's Thoughts on WS100

Since no one has posted a video in a few days . . . I've come to believe that Sesame Street is secretly written by runners: if "Set Your Piggies Free" is the barefoot runners theme song, "Ain't No Road Too Long" could be the ultra-runners anthem:

I vow to Run Smiley in the morning

  My superhero dear one has been trying to change my night owl ways and get me out of bed in the morning for months now. Ok, maybe years.  I have myself convinced that I get my best sleep in the morning and try to ignore the fact that if I went to bed earlier this would all change. 

  Over the last few days or so it has become clear that with our schedule as it is we either run at 5:00 in the afternoon or early morning.  Here in good ol' Des Moines Iowa its starting to get quite warm (frakkin hot) and I have to factor in the heat when we run. It makes it harder to just go out and run smiley when you have the sun beating down on you and the asphalt glaring up from a days worth of heat soaked in. I am having to concede that I need shoes in this heat and its just not even close to being as enjoyable as barefoot.  So somethings gotta give.  I love to run.  Its simple.  I love the feeling of propelling myself forward through time and space of my own accord.  Its not a matter of wanting to run its now a matter of making the time in order to remain a sane human being.

Remember how I mentioned I am not a morning person.......take a deep breath.... here goes....
I am now a morning person.  
  There I said it.  Its out there for the world to hold me accountable.  This morning I got up and ran with the hubster and I even kept from being grouchy although he did well at not saying much.  It was already close to 80 degrees when we headed out and we ditched our shirts after the first couple of miles.  We left the house barefoot and came home barefoot.  We had big gardening hats on to shade the morning sun. He had his kilt and I my running skirt.  I wish now that I had taken pictures since I take my camera with me on every run.  We ran up and down the hill in the cemetery for an hour and then ran home.  I don't really know how far it is and don't care.  My heart was pumping and I felt the breeze cooling my bare skin.  I ran happy without a care in the world.  I am humbled and I choose to change.

  Now I feel refreshed, mellow, and ready for the day and not hot and haggard and like I should be singing bad country songs.  There has been lots of talk about  running smiley lately, hence the blog and awesome group of people, and I vowed last summer that I would not run when I didn't want to.  I needed to remind myself of that and take a different perspective since change was in order.  I have to make friends with the early hours. Being happy is work sometimes.  Its being able to see past the present discomfort and believe that it will change and the good feelings will come. 

I now consider you my friend and ally in this whole happiness thing.  Thanks for your sunshine and cool breezes and sorry it has taken me so long. I will send out my good feelings to the world in return for your loveliness.
Yours Truly,
Angie Bee

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kitty's funny (#7)

This one is for UTR for when he races from Zombies with his non-running buddies.

Puddle Running

Puddle running!
Original post by Zapamamak 6.28.11 @ Running Naked on Sharp and Pointy Stuff
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Thanks to Global Weirding I had the best barefoot run in the rain today. Not very far. Just to the gym and back. It was a very wet run and it was absolutely fabulous! Even the boring asphalt felt amazing. And the puddles!! They felt so good. The ground was warm, but the water on top was tepid. All the sharp and jabbies were washed away. Really. It felt a lot smoother to run on. The temperature was perfect. I could not help but have a smile on my face the whole way. This storm we are having right now is pretty tropical in nature so the air was too warm for a rain jacket, but I wore one anyway. For two reasons. One, because it had perfect pockets on the inside to fit my shoes (which are required at the gym) and two, well... I didn't want to walk into the gym looking like I just participated in a wet tshirt contest. Ha!
Shoe pocket

Post run/workover portrait

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Foreign Run

When I asked what thing(s) I should do in Vancouver before I left, I got a pause and a few typical tourist suggestions.  Then another pause.
“Actually, Vancouverians are mostly outdoorsy people so most of what we have around here is parks and stuff. “
I knew I was finally on the right track.  I needed a good place to take a nice long run.  Sure,  what I should have done was a 5K but, instead, he recommended a beautiful 10K run around Stanley Park called the Seawalk.
Upon driving to Stanley Park, I devised a plan for going bare/minimalist.  I kept repeating in my head something the guy had commented when we were talking about other Vancouver subjects (drug use).
“Vancouverians are very tolerant people.”
Surely, if Vancouver is a tolerant and accepting society, surely, I can run barefoot in their park?
Funny thing about running barefoot… at first, you are hoping no one notices, doesn’t question what you are doing, or make you put shoes on.  After about 4K, you practically draw attention to yourself in any way that you can because, Come On, People! I just ran a long fricken ways in my barefeet, on asphalt, on an 80 degree day in direct sun light. Hello, grilled toes!  Please acknowledge how awesome I am.  No?  How about crazy?  Can you do crazy?
By the way, LOOK at these views
Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC
  • Seawalk at 4K
No, I didn’t run all 10K in barefeet.  I had a hot spot on the second toe so I stopped at about 7K and put on the Pacers that I carried with me.  I’m not sure if I was being smart knowing that I would need them or just self-fulfilled my prophecy of being unable to execute 10k without adorning my feet with shoes.
Did I mention that it was 80+ degrees?  They speak metric up there so I don’t really know what the temp was but by the looks of the number of Canadians sitting on the beach in Stanley Park, it was very nice.    I hadn’t been expecting such warm weather when I packed which meant I would be subjecting myself to another embarrassing sweat stain by packing my grey capri exercise pants.  Half way through the Seawalk, I came across a water park.  I figured what a better thing to come across on an 80 + degree day and to boost the funnability index of the run than to zig zag through a water park.  It was only later when I looked down at my legs that I realized the genius of water spray in camouflaging any embarrassing sweat stains.
Genius water spray at the park
Run barefoot! Run Smiley! Win!
Seawalk at 7K
P.S. I would absolutely recommend the Seawalk for a run in Vancouver with or without shoes.  The asphalt is very smooth.  The views are spectacular with the mountains, city, and boats all in one run.  Two big toes up.

For more, see A Rose By Any Other Name

Running Smiley at WS?

Shelly (ShellBell) has said we could post photo's of Jason running the Western States. (Don't know if Jason agreed, he was probably sleeping so it was best not to wake him ;)..) Not sure it's the case, but looking at the photo's you would think he was smiling the whole time.

Mile 62 

Mile 80 and running into the night

A wonderful finish.  Jason finished in 23:39

Jason we are all extremely proud of you.  Well done Mate!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Kitty's Funny (#6)

In Honour of Jason Robillard who is running the Western State's Ultra today (and probably tomorrow)...

Good Luck Mate.  We will be sending all our ultra-running vibes to you!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Kitty's Funny (#4)

Okay, I am a little late and UTR beat me to the funnies... so here is my "I have had 2 glasses of wine and I will shortly be suffering from keyboard face" attempt at a daily funny.

"Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes."

Yeah I will get my coat (That phrase DOESN'T work unless you have watched "The Fast Show")

I Am A Barefoot Runner

Since we're still on "funny video week."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Kitty's Funny (#3)

This video has been about for a while but it always makes me laugh.  Created by our very own jason, ShellBell and Jesse.  Go on, check them out.

Keep Nicholas Romanov Away from SkyNet

An entertaining (yet educational) video critiquing the running form of the T-100 from Terminator 2. Creators won't let me embed it, but you can watch it by following this link here.

If you are a scientist working in robotics, please for the sake of all humanity, don't program good running form and bio-machanically efficient foot-strikes into your killer military bots. Thanks.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Temporary Markers

[I'm cheating a bit, since this is an old post of mine, but since I'm easing into being a stay-at-home dad for the summer, my running has been a bit spotty as of late. So I'm being green and recycling something I wrote on May 4th for my blog ...whenitalkaboutrunning]

Right now, I’ve been unhappy with teaching. I don’t know if it’s an early mid-life crisis or an existential crisis, but lately I’ve been feeling less and less satisfied with my job; not dissatisfied as in bored, but as in filled with despair. Teaching what journalists like to classify as “at-risk youth” can sometimes feel like emptying the ocean with a spoon, that there is an endless capacity to put in effort and emotion and time and dedication and yet no matter how much of yourself you pour into it you still come up far short. In the last year and half, as I’ve made room in my life for Nat, I also feel like I’ve been letting my teaching slip, and that after 9 years I’m not nearly as good of a teacher today as I was three or four years ago. I’m feeling burned out, and even more so because I’m not sure if being less dedicated has actually had any negative effect on my students – the only thing more disheartening than thinking I might be giving less than my all is the thought that trying harder and caring more isn’t so much a virtue as a waste of effort.


This is all merely preamble to another post on why I am so devoted to running right now. In some ways it is an escape: from the stress of teaching, of being a father, partner, son, and whatever roles and responsibilities that weigh on me at times. It’s therapy and meditation, an empty place where the mind can rest on tranquility and emptiness. I’ve written many times about running as a variation on Buddhist meditation, and I’ve never felt that to be more true than right now. Yet anyone who practices mindfulness meditation knows the fleeting nature of moments of pure emptiness, of the void, how the mind, out of its lifetimes of habit, by nature seeks out thoughts and worries to work over, like an old Catholic woman running rosary beads through her fingers.

Today I did a short run home after work, just 3.5 miles from High Street, and as usual it was exactly what I needed. There was a cold drizzle falling when I left my school, but by the time I climbed up from the subway in Brooklyn it was merely a high-overcast; still chilly and windy, but not wet. I ran fast and left my school-related worries behind, but like an untrained horse, the mind strives to toss off the reigns of mindfulness and seek out its own well-worn course, returning again and again to those shards of anxiety that have worked their way beneath my skin. The danger during meditation is that one is so accustomed to thought, so habituated to following a worry or fear or desire towards its conclusion, that one can chase a thought down the path of consciousness quite a while before one even becomes aware of it. Today I ran, I reached a place of levelness and peace . . . and then the memory of a specific student would arise in my mind’s eye and before I knew it I was playing an argument over and over in a loop in my mind, levelness and peace gone before I even had a chance to tell myself to stop. Then a conscious effort to set it aside, to return to my breath, my feet, the broken sidewalk in front of me, letting the evenness of the run wash thought aside . . . and then another frustration begging a mental fantasy of rebuttal holding out the promise of catharsis yet actually delivering only increasing frustration and unharnessed emotion.

At one point in the run, my mind wandered into composing an e-mail to two of my former students whom I am particularly close to – my daughters, as I call them – some overly-wrought, dramatic epistle telling them I was giving up, that I couldn’t teach any more, and before I knew it I had worked myself to the point of tears: the furthest possible place from the meditative state I was seeking. So I ran harder, pushed myself into a sprint, held it as long as I could, leg muscles screaming and lungs burning, and eventually my body drowned out my mind. It might be crude, but there is a reason that mendicants and monastics have always found self-flagellation to be an efficient aid in meditation: it’s hard to think when you are having a hard time breathing. I eased back into an easier pace, and for the rest of the run I was fine.


I think another reason I like running right now is because it’s a discrete, self-contained effort: you know when its going to end. If it’s a casual run, I know I’m doing 3 miles, 6 miles, 12 miles, that there is a certain distance or time left, or a definite destination. If it’s a race, there is an even more obvious end-point: the finish line. In the rest of life there are no set distances, no lap-splits, no finish line (at least, not one that most of us are eager to reach). When things get frustrating or hard at work, when balancing teaching and parenting and life seems overwhelming, there is no simple reprieve on the horizon. In a race, on the other-hand, the goal is clear from the outset, and there comes a point when you pass the last mile marker, then you can hear the sound of the finish, the cheering and clapping of the waiting crowds. That’s when, as tired as you are, you push even harder, as you know there is no need to hold back, no need to keep a reserve of energy, because you can just pour your heart and soul into this one last effort before resting. There is no point to running, it serves no purpose, and yet you throw yourself into it wholly and without reservation.


In one way, then, racing is an escape from the unbroken race that is life. On a deeper lever, however, it is not so much an escape from life as it is training forlife. Before you run a 5K, you run a mile; before you run a marathon, you spend weeks on shorter runs, building up your speed and endurance. When you set out to run 26 miles, it seems impossible, just as the sweeping vistas of the next five, fifteen, or thirty years, when taken in all at once, are daunting. Running lets you tackle one, small, nicely delineated obstacle at a time; it lets you practice pouring your heart and soul into an activity that would be worthless, save for the fact that you have chosen to give it value.

“The end of the race is just a temporary marker without much significance. It’s the same with our lives. Just because there’s an end doesn’t mean existence has meaning. An end point is simply set up as a temporary marker, or perhaps as an indirect metaphor for the fleeting nature of existence.” What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Murakami

Kitty's Funny (#2)

Just seemed appropriate as WS was coming up.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

awesome barefoot and shod run

This post is by our resident author Angie Bee, but she has been super busy lately, so I am posting it for her.  You can find this post and her blog here:

Its just the best when you put on some great shoes and start running right out the door.  Quite a bit of glass as well as debris from recent storms are littering my route to the cemetery so shoes get me there safely.
The Cave by Mumford and Sons was the first song to come on the playlist. Yes I sang out loud.  Halfway up the block I played with a puppy.  I had to be mean and try and shoo him home but after a while he got tired running with me and went back home.  I figured I would take him to his home later if he followed me all the way but he just wanted to play for a little while.

  Had to go around a train but I had the Nada's on so I could bomb down this road without worrying although I could still feel everything just not as intensely.  Took the back way into the cemetery which gave me the privilege  of leaping over ditches and a stream.

Sunset runs in the summer.....

The shoes come off at the top of the hill in the cemetery right as Five Years Time comes on the playlist.  Testing out this walkman has proven to be excellent.  I usually like to run without gadgets but since I am running solo its surreal to have a soundtrack to life again.
  Good girl miss Angie Bee for taking the time to adjust to barefoot running so that two years later you can blast up and down the hills barefoot in the gorgeous humid summer evening air without a worry. Ah the smell of the evergreens..... To run because it feels good.  To run because it makes me happy.  To run just because I can.

Seven and a quarter lovely miles in an hour and five minutes.  I was running with the dead after sunset and feeling a little skiddish when I would see things out of the corner of my eye.  The firefly's kept me company and I wished the city good night from the top of the hill as I headed home as it got dark.  

  I was glad to have shoes that let me continue with a barefoot form to put on so I could run in the dark.  I love to run at night and it has been far too long since I have done so.  I saw families out for walks and the scents of  laundry and supper coming from the houses I passed.  Those smells only seem to come out in the thick summer air.  I am thankful to be at ease so I am open to noticing these things.

The boys had been hunting fireflies while I was out running and were eagerly waiting to show me their jar of friends as I came up the path to the house.

Funny that we were all thinking of fireflies.  Yeah, one is never too old for fireflies. Summer, sunset, running, playing with a puppy, fireflies....damn life is good.

Kitty's Funny (of the day)

(Actually this is a t-shirt design from snorgtee's - always makes me laugh)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

As Long as We're Posting Treadmill Videos . . .

Using a treadmill for synchronized dance routines is much, much better than trying to actually run on one of these things.

For all those who hate dreadmills

Just a little dreadmill humour. Run Smiley.

p.s. I am going to see if I can find something to make you run smiley each day. Watch this space.

Friday, June 17, 2011

When a neighbor ruins your run :)

82 degrees and barefoot. I was running smiley intending to do 10 miles but only did 3.2...NOT because of the heat, because a neighbor stopped me and started to jabber jaw. I'm friendly, but I hate being distracted from my run. Dudes, Dudettes, proper etiquette should be DON'T bother the runner. I hope this doesn't get me kicked out of the Run Smiley collective :)
Is there a Tshirt that say "Please Leave The Runner Alone" LOL :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dinner and a Run

This post was sent to me by Stephanie Rose who has been following us since we started and has embraced the Run Smiley spirit.  You can find her blog here.

I went out for dinner then went on a run.

Let me rephrase that. I walked into town for dinner then ran out-of-my-way home.

Actually, let me give that one more try. I carried my shoes as I walked barefoot into town, had dinner then took my shoes off after exiting the restaurant and carried them while I ran barefoot out-of-my-way home for as long as I could hold a smile. In hindsight, I would have run longer if I hadn’t had the Nachos. Ugh.

A big OK sign sent out to the guy who yelled, "Those are supposed to go on your feet!"

Note the rough aging pavement just perfect for improving asphalt tolerance.

It’s been a week since I ran. Distance only made my heart grow fonder and my demeanor more obsessive.

Go run smiley, kids.

Guess where I sat for dinner?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Running With Al

Today I decided some tunes while running were in order. It happens every once in a while, though I try not to get used to it because very few races are cool with mp3 players on course and I don't want to link music to my runs. Normally, when I go from a run with music there is a very specific type I'm pumping into my skull at full volume.
Something like this:

Or this:

Today, however, I decided to mix it up. I was looking for a fun run. So I went with this:

That is correct, ladies and gentlemen. His Weirdness himself, "Weird Al" Yankovik. Because if you want to feel goofy and enjoy yourself during pretty much anything it's hard to do better than Al.
As a rule, when I run with music I don't sing along. It's not that I'm worried people around me will think I'm crazy, it's just that I don't have the air to spare. Tell me though, how am I not supposed to sing along with this:

Impossible, I say!
The album this song is on, the album I was rocking out to today, is called Running With Scissors. How freaking appropriate is that?

Songs about Jedi, Grapefruit Diets, and the great city of Albuquerque got me through the run with a smile on my face. Did I bust a few moves? I may have. I may also have spun my visor around during my first listen through of All About the Pentiums to be more gangsta. Because around here at Dirtbag Fitness HQ we are nothing if not gangsta.
Oh yeah, I ran for 48 minutes, I have no idea how far I went or what my pace was, because I didn't care. That wasn't the point. Getting on the road and trying to enjoy a run was. And I think I succeeded. Booyah.

Something for free... and it has to do with Running..

That has to be RUN SMILEY huh?

Jason Robillard from the Barefoot Running University AND the Author of the Barefoot Running Book, is giving away free downloads of his e-book.

The site page for the download is here

Won't be there for long... so go on.. download it and Run :)

Cause & Effect

[This is an excerpt from a longer post on my blog ...whenitalkaboutrunning. If you'd like to read a rather long digression on buddhism, karma, and my life, you'd like the original post. The bits I've pulled out here fit a bit closer to the RunSmiley theme. - Chris]

I’ve been meditating about the source of joy during many of my runs recently. Last Wednesday, I went for a 5.5 mile run at noon, in 94 degree, 45 percent humidity weather, and I loved every step of it. Why? Because I focused on the experience, the here and now, and allowed myself to see the heat as heat, the shade as shade. A famous zen konan read, “When you are sweeping the floor, sweep the floor.” When you are running in heat, run in heat.

So one of the causes of my joy is living in the moment, experiencing the experience for what it is, not for what I wish it were. The other day, I quoted the serenity prayer and reworked it as a runners prayer. While looking up the prayer, however, I discovered there is a second verse: “Living one day at a time; 
Enjoying one moment at a time; 
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it; 
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life 
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.” This idea of living in the moment, as seeing the world as it is, not as one wishes it were, is startlingly Buddhist. It also echoes the ideas that Jen wrote about on her post a few days ago, “Savoring the Moment.” If there is a central ethos to RunSmiley, “Savoring the Moment” is probably it.

But why am I able to do that? What preceding events have lead up to my now being able to take joy in what should, by all accounts, be a miserable 55 minutes of discomfort? Thinking “I’m going to enjoy a run the heat” is one thing; doing it is another. Not that I’ve achieved enlightenment or anything (far from it – just ask my partner!), but I don’t think I was at a point to do that a few years ago. What’s changed for me now? After a few weeks of pondering this set of cause and effect, here’s what I’ve come up with:

1) Practice. There is a reason why the act of regular meditation is called “practice,” and its because that’s the only way to get good at it. You don’t just sit down and meditate. Like running, meditation is appears easy but is far from it; doing nothing, thinking nothing, letting go, does not come naturally to our minds. I lost my Buddhist practice for a long while, as when we moved to Brooklyn a year and a half ago the dharma center that I attended was suddenly a very long trip away. Combined with the business of teaching and raising kids, I just let my practice fall to the wayside. Currently, I try to mediate every day during my morning commute, especially between 59th street and 155th street, but primarily I’ve turned my runs in to my meditation. I focus on my breathing, focus on my form, focus on the act of this run here. That practice makes it easier to take this sort of mindset into the rest of my life, which is, of course, the entire point of meditating: not to have 15 minutes of calm while cross-legged on a mat, but to carry that calm and mindfulness into “real” life.

2) Necessity. I have been very unhappy with teaching recently, and that, of course, is a significant part of my daily experience. And as much as I obviously love returning home to M, Nat, and Angelica, I can’t exactly say it’s terribly “relaxing” most of the time. Since I haven’t had the time to sit to meditate, I have needed my running time to be meditative and calming. I’ve actively focused on not allowing it to be a place where I fixate on worries or make plans or think about school or listen to music. Necessity leads to practice, which leads to joy.

3) Giving up my time goal for the 2010 NYC Marathon. I ran my first marathon in 2008, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life, as well as the hardest thing I have ever done. Every step from mile 22 on was a painful struggle; I ran the last 2.1 miles on pure will-power alone. I crossed the finish line half-dead, but immensely proud of my achievement. The experience fundamentally changed how I look at myself and what I think of as possible, and the fact that I did it in 4 hours and 10 seconds gave me an obvious goal for next year: break 4 hours (at this point, I’m sure my partner would like to me point out that she did, in fact, break 4 hours). Two months later, Nat came home, and neither of us ran at all for the next year. We both had automatic entry for the 2009 marathon, but since we hadn’t run at all, we both deferred entry to 2010. I continued to not run, and only forced myself to start training regularly at pretty much the last possible minute before last years race: 4 weeks to establish a base of 25 miles a week, then 16 weeks to ramp up for the marathon. Between work and raising a one-year old, however, training was a bit spotty: I only did two 20 mile runs, and although I hit most of the long runs, I missed about one run every week.

By the time November 7th rolled around, I didn’t have any illusions that I would finish in under 4 hours, or even close to 4 hours. In fact, I didn’t have any goal other than to finish the race and enjoy the experience. I started out slow, at about a 4:45 pace, but when I got to the half-way point I felt so fantastic that I decided to speed up. And I continued to feel great, so I continued to go faster; from mile 18 to the finish, I ran each successive mile faster than the one before. Not only does going faster at the end of a race feel great, but you get the psychological boost of passing people – lots of people. Just as everyone else was slowing or taking walk breaks, I was going faster, and easily passed hundreds of other runners in those last miles. My muscles were sore, yes, but it wasn’t pain: they felt like they were singing to me, reveling in the effort. I hit 59th street at the south end of the park at a dead sprint, and crossed the finish line at 4:22, a huge grin plastered across my face, and enough energy left that I felt like skipping through the shuffling hordes of the silver-blanket clad walking wounded. The fact that I’d finished almost a half-hour slower than last time didn’t bother me in the slightest.

My second marathon was nothing like the first: it was also one of the greatest experiences of my life, but this time I didn’t use the phrase “hardest thing I’ve ever done,” to describe it. If fact, I resisted the urge to use the description “easy,” because that sounded arrogant, but it was true. I had so much fun, had gotten so much joy out of the run, that I wouldn’t have traded my 4:22 finish for a 3:55, or even a BQ. That was the day I decided I wanted to run an ultramarathon, and the first time I really ran “smiley.”

4) Vibrams. I don’t think any one item of clothing has ever brought so much joy to my life. Forget the whole zero-drop-builds-stronger-natural-feet-toe-splay whatever arguments: wearing Vibrams is just fun. When I first started wearing them, I was startled at how much texture I could feel when walking on different surfaces. No, its not being barefoot, which is even more exhilarating, but I live in New York, and Vibrams reminded me how much I used to love being barefoot: its sensual, pleasurable, and just fun. Now I walk over grates and manhole covers just to feel them underfoot, I seek out rough patches of concrete, step on rocks, balance on the edge of curbs just on my toes, and just because its fun. Walking, lives simplest, most common activity, can be fun; a single step can be a source of joy.

5) Nat. It might be a be a cliché, but having a kid really does remind you how to find joy in simple activities. Nat has reminded me how much fun it is to play in the dirt with a stick, and to throw rocks into puddles. Last weekend, we spent an hour splashing in a huge puddle that formed in Ft. Green Park, hitting the surface with sticks, lobbing broken bricks into the deepest parts to make a “big boom,” squishing muck between our toes, rubbing mud across our arms. Dried mud feels great on your skin! I climbed a tree just because I thought Nat would get a kick out of it, and he made me climb it over and over and over again, and I was reminded how great climbing a tree in your bare feet is. Nat has reminded me to stare at clouds and passing airplanes, to kick at clumps of dandelions, to spend 45 minutes walking the six blocks to the dog-run. Its living in the moment, its embracing the experience for what it is and loving it, its doing things that are fun because they are fun.

I think too often our society takes this idea of adults embracing play and makes it overly self-conscious and forced: this isn’t a Sark “Eat Mangos Naked” poster. It also isn’t the ironic play that much of my hipster generation has embraced. Irony is cowardice, because it refuses to commit to honest joy. Irony says “Look, I’m having fun playing Ms. Pac-Man, but if you think I’m lame I can always retreat behind my irony — just kidding!” “Look, I’m growing a moustache, and if you like it that’s great, but if you don’t I’m just being ironic.” There is nothing ironic about the way I splash in puddles right now, even when Nat is not around: I like splashing in puddles, I just enjoy it. Last week, I jumped in a puddle on the way to work, because it made me happy and made me laugh out-loud. Friday, I took of my Vibrams and walked barefoot through the park on the way to school, just to feel the dewy grass on my toes. At one extreme, when toddlers are throwing tantrums and wanting things “now now now” and not sharing, they are perfect metaphors for Buddhist suffering and the preta-mindset; at their other extreme, they are models of enlightenment, of living in the moment and embracing simplicity.


So where does this long, rambling inquiry into joy leave us? That my joy comes not from seeking it out, but in finding in what I have, in where I am. That joy is simple. Not that this is terribly profound, but perhaps that’s the point. That there is no need to seek joy, because joy is already here; sometimes it is easier to see than others, and sometimes it takes a toddler to point it out to you. That the best way to enjoy a run is to go out with one goal in mind: to run. That’s what I’ve been trying to do, and unsurprisingly, with a goal that simple, every run is a success.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Being on the receiving end... (Race report 5-peaks SFU)

  (This post is also published on my blog

This was the "Hill" we were running.
Not once but twice.  Looks small huh?
Remember this photo was taken 
from a distance of over 1 mile away
Last Saturday, I decided to run an impromptu trail race. This was another race in the 5-peaks series and it was based at Simon Fraser University (SFU) which is about 15 mins away from me. My friend Simon wanted to run this race and I tagged along. This was his first trail race and I thought I would come along for moral support and show him how it's done. ;)

The week before had been interesting. I had not been feeling 100% and on the Saturday I was quietly hoping I would have an email from Simon saying he wasn't going. I would then crawl back into bed. No luck. As the race is only 15 mins away and is so small, there are no huge cues or line-ups. I didn't crawl out of bed till gone 7AM, so it wasn't as if I was losing sleep. This is pretty much heaven as racing goes.So after the usual pre-race stuff that kind of happens, I get to the race site at about 8:20, register and wait around for Simon. We were planning to meet at 8:30 and I had a few minutes waiting and praying that Simon turned up. Otherwise I was running 9.8K and 2,000ft by myself!

"Little and Large" a.k.a. Simon and Me.
Simon turned up (YAY!) and we head to the back of the corral for the race start. So there aren't huge crowds on the course -it's mainly single track, the 300 runners were sent in 5 waves. We were at the back of wave 5. We KNEW we wouldn't be the fastest, this way there was less pressure to beat everyone else. If we knew we couldn't beat the whole group (and they whole group are made of 80% nutters), this just ensured we could chill out and enjoy the trip. How much did that sentence come to bite me later on!

So off we went on course and after talking to another running friend of mine, (Megan my trail running hero) we had a little more idea of the course. She mentioned that the last hill was a monster and that one of the main problems is that some of the downhill descent is in the form of a "V-shaped" gully. You have to run down the 25% angled sides with no level path and it's tricky.

The first 1-2 miles was all descent. During 1 mile there was a descent of about 1,000ft. Then immediately after there was an ascent of about 900 ft, again over about 2 miles. The first descent was a blast. We had to take it slightly slower than we would have liked as we were still in a small pack of runners. I didn't mind this, it just meant I had to chill out a little and enjoy the scenery. The track although not as rocky as the last race did have these sections of gully which I did not handle well. About half-way down I nearly fell but managed a fancy little "Bum-bounce" on the side of the gully and was back on my feet without missing a step. Alright, the fact I "almost" fell was not showing my trail-head cred to Simon, however, I have to admit I was fairly impressed by the gracefulness of it. I am not a graceful person, but I liked to pretend that this was a sort of move I perform ALL the time whilst trail running. *cough* In vanity we lay our own disaster!

The first ascent was a daunting reminder that I sucked at hills. I am reminded that I should do more hill training and that Simon was better at hills than I was. Okay, he is 6ft 3 and I am 5ft 2. He does have a little advantage in that he doesn't have as much leg turnover to cover the same ground. However, both of our ego's were beaten when on the start of our first ascent we were passed by the leaders starting their second ascent. (The leader was a guy called Oliver and he won the 10K in 43 minutes - I mean that's not right. That's almost inhuman).

We walked/ran a little up the first ascent. We had picked up some "shot-blocks" that they were giving away at the first aid station. We had both decided NOT to take anything with us on the race, so we did need to take in water and food at each station. I've never had shot-blocks before and I must say, overall if I was reviewing them... my conclusion would be, they are impossible to open whilst moving. It took Simon and I over 1K to get the blasted packet open. The contents were okay, but not anything special enough to warrant the almost animal behaviour we had to produce to open the packet. Teeth, nails, even growling at the packet did not work.

It became apparent during the first few KM, that Simon had a clothing problem. I like smiling during my races and it always made me smile seeing Simon try and pull his shorts up. Sorry Simon, but it was funny.

I kept mentioning to Simon that he didn't need to hang around with me, that if he wanted to go faster he could. "Likewise" he said and we settled into an even pace as we hit the second descent. Half way, down the second descent I was VERY pleased Simon decided to stick around.

We reached the "V-shaped" gully descent again and with the legs getting tired it was harder for me to stay on my feet. Today was all about falling over it seems. All of a sudden, my foot decided to go one way, my knee went another and the rest of my body went in a different direction entirely. There was a crack from my knee and I landed face first. The immediate pain was intense. I knew I had done something and it took a couple of minutes of staying still before I got a handle of what had happened. The bodies natural painkillers took over and Simon offered his hand to pull me up. I gingerly tried it and although sore it seemed okay. I told Simon he could go on, but he decided to stay. This was when I was on the receiving end of "his perfect race"

Simon could have gone and easily run quicker than me. He didn't. He didn't have to walk as much as I did, but he did anyway. He stayed, he kept MY pace and he ran to keep ME company. If it wasn't for him there, I would have gone to the next volunteer and stopped. I knew my leg wasn't the best and for safety I would have quit, but knowing Simon was there, I carried on. I knew if it got too much then I could stop and Simon would get help, but as I had that safety net, I knew I could carry on. He didn't make a fuss, or make me feel guilty about holding him back. We just ran a little, walked a lot more and had a laugh. At that point I realised that those moments you make when you concentrate on the people you are with and NOT the numbers DOES make a difference. I would have been on course for a DNF, but Simon with his quiet friendship meant I could go on. I am very thankful he was there, more so because it validates my thinking that putting other racers before your own goals DOES mean something.

At the aid station second time we spent a few more minutes than before joking with the volunteers. The female volunteer kept saying we were looking great and fantastic. I was covered in mud, my knee must have looked a sight and my leg was full of grazes. I did a look of "Yeah right!" to another volunteer and we had a bit of a laugh about it. We were about 2.5K from the end and about to hit the last ascent of about 800 feet - including the stretch of Cardiac Hill (as we found out it was called). At this point my sore knee was causing me not to pick my feet as much and I stumbled again. I have only fallen on a trail once in over 12 months before this race and here I was flat on my back AGAIN, grinning. I gave a shout "Really? Come on? Are you serious?" to the sky above. Here I was trying to show Simon how to run a trail race and all I showed was that I was exceptionally good at falling over! Simon took a stumble a few meters on, but I think he did that on purpose just to make me feel better. :)

Post race. I am sporting the new fashion.
TENSOR bandage.
As we thought the hill would never end, we could hear the music from the finish line. We rounded the corner to the quick downhill sprint to the finish, I over heard the volunteer saying "The party pack are on the way down". I knew it was code for the stragglers were finishing and they could start the course sweep, but it made me smile. As if the RD and volunteers knew me. :)

The clock said 1:30 at the end and after grabbing a cup of water and some fruit I headed to the aid station to get some ice for my knee. Now I had stopped I could feel it stiffening up. The Snow Patrol station iced and bandaged my knee up telling me I needed to get it seen to. I waved off that concern, thinking RICE would sort it out. It wasn't until the next day when my leg looked like a small bomb had been placed under my knee and exploded and my knee was replaced by what appeared to be a large potato did I go to the ER.

Do you think I did something to my knee?
This was taken in the ER. Hoping it's not
the predicted Cartilage damage the ER
doctor thinks. :/
I am now in a knee brace, crutches and I have an orthopedic appointment in a few weeks. I ran two miles on that knee - how bad arse am I? Okay, not as hard arse as Oliver who managed to run the whole thing in 43 minutes but still, a few kudos points?

Our final time was 1:26 and we were about 8 mins behind my running hero Megan. So overall we actually didn't do a bad time. Despite my fantastic fall I still enjoyed this race. I still had fun (even after my fall) and I can't wait to hit the trails again.