april 18/3.1 MILES

54 degrees
mississippi river road path north

Ran in the rain. Didn’t mean to. Thought front had passed. It hadn’t. At the start, everything was just wet, still dripping from the heavy drizzle that had been going on all morning. Feeling the water on my nose, thought it was more dripping, then realized it had started to rain again. I don’t mind running in the rain, especially when I have on my favorite baseball cap and a jacket. Then I hardly notice it.

Not too far from the start of my run on the river road path, the walking/running path dips below the road, down to the ridge of the gorge. In the summer, when the leaves have returned to the trees, it’s a sea of green and nothing else. But from late October until mid-May, the trees are mostly bare. You can see how the earth steeply slopes down to a small bit of woods, with a floor of dirt and dead leaves and a worn path that leads to the river and a sandy beach. You can reach this path by walking down some stone steps that are closed during the winter. I remember the first time I finally noticed this section of the path. It was during early spring a few years ago, after the snow had melted but before anything had started to grow again. It was early morning and a fog was lingering on the tree branches. It was eerie and beautiful. A month or so later, my daughter discovered the steps, which had always been there, in plain sight, but I had ignored, and we hiked down them to the river. Now, it’s one of my favorite places. Today, there wasn’t fog there, just a soft, steady rain, but it was still beautiful. The grayish light made the colors of the early spring trees more intense: a rich brown mixed with vibrant shades of light green. It reminded me of some of the illustrations in one of my favorite books as a kid: Oh What a Busy Day! by Gyo Fujikawa.

Mundane things to note from the run: maybe due to the rain, my watch stopped tracking my run 1.26 miles in. My left leg started to feel heavy again, towards the end of the run. I probably should take at least two days off to let it rest. The wind was bad, about 17 or 18 mph. Running north, it was at my back. When I turned around, it swirled around me and then pushed the rain in my face.

Hover over the log entry to reveal the erasure poem. For more on this poem, see An Unexpected Erasure.

note: The walk down the steps to the river is featured in a short digital story that I created a few years ago.

april 17/REST

Today is a rest day. Well, resting from running at least. I’m still thinking and reading about running. Read Thomas Gardner’s log entry #42 today. In it, he writes about running repeats (1200 X 4, with jogs in-between) on campus when “about one hundred and fifty cadets descended on the track.” Descended. He uses the same word that I did in my post from Saturday about running at the YWCA track. I wrote: “a class descended on the track.” His experience was much different than mine. He writes:

On my faster laps, they would give me the inside, groups of threes and fours swinging wide at my approach then closing back in on the rail. On my jogs, the pattern would be reversed, the faster groups swallowing me up and then leaving me behind (44).

Far more ordered than the chaos I experienced when I ran on the track with about two dozen freaked-out novice runners.

What would it feel like to suddenly be on a track with 150 runners, all in sync, as you passed them or they swallowed you up in their group? Not so bad, I imagine. I don’t like crowds, but I think I could handle them better if I didn’t need to worry about any unpredictable behavior, like a runner darting in front of me and then stopping or another speeding up to pass me and then slowing down and then speeding up again when I tried to pass them or yet another weaving in front of me and taking up the entire path so I can’t pass or even move. Ordered and deliberate movements and the following of certain expected rules, like stay to the right and run single-file when approaching other runners, makes encountering other people manageable for me.

 

Thinking about packs of runners and their behaviors makes me think of a lot of things that I’ve read, watched or experienced while running.

A List of Things this Log Entry is Reminding Me About:

  • Running with lots of people in a race doesn’t freak me out nearly as much as I thought it would. I usually find a way to separate myself. I’m almost always running in the gaps between big groups of people.
  • The most distinctive, and perhaps magical, experience I had running in a pack was during the 2014 TC 10 Mile. It was about 10 minutes into the race, when the sun was just rising and the air was still and calm. As we entered a tunnel, all packed together, we ran in unison, our feet shuffling the same rhythm at the same time. Really cool.
  • The idea of being swallowed by a pack reminds me of watching the Tour de France, which is one of my favorite things to do in July, as the peloton finally catches a group of riders who have broken away in the hopes of winning the stage. One minute the riders, usually 2 or 3, are their own small pack. The next, they’ve disappeared, absorbed by the mass of bikers all biking together like a giant snake.
  • Big groups of runners aren’t usually the problem. It’s the handful of arrogant and unprepared dipshits who are the problem. I recall reading one of Kenny Moore’s essays about running in the 1972 Olympic Marathon. In the first mile, Moore is tripped by an inexperienced runner who is running too fast and too close to him. Moore falls but manages to get up, only slightly bloodied.

Hover over the third paragraph to reveal an erasure poem.

april 15/2.5 MILES

80 degrees
ywca track

The rain and threat of thunderstorms forced Scott and I to go to the y track. It was hot and steamy and crowded. Even so, for the first twenty minutes it was great. I ran slow and did not care if other runners passed me. I wasn’t even bothered when Scott passed me.  I kept my heart rate down and felt relaxed. Then a class descended on the track and took over. They started with a burst of speed and then slowed way down, first to a jog and then to a walk. Dodging them required speeding up and weaving. My pulse rate soared and I decided to stop. Partly because I was going faster than I wanted, but mostly because I was annoyed that the spell of my happy, relaxed run had been broken. I was not annoyed with the class; they seemed new to running and a bit overwhelmed. I think I heard one class member call out to the other in fear and disbelief when her instructor told them to run a mile: “Is he fucking kidding me?”

Hover over the entry to uncover the erasure poem.

april 14/5.25 MILES

54 degrees
franklin loop

My right hamstring and calf are a bit sore. They have been all week. But, this run was better than my run on Wednesday when I took it out too fast and had to walk for a few minutes between miles 2 and 3. As always, heard lots of chirping birds and the wind gently shaking the leaves. Lots of cars. The hum of the city. And some random men’s voices yelling, or was it cheering?, from deep in the gorge, near the river bank. When I first heard them I thought they were on the water, rowing. I looked around, but couldn’t see any boats*. Later, when I returned to the same area, near the end of my run, I heard them again. This time there were more voices. Who were they? What were they doing down there? Were they just below me, or on the other side of the river? As I ran above, I scanned the gorge, trying to find them. I never did.

*An alternative name for a competitive rowing boat is a shell. I know this because I just looked it up. I’m a bit disappointed. I was hoping for a more interesting name. I do like the names of the different rowers, like the Engine room (the rowers in the middle of the boat), also known as the Power house or the Hammer (someone who is known for power more than technique). I’ve never rowed, other than on the rowing machines at 7 Flags Fitness Center in high school, but I’m pretty sure I’d be a Hammer.

Hover over the first paragraph to reveal an erasure poem with advice for this beautiful spring day.

april 12/3.15 MILES

47 degrees
mississippi river road path north

Another gray day. Decided to listen to my playlist to motivate and distract me. Today distraction was helpful. While listening to music, I generated some interesting ideas for writing. Here are two:

idea one: Write about vision fogginess. As I was running up the hill under the Lake Street Bridge, everything looked foggy, like when my goggles fog up during a swim. I’d like to add details about learning to swim during open swim without being able to see, which occurred before my vision diagnosis. Learning this was more useful than I could have anticipated.

idea two: Mash up song lyrics from my running playlist with moments from the run.

Here are the songs that I listened to during my short and fairly quick (maybe too quick) run:

  • CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!/Justin Timberlake
  • At the Ballet/cast from A Chorus Line
  • I Can Do That/Wayne Cilento, A Chorus Line
  • Grease/Franki Vali
  • Hey Ladies/Beastie Boys
  • Furr/Blitzen Trapper
  • Without You/Usher
  • Skyfall/Adele
  • Sorry/Justin Bieber

I started working on this idea and as I listened to lyrics, I ended up crafting a poem out of them alone, instead of adding my own thoughts about running. Does it work? Not sure, but it made me think and it was fun! I’ll try this again. 
I got this feeling, inside my bones
like a metronome
Nothing flat
only real
all-knowing
I heard my mother
I am lost
I won’t run, I won’t fly
This is the end where we start
Put your hand in my hand.
You know I try, but I don’t do too well
I know you know I’ll go, I’ll go and then you go,
you go
I know
all 

I could keep tweaking this but I’m afraid that I’ll edit it down too much. I’ll leave it like this…for now. The line about hearing my mother seems to shape the poem. She died in 2009 and oftentimes I think about her when I’m running. I’ve learned to live with my grief, but it haunts me, not always in bad ways. Sometimes it comforts me to have that grief. When my memories of my mom are fuzzy, I’m still connected to her through it.

Update: I edited the poem a little more and coded it so that when you hover over the text it reveals that full lyrics and song title. I also discovered that this type of poem is a Cento. Read the revised version here.

april 11/5.1 MILES

44 degrees
mississippi river road path north

It was tougher than usual today. Running towards the Franklin hill, I felt tired. The sun was overhead and my shadow felt like it was on top of me, dragging me down. The wind was in my face, pushing at me, urging me to turn around and go back home. I persisted. I ran down the hill and felt better, but then ran up it too fast. Stopped to walk for 30 seconds to rest my cramped calf and to slow my heart rate. Ran the last few miles feeling a little sore and wondering why this run wasn’t as great. Was it because I ran so much last week? Because the weather was so strange–snowing last night and then melting quickly this morning? Or, was it just an off day? Whatever the reason, I ran anyway.

.

Hover over the entry to reveal the erasure poem.

april 9/4 MILES

57 degrees
mississippi river road north

This morning, as I approached the river road path, I encountered the turn around point for a 10 mile race. The leaders of the race were just arriving. For a few seconds, I ran alongside them: me on the path, them on the road. Then they glided past me. As I kept running, I saw more runners. First a trickle, then a downpour. In spite of myself, I ran too quickly. I wasn’t trying to keep up, I was just swept up in the energy of all the bodies, charged with excitement and fatigue. Eventually, I was able to steady myself and slow down.

 

Hover over the log entry to read the hidden erasure poem.

april 8/10 MILES

53 degrees
mississippi river road path south/lake nokomis/mississippi river road path north

10 miles on a beautiful morning. Wasn’t sure if I’d run the 10 today or tomorrow, but once I started I knew that this run was my long run. I can tell that all the training and the increased mileage has made me more mentally tough. I used to spend significant portions of my longish (6+ miles) fighting against doubts and the desire to stop or start walking. Not today. There was no question that I would be running all 10 miles.

As always, heard lots of birds and fragments of conversation. Encountered lots of runners, most of whom passed me. In the last few miles, I was passed by 3 people twice who were running in the same direction as me. I noticed one of them stopping, so I expected he might pass me again, but the other two were a mystery. When did I pass each of them? Where and why did they stop? Maybe they didn’t stop. Maybe my brain was just on a loop, seeing the same people over and over again. Maybe, having run for over an hour, I had entered a new reality, where time didn’t progress but looped. If I had run any longer, would they have passed me a third time?

Random Memories of the Run

  • About 5 minutes into the run, heard a dog barking repeatedly, almost rhythmically. Decided to count the intervals between barks. Of course, the dog stopped barking, just as I started counting.
  • While running right by Minnehaha creek, heard a splash and a snort. Tried to see what it was but couldn’t. I wonder what critter made that noise? A muskrat? Beaver?
  • Encountered a bunch of runners just about to start a group run as I crested the hill between the Lock and Dam no. 1 and Wabun park about two miles into my run. Encountered the same group having finished their run and saying good-bye as I returned to Wabun on my way home. I wonder, how long of a run had they done? And, did they remember seeing me just before they started? Did they wonder the same about me?
  • Saw a woman walking her dog by the creek in a winter jacket and stocking cap. Wasn’t she hot, I wondered. Maybe she wondered the opposite of me in my running shorts: Isn’t she cold?
  • As I reached the halfway point of my run, near the little beach at Lake Nokomis, saw some kayakers in the water, many of them just about to get out. No ice on the lake! In just over 2 months, I’ll be swimming across that lake!
  • At about 9 miles, I felt really good. I smiled, knowing that I could run for much longer. At about 9.6 miles, I felt sore. I smiled again, knowing that I only had to run for a few more minutes.

Hover over the second paragraph for a hidden haiku.

april 7/3.25 MILES

41 degrees
mississippi river road path (south)*

A nice, easy run, with a faster last mile. It may have been only 41 degrees, but it was sunny and april and there was hardly any wind. It felt like spring. I love when spring arrives; it means summer is coming. And so are early morning runs and open swimming and biking and baseball and sitting on the deck, drinking a beer and going to outdoor concerts and walking around late in the evening with no jacket and reading by the lake and writing outside and hiking by the mississippi and going to the north shore and the UP and throwing pebbles into lake superior and obsessively watching the tour de france and eating cheese curds at the state fair and…hard core training for my first marathon. So far, my training has been pretty relaxed. Easy 10 mile long runs. About 25 miles a week. Towards the end of May, the training picks up. Will I be ready? I think so.

*up until this log post, I’ve been writing “mississippi river road path” without specifying which direction. About 85% of the time, the direction has been north, towards downtown. But occasionally, like today, I run south, towards Minnehaha Falls. As it gets warmer, I imagine I’ll be running this direction more, finishing at Lake Nokomis for a quick swim or continuing on to Lake Harriet. So, it seems important to start noting my direction on the path.

Hover over the log to reveal an erasure poem about opposites.

april 5/5.15 MILES

51 degrees
franklin loop

Scheduled to run 3 miles today but decided to do more because I wanted to finish the S Town podcast. So I ran 5.15 miles while listening to the seventh episode. I wondered why my legs felt sore and then I remembered: I ran five and a quarter miles yesterday. Oops. You might think I’d remember that, but I was convinced, when I started my run that I had taken a day off yesterday. Oh well. Other than sore legs, the run was fairly easy and uneventful.

I have turned the above entry into an erasure poem. Hover over the text to read it.

april 4/5.25 MILES

47 degrees
mississippi river road path

Thomas Gardner writes:

I’ve been feeling my way all week toward some still-unstated problem, running without a watch, not tracking my thoughts, trying to let the run distill itself down to breath, or rhythm, or attention–a single maple leaf suspended in a web, five feet over the trail. It’s hard to do. Thoughts rise and rattle, spread their wings, legs trailing them over the pond (35).

Was thinking about this as I ran. It is hard to “let the run distill down to breath, or rhythm, or attention.” I did have a moment, though, when I was focused on the river. Illuminated by the sun, it looked white, almost, but not quite, like it does when it’s covered with snow and ice. I like watching the sun and the river when they get together. The other day, the sun was focused on one spot in the river, a circle of light on the surface, inviting me to enter it. What would I find, I wondered, if I dove in?

april 2/3.05 MILES

50 degrees
mississippi river road path

Almost beat the rain this morning. Just started drizzling when I was finishing up my walk back to the house. During the run, while listening to the 3rd episode of S-Town, felt disconnected, disembodied, distanced from everything: the path, the people, the cars, linear time. I entered the dreamlike trance that Thomas Gardner writes about in Poverty Creek. This trance was not transcendent or like Quatro’s running as prayer. And it wasn’t triggered by a runner’s high. It was the result of the wind, the impending rain, the somber podcast and the gray sky that made everything look fuzzy.

april 1/9.5 MILES

54 degrees
mississippi river road path

A beautiful morning. Spring is finally here! I ran too fast in the first couple of miles and paid for it. I think it was because too many people were out on the trail. It felt like a race and I always run faster in a race. I didn’t wear headphones so I was able to hear the birds and when people said good morning to me. I estimate that I greeted around 20 people. There was one stretch of the trail where it felt like I was saying “good morning,” “good morning,” “good morning,” over and over again. It felt good, unlike the Franklin hill. That was tough. Had to walk part of it.

 

march 31/5.3 MILES

37 degrees
mississippi river road path

Nice, easy run. Listened to episode 2 of the new S-Town podcast. Enjoyed it, even though I probably would have preferred no headphones, but I had to catch up to Scott before he spoiled the twist at the end of the episode. I think hearing the twist (no spoiler), at the end of my run, made my whole running/listening experience more intense and other-worldly.

For my silence poem, I decided to read over my past log entries. Here are some themes that I noticed:

themes from running log (jan-march)

  • restlessness: a need to move
  • used to be active, then inactive, then active again
  • thinking brain vs. moving body
  • confident bodies
  • walking vs running….is walking failing?
  • what do I think about when I run?
  • Best’s Disease
  • hills
  • not over-thinking, over-analyzing (balance)
  • breaking bad habits
  • fuzziness…what words can I used to describe this feeling of not seeing…being out of it? removed? disconnected
  • feel the ground beneath us (pay attention, be present and aware)…winter: icy, slippery, sloppy, cold
  • 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.
  • reminder, not getting lost…ALSO A REMINDER OF DANGER, to be too disconnected is not to hear, be alerted….DISTRACTION…THINK ABOUT THE RUNNER WHO JUST DIED
  • to be distracted or not? sometimes noise is necessary, distraction is necessary
  • feb 15: 3 stories about the sun
  • feb 16: calf injury
  • feb 20: discipling (building up) and undisciplining (breaking down)
  • goals, joy, speed, competition, being proud of being good (feb 21)
  • list of noises heard, feb 26
  • distracted running feb 27, feb 28
  • march 3 more on sounds
  • march 4 noise can drown out distractions, like annoying runners who talk too loudly
  • more sounds, march 11
  • discipline as reining in my excesses?
  • limits and freedom (remember: beside body….still connected to it, but not tied down to it)
  • beside each other, where a need to engage and an ache for silence can be met

march 29/3 MILES

48 degrees
mississippi river road path

Today I decided I wanted to listen to music and run faster. So I did. Splits: 8’38”, 8’22”, 8’08”. Negative splits are always nice. It felt difficult but not undoable. The amount of effort I seemed to be putting in made me think my splits would be even faster. Oh well. Still felt great to fly down the path, working hard but knowing, after months of training, that my body could handle it. That joyful feeling of flight is my goal, not a fast time.

3 ruminations on silence

one: Lately I’ve been running without headphones more, listening to my breathing and the sounds around me. I’ve also been trying to allow for silence in my running. To not shut everything out with a playlist or a podcast. I like it. I like listening to the crunch of my feet on the path and how that sound changes depending on the condition of the path. I like picking out the different bird sounds, even as I can’t identify them, as I’m running above the river. I like being able to hear people greet me and to respond with a “hello” or “good morning”. And I like listening to the wind and coming up with words to describe its sound, like “sizzle” or “static on a tv.”

two: Read an article this morning about how Minnesotans are listening to more audiobooks lately, partly because of they’re more accessible, but also because their quality is higher. The article ends by speculating on the dangers of listening too much to audiobooks:

The pull of audio content is so strong that fans are beginning to wonder if having an easily accessible stream of stories is crowding out something vital: silence.

“We never want to do nothing and just think about life,” said Ubl. “If you study creativity you know inspiration comes when you allow your brain to turn off. Much can be found in the world of quiet but we’re uncomfortable there,” she said, “and we are missing something important.”

I agree with what Ubl says, but that’s not the main reason I’m making note of her words. Her quote is the final paragraph of the article. Another one of her quotes is used towards the beginning:

“I like the escapism, but I need the learning,” said Ubl, 28, research director for the generational consulting firm Bridgeworks. “I feel like I’m wasting time when there’s any moment of my day when I’m not learning.”

I imagine that this contradiction in her thought was, at least partly, taken out of context. It’s not explained, or even pointed out, in the article. But I think there’s more going on here. This contradiction exists for a lot of us. A need to always be doing! and learning! and engaging! even as we ache for silence. Many people are scared of that ache. Others don’t have time for it. I want to find some balance, where the need to engage and the ache for silence can be met beside each other.

three: I’m curious about silence. I decided to begin work on a poem about it with lots of questions. At this point I’ve only just started it. I’m using it to explore silence and to play with the tension between technology and nature that seems to saturate discussions about the need for silence.

What is silence?
Is it the absence of noise?
The shutting down of devices? Ideas? Expectations of what you should be doing?

What is silence?
Is it the abundance of sounds
that we usually fail to hear? That we often refuse to listen to? That don’t require a wifi signal?

Why is silence
so fragile, easily broken by the innocent rustling of the leaves or the oblivious ramblings of a bluetooth user?

Why is silence
so deafening, amplified by the absence of noise or the aftershocks triggered by years of exposure to LOUD music? LOUD thoughts? LOUD demands?

How is silence
ever possible when the hum of the city rumbles beneath us, a constant reminder of what has been done, is being done, will be done?

How is silence
ever comforting when it shuts out our access to inspirational podcasts and forces us to confront the beliefs about ourselves that we work hard to conceal?

march 28/5.75 MILES

49 degrees
the ford loop

What a beautiful day! Hardly any wind. Bright sunshine. Low humidity. Nearly 50 degrees. As I left the house, I didn’t know how much I would run. When I started running, and felt stiff and sore, I was sure I would only run 3 miles. But then, as my body warmed up and I listened to the birds and absorbed the calm stillness, I decided to do more. 5.75 miles in all. In past years, when I was running too fast, spontaneously adding miles was not something I’d ever consider. I’m glad my new training is helping me to run longer so that I can enjoy spring days like today. 

failed experiment

I tried experimenting more with recording my thoughts on the run. I turned the voice memo app on and put it in my right breast pocket. The plan was to  keep the voice memo app recording the entire time I was running and to try and speak as much as possible. To record as many of my random, stray, disjointed, jagged thoughts as I could. That was the plan but it failed. While I had been a little self-conscious when holding the phone up to my mouth and recording my thoughts, I refused to speak at all when my phone was in my pocket. It felt strange. I felt weird. Beyond self-conscious. Why? I’m not sure why holding the phone up to my mouth makes it easier.

I did manage to record some interesting rhythms with my phone rubbing against my jacket. And some cool sounds of birds, cars, kids playing at their school park, fleeting conversations, dogs barking. Every so often I’d say hello to someone. But, this recording is 57 minutes long and I’m not really interested in listening through the 95% of it that is just my phone rubbing in my pocket and me breathing, just to find the 5% of interesting noises or me saying “good morning” or “hi” or “hello.”

Addendum: After writing about the failed experiment, I decided to experiment some more. THis week in my poetry class we read Bernadette Mayer’s poem Failures in Infinitives. One experiment we could try was to do our own failure poem. Here’s mine:

Failures in Infinitives, Sara’s Version

why am I doing this? Failure
to speak into my phone while running
so as to record my thoughts
to remember my ideas
to access my truths
to bust the mind/body binary. Failure
to stop creating barriers
to find ways to speak
to invite openness
to not be afraid
to not care if others look at me strangely or dismiss my ideas so as
to be valued
to be understood. Failure
to avoid exposure so as
to be left alone
to not be bothered
to be given freedom to do what I want without the need to justify it in the only terms that have currency: Success! Validation! Status!
Failure to stop second-guessing my visions
to believe in my ideas. Failure
to reject a system that reduces me to my use-value. Failure
to undermine a system that sees products while ignoring process. Failure
to dismantle a system that actively discourages my need
to create new things
to experiment with im/possibilities
to see failure not as failure but as an opportunity
to take risks
to be uncomfortable
to learn new ideas and perspectives. Failure
to understand that the vulnerability that failure produces is not a weakness but a strength that enables us to be open to others
to say “good morning” or “hello” or “hi” to a person instead of an iPhone

march 27/REST

Decided it was important to recover after three days of 5+ miles. So, I rested. Came across an article about Alexi Pappas, the elite runner/poet. Here’s what she writes about the connections between poetry and running:

In poetry, “there’s such an economy of words. I love having absolute freedom within boundaries. And in running, similarly, there are limitations. You might have a certain lane you have to stay in or a certain number of laps. But within those boundaries, there’s so much room for creativity and personality.”

Here are two of her poems:

Poem One

When I sprint
my insides
are not all there

they are instead gasping
screeching flapping

baby bird beaks

who beg cry
declare
brave and scared

I seek worms in the form of air

Poem Two

Tree Perfume (source)

I can’t remember where

if I was alone

if there was a we

how fast or how long

how long ago

or anything

actually

I remember

the smell

was a concentration of trees

steeped on me

like tea

I remember wishing

it never falls off me.

march 25/5.45 MILES

43 degrees
franklin loop*

Squeezed a run in today after my daughter’s 11th birthday party at a bowling alley and before her mini-slumber party with 2 friends. Can’t remember much of what I thought about while I was running. Fleeting fragments of thought about my life, combined with a constant return to, “what’s my pulse?” and “how fast am I going?” and “this run doesn’t seem easy, but I could keep doing for a lot longer than 5 miles if I wanted.”

*franklin loop = west mississippi river road path/lake street bridge/east mississippi river road path/franklin bridge/west mississippi road