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.

jan 18/3 MILES

40 degrees!
minnehaha creek path/mississippi river road bike path

Warm. Sloppy. Goopy. Wet. It’s great for my spirit when it warms up in the winter, but not great for the running paths. Especially if those paths have, until yesterday, been covered with snow. Huge puddles and almost melted chunks of snow that seep into your shoes, soaking your socks. Yuck. But I’m not complaining. I can handle the mess. It’s not that hard to run through puddles and it’s easier than running on a trail filled with loosely-packed snow or jagged shards of ice.

Besides, running in messy conditions reminds of a time when I refused to get messy. It was at a soccer game when I was 8. Here’s how I wrote about it in a Cowbird story:

When I was 8, I played on a co-ed soccer time. I loved it. Even though I haven’t played since I was 12, I still have dreams about being out on that soccer field. Before one particular game, it rained…a lot. The field was a giant mud pit. Most of the players, 8 year-old boys and girls, were sliding everywhere and gleefully charging into the mud. Not me. My sisters had promised to take me to the video arcade (this was 1982) after the game so I didn’t want to get dirty. I’m sure that I had fun at that arcade, but when I think back on that day (in the fall? spring?), I feel regret. Why didn’t I go into that mud? It looked like so much fun.

Perhaps running into the mess (instead of avoiding it), lessens my regret about what Sara, age 8 was unwilling to do.

Sara, age 8.

jan 17/XT

70 degrees
road bike on stand, the front room

XT = Cross Training. Biked for 30 minutes today while watching the men’s marathon from the Rio Olympics on YouTube.

Biking for 30 minutes on a stand, in the front room, seems like it would be tedious. And it has been in past winters. I’m not sure why it’s easier this year. It’s ironic that I’m biking more this winter now that I’m not planning to do any big triathlons this summer–just a super sprint with my 11 year old daughter in August.

Biking with Best’s?

I’ve struggled with biking lately, even before I was diagnosed this past August with Best’s disease (vitelliform macular dystrophy). I’ve had trouble seeing the path when it was too sunny or some cars when I was trying to cross the road or bikers approaching me on the path. When I learned that my central vision was seriously fucked up and that I couldn’t see those things because my rods and cones were scrambled, I lost the little bit of confidence I had in biking with any speed. How can I race in a triathlon if there’s a chance I won’t see another biker or a pothole or anything else that first appears in the parts of my central vision that are already totally scrambled?

 

jan 15/7.12 MILES

23 degrees
mississippi river road bike path

Technically I was supposed to run 8 miles today, but I’m okay with 7.12. 8 was a bit ambitious and would have made my running total for the week just slightly too much. Plus, I’m proud of myself for running as much as I did. My route included two monster hills and I managed to run up both of them at a steady pace without dying…or worse, stopping to walk.

I’m mostly kidding about the walking. I can see all sorts of reasons why walking during a training run or a race would be a good idea. For me, right now, walking is a bad idea. Stopping to walk in past runs/races encouraged me to run too fast. My goal right now is to run slow and steady and to not stop.

As I was running, I listened to the final chapters of Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. He hates walking and considers doing it during a race to be a failure. So much so that at the end of the book he describes what he wants his tombstone to read: “At least he never walked.” I’m not sure what to make of that line and of Murakami’s hard and fast refusal to ever walk. Is it too rigid? A bit arrogant? Just a personal goal that he doesn’t apply to (and use to judge) others?

jan 14/4 MILES

18 degrees
bde maka ska lake

I switched my 8 mile long run out so that Scott and I could run together. We ran really slow, which was nice. It allowed me to watch other runners as they passed us. I like watching runner’s legs move as they run, especially the good runners. The rhythm of their feet steadily rising and falling is mesmerizing. One runner looked like he was almost floating across the snow-packed trail. I love witnessing confident bodies moving through space. It’s such a beautiful thing to see.

Back out there! Nice and slow 4 mile run

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

Me and Scott, just after our run.

jan 13/4 MILES

2 degrees/feels like -6
minnehaha creek path/mississippi river road bike path

Of course, just after proclaiming on the about page that “I love running outside in the cold,”  I ran outside in the cold and didn’t really love it. It felt colder than -6. My hands were freezing for the first two miles and it was hard to breathe through my nose. I suppose it didn’t help that I was listening to the audio book for Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and he was describing his miserable experience in the second half of an all day (62 mile!) race that he endured years ago just as I was feeling my most miserable. Maybe next time I’ll listen to a running playlist instead.

Running Playlist

Sometimes I listen to audio books, occasionally I don’t listen to anything, but most of the time I listen to music while I’m running. Cheesy music. Nostalgic music. Music that only makes sense when I’m running. Over the five 1/2 years that I’ve been running, I’ve created a lot of playlists and listened to a lot of music. Here’s the current one:

  1. Hey Ladies/Beasties Boys
  2. Furr/Blitzen Trapper
  3. The Raiders March/John Williams
  4. Don’t Stop Me Now/Queen
  5. Happy/Pharell Williams
  6. Without You/feat. Usher
  7. Skyfall/Adele
  8. Sorry/Justin Bieber
  9. Get Lucky/Daft Punk
  10. Ride Like the Wind/Christopher Cross
  11. Cheap Thrills/Sia
  12. I Made it Through the Rain/Barry Manilow
  13. Back in Black/ACDC
  14. I’m Going to Go Back There Someday/Gonzo
  15. ABC/The Jacksons
  16. The Best of Times/Styx
  17. The Distance/Cake
  18. Video/India Arie
  19. Roar/Katy Perry
  20. Ordinary People/John Legend
  21. Learn to Fly/Foo Fighters
  22. Gonna Fly Now (Theme for Rocky)/Bill Conti
  23. Don’t Dream it’s Over/Crowded House
  24. Big Shot/Billy Joel
  25. Pinball Number Count: 4/Pointer Sisters
  26. Uptown Funk/feat. Bruno Mars
  27. Hollaback Girl/Gwen Stefani
  28. I’m Still Standing/Elton John
  29. Summer Breeze/Seals & Crofts
  30. Firework/Katy Perry
  31. Another One Bites the Dust/Queen
  32. Baby/Justin Bieber
  33. Hot for Teacher/Van Halen

Very eclectic. No logical order and attention to pace here. Just songs that, at some point in my life, I have loved and want to listen to again. I usually put this list on shuffle.

Since I’ve been using this one for a while, tt’s probably time to create a new one. Two requirements: it must have Barry Manilow and at least one Muppet song on it. I’m thinking “Copacabana” and “Can You Picture That.”

jan 12/REST

I’m on week one, day four of my training schedule. It’s my only day of rest. I don’t want to rest; I want to run, even though it’s 9 degrees outside. But I will rest because I know that my body, especially my right knee, the one that periodically gives me trouble and has a bone spur, needs it.

Not wanting to rest makes me think of an unpublished blog post that I recently found:

Restlessness

According to my mom, when I was a kid, I hated going to sleep. I wanted to be up all of the time, active, doing things. She claimed that, on more than one occasion, I fell asleep in a running position. Now I’m middle-aged and I don’t have trouble falling asleep, but I’m still restless and I end up waking up a lot. Restless. Legs that ache with a desire to move, to go. Somewhere. I don’t have wanderlust, just a need to move. I feel trapped in the bed, just sitting there, immobile. I used to think that my restlessness was because I was no longer as active as I used to be. Around the time I became an academic and my mom started to slowly die, I stopped exercising my body. All of my energy was used to think as an academic and to survive raising two young kids while witnessing my mom dying. But now, I’m exercising. I’ve been running for many years and swimming and biking. I work out a lot. But it hasn’t stopped my restlessness. Sometimes I feel like a caged animal, pacing around. I remember witnessing my mom do the same thing. We would be watching tv, maybe a movie, and all of a sudden, she would get up and just start walking around the room. I do that now.

Where does this restlessness come from and what do I do with it?