Monday, January 29, 2007

Nano Nano?

A few of us are going to start using the Nike+iPod thing to do some training together from points around the planet. Anybody else interested? All are welcome, you can go at your own pace and distance, etc. Totally a no-pressure deal. Drop me a comment and let me know!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Not Excused

Saturday it was 12 degrees or something here in Minneapolis. -1 or something with the windchill, a 10mph thing with fangs coming from the north, as it always seems to. My wife was out and about for lunch, and when she came home she found me working in my office. "Babe," she said, breathless. "You cannot go running today. It's freezing out there." That morning I'd helped my friend Ben run a few errands, standing outside while we loaded my car with some stuff. And she was right - it was friggin' nuts. The kind of cold that hurts. That kind that makes a person a little pissed off, just that it's possible it could be that cold. The kind of cold that makes me think that when Minnesota was settled, I imagine it was in the summertime, when it's as beautiful as anywhere on earth. I can't imagine why, when that first winter came, they didn't say, "But, too bad we can't stay."

But I had 5 miles on the agenda, and whattryagonnado? It's cold. Well that sucks, but the world can't stop. And you know what I thought of about it being too cold to run? When Ben and I were loading up the car at one stop, some kids were playing hockey at an outdoor rink across the way. And on our way back home, I saw a dude running on the side of the road. So, precedence was set: if somebody's out there doing it, then I might as well be out there too.

And it was cold. I felt like Ralphie's little brother Randy with how bundled up I was. I had 3 layers on my head, 5 layers on my upper body, 2 layers on my legs, 2 sets of gloves. It's a wonder I could even move. I tried to keep a slower, steady pace this weekend - I think part of why I haven't felt my running has been going terribly well is that I've been trying to go too fast, for some reason. Not appreciating that it's early in the season, and that it's base training time, not speed time. So I just went out nice and easy. And you know - I felt really good. True, I couldn't feel my face, but generally I felt pretty solid out there. No major fading. I tried to keep a natural 10:00 pace, and I was actually really consistent. It felt good. It felt, dare I, a little like progress.

Today, Sunday: Even colder. 9 degrees, -5 or something with windchill, 7mph out of the north. By the way, on my regular route, I spend about the first 2 miles headed due north. I had a lot of work to do today, and I also saw a movie with Amy and Mike that I've been meaning to see for awhile. And the cold was sinister. It was 3:30 before I was ready to get organized for a run, and I had 9 miles on tap today - my longest so far this season. And the way I've been running lately, I didn't know if 9 miles was even doable. That meant I'd be running at least half of my time in the dark, which is never ideal, though I don't really mind it.

Remember in college, when you had homework to do for Monday's class, but after a serious weekend of not studying you put it off all day Sunday, then into the night to hang out with friends, or go on a date, or do nothing at all, all the while justifying not doing your homework? And then 11:30 or so would roll around, and maybe you'd order some late night pizza, and around midnight on a Sunday night you'd finally get your shit together for something you had due for your 1:00 Monday class. Only then maybe your roommate or some buddies, also up late, come over to chill or share your pizza, and pretty soon it's 12:30 or 1:00, and so you think - you know what? If I get up early, I can still make this happen. So you stay up doing nothing at all until 2:00am or something, thinking that in the morning you'll really nail this thing down, no more bullshit, I'm serious. Only then you're so tired in the morning that - you know what? I don't care about this 9:00am psych class anyway. I think I'm hitting snooze through that one. And around 11:00, with 2 morning classes skipped, you finally crack open that book. OR, you don't. You never do. You actually call the professor for that 1:00 class with your best sicky, thicky voice and leave him a voicemail about how sick you've been all weekend (cough away from the phone), and how you hope there's something you can do (ahhh-choo! excuse me) to make up this test/paper/assignment/field trip/lab exercise/whatever. Or or or, you call and tell him you've been out of town all weekend and dammit, your fuel line froze, and you won't be back until tomorrow. Wait - you have the class again Wednesday - why the hell not buy another day? You'll probably be able to get back on the road in time for class on Wednesday, depends on what the mechanic has to say. They have to order the part, I guess, so I'm stranded here another day at least. Sigh. I sure appreciate your undertanding and flexibility, though. That way you've just bought yourself another day off if you need it. Kickass. And this all started because on Sunday night, you found a zillion excuses why you didn't want to open that book. When really, opening that book in the first place would not have been such a big deal.

Wait. You did do this, yes? It wasn't only me?

Excuses are epidemic. Like walking in a marathon. You do it once, it's easier to do it again and again.

For a second, that was me this afternoon. I thought - I have solid reasons not to go out for 9 miles in this cold. No really (he said, pleading with himself to listen), if I lay this all out for you, you won't think I'm a lazy puke for not putting on 15 layers and going running for an hour and a half. I did, for a second, begin to whine a bit about all the reasons Why I Should Not Go Running Today. Including how tomorrow's a cross training day, so I'll just do the run then.

You know - some days, you need an impromptu day off. Some days it's better for the mind and body if you skip a workout. Hell, a week's worth. The endurance athlete is a strong but sometimes fragile machine, and only the operator can know best what he needs. This wasn't one of those times. This was really because it was cold. And getting late. And cold. And you know, I don't even know if my stuff is dry in the dryer from yesterday. And I didn't probably eat enough carbs today, I'll probably bonk. And, well -

The only thing to do with it was to go put my clothes on. And still the nagging, even with my shoes on. Probably it's too cold for the iPod. I wonder if GU explodes in this cold? You'd have GU all over yourself, you know, and that's a sticky situation. Ha ha.

So I put on my jacket - my FINISHER jacket - because it's warm, and covered that with a Nike windbreaker that actually has lights built in (but it's probably too dark, and when the sun is gone it'll be even more cold) and I headed to the front door. Amy was concerned, asking where I was going and how long I'd be gone, because babe it's too cold, then she laughed and said I looked like snowman with clothes on, and then I headed out the door.

And the voice stopped, because there was no point to it. And it didn't even come back after mile 6, when I reached to my Fuelbelt for a drink and the damn flask was frozen solid. Which was a first for me. And I had a solid 9 miles. Easy breezy, no drama. 10:09 pace, finishing the last mile strong in the mid 9:00's. 25 days after starting the season, I'm already up to 9 miles. Last year at this time, I think I hadn't gone more than 4 or 5 miles. And strangely, on the most unkind days I think I've ever run, I had my best workouts of the year. Like I said just a few days ago - a difference between that run and this run, when something changes. Crazy. Had I skipped them entirely? Who knows? But I didn't, so I do know, and that's something.

So now, just before heading up to bed, I have that kind of tired that comes from fresh air and long miles. My body is the right kind of weary. I'm 14 miles further down the road. And I have that nice sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing that a thing got done. A good feeling. A good day.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

In a Sky Full of People

5 miles yesterday, 3 the day before and 3 more the day before that. All outside, and while it's been cold, it hasn't been insanely cold, so it's not been too miserable (that all changes today - cripes, look how cold it is). Still, sometimes it honestly takes me longer to get out the door with all the layers a guy has to wear than it does to actually do the workout. I am so looking forward to the days of spring.

Could be the extra effort of trudging over not-totally-plowed sidewalks or slushy streets, or breathing the really cold air, but I sure do feel out of shape. I haven't turned that elusive corner, where in the difference between this run and that run suddenly things feel easier. My pace is pretty slow for how hard I'm working (5 Miles at 10:00 miles yesterday, slowing down the whole damn time, and definitely feeling the effort). I know how things go now into my 4th year of this - time, discipline, and patience will put all the pieces into place, and soon enough I'll be feeling like I should. But for now - well, it's a little discouraging.

And I do miss that romantic spectre that is The Ironman. I miss, in the course of my workouts, preparing for so many countless unknowns, or envisioning the Finish Line of something so massive and important. I have a lot planned for this season, and I know I'll have fun and work hard. But Ironman is... Well. You know.

There is something amusing, and not unenjoyable, of (I imagine) being thought of as a crazy person in this world. Let me explain, see if you relate - there's something captivating for me when I'm this guy, all bundled up, running along as the streetlights come on and the cars are passing by, taking their warm passengers home. I imagine the drivers all thinking as they see me, What the hell? It's too cold out here for that. It's not malicious I don't suppose - I just think of that dude, smoking a cigarette while listening to Bon Jovi with his heat up, and he sees me run by and for an instant gives me a moment's thought, Oh, hell no., and then he goes on with his life and I go on with mine. I run sometimes by the KFC down the road from my house, and it smells rich and fast-foody and tasty and bad for you. And I enjoy that the polar opposite of sitting down to some fried chicken is to run right past the joint. I enjoy that most of the world doesn't do that sort of thing. Not because I think I'm in any way better than those people, or mean to demean anybody who is sitting in there and enjoying a #5 with a Pepsi, but just because, for me, it helps me feel like part of the solution, and not part of the problem. When my shadowy form emerges into the glow of the streetlight painted on the wet, wintery road only to disappear again a moment later, I feel that Nike commercial thing that makes a person think, Is there a better way to spend this moment, right here, right now? I don't precisely know how those in my universe see this part of me, but I think they see it for what it is - they're mostly always encouraging, supportive, and totally participating. But - especially for those in my more peripheral orbit, who maybe aren't there for the weeks and months of it - when their eyes get big at the distances of my long workouts (and, incidentally, I think people's eyes get big because they immediately consider themselves running 18 miles, or riding a bike for 100 miles, and they do that without considering the months or years it takes to get to the point where distances like that are possible, so of course it seems more outrageous than preparations have really made it), and behind some of that expression are words like Why? and Honestly, now...well, I guess there are worse things than being thought of as a little off-kilter because this is what you do.

All of which goes back a bit to that romance of Ironman, which I suppose is really just a manifestation of the greater mysteries in this whole thing. It's why we run. It's why we compete. It's why, for any of us, our Finish Line is self defined. I think of Chris Legh, who's body went to hell during the '97 World Championship, where he almost died. How this machine of a man, optimized for all speed, had to start again with a simple, painful, slow walk around the block. I was thinking of May, that first triathlon of the year, how it feels to get on the bike, breathless from transition, and settle in after a few miles into a pace, the spring wind chilly on the skin. It's not a means to an end, any of this. It's not always a battle. There aren't always obstacles to overcome. Sometimes, it's as simple as a love for the game. Or the smell of rain on an 8 miler. Or seeing something through. Or doing that thing that only we know we must do, whyever we must do it. It's just about the doing. The being. The Becoming. It's why those around us that do get it, this thing that we don't even know how to describe, are so important, so essential, so included in it all. And really, I think most people, even the casual stranger, does get it, in whatever ways they can. But for those that don't,'s okay. There's no helping them anyway.

Here's to the crazy ones.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Snazzy New Digs

Well, I finally got around to making some updates I'd been meaning to get to for awhile. It was a surprising pain in the ass - Google updated blogger so you can do all this super easy layout stuff, which is great, but in switching to the "new" way, you lose all of your "old" stuff, with an option to revert whenever you like. So, after re-creating the blog the "new" way, which essentially meant rebuilding everything over on the right side, as well as the general look and feel of the blog, it appeared there was no easy way to include some of the things I like more control over, like the image there in the header, and some of the things I have laid out over on the right side. So, I reverted back to the "old" way, but then had to go through and rebuild all the changes over on the right side for the second time. Hassle factor:10. Whatever, anyway, here we are.

So, I uncluttered stuff over there, and put all the 2006 photos in one Flickr album for your perusal. Links to the Becoming Ironman movie over at YouTube, for your viewing pleasure, and I finally tacked some of my favorite blogs over in the section for the Coalition of Allied Tri-Forces. A note on those, for whatever it's worth - I'm happy to reciprocate if you've linked to me but I haven't linked to you - please just let me know. That said - I don't include these for any "reciprocating" reason - these are just blogs I like. Check 'em out if you haven't, but I think probably most of you have.

A note, too, about the new image up top - I've shared that one with you before, but except for some cleaning up I didn't add any razzle dazzle effects to that image - it was really just that foggy out there. Taken on my last long ride before Ironman. By my friend Mike. The picture speaks to me. And seems perfect for heading into the "unknown" of Transition. Thanks again, Mike.

Alright well, updates tomorrow on training, et. al. - hope all is well with you, and that you enjoy the new paint on the walls -

Thursday, January 18, 2007


It's cold here this week. After hiding out for most of a year, Winter made a triumphant return with some damn chilly air this week. Thusly, I relegated myself to 5 miles yesterday on the friggin' treadmill. I had so far this winter been able to avoid it, but since my face hurt just letting the dogs out yesterday, I decided to go it indoors.

It did not go well.

I'm running along at about a 10:00/mile pace, which is nothing difficult. I'm trying to watch the first episode of Season 2 of 24 on my iPod (I was pretty meh about season 1, but people seem to love the show, so I thought I'd give it a shot while I was confined indoors). Really from the first step, I didn't feel right. Kind of breathless, maybe, or just that I was having to work too hard at such an easy pace. Watching my distance at half a mile the way I normally would on the treadmill after a few miles - Good Lord will this never end?. Then I stopped after the first mile to get a drink.

I had surgery a few years ago, and the first time I tried to stand up, it hurt so bad the world went red. This is what happened when I stopped running to get a drink. Red crept into my vision from the edges in, until I was nearly blind. I had to sit down. My hearing went next - all I could hear were echoey lower frequencies. This was more than just a head rush - I was actually losing consciousness. I was fully aware of it, though, and had plenty of time to think What the hell? as well as the headline Man Faints After One Mile On Treadmill At Low Speed with the subheadline, Investigators baffled at the Ironman tattoo on his left bicep, as surely Ironman don't faint from prissy little treadmills. The whole thing was very odd and disconcerting.

So this whole thing lasted a full 3 minutes or more, with me sitting on my treadmill willing myself to stay conscious. Crazy. Finally, like coming up from underwater, the world re-emerged into my eyes and ears and I was okay. So of course - I got back on the treadmill. Slower this time. I went another mile. Still didn't feel totally right, but nothing too dramatic. By "not right" I guess I mean just...something was off. One of those indescribable things. As soon as mile 2 came and went, though, I just wasn't feeling it at all on the treadmill. It wasn't exhaustion or anything like that - just...whatever. Something subtle but alarming. So I got off, gave up on the other 3 miles feeling pretty dejected that I'd been wiped out after 2 measly miles, and grabbed my towels to head home.

140.6 miles in the wind and rain and nearly 15 hours, and I'm going home after 2 miles on a treadmill. This fucking blows.

And it happens again. While I'm walking back to the locker room the world turns red and I have to sit down on a weight machine for a minute or two. When I felt a little better, I started walking to the locker room when again, the world starts closing in. I'm on a mission now to make it to the locker room and not fall down or some stupid high drama thing like this. Finally I make it, and I sit down for a solid 5 minutes as this thing slowly passes.

By the time I finally got organized to get home, I was feeling okay - I wasn't in danger of falling over in the parking lot or something. I didn't have a headache throughout any of this. My chest didn't hurt. I had no real symptoms of anything, except that I didn't feel right, and I had no clinical description for why. When I got home I sat on the couch for awhile, sort of in a stupor. I waited another hour before I ate. Today, I feel fine.


This happened once to me last year on the treadmill, too - when I stopped, I suddenly about fell over. That day I attributed it to having too little fuel in me before working out. And maybe that's the case yesterday, too - I ate light all day, and maybe I was just calorie deficient...though that seems a bit desperate, as it's not like I was starving. So I dunno. Today I'll run outside, cold or no. If I have anything at all like another experience, then I think we consider it mission critical and I have to check it out. We know what runs in my family (and so what I run away from), we know what happened to my Dad, and I acknowledge visions of my carotid arteries all gummed up or something, but let's not over-react. Occum's Razor says I probably just didn't have enough to eat before running. I'm not trying to be dramatic here - this is just one of the realities of being me. Things like this happen, however benign it probably is, I don't get to be unconcerned. Anyway. I'll keep you posted.

Can anybody present any other explanation for this - I mean, all things being equal and assumed. Would it make any sense that running on a treadmill, specifically, would cause this kind of thing in me?

Strange days. S'no good, running in place.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Advent of a Runner

"You got five miles in you today?"

And he stops his playful panting as he looks at me while I sit at my desk, chair turned towards him, and he pauses mid-breath, tongue still sticking out of his goofy face, head cocked. I repeat myself, "You got five miles in you today?" Then a challenge: "Cuz I do."

And he loses his mind like he's done 3 other times this week and bounds up the stairs before me, prancing just in front of my footfalls, big goofy horse of a dog, almost seven years old, suddenly an excited puppy. And he's impatient, but not annoyingly so, as I get dressed in layers, gather miscellaneous gadgetry, put on my shoes. On cue the Fedex guy shows up just as I'm reaching into the closet for Jack's leash and delivers a gift fit for an Irondog; it's a special runner's leash, with a waist belt for me that attaches to his leash so I can run hands free. He sits on my command then, but trembles in that perfectly-incapable-of-hiding-emotion way that dogs have. I put his leash on him, we get ourselves organized, and we head out the door.

And here's what's happened to my dog Jack lately: He has become a runner. He's run just as much as I have so far this week- 16 miles. Over Christmas, back in the open roads of North Dakota, he ran along with me on lonely roads without a leash - but instead of bounding everywhere and zig-zagging from one side to another, he found a focus, right by my side. He no longer goes out too fast; he finds a pace, keeping my knee in his peripheral vision, and keeps it. He's not out there to chase leaves and squirrels and whatever else. Once in awhile he'll creep ahead, as if challenging me to race, but he never pulls on his leash. Sometimes he'll lag a step behind, catching a breather. But like any true running buddy, he mostly stays just by my side. He slows only a little at dogs barking behind fences, or strangers approaching on the sidewalk. He's not stopping at corners to share his business card. As soon as we leave the house his goofy bounciness stops and he becomes all business. He still looks back at me every 20 yards or so with just the biggest grin you've ever seen, but he's not out here to play now. Somewhere in the last month he's figured something out in himself. He's found a new kind of joy - maybe just the kind that comes with natural maturity, I don't know - in disciplining himself.

And here's what's happened to me lately: I don't enjoy it as much when he's not running with me. For now I'm keeping him to no more than 5 miles in one run, and if the weather is seriously nasty or the roads such that I have to run on busy roads, he stays at home. And I was thinking today as we were running, as Sherrie told us we had one mile left and I said, "Let's go Jack, almost home," that man this is good stuff. Man I love this dog. Running today, at a not-particularly-fast pace and during a not-particularly-great run, I had one of those moments where you realize, then and there, that there is nothing else in the universe you'd rather be doing than this, right here, right now.

So five miles ticked by, and I slowed to a walk and Jack looked back to make sure all was well, and I told him he was a good dog, good dog Jackie you're a good dog, and he looked ahead again, content that the run was over, we could cool-down and walk to the house. At home he gets a big drink of water and a shot of recovery food, like real runners do. And while I showered he climbed up on the guest bed, which overlooks the hallway where the bathroom is situated, and is one of his favorite places because it's comfy and he can keep an eye on things. When I came out of the shower he was crashed, hard, in the beginnings of a great nap. The kind of nap you have after lots of fresh air and a good, solid run. Like a real runner.

I'm proud of him. He's getting into shape. He's going to run a lot with me this year. And time was, even last fall, those runs were mostly just fun outings for me - there was no serious training going on, because Jack was such a goofball out there. I only took him when the training called for easy 3 miles - no pace work, no speed work. Now, he's my running buddy. My never-late, never-not-interested, never too-tired, no-excuses running buddy.

Man. Good stuff.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Forging Further

639 Miles. It'll actually, I think, be closer to 650. I went through my training schedule for the May 19th marathon and tallied up all the miles, and this is what it comes to. 639 miles in 16 weeks. It's actually closer to 18 weeks, I think, but whatever - it's a lot o' miles.

It's hardly an unmanageable amount - if I didn't have that number in front of me, it wouldn't occur to me 4 months from now that I'd run that many miles. And broken up into all those weeks, it's not nearly so impressive, I suppose - maintenance runs during the week, long runs on the weekend. Still, I like how enormous it seems. It looks insurmountable. I've found it to be a source of encouragement and inspiration as I've chipped 11.2 miles away from that in this first week of the new year, this first week of the '07 season, this first week of the Further Forging.

And that's something I've been thinking about a bit during my runs lately (when not being attacked by puppies, searching for lost pieces of technology, or lolling about in the snow with Jackson looking on...). What does it mean, now? What does an Ironman do when he's not doing Ironman? The sense of confusion (what the hell do I do now?) I experienced just after Ironman has been addressed, the emotions situating themselves into realities, plans, and ideas. And in that process was an acceptance that something I look for - a reason I'm a part of triathlon - is to face the sheer cliffs. I'll never just be a Sprinter. I'll not be content to just do a handful of Oly's, or aspire to constant P.R.'s. I thrive when I have something before me of magnitude. Something that seems outrageous. Ironman was outrageous. 639 Miles seems outrageous. 2 or 3 marathons in one season is, for me, outrageous. And that's what appeals to me, because I think that's where I learn most. When I have to work for months and months (or even years), and not just weeks, to acclimate this body and mind to the challenges and rigors required of something like an Ironman, that's when I learn patience. The value of reward (and the reward of value). The discipline it takes. The knowlege it requires. That's what I like about this game. It's just so big, and there's just so much to learn.

So, in the end, it has nothing to do with finishing times or personal records or whatever. In fact, among my goals (still being developed) this season is to P.R. in the marathon and the Half Ironman distance - but those goals are congruent to just doing the races the right way, my way, in the first place. It's really just about eyeing that peak, blue and hazy, a thousand miles away, and setting a course to reach it. To know it'll take a lot of time. That the terrain will be difficult and unpredictable. That nothing is guaranteed on the way, or when I get there, or once the peak is summited. That all I can do is my best, and only I have the power to define that. You have to see, as I've indicated before, these analogies to life. And so then, it's no great mystery at all.

This, then, is what is meant by Forging Further. Both literally - moving ahead, pushing forward, one step in front of the other. But also the metaphor - what does an Ironman do when he's no longer Becoming? He engages in things Becoming of an Ironman, and in the doing is refined even more. I had thought, all those years and months of dreaming of and preparing to Become Ironman, that once successfully achieved, the satisfaction of it, the accomplishment of it, would leave me in a place more free of mysteries. And in some important ways, it did. But mostly - and this truly is a surprise - I feel within myself that it really was only the beginning. Those embers that stoked the fire, they are no cooler, and they are no less. This is, and will always be, my forge.

"You look different," she said as he kicked the snow from his heels and took off his thin gloves.
"Do I?" He replied, not really a question. He was smiling.
"Tsk," she clicked, getting up and wiping her hands on her apron as she walked into the other room. "You laugh at an old woman." She called, laughing from the other room, "I'm not so foolish as that, you know!"
"Certainly that's true," he called after her, then sat down as she returned with a tray of something steaming from a small pot. She set the tray down, poured some of the hot liquid into a cup, and delivered it to him. She eyed him carefully as he sipped, both his cold hands surrounding the mug. She pulled up the chair across from him, and they sat together quietly.
"Your machine?" She asked after several moments, leaning back in her chair, her left eyebrow cocked.
He lowered the mug to reply, "Waiting for me," then took another sip.
She considered this as another moment passed. "How long until you get there?"
He set his cup down and said, "To the machine? Another two months, probably. Maybe more."
She leaned forward and looked him in the eye then, and smiled curiously. "That's not what I meant."
He smiled himself, then gave her a wink. "I know."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Big Momma, Tater-Tot, This Guy In Spandex, and A Girl Named Xena

3.08 miles yesterday to officially begin 2007. 8:27/pace, fun and relaxed. It felt good to be out there, even through the slippery streets and cold wind in my face.

The Nano experiment was finally realized, and it's pretty cool. It keeps track of things as you'd expect they should, and with the touch of a button I get Sherrie's feedback on the details. Which is not as simple as glancing at my watch, but as I can tend to be a data freak, it's actually kind of nice to be limited to knowing my pace only when I ask for it, rather than with a simple glance. If that makes any allows me more time to just run, rather than "keep track".

Anyway, it was a generally uneventful run until about mile 2, when Jackson and I were plodding happily along and out of nowhere came this leapy, jumpy, wiry dog. I don't know what kind it was - maybe a small greyhound, but I doubt it - some kind of lean, long breed. It was small enough where it could be a puppy, or could be a mature dog with smaller features. Anyway, Jack greeted this sudden companion with a great big what the hell, but tried to keep his focus on running straight and continuous. Which was sort of amusing for me because this dog is literally leaping all over Jack. Running in front of him, zipping to other side, rounding behind me and then flanking Jack unexpectadly on the other side, all in that great dog speak for "wanna play let's play first i'll run and then you chase me okay and then after that i'll chase you okay let's play ready go okay you weren't ready that time but now i'll go okay ready set okay go". Once I almost tripped on him. It's not totally unfamiliar to have a dog sometimes bolt out of nowhere and join us, but usually they run along for a block or so and then zip back home. And I find that if you just keep going, sort of ignoring the situation, the stranger usually bores quickly and heads home. This one, though, had no collar, and though we tried to keep on in a not-interested manner, the little dude was very interested in keeping pace with us.

As a van pulled around us on the other side of the road, I got concerned that the newcomer might find himself in traffic. I started to slow to a walk just as the song I was listening to faded out, when I heard "Mister, please stop!". I looked behind me to see 4 kids, none older than probably 8, bundled up and chasing us down, and the van that had just passed stopped ahead of us and out jumped their mom, all in an effort to corral the dog. Which was, as they told me and really no surprise, a puppy. A very youthful, stupid with energy, hysterical puppy. Named Tater-Tot.

I felt horrible that these kids had probably been chasing me for 3 blocks and I hadn't heard them, and made a mental note that my music was too loud - it's pretty irresponsible not to be able to hear the world around me when running. Anyway, there we all were; 4 bundled children of varying ages chittering away in the excitement, their clearly unimpressed mother who's comfortable afternoon has been interrupted by this field trip, a guy in spandex who looks like he wore the wrong thing to the party, and his dog who is the size of a small horse, all trying to entice wee Tater-Tot into reaching distance so he could be grabbed. And you know how that is with puppies. Once I snagged him and he slipped away...I grabbed for his back foot and caught it for a moment before he slipped away again, though not before I was on my knees in a snowbank from the efforts (to the children's delight). Jackson stood stoic and only slightly interested in the escapade, clearly irritated that his run was interrupted. Which is saying something that there were 4 kids rolling around and a puppy trapsing about while this largish mother cackled and shouted at the kids ("Dammit Xena [it seems the daughter's name was Xena. Really. It took me awhile to figure out that Xena was not the dog's name. Huh.] I told you not to let that dog out at all!", etc. etc., to which Xena would reply in full-on 6 year old girl whine, "But I didn't meeeeeeeean toooooo.") and we all flitted around trying to ensnare the elusive Tater-Tot. I would have expected Jack to participate more, but he was mostly miffed at the interruption, I guess. Finally the puppy bounded his way behind some houses and into a field behind, and the largish mother stomped after him with kids trailing after and around her, each of her mighty footfalls a period between exaggerated body language that clearly said I. Am. So. Pissed. Off. With. You. Damn. Kids., and the kids shouting "he's this way!" and "look out!" and then laughing "ooh there's dog poop over there!" and "Tater-Tot no! Come! Stay! Come! No!" until their voices faded into echoes bouncing around off the houses back there. Meanwhile Jackie and I stood there on the side of the street, now growing quiet as winter gets, myself now covered in snow from flopping around after this puppy (right, so picture it - for the second day in a row the guy with lycra and spandex and miscellanious flattering winter-wear is, when taken out of the immediate element of running and now rolling around in some dude's yard with a puppy bouncing all around him, just a friggin' clown), and considered if we should, in said attire (and running shoes not designed for clomping through snow), chase after them all, or if our part in the story has concluded. I couldn't help but feel somehow at fault, even though I'd done nothing more than run by with my dog. Jack looked up at me as if to shrug, "Eh. Whattryagonnado." In the end, I figured we couldn't probably be very useful to the adventure, and might just get in the way. So, awkwardly and with an unsure glance back, we got back on the road. Still not sure if I made the right decision there, and I hope Tater-Tot was successfully wrangled. I imagine he was. Puppies usually are, somehow.

And no doubt, we'll see him again.

If the first 2 runs of this year are any indication, I'm in for a hilarious ride.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

...And we're back!

Sheesh has it really been over a month since I last posted? That's absurd. How time flies.

Anyway, Happy 2007 one and all, and welcome back to the further forging. I took the requisite break - mentally and physically - in the last pages of '06, and that was reflected by spotty blog contributions. Alas, those carefree days of over-indulgent dining, lax 3-milers, and generally unstructured workouts now go the way of '06 - in the past - and arrive like the snow that finally fell over Minneapolis - suddenly, and to stay. I am, after all, officially in training for a marathon on May 19th, preceded on May 5th by the season's first triathlon. It feels good to be back.

Yesterday - you'll enjoy this - was to be my first run of the new year. A short and easy 3-miler. After an active day around the house (4 humongous crates of clothes sent over to Goodwill - man it feels liberating to get rid of stuff), I had just enough time for a comfortable run and a shower before some informal evening plans with friends. My mother got me the Nike + iPod transmitter kit thingy for Christmas, and you know how I love the gadgets. So I carved 15 minutes or so before the run to familiarize myself with the thing.

Here's how it works - you have 2 pieces to it. One is a little oval transmitter, that goes in the sole of your Nike+ shoes. The other piece is a little reciever that plugs into your iPod Nano. The transmitter measures your stride, and now your iPod Nano is a pretty elaborate training tool - you can see your distance traveled, time, and pace - or you can hear a (very human) voice come on at regular intervals or at a press of a button and give you that information over your headphones - all while you're listening to whatever you want. Put in your weight, and you can measure calories burned, too. Pretty damn cool, and I think the whole shebang is, like, 30 bucks. No heart rate monitor, but you won't find something similar for less money, that's for sure. Of course, you have to have an iPod Nano, and Nike wants you to have their, true - you really have a couple hundred dollars into the machine. But if, like me, you already have a Nano, it's a cheap and cool add-on, for sure.

Okay, but: I don't have Nike+ shoes. Those shoes have a special slot in the sole of the shoe to place the transmitter. But I don't wear Nike for running, I wear Asics. Some online research leads me to the discovery that the transmitter will work with any shoe, however, so long as it doesn't wiggle or flop around at all (I guess it's really sensitive) and is generally horizontal. Okay, so I tuck the receiver in to my shoelaces, the iPod blinks to life, and we're off.

Now's a good time to mention that I have a Garmin 305 that I train with that certainly gives me every bit of information I could ever want or need. I think the iPod thing is cool in that I'll already be running with music, and especially early in the season when I'm all bundled up, it might be a shade more convenient than connecting to 5 satellites...though not that I've ever found that inconvenient. Plus, I can connect to a website that tracks my stuff and can put me in "competition" with others. Not sure how interested in that I'll be, and I already track my stuff, but whatever, there you go. Anyway, it's cool and was a great thoughtful gift, and we'll see how it goes.

Okay, so. I'm all ready to go with 3 layers of high-tech fabric, attractive running tights, etc. etc. I hit the PLAY button and head out my front door. The tunes are rolling and the adrenaline starts to pump a bit as I round the corner from my street and head north on the busier road. The sidewalks are all still covered with the snow we got dumped with on New Year's Eve, and side-streets are pretty messy, but busy roads are all pretty clear, just wet. I'm maybe .3 miles from my house - when an attractive female voice says "Activity ended" and my music stops. What the hell? Huh. So I hit play again and start running again as the tunes resume (she - I'll need to name her, no doubt - says, "Resuming exercise"), and I'm another tenth of a mile or so when she comes back to reiterate that the activity has ended. What? So I look down, and shit, I've lost the little transmitter that was tucked into my shoe.

You know how the first damn thing Ralphie does, after all, when he goes out into the yard early Christmas morning with his new official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, Range Model air rifle with a compass on the stock and this thing which tells time, is actually almost shoot his eye out? I felt like that. Like I'd had this gift mother gave me, used for all of 3 minutes, when I lost it. Idiot.

So, I turn around from where I am and I jog back, scanning my route. I figure it can't be that far away - I've hardly run any distance at all - but it's small and mostly white, and there's a lot of snow. Plus, I don't know how long the iPod takes before recognizing that I've stopped running (which it might assume if no transmitter signal is received) or that the link between the transmitter and receiver has been broken. 10 feet? 20? Who knows. For certainty's sake, I run all the way back to the corner I had turned onto the busy road, and for good measure even back a bit on the residential street before my house. Not seeing it, then, I turn back around and this time briskly walk the same route, more closely scanning the ground. I walk all the way back - and then some - to where Sherrie (there, she's been named, and don't ask me where that came from, she doesn't even sound like a Sherrie, she sounds more like a Sarah or a Julie or a Karen) informed me that activity has, in fact, ended. Still nothing, and now I'm getting a bit cold, and I'm assuming I'm amusing to the passing motorists who think - look at the tool, how he puts on goofy tights just to go for a walk. So I turn around yet again - I could have run 3 miles in the time this took by now - and slowly walk, scanning the ground, thinking of the $30 I'll have to go spend on another set-up if I can't find this one, because it wouldn't be right to just not accommodate my mother's thoughtfulness in knowing how I run, and like gadgets, and like Apple products, etc. etc. etc. But alas, it's nowhere to be found, and a glance at my watch tells me I have time for a shower before I have to leave the house. I finally resign, dejected, as I approach my house.

Just then, as a car drives by on the other side of the road, I see in its snowy, slushy wake a tiny flicker of white plastic, inches from its tires, just in front of my mailbox. Aha! Close inpection reveals it has not been driven over, and the tiny little transmitter and I rejoice in our reunion. I convince myself that I have at least a 2 mile run available to me if I get going now, shower really quickly, and are maybe just a shade late for evening plans. I run into the garage and grab some duct tape from my cycling tool box and strap the little transmitter pod to my shoe, again tucked into my shoelaces. Satisfied of its security, I start down the driveway again and press PLAY on my iPod, as Sherrie informs me:

Resuming Exer-

When AGAIN, everything stops. I look down in paranoia to make sure the little shoe pod hasn't somehow weaseled its way out again, and have a flash of Clark W. Griswold flailing, gnashing his teeth in exasperating, frustrating anger as the damn lights just will not turn on. Everything as it should be on my shoe, though, I check the iPod...

And the battery is dead.

Roll end credits.

Thus ended the first workout of '06, brought to you by your friends at Nike, Apple, Asics, and Daisy, makers of the famous Red Ryder BB Gun.

Aaaaaanyway, no doubt today will go much better as I have some time to give the scenario thought and attention. I'll keep you posted on all things. Also looking for some renovations around here at the ol' blog as well - some house cleaning and general preparation for '07. Meanwhile, here's to the New Year, and keeping it cool like the Tenth of September -