feb 7/XT

70 degrees
road bike on stand, the front room

Watched two thirds of the 2016 Island House Tri on YouTube while I biked for 30 minutes. Fun to watch Gwen Jorgensen racing (and winning) just a week before competing in the NYC Marathon. Wow. She’s amazing.

20 degrees
longfellow neighborhood
freezing rain

Took the dog (Delia, aka “dealz”) out for a walk this morning. It didn’t feel too cold and it was nice to be outside, moving slowly (very slowly, so I wouldn’t slip. think I might want to get some yaktrax). I don’t get too contemplative when I’m running, but I do when I’m walking. Nice. Walking past a yard I heard and then saw something rustling. Sensed that it was too big to be a squirrel. After a second (and third) glance realized it was a possum. Wow. I’ll add that to the list of things I’ve seen just a few blocks from our house, which is in the middle of the city.

list! critters spotted by/near the mississippi river

  • fox
  • coyote
  • wild turkeys (rafter of them!)
  • beaver
  • muskrat
  • possum
  • raccoon

What’s next? Hopefully not a bear. I’d rather not see a bear.

feb 6/5.2 MILES

32 degrees
minnehaha parkway/ford bridge/mississippi river road path (st. paul side)/lake street bridge/mississippi river road path (minneapolis side)

I am supposed to run 4 miles today but a small section of my route is closed for construction, so I mixed it up a little. Even though I just ran 8 miles yesterday, 5+ miles again today wasn’t too bad.

I spent all morning doing research on running and trying to figure out my running syllabus. There’s a lot of things to think/read/talk about with running that don’t just involve training or equipment/products or how you feel when you run. I’ve been thinking of focusing on studying and practicing different forms of writing and storytelling about running, like: memoirs, race reports, my running stories, personal essays. I tried looking for syllabi that studied the writing of runners, but I can’t seem to find anything. I guess I’ll have to dig a bit deeper.

In the meantime, here’s a quotation I found in my research that resonates with me and how my thinking/writing and running often work:

Australian writer Benjamin Law said in an interview in 2013: “Writing involves you being completely, revoltingly sedentary while your brain works overtime. But when you exercise, it’s the complete reverse – you more or less become brain dead while your body works like a bastard to not drown/collapse on the treadmill/die. Then after I exercise, I always come back to my laptop and it’s like I’m seeing the story for the first time. I know what I need to do.”

source

addendum: after re-reading this passage, I realize that I don’t agree with it. Writing doesn’t have to be completely sedentary and running isn’t about being brain dead or “working like a bastard to not collapse.” Part of my project is about rethinking my running as more than physical (over)exertion and rethinking my writing as more than mental (over)stimulation.

feb 5/8 MILES

25 degrees
mississippi river road path

Ugh. Today seemed harder than past long runs. Not sure why. Maybe it was because I averaged about 20-30 seconds faster per mile. I should slow down. It was also harder because I experimented with “fueling” during the run. Around miles 5 and 6 I ate a date. Not a good idea. They were hard to chew and swallow and by mile 7 I started feeling sick (and in urgent need of the porta potty at mile 8).

I guess I’ll have to try some other food. Some suggestions that I’ve heard:

  • pretzels
  • cliff bar
  • peanut butter and jelly sandwich cut up
  • animal crackers
  • kids’ fruit purees (like go go squeeze, maybe?)

It’s a bit strange to be thinking about fueling. Up until now, I’ve avoided making running too fiddly. I’ve just wanted to go out and run.

While running, I listened to How to Be Amazing, episode 50 with Amani Al-Khatahtbeh. Wow, she is amazing and so articulate. Love her vision of intersectional feminism! I’m looking forward to checking out her site: MuslimGirl.net

feb 3/4 MILES

70 degrees
u.s. bank stadium

Scott and I had a great run tonight at the U.S. Bank Stadium. On some Fridays, they open up the upper deck of the brand new Vikings stadium to runners. We only had to run 9 laps to complete 4 miles. Much better than the track we usually run at it where 4 miles = 24 laps. After the run, Scott said it felt like “his easiest 4 mile run ever.” I consider this a huge victory. Scott and I rarely run together. In the past, he has complained that I run too fast and am too intense; it stresses him out. Not this time. I actually made him slow down because I felt he was running too fast! I’m proud of myself for figuring out how to slow down and to keep a steady pace.

addendum: Almost forgot. While we were running, they played, rather loudly, music from the 1920s, 30s and 40s, including Bing Crosby. Scott and I decided on a new test to see if we were running too fast, the “sing with Bing” test. As long as we could croon along with Bing by singing loudly and with much vibrato, our pace was good.

9 times around = 4 miles!

A photo posted by Scott Anderson 📎 XXV.4 (@room34) on

feb 2/4.25 MILES

16 degrees/feels like -1
minnehaha creek path/mississippi river road path
15-16 mph wind

I was a little nervous about running because my right knee seemed a bit stiff, but I did it anyway. I’m glad. It was a good run, even if my knee kept reminding me it was there.

Other than my knee and whether or not it might cause me problems, I can’t remember much of what I thought about while I was running. Just this morning, I wondered about this:

What do I think about when I’m running? I should try to remember and make a list. But, will I remember? Thinking while running is almost like dreaming. I rarely remember my dreams and even when I do I can’t recount them in any coherent way.

my thoughts while running, a list

  • Don’t slip on the ice.
  • Damn, it’s cold, but not too bad.
  • I wonder if I will be running directly into the wind for most of this run.
  • How soon before my sunglasses fog up?
  • The creek is not frozen over. That’s weird. It looks beautiful, shimmering in the sunlight.
  • Will I see anyone else running today?
  • My knee is stiff. Is this a bad sign? Am I going to injure it again and not be able to walk for a month? [then I imagined getting hurt and not being able to run my race next Saturday.]
  • [when the one other runner that I encountered passed me] Don’t speed up. Stay steady and run at your own pace.
  • This feels good.
  • [when I break out into a big smile because it feels good to run] I wonder what the drivers in the cars think when they see me running and smiling?
  • How’s my heart rate? Better check it.

That’s all I can remember. Pretty boring and mundane. No new insights on life. No new perspectives on the landscape.

I’d like to track what I think about more. I think I’ll turn this into a challenge.

feb 1/3 MILES

15 degrees/feels like 0
minnehaha creek path/mississippi river road bike path

Brrr. Welcome back cold. And burning lungs. And double gloves. And icicles in my hair. I don’t mind. I’ll take that over big gloppy puddles or snow-packed roads any day. I was worried that the sidewalks and path might be too slippery, and that I wouldn’t be able to run outside today, but it wasn’t too bad. Ran 2 out 3 of miles around 8:40 pace.

I think I saw one other runner on the path today. It probably has more to do with the time of day that I was running than the cold. Minnesota runners like running in freezing temps. Also encountered a few walkers, including one with a big dog that unsuccessfully lunged at me. Ever since my family got a dog last March, I’ve been more sympathetic to dog owners when they’re trying to control their dogs on the path, so the lunging didn’t bother me.

In general, I’m trying to chill out more about other people on the paths. I’ve realized that getting upset and nearly losing my shit every time a biker whizzes past me (either when I’m biking or running on the edge of the path) and doesn’t say “on your left” isn’t good for my well-being and doesn’t really make a difference. Or that giving a trot of runners the evil eye when they’re running towards me, taking over almost the entire path and almost forcing me into the grass or the road will probably go entirely unnoticed by those path-hogging runners. Of course, it’s easy for me to be relaxed right now, in the middle of winter, when there’s hardly anyone on the path. Let’s see how I feel about being chill in summer when the paths are congested with clueless walkers, oblivious runners and speed-demon bikers.

 

jan 31/XT

70 degrees
road bike on stand, the front room

Another bike session. 33 minutes. Watched the men’s 10000 meters from the 2012 London Olympics on YouTube. Chose it because the video was 39 minutes long and because I like watching running when I’m biking. What a great race. Not fast, but very strategic. Mo Farrah won gold, Rupp silver. Runners were bunched up for most of the race, with the announcer warning that they could easily get tripped up in such close proximity to each other. When I run in a race, I’m not usually around other runners. Most of the time, it’s deliberate. I like the solitude of running and I don’t always trust other runners. They flail their limbs, jab their elbows, spread out and block the road or dart out unexpectedly.

As I prepare for running a marathon, I wonder if this strategy of isolation is harmful.

jan 30/4 MILES

30 degrees
mississippi river road bike path

Snowed this morning. Less than an inch, but enough to cover all the sidewalks. Took Delia out for a walk before heading out for run. Partly because she needed one and partly to test how slippery it was on the sidewalks. Very slippery, it turns out. Towards the end of our walk, Delia darted after something, yanking the leash. I slipped, spun around, almost regained my balance and then fell on the ground. Very lucky to not be hurt at all. Decided to go out for my run anyway. Risky, but worth it. The sidewalk was slippery, but the bike path was not.

Had a decent run. Encountered the snow plow clearing off the path. Minneapolis Parks are the best (literally, the best) park system. They clear the river road path within a few hours after it’s stopped snowing, even faster than the city of Minneapolis clears the streets, which is pretty fast too. Love this city. And love the kick-ass park system!

podcast: How to Be Amazing, ep 48 (M Lewis’ tone seemed more arrogant than confident. Not a big fan.)

jan 29/4 MILES

25 degrees
mississippi river road bike and walking path

Another week of running done. A bit cold. Fairly windy. But, I didn’t really care. It was a nice run.

Encountered a big group of runners–I refer to these groups as “trots of runners.” Some organized run, with water stops. I’ve been thinking it might be good to try one of these runs once I’m into the serious miles, but I don’t know. I like to run by myself. To almost, but not quite, get lost in the dreamlike state when everything shifts and it’s all a bit fuzzy. I need a new word for fuzzy: out of focus? distorted? bewildered? but not disembodied, because I still feel my body. 

In Poverty Creek Journal, Gardner describes the dreamlike state in many different ways, including: “I’m hardly aware of myself, my edges grown fluid and instinct. Not real speed. No thinking. What would it take to enter this dream, to let it take me completely?”

He contrasts this dreamy state with reminders from his body…so far in my close re-reading of it, he’s discussed an aching calf. For me, it’s my right knee. The one with the bone spur. Also the one that hurt so much a few weeks after I started running over 5 years ago that I almost stopped completely. That knee keeps me from getting lost, from running too fast or with too much abandon. It doesn’t usually bother me, but it frequently haunts my runs, putting me on edge, wondering if my training will keep me injury-free.

jan 28/REST

Unlike last week, I had no problem not running today. Maybe it was because I was really busy or because my 9+ mile run yesterday took a lot out of me.

I didn’t run, but I did stretch. I don’t know when it started–probably when I began running–but whenever I’m standing around waiting for something, I stretch. Touch my toes. Do some calf raises. An occasional squat. When I’m waiting for my daughter outside of her school, I stretch. In line at a coffee place, I stretch. During halftime at one of my kids’ basketball games, stretch. Is that strange? Does anyone else do that? I’m not sure. I imagine that random people–like other parents waiting outside of the school—know me as “stretchy girl.”  “Oh look, it’s stretchy girl, stretching again,” they might say.

Makes me think of my old neighborhood. Years ago, there was a woman who walked all the time and all over the place. For hours, it seemed. She didn’t walk in a casual way, lazily ambling along, or with a smile on her face. She walked fast and with determination. And she looked really mad…all the time. My neighbor down the street dubbed her, “angry walker.” “Did you see angry walker today?” he might ask and then add, “well I did….about five miles away. She looked pissed!”

I’m sure that I stretch partly for practical reasons, to loosen up my muscles and stay limber. But I also stretch because I’m restless. I have trouble standing around. I want to move. When I’m in a line, if I didn’t stretch, I’d probably just wander off (which is something I do do if my husband is in line too; he waits, I wander).

jan 27/9.3 MILES

28 degrees
mississippi river road bike path

9.3 miles. It’s not quite the 10 that I’m supposed to do, but I’ll take it. This is the longest I’ve run (distance and time) without stopping for more than a year. I’m tired. I should have brought some water and a snack–I’m thinking of trying dates or fig newtons–to eat in the middle of my run. But I ran it. And I’ll run it again next week. Maybe on my scheduled day or, like this week, on the day that works out the best.

As I ran, I listened to two podcasts. First, On Being/ Krista Tippet’s interview with Eula Biss. Biss writes about racism and white guilt/debt/privilege. I’ve read one of her books, her great article about Little House on the Prairie and her essay for the NY Times on White Debt. I like her writing and appreciate her willingness to engage with whiteness. And second, This American Life with several stories about Trump on the eve of the inauguration.

Almost the only time that I listen to podcasts is when I’m running. Lots of This American Life. Some Radiolab. Most of How to Be Amazing. I listened to the entire first season of Serial while running on the missisissippi river road path. The stories in those podcasts are so inextricably tied with my runs that on the rare occasion that I listen to an episode again, I immediately picture exactly where I was in my run. I like that.

jan 26/4 MILES

28 degrees/feels like 17 degrees
minnehaha creek path/mississippi river road bike path
14 mph wind

I added in the wind this time because I really felt it. When I first started, I was running directly into it and the sun. The harsh wind and the bright light made me tear up so much that I had trouble seeing.

After the snow yesterday and the slight drop in temperature, the paths were icy. When I first started to run outside in the winter, a few years ago, I was surprised to discover that running on ice is much easier than walking on it. Even so, it was slippery today.

In Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein discusses smooth ice:

We have got on to slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense the conditions are ideal, but also, just because of that, we are unable to walk. We want to walk: so we need friction. Back to the rough ground!

I don’t like running on rough ground–I have yet to try trail running–but I like the idea that we need to feel that ground beneath us.

In a different way, I see Gardner getting at this idea in one of his entries in Poverty Creek Journal (which I just happened to be writing about earlier today in my weekly assignment):

1/ JANUARY 6, 2012

Finishing up the run this morning, cresting the ridge above the pond into a sudden blinding sun reflecting off the ice. As if the light were alive, preparing to speak. And then turning ordinary again as I came down the ridge and the angle changed and the light pulled back into itself. My right calf is still a little stiff from where I strained it last week doing mile repeats in the cold. Just enough to not let me out of my body. When Emily Dickinson writes about Jacob, she never mentions his limp, even though that awareness of limits is everywhere in her work. Instead, she writes about his bewilderment–cunning Jacob, refusing to let go until he had received a blessing and then suddenly realizing, as “light swung…silver fleeces” across the “Hills beyond,” that he had been wrestling all night with God. He had seen God’s face and lived. The limp is what we take away. It means there must be a way back. It almost goes without saying (3).

Even as we try to transcend our bodies while running, we are constantly reminded of our limits. We are bodies. We need that reminder to ground us and to keep us from getting too lost in the dreamlike state that running creates. Gardner discusses the dreamlike state in several other entries. 

listened to podcast: how to be amazing, ep 49

jan 25/XT

70 degrees
road bike on stand, the front room

Rode my bike for 30 minutes in the front room while watching the rest of the men’s marathon from Rio and a condensed version of the women’s marathon. Biking felt good after spending too much time reading the frightening headlines about the multiple executive orders being issued this week. Strength, endurance and a physical outlet for anxiety and rage are essential for surviving the next four years.

29 degrees
mississippi river gorge

As a bonus, took the dog (Delia, aka “the dealz”) out for a walk in the freshly fallen snow. We hiked down in the Mississippi Gorge for just a short stretch of the Winchell trail. Beautiful. I like when the trees are bare and you can see further into the woods. I scan it reverently and anxiously, wondering what might be sharing the woods with us. Last fall, I saw a fox, just 20 feet away. A murder of crows (I’ve always wanted to write that!), circles above us, cawing furiously.

I need to take more walks like this one. It’s hard in the winter, when there’s so little daylight and I’m spending so much time running.

 

jan 24/3.25 MILES

32 degrees
mississippi river road bike path

Almost below freezing today. It’s supposed to snow tonight, but will it? I just heard on the radio (Jazz 88) that it could be “slushy snow.” Awesome.

My run was good. Today I decided to pick up the pace, which was hard. The pace (avg. 8:15) wasn’t faster than I’ve run in the past, but since I’m running a lot slower these days (9:30-10:00 pace), it felt hard. When I run as fast as I did today, I don’t experience much. And I don’t think much, just: when will this be over? and what would happen if I slowed way down or stopped?

I’ve been running slower since mid December. I decided to try it out because I’ve been having difficulty for years being “trained up” enough for my longer races, like the 10 mile or 1/2 marathon. I run too fast when I train and have difficulty running long distances or sustaining lots of miles for more than a few weeks.

I thought running slow would be hard. With a fairly steady pace of 8:30-8:40 for over three years, I couldn’t imagine running 1 to 1.5 minutes slower. Physically it seemed difficult and mentally it seemed impossible.

But it’s not. It’s actually great. And I don’t even care when other people pass me. I’m enjoying the running more and recovering faster.

As the weeks and months go by, I’ll see if running slow helps me run longer and stronger…and maybe even faster. Initially, it felt wrong and scary. What if I slow down and can’t ever run fast enough? Is running this slow doing anything? But it’s starting to make sense.

I like when I can break a bad habit (running too fast) and start building up a new one (slower and stronger).

an afterthought: Rereading this entry, I have an immediate reaction: Ugh, this log is pretty boring. I wonder, why am I writing such boring accounts of my running? But then I remember that part of this project is to be more honest in how I express myself. Guess what? My running self is boring and mundane and fixates on specific habits and practices. And that’s okay.

jan 23/4 MILES

35 degrees
minnehaha creek path/mississippi river road bike path

A gray day. Warmish, but gloomy. Days like today make it hard for me to see. It’s not really dark outside, just overcast. But because of my macular dystrophy, overcast feels a lot darker. And it makes everything look fuzzy, like I’m seeing it through a slightly dirty piece of plastic.

Running really isn’t a problem when my vision feels limited like this. I can see well enough. And, since I’m mostly running on paths, I only rarely have to worry about cars. But it still feels…weird.

I wish I could articulate the sense of disconnection I feel when my sight is fuzzy. It’s as if I’m running in my own bubble. I’d like to work on developing my other senses to compensate for this disconnection and to embrace experiencing the world differently: to hear it or smell it or touch it, not just see it.

I think I’ll challenge myself to try this out.

jan 22/4 MILES

36 degrees
mississippi river road bike path/lake street bridge

It was nice to run over the Lake street bridge. In the winter, the path on the bridge is often icy, so I usually try to avoid it. But, with the warmer weather, everything has melted. The bridge was clear. Weird. I keep having to remind myself that it’s only January and that we have a lot of winter left.

I didn’t think about much while I was running. This makes for a boring blog post about my run, but a welcome respite from my constant thinking during the rest of my day. It’s nice not to think.

jan 20/4 MILES

37 degrees
mississippi river road bike path

A great run. Still sloppy, with big puddles, but nice. Warmish. Overcast. Not much wind. A slow, easy pace. As I ran, my eyes fixed on the path ahead and everything seemed fuzzy. Was this caused by my vision problems, or just because I was tuning things out as I was running? I’m not sure, but I liked the feeling of the fuzziness. I was dazed, in a fog. A bit besides myself.

jan 19/8.5 MILES

40 degrees!
mississippi river road bike path

I’m scheduled to do this run, my long run for the week, on Saturday, but it’s supposed to rain (RAIN!?) tomorrow and Saturday and I don’t want to run for almost 90 minutes in chilly rain. My love of the messiness has it’s limits. 

I ran along the river road path, towards downtown Minneapolis. There are two monster hills on this path, around miles 4 and 5. These hills are fairly steep and long and intimidating. They’re part of the Mississippi Gorge and lead you from the bottom of the gorge to the top of the bluff. Today, they weren’t so bad. I didn’t want to cry or collapse when I got to the top. I just kept running slowly and steadily and pretty soon my body had forgotten that it had just climbed for about 1/3 of a mile.

know there is a lesson to be learned (or at least articulated and analyzed) in my success in climbing those hills. And I’m sure that it’s significant for my thinking about undisciplining myself and breaking (down) bad habits. But right now, after running 8.5 miles, I’m too tired to think of it or write about it. Maybe I should rethink when I write these entries so that they’re not right after my run.