feb 9/5.4 MILES

15 degrees/feels like 5
minnehaha parkway/ford bridge/mississippi river road path (st. paul side)/lake street bridge/mississippi river road path (minneapolis side)

Cold today, warm tomorrow. A temperature jump of about 30 degrees. Strange weather. Bundled up for the run with 2 pairs of running tights, 1 long sleeve shirt, 3! jackets (one which is way too big for me), 2 pairs of gloves, 1 pair of sunglasses, 1 stocking cap, a buff and a hood. Overkill? Perhaps.

Plus my headphones, tucked away under my hood, with my running playlist (somewhat) softly playing. All of that made me feel like I was not quite in the world, running through a haze of very cold air and too bright sky while listening to Barry Manilow congratulate himself for making it through the rain. I like that feeling. And I liked my run. I wasn’t even bothered by the hill on the St. Paul side just after Summit avenue. I used to dread that hill.

 

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 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 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 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 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.”