Saturday, January 11, 2014

No Business Like Snow Business

Today I am 192.6 pounds of rolling thunder.

So if orange is indeed the new black, then to me snow is the new sand. Not that I have ever run any distance through sand, but I've been told it is great exercise and builds up your calves while reducing the pounding that your legs take.

Well, Mother Nature or Old Man Winter have provided us with a couple of good snowfalls already this year, so I figured why not just go with and run through the snow. Taking to the roads when it's snowy and icy out can be a little iffy and the drivers, especially at night when I have time to run, can be a bit chippy, and so it is that I have elected to run on snow-packed sidewalks.

Maybe it's just because I'm the world's slowest human and have come to running late in the game, but I find running through snow kind of fun and definitely challenging. And while sand and it's associated warmer weather might be preferable, a runner's got to do what a runner's got to do so why not just go with it and enjoy the ride?

I can definitely tell when I've spent most or part of my running session traveling through the snow. In a way it's like running with squishy lead boots strapped to your legs. I find it even more challenging when the sidewalks are impassible and I have to take to the snow-covered grass alongside the sidewalk.

Plus, it's just fun to do something different to break up the monotony of running on all-too-familiar streets. Slippery? Yes. Challenging? Definitely. But even if I have to cut short my run because of cold or dark conditions I find 45 minutes outside goes by immensely faster than pound out the minutes on my Nordic Trak or sitting on the seat of a stationary bike.

So what if your new running shoes get a little wet. Heck, you bought them to run in, right? They'll dry out. And if it's that big of a deal, dig out an old pair from the back of the closet. Just get out there and enjoy the run.

So here's the deal, if you see the world's slowest human out there slogging through the snow with big dumb grin on his face, give me a wave. Welcome to the joy ride.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas to Me!

Today I am 193.8 pounds of rolling thunder -- a month ago (forgive me readers for I have neglected you) I was 189.0 pounds of rolling thunder.

It's been a while since we've gotten together to talk about the joys and pitfalls of being a runner, and much has changed during that time. Obviously, there is more rolling thunder of me to go around, which I attribute to the freezing cold and my body's primordial desire to add a fat layer so as not to freeze to death over the winter.

At least that's the tale I tell myself as I struggle to answer why I keep an extra 5 pounds on my frame during the winter months, which sounds a whole lot better than the truth which is the cold and darkness reduce my running time by about 20 percent these days, and I often opt for indoor workouts that require less energy.

Perhaps the biggest change is the fact that I have now given in and purchased running shoes that cost me just short of the national debt. Yes, if paying out the nose for running shoes qualifies one as a "runner" than I should be on the brink of world class.

I've always wanted to go to one of those fancy running shoe stores to have an "expert" fitter look at my gait and watch to see if I was an under or over pronater but the lure of cheaper sporting goods store shoes always drew me in and kept me away.

This time, my mind was made up. I had made the laps at all the big box sales places and had even narrowed my choices down somewhat. But then, there I was at the mall with the running store. And then, there I was in stocking feet walking around a small oval so a stranger could watch me and analyze my steps.

The next thing I knew, I was surrounded by boxes filled with shoes baring all sorts of exotic names. Heck, the names alone made me feel like a runner -- or a cheetah.

My quick trip to the mall went from a mere 30 minutes to more than an hour as I slipped on countless shoes. First the left foot and then the right. Matched pairs. Mixed pairs. How does that feel? My, that toe box feels comfy. Plantar fasciitis would rule me no more.

Finally, it was down to two shoes. Yes, I could run in either of these. And the salesman was kind enough to correct me when I opined that I was a heavy runner. Really, there was no choice. One shoe was truly the most comfy, but then there it was. How about that model, I asked.

There it was. The holy grail of running shoes. The one in the big ad in a runner's magazine.

Why there was a pair in the back that was just my size. The minute those babies hit my feet it was a match made in running heaven. Price tags be damned. I was a runner. These shoes were going home with me.

And yes, they've been a great buy, but I'm still not going to break any land speed records. But oh do my feet and joints feel better. Merry Christmas to me.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Wave Doesn't Give Motorists the Right of Way

Today I am 189.0 pounds of rolling thunder.

Hey, yah, I see you there driving down the street about to make a left turn. Hello, yes, I like that you waved at me. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore the rules of the road and turn on top of a pedestrian crossing the street.

I’ve never classified myself as a runner. I don’t fall into the trap of “I run, therefore I am a runner.” In my mind’s eye I see runners as those super-slim, negative body fat athletes that adorn the pages of running and fitness magazines. Certainly the world’s slowest human does not fall into the category of super slim or negative body fat.

But that doesn’t mean the rules of the road don’t apply to we lowly humans who run, but don’t consider ourselves runners. Over the years I’ve ridden my bicycle for tens of thousands of hours on city streets so I’m pretty familiar with the fact that most motorists are blind to anyone or anything that doesn’t involve a metal cage surrounding its human driver.

I’ve often commented that my community has the two things that are most dangerous to bicyclists (and runners, by extension): Elderly drivers who can’t see you and teen drivers who don’t want to see you. You can now add in texting drivers who are too busy typing with their thumbs to see you.

I’ve been hit twice while out riding my bike, and both times the drivers were at fault. The first was a little clip of my back wheel by a driver who said he didn’t see me and proceeded to make a left turn on top of me. The second was quite a crash. The driver pulled out from a stop sign in front of my bike. With no stop sign I had the right of way, but again the driver said he didn’t see me, which was little consolation when I hit the car’s fender, flipped over my handlebars and landed smack in the middle of the windshield before bouncing onto the street.

So whenever I run or ride these days I consider myself invisible to motorists, who either can’t see me, don’t want to see me, or are too busy to see me. And while it might slow the process down a bit, it keeps me safe (sort of). To me the tradeoff you get from exercise is worth the risk taken to be out in the sunshine and fresh air.

When it comes to running or riding, cars will always win, so I try to error on the side of caution especially when I see that a driver is fixed on looking at oncoming traffic in another direction and not making sure that the intersection is clear of pedestrians coming from their blindside.

But I do have to repeat my little whine for the day. If you’re in a car making a left turn and you see a pedestrian in the walkway or about to cross the road while you’re rushing to beat traffic, a wave doesn’t give you the right of way to make that turn. Remember your driver’s education days, pedestrians always have the right of way.

To my fellow people who run, be safe out there and enjoy the day.

Friday, October 25, 2013

It's Not Always About How Fast You Go

 Today I am 186.8 pounds of rolling thunder.

Sometimes it's amazing how different two siblings can be.

Take for example my two sons. Last weekend we went to the final cross country meet of the high school season. The day was crisp and clear and the track was rolling and wet from showers the evening before the race.

A year ago, we were at the same race and both boys were running. Over the course of four years our older son willed himself to become a runner with respectable times. His form was never textbook, but he was so determined to decrease his time that how he ran the race really never mattered much.

Son No.2 is cut from different cloth. He's out there giving it his all but times don't matter nearly as much. But that's OK. As parents, we're all about the exercise and camaraderie that comes with being involved in a team sport like cross country. Our only rules are you start -- you finish.

So on this fine October day we took our normal places alongside the course and watched as the runners went by. In many ways there is nothing better than watching athletes run around a beautiful course that is adorned by the colorful changing of the leaves.

Son No.2 kept his normal choppy plodding pace around the course. He made it through the finish line at a trot and then headed off to gather up his gear for the ride home.

Sure, his times could be faster. But you know what, he's still well ahead of me, the world's slowest human. But I know we both benefit from being out there moving our bodies.

So the next time you see the world's slowest human plodding along some roadside, give me a wave!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Today I am 188.6 pounds of rolling thunder.

Snow is a word I had hoped not to use for another month or so, but here we are in mid-October and the temperatures have dipped into the low 40s. A check with our friends on Facebook tells me that snow has rolled across eastern Colorado and into western Kansas.

Fortunately, there is no call for snow in my forecast, but the thought of a misty, cold run after work today doesn't sound all that inviting.

Darn it all. Wasn't it just May when the last snowfall swept through the area turning spring back into winter one last time? Winter had overstayed its welcome then and it just might do it again.

If this sounds like the musing of a running wimp, well they are. I'm sort of a cold weather wimp, but I do like to get my run in so it might be time to find the tights and bundle up.

Plus, I've got some motivation. I finally bit the bullet and bought an UP to track my fitness efforts.

For those of you not familiar with the Up from Jawbone, it's a wristband device that tracks your movement and sleep. And, of course, it comes with an app that displays your data, lets you add things like meals and mood, and delivers insights that keep you moving forward.

And, of course, to make the app run I needed a cellphone upgrade. So being a runner, I decided to upgrade the phone as well so I could actually run the app that turns the UP on. Confused? Let's just say it was an excuse to add more gizmos to my already cluttered life.

So after wrestling the UP from its tightly sealed packaging I put it on and started the day off counting steps and calories. o far, 2,272 steps taken and 1,054 calories burned. I'm feeling healthier already, and I'm also sensing pie in my future.

Hopefully, there is an app to shake the wimp from my system and get me back out on the road. How shameful would it be for the world's slowest human not to hit the streets when he's got a new UP to tell him where he's going?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ranidrops Keep Falling on My Head

Today I am 189.2 pounds of rolling thunder.

I've got to tell you, in my next life I'm coming back as a meteorologist or an economist. Both good-paying gigs if you can get them, and both professions based on wild guesses.

I came to this realization about a week ago after my daily run. You see I had come home from work and was prepping for my daily running  ritual, which on this day was to be a four-mile loop with a three-mile time trial (I use that term loosely and with great poetic license).

Anyway, the skies were overcast but not worrisome so I switched on the local weathercast to see what my fate might be if I went out for my run. The local weather guy, let's call him Larry, predicted that storms would be headed into the metro in about two hours.

Perfect, my little romp around the 'hood would only take about an hour. Plenty of time to make the run and get inside before the nastiness hit. But, as they say, the joke was on me.

So I rolled up the warm-up hill without any issues. It takes me about 10 minutes and serves as a good way to get the heart and lungs ready for the rest of the route. The skies were gray and the air a little heavy. But Larry had promised me no rain for two hours. Remember that, it will be on the quiz.

My first timed mile is downhill. And while I'm not at all fast, it's generally the fastest portion of my run. Fresh legs and a steady incline will do that.

I hit the one-mile corner in good time. Not great, but good -- for me, at least. The second mile usually is my do or die. There are four or five hills and a long stop light if you hit it wrong. Normally, hope of doing anything good time-wise dies during this stretch.

On this day, I was doing OK. I made the last hill and hit the corner in so-so time. It was at least well within the window of success. So I made the turn for home, and then disaster struck.

Rain began to trickle down as I headed down the hill into the last mile. First, I could hear the droplets hitting the leaves on top of the heavy canopy of tree limbs. Then it began to spit on me and at long last the skies opened and it began dumping rain down.

I made it to a stoplight where I stood in the deluge as motorists stared at me as if I were naked. Two thoughts passed through my head: please don't let me someone I know and please let someone I know offer me a ride.

As I stood there waiting to restart the clock when the light turned I thought to myself that if there was no lightning and the weather was warm I might as well make the dash to the finish -- rain be damned.

So I said a little prayer and gave a little curse to Larry, and off I went. I made the final light, and of course had to pause again. This time shorter than the last. The rain continued to pour down and I considered ducking under the canopy of a local bank.

What the heck, when you're wet, your wet, right? So I dashed ahead, finished in decent time and the rain slowly let up as I jogged the half mile home -- soaked to the bone. Thanks Larry.

So it is that when you see me in the next life I'll be giving you the daily downpour report or telling you how to invest your 401K. Both are based on guesses. For now, however, if you see the world's slowest human out running, give me a big wave -- and a ride home in the rain.