The passion of the run (and the bike)

Out at dinner one night, a good friend told me it was gratifying to see that I had such a passion for all the running and cycling I’ve been doing this year. I told her I’m more amazed than anything else. From where this all started to where I am, the journey has been enlightening. And it’s been some of the hardest stuff I’ve ever done–early mornings, heat, cold, cramps, and questioning whether or not this is the smartest thing to do.

On OkCupid, there’s a question on what’s more important in a relationship, passion or dedication. I answered dedication. It doesn’t sound terribly romantic, but for a relationship to work, you have to put the work in. Flying on the autopilot of lust, desire and attachment will only get you so far. Once that fades, then what?

The initial rush of that first run or bike is great–I’m out on the road! I can feel the breeze! This is wonderful! The flow, then ebbs. Dragging yourself out of a warm bed to pull on your running togs and face a cold, hard dawn, is a…drag. The question of why the hell am I doing this is a constant. You tell yourself, there’s a payoff…somewhere. When you’re not running, you’re still preparing–passing up that doughnut for a banana. Parking the car a little farther from the store.

Soon, it becomes natural. You make the time to run in the morning. You take a pass on happy hour because you want to be right for the early ride. You judge the weather on how good a run day it would be. When you don’t run, or bike, you miss it. You don’t just run for the 5k shirt, or bike for the medal or water bottle you’ll get–you do it because you want to.

That’s love.

I think.

The question on OkCupid (like many of the questions there) is too damn binary. It’s both–the passion gets you in the door. The dedication keeps you there, and helps ride out the bumps that will come.

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Back on the good foot

Yep, it’s been a while, so it’s time to get back at. 
 
I feel guilty about not doing it (like I do now). It continues to occupy my head in a way that, frankly shocks me. I don’t thing I’ve ever done anything that hurts so much while I’m doing it, and feels so good after I’m done.
 
I’m still running. As much as it can hurt, I’m still on the treadmill and the road. All winter, I ran at least twice a week, prepping for a stretch of runs in the spring and hoping that I could improve on the slack-ass run I had on New Year’s Day. A 5k, an 8k and a 5k later, I’d say it’s mission accomplished. The first run, on a cold and damp day, saw me finish about a minute faster than my very first run last summer. Given that I hate running in that stuff (it’s chilly, and cold weather make strenuous activity that much harder for me), I was pleasantly surprised. 
 
Next up was the 8k, a distance I’d only completed in practice runs–a couple of weeks before. Race weather was a little bit of a shock–nippy 50s at the start, but 60s at the finish. And this was the best race I’ve been so far–6,000 or so at the start. With these runs, I try to run the first mile completely, then run-walk the rest of the way. Imagine my surprise when I felt fresh enough to go almost a mile and a half without stopping. Don’t knock it–I was still moving. 
 
I was slogging toward the finish as the two top finishers in the half-marathon blew past me (I know one of those guys). As cresting the hill toward the line, I could hear the crowd, and that gave me a little boost to make it. I have to say, it felt great to hear my name from the MC as I crossed the finish–in under an hour. As with many of these runs, you get a medal. It makes me glad to have run the 8 and not the half–the 8K medal was a helluva lot better.
 
On to the next run, this time, in my hometown. It felt wonderful to walk back in to my hometown school, see folks I hadn’t seen in decades, and run a 5k for the school’s bands. The one advantage I had over the other races was that I grew up in this place and knew the roads and streets. 
 
The morning was sunny and warmer that I thought–I didn’t need the running tights I had on. The run started, and I slogged to the first mile. It was a small field (lots of little kids, though), so the runners were strung out a bit, a little more alone on the course than I’ve been used to. But rounding a corner and hitting one of the main streets, the energy came back. My strategy was to run two blocks and walk one. And it worked–I hit a PR. Home cooking tastes good.
 
And so, this Sunday, on a bit of a lark, I’m running another 5k. The races help me train toward a goal–like being part of a triathlon relay team in mid-July. Running feels like jazz felt when I was in my early 20s–something I can do and keep up with for a very long time. I’ll have about two months between races, so I have to–sorry, want to–keep training, eventually hitting a duathlon and then, by this time next year…a half-marathon. That’s my moonshot–that’s the one I want to complete. 

 

Back on the good foot

Most sensible people would spend New Year’s morning nursing a well-earned hangover. I was suiting up to run a 5K in the cold. It was the fourth run I’ve done, and the worst one, in terms of the weather (below freezing) and time (a shade over 40 minutes). But the sweatshirt you get for registering was worth it. 

This running thing is becoming a test of will now. Running is not comfortable for me–I can run a mile nonstop, but it can be a struggle, especially in the winter. It can be painful for my knees. It can get boring–there’s no way I can run more than five miles, lest I lose interest. If I were faster, I wouldn’t worry about my attention being held. 

It’s a struggle–getting up, getting dressed, huffing and puffing, wondering why I do this. 

Why I’m doing this, isn’t just for the physical payoff. It seems like the mental challenge is the biggest hill to climb. I told a friend that I want to be an “international man of leisure.” This running is as far away from that as you can get from that. While I like being on my bike, that takes little effort–it’s natural. The running isn’t; it feels like a Rube Goldberg-like process to get out the door. 

And yet…I got out of the bed and out the door this morning. What running is doing is pushing me to be in places in my head that I haven’t been before. Even though my time on New Year’s wasn’t great, the sense of accomplishment was still there. 

There’s always a lesson to be learned, and it’s  to prepare. I wasn’t ready to run the last one (six miles on the bike the week before doesn’t count). So this winter, I’ll be on the treadmill, running twice a week. It’s not much, but it’s a restart. I’ve got runs coming in the spring–I want to run a little better for those. 

Inside the running mind of chehaw

The Saturday of the 5K, I jotted some prerace notes down, I guess in a way to burn some energy…

(No, there are no caps–sue me… 😉

i’ve never been a great starter; a little worried about this 5k and starting; like my dad said, pace myself (I started out OK, no great shakes.; though I did completely run the first mile)

 
don’t worry about competing with anybody, even yourself. just run. (The thought experiment…I thought of a line from a Living Colour song: No expectations, just living free)
 
a sense of relief that is over (I nearly cried after hitting the finish line)
 
all of this started because of a woman i’m no longer speaking to; should i let her know i ran it? maybe 😉 (Haven’t let her know…yet)
 
i think i want a steak after this is done (Great burger and fries and beer; well earner, I’d say)
 
this is not the craziest thing i’ve done, just the most tortuous (My body felt ok afterward; my knees, pretty damn good; the craziest thing I’ve done wasn’t in this country)
 
this is so funny, what i’m about to do (There was something slightly absurd about me running; it ran counter to me being an international man of leisure)
 
i need to wear my mala beads–need all the help i can get (Forgot them, though I did ok)

Random notes after a run

As I was hitting the finishing chute in the 5K,I didn’t feel this massive surge of energy propelling me to the line, but I felt more amazement than anything. I topped my projected time by nearly a minute, but that wasn’t the biggest thing. Panting after hitting the line, I grabbed my medal for finishing, walked over to the boardwalk railing, and tried to hold back tears. The sense of accomplishment was nearly overwhelming. The work of preparing to do something out of the ordinary was daunting–the physical of having to run three times a week and eating smartly to prepare the body, the mental in pushing past pain, wondering why I’m doing this. I did it to see if I could it–set a goal, do the work to prepare, then actually achieve it.

And I was heading to the line, I played a game with myself. Let’s have a thought experiment: just run. Don’t worry about the time, or the people passing you. Pay attention to you–how you’re running, your steps, your breath, the sweat pouring down. If you need to walk, walk. When you’re ready to run, run. I tried to meditate while I ran. We often think of meditation as only sitting still, when it’s also simply paying attention to yourself and what is happening within you.

The warrior meditates only when he is performing his duty. As soon as he puts aside his sword, he relaxes his attention. Suzuki Shosan, “Warrior of Zen”

I tried to be there at the run, and nowhere else. It’s a lesson I need to extend elsewhere in life. In anything, from folding laundry to sex, you and your attention have to be there. Your clothes and your partner will thank you.

While I was training for this run, I compiled a playlist to get me through–Living Colour, Pat Benatar, AC/DC, a lot of uptempo dance music. So as I was walking to the starting line, what song was in my head? Stravinsky’s “Pastorale,” a beautiful piece of music–and not exactly pulsating work. But my brain knew what it was doing: calming me for the run in the sun.

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Run, run, run, run

On Saturday morning, while sensible people will be asleep, I’ll be starting to run my first 5k. It’s been three months of the couch-to-5k thing, days where my knee barks going down stairs, mornings where I say to myself, do I really have to run today. The journey is almost over, and while I just want to finish the thing, I’m not really nervous about it. Why should I be? I’m not competing against anyone, and it’s benefitted my health. I’m really looking to have fun, and to see if I can complete this. And then, I can go back to being (somewhat) sensible.

And this is how I … probably won’t be running tomorrow…