jan 21/5.75 MILES

36 degrees
25% snow-covered
the franklin loop

Wet air. Icy paths. Not a bad run. Very calm. A little tougher than the last run outside. My left hamstring hurt a little 4 miles in, so I stopped to walk for 30 seconds or so. Started running again right as I encountered the daily walker. Actually did 5.25 outside and then, because Scott wanted to run at the y in the afternoon, I tagged a long and did another 1/2 mile there. I’m writing this hours after my run so I’m probably forgetting a lot of what happened. One thing I do remember: running across the Franklin bridge and noticing the tree line along the river. Not sure how, but it was glowing. The sun was illuminating it from somewhere. One other image: at the y, a woman was stretching in the corner of the track right next to the window. She was extremely flexible. At one point, she looked like an alien or a spider as she did a strange squat with her legs open and her knees in line with her torso. After that she went down into the splits and stayed in that position for a few minutes.

jan 16/4 MILES

65 degrees
ywca track

Went to the track again today because it was cold and because I wanted to try out a speed workout. My first ever, I think. Here’s what I did:

1 mile, easy run
1 mile, 7:55 pace
easy walk, 4 minutes
2 x 1/2 mile, 7:50 pace
easy walk, 2 minutes after each one
2 x 1/4 mile, 7:45 pace
easy walk, 30 seconds after each one
1/2 mile, easy run

It went well and was much more interesting than just running 24 laps around the track. I think I’ll mix it in once every couple of weeks. Too many speed workouts can be bad for training and writing/thinking–I didn’t really think about anything else but my pace and how many laps I still needed to run.

What did it feel like to run faster?

lighter, freer, bouncier, more breeze, less breath, hotter face, less distractions, more focus, more fixation on time pace effort, less awareness of others except for when I wondered what they thought about me running by them so fast or at least so much faster than them

Listened to my playlist and had a strange combination of effort + song: during one of my sprints, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” came on. I added this to a playlist for longer runs and didn’t realize it was on the one I was listening to. Maybe I should put together a speed playlist?

jan 14/2.5 MILES

65 degrees
ywca track

Not much to write about this run. Felt fine. Runs at the track tend to be more boring and less inspiring. Listened to my running playlist and tried to run a little faster. How to summarize the run?

lune

slick snow cold
outside inside warm
dry boring

acrostic

Trying to
Remember what lap I’m on is
Always a struggle–why is
Counting so hard? Why can’t I ever
Keep track?

Tanka

Running in circles
around the track—-more effort
than inspiration
never quite getting anywhere
but back to where you just were.

jan 13/4.1 MILES

0 degrees
99% snow-covered
mississippi river road north/south

Cold but bright and barely any wind. Felt warmer than 0 degrees. As usual, I wore too many layers and was too warm. We got around 2 inches of powdery snow a few days ago so the path was covered with delightfully crunchy snow. Love that sound! And not too hard to run on–except for when I hit a slick spot. How to describe that sound?

Running on snow
I hear a crack–
not sharp and singular
like a wooden bat
on a hot summer’s day
but a constant crunch
creaking and brittle
dry crystals shattering
crying out
with every step

 

jan 10/5.1 MILES

38 degrees
10% snow-covered
franklin loop

Another warm and windy day. Another run on the Franklin loop. The path is almost clear but that will change tomorrow when it snows again. Since they don’t clear the east side of the river path quite as well, I’m not sure how long it will be before I can run this loop again. Listened to my playlist and had a good run. Could tell I was getting faster and that my last mile was my fastest. It’s a very gray, gloomy day. What did I think about? I really can’t remember. Didn’t worry about anything. Didn’t experience doubts about whether I could keep running. Didn’t struggle with trying to find the right words or ideas for my poems. Didn’t feel guilt about something I’m supposed to do or something that I already did. Just ran and felt the wind in my face, at my back, rush past my ears. Avoided puddles and ice patches. And tried to keep my breathing steady.

dec 27/4 MILES

6 degrees/feels like 2
5% snow-covered
mississippi river road, north/south

Cold but not too windy. I think I was the only runner out there. I also think this is the coldest run I’ve done this winter. Felt the cold in my lungs fingers toes. What do I remember from the run? Loud cars driving fast along the river road. The sun already start to sink, blazing through the trees at the end of my run and the crows. The crows! So loud. Cawing and circling and cawing again. Here’s a poem about crows that I really like:

Crows

Marilyn Nelson, 1946
What if to taste and see, to notice things,
to stand each is up against emptiness
for a moment or an eternity—
images collected in consciousness
like a tree alone on the horizon—
is the main reason we’re on the planet.
The food’s here of the first crow to arrive,
numbers two and three at a safe distance,
then approaching the hand-created taste
of leftover coconut macaroons.
The instant sparks in the earth’s awareness.

I need to spend some more time with the bit about the crows, but I am instantly drawn to the idea of standing each is up against emptiness.

dec 4/5.25 MILES

45 degrees
franklin loop with a twist

Technically this run happened yesterday but since it’s a run for this week, I’m adding it here. Ran with Scott in the afternoon on the Franklin loop with a twist. The twist? Briefly stopping our run to explore the lower path on the east side of the river that I had unexpectedly glimpsed a week ago and was hoping to check out before it closed for the winter. So cool! I had no idea that there was so much land and a paved path and even benches and picnic tables in the gorge on the St. Paul side of the Mississippi. We walked some of it and ran some more of it and then hiked under the Franklin bridge. Such a high bridge. On the west side, you cross under the Franklin bridge less than halfway down the hill but on the east side, you’re at the bottom of it. The path travels under the bridge and keeps going all the way to the U and East River Flats Park–which we didn’t have time to check out. A goal for spring? or next week if it still doesn’t snow.

After walking/running around for a while, we climbed A LOT of steps and ran the 2+ miles home. I really enjoyed combining hiking, walking and running. A nice way to mix up a run to make it more interesting. I enjoyed it so much that I had a flash of inspiration–how cool would it be to try and run more of the trails by the mississippi in minnesota? are any of them as amazing as this stretch of the mississippi between downtown minneapolis and minnehaha falls?

This morning—the day after running, I decided to write a quick poem about the moment of discovering the trail. Because it often helps me find words, I used the abecedarian form:

Lower East River Parkway Trail

After seeing the paved path
Beckoning me from below, how
Could I resist? How could I not
Descend into the
East River
Flats on the St Paul side of the
Gorge? I
Had seen the steps near the Franklin bridge before but
Ignored them
Just running by, never needing to
Know where they went. Never
Looking down to the river but only across to
Minneapolis.
Never stopping—if
Only for a moment—to
Pose the
Question, what is beneath me on this side of the
River?
Surely something more than
Trees and
Under that, sand and dirt and dead leaves, dwells below my
View across? I had never asked but on Monday, I looked down at the
Water of the Mississippi and saw a flash of something
uneXpected—a paved path
Yearning to be traveled,
Zigzagging through the floodplain—and suddenly I wanted to know everything.

july 12/4 MILES

86 degrees
dew point: 64
mississippi river road path, south/minnehaha falls/minnehaha creek path/lake nokomis

Hot! Difficult! Some success, some failure. Gravel on the road, getting kicked up by commuting cars. Pebbles and dust flying at me. A hot wind, blowing in my face, which is already bright red. The sun beating down. My pulse heating up. No running playlist to distract me. And no memory of the running chants that I created to keep me going. What am I thinking about, other than: when am I done? why am I running in this heat? will I make it to Lake Nokomis for open swim? I stop and walk several times. But then I’m at the lake and it’s cooler, with a breeze coming off of the water, and I’m almost done and I’m trying to get past two other runners that are running just a little bit slower than me so I speed up for the last half mile. It feels good.

open swim
1 loop: 1200 yards

I’m only swimming one loop since I already ran 4 miles in the heat. I am worried that I might cramp up if I swim more than that. The water is warm, which feels nice, even though cooler water would be nice for cooling me down. The water is choppy, but not too choppy. Gentle, not rough. Only a few big waves are crashing into my face when I breathe on the wrong side. I spot the big orange buoys the whole time. I’m not running into anyone, although a vine ran into me, a few yards back. I’m not being routed by any other swimmers, well, just one at the little beach, but it was only a minor routing and I got back on track pretty quickly. I feel relaxed. Strong. Happy to be out in the water.

april 26/3 MILES

80 degrees
ywca track

Most likely the last indoor run until next October, which is fine with me. I don’t really enjoy running inside. It’s dry, often crowded and repetitive. Before running at the track, I said goodbye to both of my kids who were leaving on school trips: the 11 year-old went 90 miles north for two days, the 14 year old went across the Atlantic to Budapest, Vienna and Prague for 10 days. It’s exciting, strange and a little scary. I also spent time crafting a poem in terza rima form (3 line stanzas with an aba, bcb, cdc, ded, etc rhyming scheme) about the single most important running advice I’ve tried to take, and have to repeatedly remind myself about: slow down!

Running Advice

Here’s a trick: at first, run slow.
Don’t start with too much speed.
Try to find a rhythm, a flow.

Let your shadow take the lead.
You should really stay behind
because that is what you need.

If you ignore this advice, you may find
that your pulse will become elevated.
This can put you in a terrible bind.

Too much lactic acid is created.
Muscles ache and you’re exhausted.
Hitting the wall, all energy has faded.

At this point, you’ve lost it.
You feel very sick.
But, you know what’s caused it.

You took it out too quick,
and forgot what I suggested:
go slow, that’s the trick!

Even if you’re invested
in training for a PB,*
this method has been tested.

Running slower, experts agree,
is good for preventing pain
and avoiding injury.

Running creates a strain
on various parts of the body,
like your joints, the experts explain,

and the tendons surrounding your knee.
So much pressure with every stride!
But slowing down could be,

when properly applied,
a way to reduce some of these tensions.
How slow? Here’s a guide

to a theory that gets lots of mentions:
Take your 5K per mile pace
and add at least 90 seconds.

So since you run 8 minute miles in a race,
your training runs should be in the range
of 9:30, or even 10, in case

you decide that you want to change
your pace and make it even slower.
The slower, the better! Sounds strange,

but it might make your finish time lower.
That is if your running form stays efficient and neat
and you mix in a few tempo runs or

intervals or maybe some mile repeats.
But only once in a while.
Speed work is something you treat

as a small portion of your weekly miles.
Slow, easy runs should be the biggest part
of what makes up your training percentiles.

Take this advice that I impart:
Sara, remember to go slow!
Or don’t. But you’ll be finished before you start.

*PB = personal best/your fastest time recorded.

Note: I have added an edited version of this poem to the my running stories section.

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 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.

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

march 20/3 MILES

48 degrees
mississippi river road path

I used today’s run to complete my assignment for my poetry class by doing one of Bernadette Mayer’s experiments from Please Add to the List. Here’s what I posted for my class:

My Experiment

Inspired by Mayer’s suggestion on page 10: “Attempt tape recorder work. That is, recording without a text, perhaps at specific times.”

During a 3 mile run, I recorded my thoughts as they occurred to me by pulling out my iPhone mid-run and speaking into it using the Voice Memos app. Total recording time: 4 minutes and 16 seconds. Total run/walk time: 30 minutes.

Un-edited transcript from voice memos recording:

Pre-run. The chattering of the birds. I’d really like to learn all the different bird sounds and I’d like to be able to identify them but I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to because that’s just not something that I remember. But it made me think about how, when I try to focus on something and reflect, how overstimulated I get by the experience.

At the beginning of my run, just as I try to steady my breath, I try to calm my mind.

Mid-run. Attempting to formulate thoughts into words that I can speak without breathing too heavily. It’s a good test.

It’s the first day of spring, but it looks like late fall. I love running this time of year when the trees are bare. No leaves. And you can see to the other side.

Still feeling a bit self-conscious talking into this phone. Wondering what people think if they see me. Also, thinking too much about what I’m saying and whether or not it’s thoughtful or clever or deep, all of which it is not.

I always forget to remember: if when you’re running, you don’t feel the wind in one direction, when you turn around to run back, it will be in your face.

The wind makes so many different sounds. A whoosh through my ears. A sizzle in the trees. I wish I could figure out how to express it and capture those sounds in words.

Familiar landmarks: the fluorescent yellow cross-walk sign at 38th. I wonder how many times I’ve run this this winter.

2 and a half miles in. Feeling very warm and over-dressed, which I shouldn’t be surprised by but am because I was so cold earlier today walking home.

Just ran by a single black glove in the middle of the path. Wondering who it belongs to and what the story behind it is.

Just encountered a biker biking with no hands on the handlebars. I never understand how people can do that.

Just finished my run. Wanted to capture the sounds of all the birds I’m hearing. I think Scott says those are chickadees. What other birds am I hearing?

One possible poem:
As I start my run,
I work to steady my breath
and to calm my mind

Thoughts:
I’m definitely self-conscious pulling out my phone and talking into it. Also self-conscious because I know that I’m recording everything I say and typing it up. I’m hoping that once I get into to it more, I might be able to record thoughts as they happen, not thoughts that I’m attempting to craft into clever or coherent ideas. But I like this experiment as a way to help me express how I feel/what I think when I’m running and as a way to develop a relationship between running and writing.

I want to try this experiment again and maybe experiment with it even more. Possible variations:

  • Run one mile and then, while walking for 30 seconds, talk about what I experienced and thought about while running. Repeat at least 6 times.
  • While running, speak into the phone in regular intervals (every 1 or 2 or 3 minutes?) even if I don’t think I have anything to day. Do this on a long run that is at least 90 minutes in duration.
  • While running, speak into the phone whenever I feel moved to do so. Do this on a long run.

Question: Does the recording of my thoughts count as writing or is it merely the raw material to be crafted into something more polished?

march 15/6.1 MILES

28 degrees
mississippi river road path

Was only supposed to run 3 miles today, but decided to run a little extra. Wanted to do the Franklin hill one more time before my 10 mile race on Saturday, which, due to a recent course change, will include the monster hills that I’ve been running 3-4 times per week this winter. A few months ago, this course route would have freaked me out, but now it doesn’t bother me at all.

Ran without headphones again. So beautiful. Heard lots of birds. Thinking of trying to learn to identify different bird calls. While running and listening, tried to come up with words that could properly mimic the calls I was hearing. Now, writing this hours after the run, can’t remember the sounds or the words.

The river road is peaceful, but never completely quiet. It’s in the middle of Minneapolis and just across the river from St. Paul, so there’s a constant, underlying hum of city noise that you don’t so much hear as you feel deep in your core. I don’t mind that hum, but I miss my family’s farm in the remote UP Michigan, where it was always quiet and still. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to run up there, where there are few off-road paths, only dangerous shoulders, too close to recklessly fast drivers and to the edge of the woods, where black bears, stray dogs, foxes, cougars and who knows what else might lie in wait, ready to lunge at me as I run by. Though I would like to go back up there and sit in a field, breathing in the fresh air and listening to the silence.

Just read an essay applying Foucault’s theories on dominant discourses to self-narratives about long distance running. The author of the essay writes and then analyzes her own race report for The Big Sur Marathon. In her analysis, she discusses how she reinforces and subverts dominant discourses about femininity, the “ideal” body and running. I’m wondering: what are the dominant discourses in this story project?

What dominant discourses are present in my running?

  • time/speed, desire to achieve a PR, motivated by success as faster time
  • “true” running = no walking, walking = failure
  • self-surveillance and monitoring (bpm, pace, total miles in training)
  • run training = complicated combination of long runs, tempo runs, hill work, speed work, Yasso 800s, tapering, “core” work
  • running = overachieving + highly motivated and “Sucessful” person
  • value of running is being the fastest, or faster than most people, or the fastest you can possibly be
  • races are about PRs
  • excellent runners are disciplined
  • running = fancy and expensive gear

I am attempting to challenge, transform, unlearn, disrupt, rework and play with these dominant discourses. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t.

march 14/XT

70 degrees
road bike on stand, front room

Finished watching Asics Running: Beat the Sun while biking for 30 minutes. I teared up when the racer whose wife had recently died finished his final run and was briefly interviewed. Losing a partner too soon seems to be a theme today. Before biking, I read about the artist/writer who died yesterday from ovarian cancer, only days after her essay, You May Want to Marry My Husband, was published in the New York Times. So sad. Looking at her work, especially her experimental memoirs, and realizing how awesome she was and then finding out from my sister that she had known her, made her death seem more real and even more sad.

Grief and Running, a list of random sources

march 13/4.1 MILES

26 degrees
mississippi river road path

It snowed last night. About 2-3 inches. The path was already almost all clear by the time I ran at 1 in the afternoon. My right thigh wasn’t hurting anymore, which is a relief. So glad I took yesterday off.

Earlier today, I read a blog post by an academic about her running. I particularly liked her discussion about discipline, although I want to find another word for it:

I remember telling R. years ago, in those early running days, that the key aspect of discipline for me was less about the need to make myself go do something than it was about the need to keep myself from doing too much. And so I’m trying to be very disciplined about things, to build strength slowly, to keep plodding forward, to focus on the years ahead rather than the miles right now.

march 10/3 MILES

65 degrees
ywca track

Wouldn’t have minded running outside in the 10 degree weather, but it worked out better for my schedule to run at the y. I need to stop running there. I run faster than I want (or should) and my knees or feet or some other part of my body always hurts more after running 20 times around a track than running outside.

march 8/XT

70 degrees
road bike on stand, the front room

Biked on the stand while watching ASICS Running: Beat the Sun. It’s a crazy endurance race in France where 5 teams of runners run for 150 km and scale a huge mountain. They’re not so much racing each other as they are the sun; they have almost 16 hours–the amount of daylight on the longest day of the year–to complete the race. The race is broken up into 13 segments, with 5 of the 6 team members running 2 segments and 1 member running 3. Each team has 3 pros and 3 amateurs. 10,000 runners competed for the 15 amateur spots.

I love watching shows like this, especially when they’re mostly about the actual race instead of dramatic conflicts between team members or highly polished and annoyingly clichéd personal interest stories. An occasional story sprinkled in is okay, but not at the expense of the race.

Perhaps my one exception to this rule is NBC’s coverage of the Kona Ironman. I love all those sappy stories about the athletes.

Sappy Kona Stories, a list

  • the widow of a gulf war vet who races in his memory
  • the 70 something nun who comes back every year to battle the trade winds on the bike portion–the winds that once threw her right off her bike, forcing her to withdraw
  • the middle-aged man who uses the motivation of competing at Kona to recover from a debilitating stroke
  • the pro racer who placed 5th the year before but then had a training accident and was paralyzed, coming back to race in his wheelchair
  • the octogenarian doctor who desperately wants to (and spoiler: does) beat the cut-off time of midnight so that he can officially claim that “I am an Ironman!”
  • the father and son team racing together, with the father dragging the son in a raft during the swim portion because the son has cerebral palsy
  • the former race volunteer who wants to see what Ali’i drive and the finish line look like from the other side.

I don’t care that these stories seem designed to get me to cry and that my connection to them might be more orchestrated than authentic, I love them anyway.

But, getting back to the Beat the Sun race. I’m about halfway done with the show. It’s almost all about the actual race. Only one brief mention of how one of the runners decided to come and race even though his wife had just died. I’m learning about the climbs in elevation, the pace of each runner, the terrain, the difficulty of the altitude, GI distress. No sappy feel good moments to move me or make me cry. Yet, there’s a moment in the show that made me feel something deeper than I’ve ever felt in the dozen or so KONA videos I’ve watched.  A little over 19 minutes in, the camera focuses on a runner who has just finished his grueling segment. He’s wheezing and having trouble breathing. We watch him wheeze for 10 seconds, which seems like a long time. Finally, he recovers. He walks off and calls out “I need a hug.” I’ve wheezed like that after a race. I know how it feels to not be able to breathe, to panic, worrying that you might pass out. I hate that feeling. I’ve watched the clip several times now and every time, I feel my throat closing up.

I don’t have a neat conclusion to offer to this entry, but I feel like I’m getting at something bigger with my discussion of sappy stories, personal narratives, feel-good moments and orchestrated versus authentic. Part of what this run! story project is about is experimenting with how to authentically communicate my experiences training and running. How do I express what it feels like to be running in a way that moves others and/or enables them to understand who I am in all my complexity, beyond the trite clichés of “the runner” and the formulaic running stories and race reports?