june 22/XT

xt = cross-training = swim
2400 yards/2 loops open swim

The open swim was excellent. The water was very calm, no waves at all. Lots of planes overhead. Not too many swimmers because it had just stopped raining. In the first loop, my wetsuit made a weird squeaking noise underwater. Funny to hear.

I’m struggling with my runs lately. It could be the heat. It could be a loss in confidence. It could be a bit of burnout from training for 6 months. Or it could be my diet. I’m a pescatarian who eats mostly vegetables, fish about 2-3 times a month and no meat. This has been my diet for almost 4 years. I don’t miss meat at all. Occasionally I wonder, when I’m feeling fatigued, if I’m missing out on some protein and iron because I’m not eating red meat. It might be time to pay more attention to food and my diet. Not too much attention, but enough to make sure that lack of protein or iron or amino acids or something else is not the cause of my fatigue.

According to this article, here are some important food combinations to ensure that I get the 8 essential amino acids* that I need:

  • Grains with legumes
  • Grains with dairy
  • Vegetables with soy
  • Legumes with nuts
  • Vegetables with dairy.

Also important: to absorb the iron in non-meat foods, combine it with vitamin C and use an cast-iron skillet. Cast-iron skillet? Who knew.

*The 8 Essential Amino Acids

There are 20 essential amino acids, 8 of which your body doesn’t produce naturally. [source]

  • valine,
  • isoleucine
  • leucine
  • phenylalanine
  • threonine
  • tryptophan
  • methionine
  • lysine

june 21/6 MILES

63 degrees
dew point 54
franklin hill turn around with extra

Still struggling with energy during the run. The first 3-4 miles feel fine and then it gets really hard. My heart rate goes up and my legs feel so sore. Midway through I wondered, should I ease up a little for the rest of the week? Maybe skip my long run and do a mini-taper before my half marathon on the 4th of July? Is that giving up or resting up?

Yesterday I listened to Lorde, today I listened to lots of wheels. Car wheels, bike wheels, roller blade wheels. So many wheels moving fast and slow and so many people on the road and the bike path!

june 20/3 MILES

63 degrees
dew point 53
70% humidity
mississippi river road path, north/mississippi river road path, south

Got a late start because of rain, so decided to do my shorter run today. Listened to the new Lorde album while I ran. Managed to hear the daily walker say good morning to me and answered back with my own good morning. Felt pretty good, despite the heat and high dew point. Other than saying good morning, I don’t remember that much about the run.

open swim
2 loops/2400 yards

A good swim. The waves were choppy on the way back from the little beach to the big beach, which I don’t mind. I feel tired and have a warm glow all over, from sore muscles. So wonderful. I love swimming across the lake. It’s so much better than swimming in a pool, doing endless laps and flip turns.

So, what do I think about when I’m swimming?

  • Where’s the buoy?
  • Am I still on course?
  • Any other swimmers around that I might run into?
  • There are a lot of airplanes in the sky today.
  • Is my nose plug working, or will my nose get horribly stuffed up around midnight and keep me up all night because I can’t breathe?
  • Should I do a third loop?
  • These waves aren’t bothering me too much, just tiring me out.
  • The buoys are a little screwed up and messing with my big beach to little beach trajectory.
  • My calf feels fine.
  • I can’t believe it’s summer already and I’m swimming in the lake.

My thoughts during an open swim are really mundane. Because of my vision problems, I spend a lot of time trying to site the buoys and stay on the course. I really don’t need to spend that much time on it. I’m an excellent swimmer who swims straight and rarely strays too far. Maybe I can train myself to focus more on the textures and sensations of the swim next time?

june 18/5 MILES

60 degrees
dew point 60
lake nokomis, twice

Yes, the dew point was the same as the temperature. I guess, because it was only 60 degrees this morning, this didn’t bother me quite as much. Scott and I ran the first loop of Lake Nokomis together, then I ran the second one by myself while he got ready for his 5K race. After I finished running, I swam 2400 yards in Lake Nokomis, or two loops (the big beach to the little beach and back to the big beach). What a great morning! The run was pretty good, although I was tired at the end. But the swim was excellent. The water wasn’t too choppy. I could see all the buoys. And my calf didn’t cramp up in my wetsuit.

During my run, I chanted “I am flying, I am free. I am where I want to be” a lot. It helped.

During my swim, I thought about the dark, murky water and how I couldn’t see at all underwater. I was struck by the contrast between that dark water and the sky, with its patches of blue, some clouds and the occasional airplane.

 

june 17/7 MILES

71 degrees
dew point 67
84% humidity
all around austin, mn

Wow, that dew point’s a killer. Ran with Scott in his hometown. The first 4 miles were rough. Then we walked for about 3 or 4 minutes. After that, it was a bit easier. Managed to finish the 7 miles, which I’m taking as a victory, even though we walked twice. None of my recent runs have been pretty, but I’m still managing to get them done. Someday soon, it will get easier. I’m sure of it.

june 16/REST

I feel pretty good today, even though I ran 12 miles in the morning and then swam a loop (1200 yds) at Lake Nokomis in the evening yesterday. It was the first swim of the Open Swim season! I love swimming across Lake Nokomis. A loop, which is 600 yards to the little beach and 600 yards back to the big beach, usually takes me slightly less than 20 minutes. That time, alone in the water, half-submerged between lake and sky, is even more dreamy than running time. So many things to pay attention to and write about!

Open Swim Sensations

  • The textures of the waves.
  • The smooth sand that gets wedged between my toes and makes my feet very rough.
  • The shafts of light that, on especially sunny days, appear underwater, just in front of me, as I swim.
  • The big orange inflatable triangles that mark the route, sometimes looming large, other times disappearing in the undulating water.
  • Random encounters with fish, swimming below me, and other swimmers, swimming over me or into me or around me.
  • The slimy, scratchy vines that wrap themselves around my arm or face as I stroke through the water.
  • The mysterious sounds–the clanging and humming and buzzing–under the water mixed with the sounds of slapping and sloshing waves above.
  • The warm soreness that I feel all over my body, but especially in my shoulders, after a long swim.
  • The sand and dirt and lake sediment that gets trapped in my suit, causing me to feel itchy for hours after the swim.

june 15/12 MILES

69 degrees
57 dew point
64% humidity
mississippi river road path, south/minnehaha creek/minnehaha falls/mississippi river road path, north then south then north then south

My route today was a bit crazy. I did a series of loops and turn arounds along the river, along the creek and at the falls. Would it have been easier to run a single loop? Would anything have made this run easy? Doubtful. This 12 mile run (with several walk stops) was hard. It was slow. It was ugly. But I did it. At 3 miles in, I wanted to be done, but I kept going. I’m telling myself that keeping going is the most important thing for my training right now.

I need some tricks or spells or chants or cheers or something to keep me motivated and willing to push through the moments when the doubt starts creeping in and it feels too hard to keep running or moving. Here’s one possibility:

Come on Sara, you can do it!

There was a hill near our old house and when my daughter would have to bike up it, I would chant:

Come on Rosie you can do it
put some Puotinen power to it!

It usually worked and she could make it up the hill without stopping. That is, until she got older and was too cool for such cheezy chants. Maybe I should try a similar one while I’m running. I don’t care how cheezy it is. Besides I plan to chant it in my head, not out loud:

Come on Sara
you can do it
put some Puotinen
power to it!
use the sisu
that’s your birthright
be persistent
fight fight fight fight!

After posting the above shortly after my run, I spent some more time thinking through my struggles with motivation. Here are a few different versions:

A Difficult Run, 7 Versions

1

In the writing class that I’m taking, we just started learning about psychic distance. Here is my first experiment in trying out the various distances, from far away to closer:

I did my long run this morning.
It was slightly cooler, but the humidity and dew point were fairly high. I ran 12 miles.
I ran on several of my favorite paths, but I struggled to keep running.
So many times, I wanted to stop. It felt too hard to keep going. My legs hurt and I felt weak.
Soreness everywhere. Heaviness too. Legs thick and useless. Then doubt. A malevolent thought: You could stop, you know. At first, I stuck to my planned walk breaks and ignored the thought. But, it was persistent. You could stop, you know. By mile 9, it had dug deep into my bones, my bloodstream, my muscles. Too hard to resist or to remember that this moment would pass. I stopped and walked. Then ran. Walked. Ran. Walked. Ran. Until I had done all 12 miles.

2

Run 3 miles.
Walk 3 minutes.
Run 3 miles.
Refill water bottle.
Walk 3 minutes.
Run 2 miles.
Walk 2 minutes.
Run 1 mile.
Walk 1 minutes.
Run 1 mile.
Walk 2 minutes.
Run 1/2 mile.
Refill water bottle.
Walk 1 minute.
Run 1/2 mile.
Walk 1 minute.
Run 1/2 mile.
Walk 1 minute.
Run 1/4 mile.
Walk 1 minute.
Run 1/4 mile.

3

3:3
3:H2O:3
2:2
1:1
1:2
1/2:H2O:1
1/2:1
1/2:1
1/4:1:1/4

4

3 + 3 + 2 + 1 + 1 + 1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2 + 1/4 +1/4 = 12

5

Start long run: 6:04 AM
End long run: 8:14 AM
Average pace: 10’47”
Fastest mile: 9′ 28″
Slowest mile: 12’47”

6

Started without headphones because I wanted to feel the stillness of the morning and hear the birds chirping. At mile 3, decided that I needed the extra distraction of my running playlist. Listened to it for the rest of the run. It helped. A little. The first song I heard was Rufus and Chaka Khan, Tell me Something Good. And somewhere in the middle was It’s Too Late by Carole King.

7

Hover over the poem to see the full lyrics used from “Tell Me Something Good” and “It’s Too Late”

Somethin’ inside died
no
fire
just
pride
good

june 14/3.1 MILES

72 degrees
77% humidity
62 dew point
mississippi river road path, north/mississippi river road path, south

In Please Add This to the List, one of the writing experiments is:

Attempt writing in a state of mind that seems least congenial.

In earlier, happier times, when it wasn’t so hot and humid and my long runs were only 10 miles, I tried out this experiment by composing a poem while running up a steep hill. That “least congenial state of mind” lasted for about 4-5 minutes and then I was back to “gee, isn’t it fun to run in the most pleasant weather ever!” Sara. That was early April. Now it’s June and unusually hot and humid and almost every minute running outside seems to put me in the “least congenial state of mind.” It’s difficult to be creative and curious when you feel so tired and drained.

Dew Point, 6 Versions

1

Looking through a running forum about humidity and the dew point, I found a great phrase: The dew point as an index of human misery. I want to create an index of human misery, relative to me. What would it include?

Sara’s Misery Index, some ideas in no particular order
  • Waiting in lines, especially lines with aggressive people trying to cut ahead of you or clueless people not moving up.
  • Sitting through a ceremony that lasts over 2 hours in very uncomfortable chairs.
  • Flying through 2 hours of non-stop turbulence.
  • Being stuck in very small spaces or in the middle of a row or next to someone wearing too much perfume.
  • Not being able to breathe.
  • Waking up in the middle of the night with restless legs.
  • Ending your swim and getting a charlie horse in your calf.
  • Being forced to listen to smooth jazz, especially Kenny G, at the Mall of America on a Saturday in June.

2

Do point me to the pool, please. It’s 80 degrees. But the heat index, taking into account the dew point, is 95. Too miserable to run.

3

Dew point, shmew point
I hate you too point.

4

How much dew can the dew point do if the dew point can’t point dew?

5

The higher dew point, the more you sweat. Are you a salty sweater? I am. Here are a few signs that you might be too (according to Runner’s World): Your eyes sting when you get sweat in them or your sweat tastes salty or your skin feels gritty or your hat has white streaks, called “cake sweat”,  after you run. What to do, if you’re salty sweater too? Remember, salt is your friend. Eat a pickle. Drink an energy drink. Don’t talk about salt behind her back, telling everyone that she’s mean and unhealthy and trying to kill you.

6

When you mix up the words in dew point you get: not wiped. Not wiped? I guess if the dew point is low. Anything under 50 would work. Otherwise, it should be totally wiped, but those aren’t the letters in dew point. You also get: wit open’d. Really? Could more miserable conditions = more wit? I suppose for some comedians, this is true. And you get: owed pint. Owed pint of what? A pint of blood that traveled to the surface of your skin to help cool you down instead of flowing to your heart? Or the pint of beer that you owe your body for putting it through the misery of running in the heat and humidity?

june 13/3 MILES

68 degrees
88% humidity
mississippi river road path, south

The air was so thick and heavy this morning. Hard to breathe, especially through my nose. Ugh! I hate humidity. I need some sort of counter-spell or charm or way of deranging or paying attention to humidity so that I can endure it.

Words for Humidity

  • muggy
  • thick
  • moist
  • steamy
  • wet
  • sultry
  • damp
  • irriguous (well-watered)
  • dank
  • sticky
  • oppressive

Oh you! You muggy, buggy thing. So thick it makes me sick! Why can’t the water you contain be refreshing like the rain? Why must you make me feel so moist, a word I detest hearing almost as much as I despise feeling its effects: sweat that drips and sticks, heavy air that presses down on my body, sinking me deeper into the ground, making it almost impossible to fly or even to lift my legs up off the damp earth.

Hum/i/dity

hum a ditty
maybe, you’re as cold as ice
or ice ice baby
or freeze frame
or cool it now?
yes, cool it now.

Hey You!

Hey you.
Under that tree.
Maybe you could spare some water?
I’m thirsty and I
Didn’t remember to bring my water bottle. Normally,
I always remember to bring it. But not
Today which is the day I need it most, when the air is so thick and hot and heavy.
You know what I mean?

Sensitive

Have you ever said,
Under your breath, in the
Middle of your run,
I really don’t like humidity & humidity heard you & replied: Well, I
Don’t like you either!
I am going to make you even more miserable because of your
Thoughtless comment!
Yesterday I think that happened to me.

3 ounces per mile

How many cups of sweat can fit
Under the brim of my baseball cap?
More than 2?
It’s hard to
Determine but
I keep
Trying to figure it out while I run through the thick air. I think my cap has
Yielded at least 3 ounces of water per mile.

june 12/REST

A rest and recovery day. Tomorrow is the first day of Open Swim season where I get to swim back and forth across Lake Nokomis as many times as I want for 2 hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays!

This morning I experimented with writing about what I think about when I’m running:

Mundane Thoughts Mixed with Sacred Revelations

Running through my mind, almost
Unrelenting.
Mundane thoughts about my run: breathing, pace, how hot
I am. Mixed with bursts of insight, deep revelations,
New and
Ancient wisdoms, breaking

Through the noise, briefly
Introducing clarity
Only to evaporate in the heat. The
Noise returns. Chatter that
Shatters the sacred.

Listen up Over-thinkers

Is thinking overrated? Yes and
No. Sometimes you need to
Think through problems, possibilities. But
Everything, even thinking, needs to be
Regulated and balanced. Over-thinkers like me need to give it a
Rest. To
Undo the knot of this or that
Problem later…or never.
To stop thinking.
Impossible? It can be but
Often it’s
Not.
Something breaks through rumination. A chirping bird? A sighing tree? An aching calf?

june 11/5.65 MILES

Before the thunderstorm:

4.4 miles
74 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

After the storm:

1.25 miles
63 degrees
mississippi river road path, south

Went out for the first part of my run extra early this morning, so I could fit it in before the severe thunderstorms hit. I started at 6:15. I like running this early. It’s so quiet and calm outside. Very little noise, hardly any chattering. The neighborhood was still sleeping and I felt (almost) alone.

In A Philosophy of Walking, Frédérick Gros writes: “one never truly walks alone: Everything talks to you, greets you, demands your attention: trees, flowers, the colour of the roads. The sigh of the wind, the buzzing of insects, the babble of streams, the impact of your feet on the ground: a whole rustling murmur that responds to your presence (54-55).” As I think about it, I suppose that this was true of today’s run too. I greeted several other runners and was distracted by the heat and impending storm. But, I still felt alone out there, in another world.

I picked up a really cool book from the library the other day: Robert MacFarlane’s Landmarks. It’s a massive collection of words used to describe landscapes and moving through them. No words for running, but there is a section on walking that included, among others, these words:

bamble: to walk unsteadily

beetle scrunchers: big feet

flinks: to ramble in a rompish manner, as a frolicsome girl might

bippit: stiff in the hips

bit the grit: to start a journey

slomp: to walk heavily; noisily

I’d like to archive or create a list of terms for running.

Running Words

  • run
  • jog
  • trot
  • gallop
  • sprint
  • plod
  • shuffle
  • fly
  • clomp
  • stride
  • glide
  • light up the path
  • float
  • crawl
  • dart
  • dash
  • tear off
  • bolt
  • lope
  • race

After the storm passed, and before the next one arrived, I decided I wanted to run a little more so that I could reach my training goal for the week: 30 miles. Much cooler, but also much more humid (47% before storm/ 86% post storm). Saw some trees down, near the path, but no big damage from the hail and 60+ mph wind that ripped through the area a few hours ago.

june 10/2 MILES

77 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

It was hard to run this morning. It was hot and I was too sore from yesterday’s long run. Scott and I decided to do a few recovery miles together and then end at our favorite coffee place for iced lattes.

heat feet repeat

the heat, the heat
two feet on repeat
no proper rhythm,
an unsteady beat

the heat, the heat
the need for retreat
sweating so much
that you almost deplete
the salt that you need
to maintain your speed
and avoid defeat

the heat, the heat
out on the street,
too hot to care
about being discrete
with the clothes that you wear
or the people you meet
oh the heat, the heat!

It was hot.

It was hot.
It was not a good idea
to run this morning.
Only 7:30, but
it was hot.
the day shot already.
no more running, biking, gardening,
just hiding
inside.
We should have left earlier.
Maybe 6? Before
it was hot.
I forgot how miserable 77 can be
when there’s humidity
and a high dew point.
And the wind,
it was hot too.
We only ran a few miles before we stopped
It’s too hot,
I said to Scott.
And he agreed.

june 9/11.25 MILES

76 degrees
the downtown loop, long

Inspired by a Bernadette Mayer poem that I just encountered, here’s a summary of my run today:

11 miles to run

11 miles to run
10 fingers to flex
9 toes that aren’t purple
8 bridges to run under
7 times to wonder, why am I doing this?
6 dogs to encounter
5 hills to climb
4 weeks until the 1/2 marathon
3 water breaks
2 bridges to run over
1 river to run alongside

And here are some things that I thought about today on my run:

  • I am hot.
  • My legs are tired.
  • I am thirsty.
  • I like running down this long hill. Why can’t my run be one long downhill? Not a steep downhill, but a gentle one. I could live in a small cottage, near the banks of the Mississippi, at the bottom of the hill. I would drive, or take a tram, up the hill, before starting my run. Then I would only have to run down that hill to get home. So much easier than having to run up and down, up and down these hills along the river.
  • Nooo, I didn’t mean to put Patsy Cline’s Crazy on my playlist, I wanted the Gnarls Barkley version! Oh well.
  • I am hot.
  • I am thirsty.
  • I should try an energy drink instead of water. Is that why I’m feeling so drained? Could an energy drink help or would it just make me feel sick?
  • Why is it so much harder to run longer these days? Is it because I’m almost 43?
  • Hi shadow. Who are you today, my friend or foe?
  • Running downtown is nice.
  • The view from the Stone Arch Bridge is wonderful.
  • Am I really going to be able to run a 1/2 marathon in 3 weeks?
  • Today is another lesson in humility.
  • Oops. I should have put on sunscreen before I went out. I hope I don’t get burned.
  • Why is my water bottle leaking? Did I break this one too?
  • Uh oh. My calf is hurting a little. I really hope I don’t get a cramp or a knot.
  • “Stop a bullet cold, make the axis fold!” [the “Wonder Woman” theme song came on my playlist]
  • My legs are sore.
  • All this walking I’m doing better mean that I recover from this run faster!
  • Done!

june 8/REST

I’m experimenting with an account of my first injury. It’s really no fun to think about and try to remember it, so after I offer up the facts, I’ve decided to have fun with them:

Hover over the first paragraphs to reveal an erasure poem

The Facts*

On April 2, 2016, while doing a flip turn in the pool, I felt something pop in my knee. When I got out of the pool, my knee hurt and I was limping.

I had previously experienced a pop in my knee on February 14th of the same year which forced me to take a break for running for the rest of February.

After the second pop in April, my leg felt stiff and I was having difficulty bending it. Within a few days, the limping had increased. My right knee wouldn’t bend and I was struggling with the mechanics of walking, especially lifting and bending my right leg. My knee didn’t really hurt, but it wouldn’t bend.

In May, I went to a sports medicine doctor and discovered, after an exam and x-ray, that I had a bone spur on the interior side of my right knee and that the tendons—or was it the ligaments?—were rubbing up against the bone spur and causing inflammation. I was instructed to seek physical therapy, to undergo the R.I.C.E treatment: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation and to take 9 ibuprofen tablets a day until the swelling went down.

At the end of May I was able to start running again. I had not run for about 6 weeks.

This was my first serious injury. It freaked me out. I was so freaked out that I failed to pay careful attention to the details that both the doctor and physical therapist offered. All I remember is “bone spur” “knee” “Inflammation” “RICE” “ibuprofen”

I have a vague memory of the doctor explaining that a bone spur, or osteophyte, can be caused by arthritis. I have no memory of whether or not he mentioned if my bone spur would stay or go away.

*at least, the facts as I’ve tried to recall them. I have trouble remembering “facts,” especially when they’re medical and technical and related to injuries to my body.

SOME FUN WITH THE FACTS:

Hi bone spur! This is Sara. Quick question: are you still there? if not, cool. if so, when are you planning to leave? No pressure. Just curious. BTW, thanks for not causing any problems for the last year.

Osteophyte, some anagrams:

O, the pest, yo
yo, the poets
oh, to set type!
hot eye post
they step too
oh, toes type?
set too hype
he poots yet
hot pot eyes
the soy pet
O testy hope!

R.I.C.E. doesn’t just stand for Rest Ice Compress Elevate, it stands for:

Rude Idiots Can’t Explain
Really, I Care Enough
red indigo copper ecru
ribbon ink carbon electromechanical
rancid icky curdled eggs
Rosie is currently elated
rapture is coming early
Rats! I can’t enumerate.
random isotopes create elements
rhode island can’t eat
Right, I can’t even.
respect is carefully earned
rudeness is considered evil

june 7/5.85 MILES

74 degrees
mississippi river road path south/minnehaha falls/mississippi river road path north

A tough run. I should have, but didn’t, bring my water with me. I really dislike the heat. Until my kids are on summer break, which starts next Thursday, I can’t start running until 8:30. By next week, I’ll be running by 6 or 6:30. It should usually still be cool then. I hope.

This is when my training starts to get really tough. The miles are increasing, along with the temperature. I’m not lacking motivation; I want to be out there running. It just feels hard. I would like to blame it on the humidity, but it’s not humid, just warmer. And, it’s not even that warm yet. So, what’s the problem?

In trying to work through this question, I did the following writing experiment:

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

It’s not the humidity, it’s the heat.

It’s not the heat, it’s the atmospheric moisture.

It’s not the warm temperatures, it’s the moisture in the air.

It’s not the warm temperature, it’s the moisture in the air and in your hair, on your skin, in-between your toes, on the back of your neck. And it’s the stickiness between your fingers as you rub them together, trying to keep your hands relaxed. And it’s the fibers from the cottonwood seeds, the catkins, that fly into your eye or your mouth or get stuck in the sweat on your face.

It is the heat and the humidity and the effects of both on your body as you run:
the increased sweat,
the depletion of electrolytes,
the flagging energy,
the dehydration,
the pumping of more blood to the skin and less to your heart or your muscles,
the sweat that can’t evaporate to cool your body,
the elevated heart rate.

It’s not the heat or the humidity it’s the dew point, the temperature at which water condenses. The closer the dew point is to the temp in the air, the longer the sweat will stay in your hair because the air is too saturated and your sweat can’t evaporate, which is how your body cools you down.

But, here’s the problem:
Today, as I slogged through my run, struggling to stay upright for 60 minutes, the heat wasn’t too bad, only 74—still high, but it could have been more. The humidity was a mere 37 percent. And the dew point? Only 45! The chart that I found online didn’t even bother describing a dew point so low. It started with 50-54, marking it as very comfortable running conditions. Very comfortable?!

So it’s not the heat, not the humidity, not the dew point? Could it be me? Maybe. But, today’s run was no failure of will; it was a test of fortitude. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t fly or breathe in the world or even run the entire time. But I kept moving, accepting, and not resisting, my limits.

It’s not defeat, it’s humility.

june 6/6 MILES

68 degrees
the franklin turn around + a little extra

Decided to listen to music today because I wanted to. When I started this project, way back in January, I listened to my headphones a lot. Then I went through a phase of only listening to headphones occasionally. More often, I listened to the birds and the cars and the conversations and my breathing. I think I’m settling into a balance of headphones/no headphones. I’ve been tagging them in my posts and I have 40 for headphones, which I’m calling “playlist,” and 45 for no headphones.

For some runners, the headphones/no headphones debate is a big deal. Not for me. I like both. Sometimes I need headphones and music or a playlist to distract or motivate or disconnect me. Other times I don’t want them so I can pay attention to the Mississippi river or my breathing or what I’m thinking about.

Over the past 5+ months, I’ve written a lot about listening with and without headphones. Here are two more poems to add my growing list:

Absent

Perhaps
Listening to music
All the time leaves
You with very
Little connection to the
Is: the concrete realness of things, the
Silence and sounds,
The this of being present on the path.

Present

Not silence
Only sounds:
Heavy breathing, sweat loudly
Evaporating
Across my forehead,
Dogs barking sharply, their collars clanging,
People chattering incessantly,
Hardly stopping to listen
Or absorb the landscape.
No break,
Even the gentle breeze, with its constant
Sighs, interrupts.

Skimming through my past entries, I’ve noticed that I’m interested in opposites: headphones/no headphones, freedom/limits, attention/distraction, mundane/sacred, being undisciplined/becoming disciplined. These opposites produce tensions that I don’t want to resolve, but to balance. I don’t want to pick one, the either/or model, but explore both, the both/and model. To fit with that, here are two more poems about headphones/no headphones:

The Purple Banana

Prince might have
Liked how much
Attention I’m paying to his lyrics. Did
You know he sings the
Line, “let’s look for the purple banana”?
I didn’t, until the
Song came on my phone
The other day when I was running and I listened.

The Daily Walker

Now, after years
Of running, I am finally listening! I
Hear my breathing,
Every inspiration and expiration and
All the rhythms as my foot strikes
Down on the
Path. I
Hear the greetings from
Other runners and the walker who
Never misses his daily walk.
Every time I encounter him he
Says “good morning” to me. I never noticed until now.

 

june 5/REST

I feel pretty good today. My strategic walk breaks must have helped me to get 30 miles for the week without being sore or tired. Yesterday I wrote a nonet poem about my morning routine. I liked the poem, but it functions more as an ideal, one that I sometimes realize, than an actual description of my daily habits. Plus, it doesn’t include the various disruptions that occur, especially during the school year. So I decided to add an additional version and rename the poem.

2 versions with descriptions that vary in how true they are: from almost true to mostly true to I wish they were true to too true to not true enough

Version 1

poetic form: nonet

Wake up at 6. Feed dog. Make coffee.
Write some while drinking the coffee.
Eat: cheerios, banana.
Wash face, brush teeth, comb hair.
Put on running clothes
and running shoes.
Go outside.
Walk some.
Run!

Version 2

Wake up at 6. Feed dog. Make coffee.

Get irritated at the dog because she wants to play and I’m too tired because I woke up several times in the middle of the night with restless legs or because I went to sleep too early and slept too long or because I woke up too early, then went back to sleep and had an intense, freaky dream or because I had the extra drink last night that I shouldn’t have had or because one unfortunate side effect of being 42 almost 43 is that I am no longer a “good morning!” person, but a “don’t talk to me (or lick me) until I’ve had my coffee and spent time sitting on the couch, slowly waking up” person or a “I feel regret or shame about some intangible thing that I didn’t actually do and this makes me uneasy until I’ve fully woken up and restored my sense of exuberance” person or because Delia has decided that she will not be ignored and that I will play with her, right now!

Write some while drinking the coffee.

This one usually works out, except for on the rare day when one of the kids gets up early and needs something…breakfast, advice, a hug, a performance of the “Let’s make Mom yell or cry or both” show.

Eat: cheerios, banana.

I also like walnuts, but it didn’t fit the number of syllables that I needed for the line, which was 8, so I left it out. In fact, walnuts are the key to this breakfast. When we run out of walnuts, I’ll still eat the cheerios and banana without them, but it’s just not the same.

Wash face, brush teeth, comb hair.

In a better world, one where dropping a deuce is not stigmatized as “impolite conversation” and where the coffee always does its job, I might replace any of the above with “go poop.” Sometimes I wash my face, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I wait to brush my teeth until after my run. Most of the time I don’t comb my hair, I just put it back in a ponytail. But I always poop. Pooping is an important bodily function and the failure to do it before a run can be bad. Very bad.

Put on running clothes

Remind one of the kids that “it’s time to get up!” in a sing-songy voice that usually irritates everyone, including me, but I can’t help doing. Remind them again and again and again until there are 10 minutes left before school starts. Luckily, this is not as big of a deal as it seems. It takes 5 minutes to walk to the school from our house. This leaves 5 minutes to get dressed, eat and get out, which can be done if the kid is properly motivated. Threatening to take away their phone is usually motivation enough.

and running shoes.

After the kids have left for school, comfort the dog for a minute because she’s freaked out by all of the yelling and crying and frantic scrambling that has just occurred.

Go outside.

Maybe stretch, maybe don’t. Always try to squeeze the glutes a few times, which probably looks funny, but helps prevent hip and hamstring injuries.

Walk some.

“Some” usually means 2-3 minutes. If I’m walking all the way to the river road, which is 4 blocks, “some” = 5 or 6 minutes. But there’s always some walking involved. For fun, Scott and I like to imagine a comical situation where you might get up out of bed, jump into your clothes, run down the stairs and out the door and immediately start your run. No stretching. No warm-up. No walking. Neither of us ever want to do this, but we saw a neighbor run out their door in their running clothes and continue down the sidewalk one time and we hoped that this was just what they were doing.

Run!

june 4/3.75 MILES

67 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

Still getting used to the heat. Otherwise the run went well. In the summer, I don’t have nearly as much stuff to put on before I go out for a run. No extra jackets or base layers or buffs or gloves or double socks. Just shorts, a shirt, socks and some shoes. Here’s a description of my running attire in the summer, in the form of an abecedarian poem:

Attire:

1. black shorts with white trim. Not black as
coal, they’ve faded in the sun. The
drawstring is gone too. It was a pretty bright blue. Now
elastic is all I have to keep the shorts from
falling down.
2. Green
headphones, if I’m listening to music, and
if I am, that music usually includes a
Justin or two: Bieber or Timberlake. My
kids wouldn’t
like me to admit that,
mostly because it embarrasses them. I say, here’s something to look forward to: when you’re 42, almost 43,
nothing embarrasses you!
Other favorites to listen to: Barry Manilow,
Prince. 3. A
quick-drying tank top, either in black or blue. I
really don’t care which.
Sometimes I wear a green tank-top, but it’s
thicker and not quick-drying, so only if the temperature is
under 70 degrees. Otherwise it’s
very uncomfortable.
4. White ankle socks, with an orange
x on the heel, at the end of the word, “Power Sox,” and mismatched trim that is
yellow on one foot and blueish green on the other. 5. Bright blue shoes with
zero swooshes, only coral swishes.

And here’s a poem describing my morning routine in the poetic form of nonet: 9 lines, first line has 9 syllabus, second has 8, and so on until ninth line has 1 syllable.

Morning Routine

Wake up at 6. Feed dog. Make coffee.
Write some while drinking the coffee.
Eat: cheerios, banana.
Wash face, brush teeth, comb hair.
Put on running clothes
and running shoes.
Go outside.
Walk some.
Run!

I wrote both of these poems because I was having some difficulty sorting out all of my ideas about ritual and repetition, habit as mundane or sacred (I also wrote about these in yesterday’s log). I decided the best place to start was to describe some of the mundane aspects of my run, like what I wear and what my pre-run routine is.

june 3/4 MILES

77 degrees
mississippi river road path, south

Another hot and sweaty run. Scott and I ran together today. We were both struggling because of the heat, although running through the sprinkles when we were almost done helped. We talked about one of my new favorite poets, Chen Chen, and his book When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities. We also talked about Scott’s Stravinsky project. And we were almost successful in avoiding talking about dictators and oppressive regimes.

Before and after running, I wrote two new things:

What’s the difference

between ritual and routine?
Superstition and belief?
When is it a prayer and when is it just proper form? Efficient breathing?
When does a habit become sacred?
Does it need:
a doctrine?
a theology?
hymns about souls and rejoicing and kingdoms and conquering and reigning?
chants about fathers and spirits and ghosts and sacrificing sons?
basement potlucks with seven layer dips?
uncomfortable pews?
getting up too early on a Sunday morning?
yes, it needs this.
Could it be that one defining characteristic of the sacred is
a refusal to stay in bed?

my purple toe

Have I told you about my purple toe? It’s on my right foot and it’s the second toe, the one that sticks out just a little bit farther than the others. Did you know, that this toe, the second one, turns purple? It’s not purple all of the time and maybe purple isn’t even the best way to describe it. Eggplant? I wish it were electric purple or purple mountain majesty or grape popsicle purple. Purple is my son’s favorite color. His computer case is purple. His clarinet case is purple. His suitcase is purple. His school binder, which he dissects and disembowels in new ways everyday—first removing the strap, then shredding the front pouch, then taking out the cardboard insert that helps keep it’s structure, then doing something to the 3 ring binders that I can’t quite figure out that makes them only barely close—is purple. The purple he prefers is royal purple. Not fuchsia or pearly purple or phlox.

My purple toe is purple from running. Technically, it’s my purple toenail, I suppose, but toe is much more pleasing to write and to hear and to imagine as purple than toenail. Anyone can have a purple toenail; just slap some nail polish on it and it’s purple. But a purple toe is special. A purple toe is a sign of a runner. Before I started running, I was unaware that this was a thing: your toe can turn purple. I read somewhere that it’s called runner’s toe or subungual hematoma. It’s also called black toe. I like purple toe, so that’s what I’ll call it, or “my purple toe” or “my perfectly purple, not painful at all, toe.” Is it the second toe for everyone? I don’t know.

Here’s how it usually works for me. After some random long/longish run, my second one, the toe that sticks out just a little bit farther, feels strange. It looks like it’s splitting. At first, it isn’t purple, but i know what’s coming: in a day or two, it will be purple. The toenail never falls off. It just grows back in freaky ways: twisted, bent, doubled. Maybe I should call it “my perfectly freaky purple, not painful at all, toe.” After the nail grows back, it usually returns to its normal color. That is, until the cycle begins again. The “purple toe effect” has been happening for at least five years now.

In the same online article where I read about “runner’s toe,” it was also referred to as a “runner’s badge of honor.” I’m not sure I’d say i’m honored to have my perfectly freaky purple, not painful at all, toe. More like delighted by how it grosses other people out. Or fascinated by its freakishness. Most of the time I forget about it. It’s just a toe that’s part of my right foot that enables me to run—and walk and skip and saunter—without much pain and hardly any injury. It sticks out farther than my other toes. And it just happens to be purple or, if you prefer, which I don’t, eggplant.

june 2/11 MILES

76 degrees
the lake nokomis loop, long

Hot! Sunny! Difficult! Today’s run was not pretty. Well, the path was pretty. The lake was pretty. The many bridges that I ran over were pretty. But my run was not. It was hard and hot and tiring. But I did it, with the help of several walk breaks.

I decided to do my long run today instead of tomorrow because it is my 6th anniversary of running. I started on June 2, 2011. I used the couch-to-5k program and ran/walked less than 2 miles. Today, 6 years later, 11 miles! My route today included the Minnehaha creek path, which is what I ran on in 2011.

I had grand visions of doing some cool poetry experiment with the run: maybe stopping every mile to compose a line. But, I was too distracted and uninspired by the heat. So, instead, I’ll mark the occasion by sharing something that I’ve been working on about the body electric. It’s inspired by Prince (“electric word life”), a pbs show about Ibex and the harrowing lengths they go to replenish their electrolytes (scaling seriously steep cliffs), Walt Whitman and “I sing the body electric,” the movie Fame and their version of “I sing the body electric.” Marilyn Nelson’s “is” and Marie Howe’s “the this,” Frédéric Gros’s philosophy of walking and my own wanderings on electricity and the beauty of machines, developed while running. I suppose there’s a dash of Emily Dickinson in here too.

the body electric

The body electric is not a metaphor. The body is electric. It contains electrolytes, that, when consumed, break up into positively and negatively charged ions that travel by water through the body, triggering electrical impulses in the nerves and muscles. Every body needs electrolytes to function properly. They’re found in sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphate.

The body is a machine.
Not the body as machine
or the body is like a machine
or the body is only a machine.
But, the body is a machine.
An efficient machine,
capturing energy, consuming minerals, converting air into breath.
The body is an intricate machine,
made up of muscles and tendons
and ligaments and joints and bones
and organs and arteries and veins
and fluids and systems
that work together in the complex process of locomotion.
The body is a marvelous machine,
containing strange creatures
with multiple heads and fantastical names.
The body is a beautiful machine,
composed of grace and exuberance and joy.
The body is a powerful machine,
able to endure intense pain and absorb tremendous force.
The body is a delicate and temperamental machine;
it can shut down from overuse, lack of use or repeated abuse.

This body, my body, is not any body and it is not the body. It is just a body, a somebody who is happily a nobody, running and flying and floating free, feeling the sizzle of the sand under my feet on the path and the howl of the wind rushing by my ears, passing under the shadows of the towering tree in the midst of other bodies, who are somebodies and nobodies as well but who feel the earth and the sky, just the same but differently too. Each of us an I. A self. A soul. A body. But also a we. Selves. Souls communing. Charged bodies with electrons flowing freely. The Body Electric.