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 20/6 MILES

40 degrees
mississippi river road path north

A great run. Took it a little faster than I probably should have, with my fastest mile being up the Franklin hill! Stopped and walked to lower my pulse for about 20 seconds midway through mile 4. That was a good idea. Finished strong with hardly any hamstring pain.

Had a lot of great thoughts about the runner’s high and the piece of writing that I had started working on right before my run. I’m including it below. Versions 1-5 were written before my run. Versions 6 and 7 were written right after returning from the run.

The Runner’s High, 7 Versions

Version One

Sometimes when I run
I breathe in deeply.
As my chest rises
so does my heart
and my head
and my shoulders.

I feel vast
expansive
generous.
I am open
to love
to joy
to possibility.

I want to spread my arms wide
and embrace the world.
But I don’t.
It takes up too much space
and would alter my gait.
Instead, I shape my feelings into a smile
that spreads across my face
and extends all the way to my toes.

VERSION TWO

Sometimes when my run is going well, a sense of euphoria spreads through my body. As it extends to the tips of my fingers and to the pit of my stomach, I feel an urge to spread my arms wide, throw back my head and run without fear.

VERSION THREE

Sometimes when I run, I am transformed into someone who feels joy first, not fear. Who is open, not closed. Who wants to spread their arms wide, embracing the world. When I feel like this, I smile to myself. A smile so deep that it reaches all the way to my toes.

VERSION FOUR

What does the runner’s high feel like? It feels like Love. Joy. Generosity. Possibility. An open door. A vulnerable body, stretching out and dissolving into the vastness of the world.

VERSION FIVE

The runner’s high. Feelings of love, joy, generosity and possibility that transform vulnerability into openness, enabling the body to stretch out and dissolve into the vastness of the universe.

VERSION SIX

I want to spread my arms wide and embrace the world. But I don’t. It takes up too much space. It would alter my gait. Besides, when running, you don’t fly with your arms, you fly with your feet. And you don’t embrace the world with a hug but with a breath.

VERSION SEVEN

To be combined with Version One. 

Other times when I run
I breathe in deeply
I fill my lungs with the world
while rhythmically pumping my arms.

I feel strong
fluid
effortless.
I am flying
over the path
above the world
under the dazzling blue sky.

I take in everything and become nothing
as I breathe in          and out                        .

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 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.

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 24/5.25 MILES

38 degrees
the ford loop*

Tried something new today: 2 minute warm-up, then run 9.5 minutes fast/walk for 30 seconds x 4, finish by running fast until reaching 5 miles

Ran with my headphones, listening to my cheesy playlist. It was humid, but not too cold. At some point, it started drizzling, but in the middle of a run, it was hard to tell, except for the relief from the heat of my effort that it brought. I think I would try this workout again. It helped me to go faster.

*the ford loop = west mississippi river road path/ford parkway bridge/east mississippi river road path /lake street bridge/west mississippi river road path

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.