Sunday, September 1, 2013

"A Little Here, And A Little There."

It's sad, as much as it's a celebration, but for the first time since November 2012, I ran for more than 30+ miles in one week.In fact, I finished the week a quarter-mile shy of 40 miles. I couldn't even believe the stats on my Garmin Connect profile. The screeching halt of a record echoed voluminously inside my head. I re-checked the fact three times, but the first, second, and third report all came back with the exact same numbers. Wow. The sigh melted into a smile, and the smile erupted into excitement. I'm finally running again! Who knew I'd miss the masochistic pleasure of left, right, left, right so much?

Pushing me over the edge of 30+ miles was a great 8 mile trail run from my doorstep, up to Central Peak on Squak Mtn., and back to my doorstep via Mountainside Drive. I took one wrong turn, so the actual loop is just a bit shorter. Either way, the route boast a soothing 2,500 ft. of vertical gain. Most of the gain accrued is in the first 4.25 miles, and the only violence is in the 1.5 mile descent down Mountainside Drive. The asphalt stabs my hips with needles not fit for acupuncture; at least for now: I think when I'm in better fitness my body handles the plunge better.

One really nice thing about this injury: I have no ego to hit certain times on some of my favorite ascents. Throwing the meaningless self-testimony down the drain has allowed me to put a little more focus on quality. Not the philosophical quality, but the actually physical quality of how I run. I'm taking each step with much more control. My back is straight, I'm driving my knee forward with my hips, I'm using my get the point. All of these little tweaks have not only strengthened my hips, but my confidence, too.

For another two weeks I'll continue to plod along five to six days a week. Nothing more than 8 miles, and no workouts. After that, however, I may throw in a hill workout, or pick a race, or just keep consistently running. Who knows? Regardless,  the best thing I can do for my running: run day-to-day. The ankle still has some lingering annoyances, and it doesn't seem shy to show them when I need to be humbled. Some mornings I wake up and have to really ease into walking to the bathroom, and there are still a few steps on very uneven terrain that require some finesse.

If you didn't already see the photographs from last weekend's excursion here are the links:
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Thursday, August 15, 2013

"The Old Hymn of the Blue Ridge Mountains is Muted"

Obviously, I've been on a writing hiatus. Why? No  reason. I managed to put in 26 miles of running, last week. Second most since the Easter ankle injury. Yes, the injury is healing, but I haven't gone about it in a way that's allowed for it to fully heal. I'd rather run three short runs a week than take three weeks off. That choice is dragging out a full recovery. Enough said.

The lack of writing and running has been filled in with photography, though. I picked up a snazzy new camera. Simple description: faster than a point-and-shoot, smaller than a full frame camera. Also, it's a mirrorless interchangeble lens camera: Canon EOS M. It got some pretty pathetic reviews from professional photographers, and from the internet hipsters that buy nice cameras and apply annoying filters to EVERY photograph. But when I began to really look at what I wanted from a camera it just made sense: it weighs less, cost less, and I can begin to build my lens collection. -The [lens collection] true workhorse of the camera world; and the most expensive.- After all, I truly believe it's the photographer and the photographer's audience that make the difference. Not the camera. As an added bonus, Canon recently released a firmware update that answered the complaints of most of the poor reviews. Winner, Moi. Enough Said.

I'm really starting to fall into the heart of the Pacific-Northwest. But occasionally, while running I get these amazing reminiscent 'rundreams' -daydreams that occur while running.- about the Appalachian Trail. This rundream happened while I was running on Tiger Mtn. on a sun exposed trail and turned into a dense blanket of shade beneath a high canopy of Douglas-fir:

It's early October just north of a small community in North Georgia. The Chestnut Oak, Red Maple, and Sweetgum trees tease the blue sky and 480-million year old Blue Ridge Mountains with hints of red, orange, and yellow. In full decay the tree's colors challenge the dark and often desolate blue hue of the mountains during sunset. The air is stained from months of oven-hot temperatures. Plants wilt with exhaustion and any animals you spot seem to be roaming with sluggish thoughts. It's dawn and the air is saturated with ornery humidity. Slowly the displaced dust thrown into the air from my car's tires begins to bed itself back into parking lot. It's empty. In fact, I've never seen it full. And to describe it as a parking lot is a bit of a stretch.

In truth, the road dead ends into double track trail blocked by two large, decaying stumps and medium sized boulders; I'm also not actually in Georgia. About a 1/2 mile before the end of the road there is a little wooden sign nailed to a tree with carved out letters indicating the North Carolina-Georgia state line. And just before that is the little town of Tate City. Small enough the population sign when you enter the town reads: 19 +/-. I smile every time I pass through. My soul rests easy in the idea of a small town community: neighbors knowing neighbors, farms sharing produce, and poverty and religion going hand-in-hand.

I exit my car and a river of cool mountain air smashes into me. The closer you get to the shore of the flexuous body of swift moving water the less friable the land is beneath your feet. I set out for a jaunt through the Nantahala Wilderness Area to Standing Indian: the highest point on the Appalachian Trail south of the Smokey Mountains...

I trip on a rock and I'm back in Washington, and the old hymn of the Blue Ridge mountains is muted,

"I wish I was in the land of cotton,
Old times they are not forgotten;
Look away! Look away! Look away!..." 
until I dream again.

Me and Holly Dog.

Friday, April 26, 2013

"Now Accepting Applications: The Senseless Act of a 35 year old Woman on the Prowl"

Every now-and-then while running I stumble carelessly into handicapping results. I twist, sprain, and break my ankle in one quick moment. It's happened three times on my right ankle, and now, most recently on my left ankle. In the instant between disaster and face-plant I always have the same thought, "This is why I hate running." I'm a fairly lazy person. And truthfully, most runner are lazy. Our entire goal is efficiency, and in reality efficiency is just a fancy word for lazy. We run the tangents, we visualize, some people cut the switchbacks. And we argue over the efficiency of shoe heel-to-drop. Has anyone stopped to think of the absurdness of arguing over millimeters? I'll solve the debate in one sentence: If it doesn't feel good, don't use it. We habitually watch the reflection of ourselves running every time we pass by the windows of a building, or next too shiny car parked, or in the mirror on the treadmill. And the goal is to reassure ourselves that in the moment we see our reflection our form is world class. And the foundation of good form: efficiency. But call it what it is: laziness.

The logic of running laziness is sound, the logic of running is not. "Oh, look a mountain. Lets run up to the top." or "I think I'm going to see how fast I can run 3.1 miles." Why? That just makes no sense. Don't we realize how comfortable sitting in a  leather recliner with a beer, chips and salsa, and a football game can be? Seriously, taking a break from comfort makes no sense. Running is a senseless act. Our saving grace, however, is when we do run: we run the tangents, we visualize, some people cut the switchbacks, and we believe in 0-mm, 4-mm, 8-mm, and 12-mm shoe heel-to-toe drops. When we handicap ourselves from our senseless act, we fall apart on the inside as we recover on the outside.

We assimilate ourselves into the Kübler-Ross model: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I posted pictures of my injury and in denial I replied to the messages of disbelief with, "I should be back in a week." I angrily drove to work with the windows rolled up and spewed derogatory adjectives at people running. I bargained with myself as I thought, "At least now I have an excuse to be out of shape." I curled into depression as I cried in the shower when I had to sit down like an elderly man stricken with old age because the swelling in my ankle became so intense it could no longer hold me up. And then I began to accept the situation. I bought a cycling trainer, I setup a six week plan, and I forced myself to go watch races. Even though I was solus on the inside because I couldn't participate I found that just being around others running became rejuvenating. I reminded myself of all the funny experiences being involved in running has brought me.

Like my third day on the job at a running store in Georgia. A group of women training for the Breast Cancer 3-day walk set-up an event for a shoe fitting and the store was going to donate 10% of the proceeds toward the event. The event started at 7:00 PM, but a few women came into the store earlier in the day to avoid the crowd. One woman decided that she just wanted to be fit for shoes, have us put them on the hold shelf and she would come back during the event hours and purchase. When the event started I was tasked out to the cash register for the evening. I'd take the products, scan them, get peoples names, put everything in a bag and take their payment.

At 7:30 PM the store was packed full of 3-day walkers. Everything was kind of chaotic, and suddenly from behind the register I noticed the woman that came in early had walked back into the store. I went to the backroom grabbed her gear and put it at the register. Her shoulder length brown hair had been taken out of the ponytail she had it in earlier. Her tan cheeks looked a little more flush and her eyes seemed slightly dilated. As we began talking she started to laugh at everything. Her tone was more flirtatious than jovial, and I had no problem entertaining. She told me that after she came in at 4 o'clock she noticed the bar next door was having a great Happy Hour. She wasn't from the area so she decided to take advantage of it while she was in town. She told me she lost track of time, paid her bill, and ran back over to the store.

In my mind, I turned my head to the side like a puppy hearing a sound for the first time and questioned, "Has she been drinking for three and a half hours?" After I scanned everything she was buying, I asked her if she needed anything else. At this point, she was leaning purposely far into the counter, her lower cut top revealing a toned, tanned chest of a 35 year old woman on the prowl. I caught myself several times doing the "eye bobbing glance dance." My eyes going up-and-down like a buoy on the ocean. It's an action that unconsciously takes over any guy's mind in these situations. Even if you don't want it to happen you wind up making these nervous head twitches up as you catch yourself in a trance. After repeating myself, "Ma'am do you need anything else?" She stood up and let out a gasping high pitched moan and shouted loud enough that entire store got quiet and quickly turned to look at what was happening.

Flirtatiously loud she exclaimed, "You didn't ring up my watch that I wanted!" Glancing down at the counter I noticed the watch for the first time. It was sitting next to where he left boob had been making out with the glass counter-top. Either her hair was covering it, or I was too focused on the line drawn down the center of her chest to peripherally pick up any other objects in the vicinity. Without time for me to say anything her next sentence sent me into a world of embarrassment  She proclaimed, "What's wrong? You didn't want to touch my boobs?" Now, this time my head definitely turned side ways. My face filled with the red hue of embarrassment, and I smiled like an innocent third grade boy that got his first Valentine's Day card from his secret crush. I had so many not-work-appropriate comebacks, but I assumed looking boyishly innocent would be my only savoir.

The silence was broken with a few murmuring laughs, but all eyes were on me. Quickly I disseminated through all the thoughts in my head for the safest response. Turning my head back up right, and maintaining my smile and complete eye contact with her I responded, "Ma'am, it's not that I don't want to touch your boobs. I just want to keep my job." The store, full of about twenty women and  my co-workers, erupted in laughter. And the woman smiled and politely told me, "Well, I guess this is why my husband doesn't let me out of my cage very often."

I'm three weeks into recovery, and three weeks from my goal. Now that I'm accepting my injury, everything is on par and I'll be out on the streets and trails sooner than later.

- Trey Bailey

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"Escaping With Social Media."

Sitting down on the wooden bench high above the city below I did something I've rarely done while running: I logged on to FacebookInstagramTwitter, and Google+. Before you start judging what seems to be inability to disconnect, understand I was a bit turned around. I wasn't in any danger, nor was I truly lost. The reality of the situation was that I had planned to run a loop route on Tiger Mtn. and couldn't find the trail I needed to be on. I searched unmarked trails for an hour as I ran around in circles. When I got back to a place where I knew exactly where I was I sat down. I briefly checked out a map and then thought, "I've got a ton of social media friends that know the trails on Tiger Mtn. I bet thy can help."

When I pulled out my phone there was a slime of stickiness on the touch screen. The bag I grabbed off the kitchen counter, admittedly close to the trash can, previously hosted a peanut butter and honey sandwich. Oops. Using my own saliva I washed the screen and got busy posting.

I started with a photo on Instagram and shared it with Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Within minutes I had a few likes. I titled the photo, "Perk of wrong turns. Looking for route to Chirico Trail. Ugh." First comment: "I know where you are. I'll be right there." Although we didn't actually meet up, the post spurred on a lot of conversation. People began to reminisce of times they spent on the mountain, and offered very detail directions. But I stared down at the map I brought with me, and after a few minutes realized my mistake.

I put the phone back into my pack sans honey-lined plastic bag and ran down the trail. Sure enough, not more than 400 meters down the trail I found what I was looking for. Well marked and aptly named the Adventure Trail is where I wanted to be. I took another photo. More likes, more comments. My phone vibrated randomly in the waist pocket of my UltrAspire Spry with every notification. It was a weird satisfaction. It was a great pat on the back.

I didn't have to respond, but I did. I enjoyed the fact that I was able to pick and choose what I wanted to share. Trail running, to me, positions the runner against a backdrop of scenery that's built on personal perception. Waterfalls, bridges, and never-ending pathways don't always look and feel the same. On that run I wanted to share. I wanted others to enjoy what I was experiencing. And with likes, and comments, shares, and my ability to react to not just with a smile on the trail but with digital words I felt people were enjoying it as much as me. I think I'm going to make an effort to occasionally bring my runs to others while they're happening. I'd love to be on the other end, too.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"It's an unspoken addiction. Threads-n-treads"

I stumbled carelessly through my wine rack of shoes. Yes, you read that correctly. I have so many pairs of running shoes that storing them can get out of hand. To cork the problem I bought a cheap wine rack, flipped it upside down and poured the running shoes on until the rack overflowed. After some rearranging and careful stacking, the wine rack turned shoe storage passed the field test and sobriety seemed restored. Until I got even more shoes.

With so many choices, however, I've become tragically hip with my running outfits. Regardless of the distance, surface, or time of day I can confidently pair t-shirts, shorts, socks, and shoe color like post-run effort and beer. It's an unspoken addiction. My running routes, generally named after a state, have turned into a fashion cat- walk -run. A catrun is running fashion jargon that's more trendy than runway. #catrun use it on Instagram and Twitter in combination with @UphillRunning.

I stare at the color wheel of shoes to plan out my run. The red, blue, pink, purple, yellow, orange spinning in my head like an 80's skier tumbling down a hillside. I start with my outfit first because it can often determine my route. For instance, on St.Patty's Day I decided to wear blue shoes, green socks, blue shorts, green t-shirt, and black gloves and hat. Not only did I sport the colors of the Seahawks and Sounders, but I'm ensuring I don't get pinched. With that much holiday and team spirit I stayed on the road and ran to be seen.

Is it wrong to be narcissistic? Nope. We're runners. We are self-absorbed in ourselves by nature. Seriously, it's great to cheer for others and congratulate other's accomplishments, but we run for ourselves. So why can't I take pride in my threads-n-treads?

Don't confuse my vanity with judgment. We can run together anytime because as self-absorbed as this post may seem running's foundation is in equality. No better way to strip away prejudice than a bunch of people running from A to B on the same course.

Hashtag your next outfit #catrun and tag us, too: @UphillRunning

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Cotton, move over. Money is the fabric of our lives."

TrailRunner Blog Symposion
Is the introduction of bigger prize purses at trail races a positive or negative thing overall?

Bob Anderson's Ujena Fit Club constructs a list of the "Best Road Races" ranked according to prize money. The top-three races total a staggering, $2,914,000 in prize money awarded. This doesn't include incentive bonus money for breaking records.

The biggest prize purses in U.S. trail running pale in comparison: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-mile, $20,000; UROC 100k, $21,000; Run Rabbit Run, $40,000; Speedgoat 50k, $11,000. Interestingly, the shortest trail race distance with any significant prize money is five miles farther than any of the top-three road races; all of which are marathons, by the way. In fact, if you're first overall, and set a course and a world record at the Virgin London Marathon you could win $206,000. That's $7,862.60 per mile.

Trail races are new in the business world. It's more evident in the type of runner than in the prize purse. Road racing can seem overwhelming cut-throat. From the moment you step out of your vehicle you better have your game-face primed and ready. You're being judged by your outfit, by your shoes, and by the definition of your quads. It's silly, but it's true. This isn't to say that trail runners don't judge, but the start-line of a trail race is usually accompanied by a dull conversation about beer, mustaches, and the last time you ankle.

Will bigger prize purses change these aspects of trail races? Yes, of course. Money is greener than trees, and softer than cheap toilet paper. Money kept Jerry Maquire and Rod Tidwill together. For a race director money brings elites. The elites bring sponsors. Sponsors bring swag. Free swag (finisher medals) brings people. The more registered runners the more money the race director earns. Businesses can't ignore their bottom-lines.

Trail runners spend hard-earned money on trail running shoes, moisture-wicking socks, sub-three ounce jackets, compression socks, and environmentally conscious food. And with careful concern for sensitive habitats trail runners spend hours, upon hours travelling by foot through backyard mountains, deserts, and soft-surfaced sidewalks. Trail runners do this because they love it. Trail runners love the fresh-air, the escape, the solitude, the wild and free.

Racing isn't for the soul-searcher. Trail races satisfy the need for trail runners to test their ego. Bigger prize purses in trail racing will bring better competition, race support, and will hopefully bring shorter races some deserved cash-flow. In these regards, bigger prize purses have the ability to positively impact the sport of trail racing.

Money's greatest strength, is money's greatest weakness. For every racer there are infinitely more runners. The word "race" is pejorative among the pure. Racing and purity is too strange of a juxtaposition for the free minded souls that ramble consciously along the trails for pleasure. If the popularity of an event increases, the individuals searching for a secluded escape from the popular are displaced. For the pure runner bigger prize purses can look akin to the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

It's important for trail racers and trail runners to take into account both positive and negative. It's important to acknowledge that popularity and population can be detrimental to the medium: The mountains, the forest. The escape, the fulfillment. To be positive and successful bigger prize purses need to raise the awareness of environmental preservation and sport. It'll be important for trail racers and trail runners to work together to improve and compromise. The bigger the prize purse the more good the race director, sponsors, and athletes should be required to do for the use of the land, the sport, and the preservation of the wild.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"Just My Imagination Running Away"

You've seen the image, probably on Facebook, that has two computer drawn brains and the caption reads something along the lines of, "This is your brain before you run, and your brain immediately after you run."
There are some very distinct red, yellow, green, and blue blobs on the runner's brain. Naturally, without any idea of what you're looking at you decide it's a good thing to have a rainbow brain. After all, Lucky Charms, Gay Pride Flags, and the Care Bears have rainbows, so a runner's brain with rainbows is definitely a good thing.

The image that you're seeing is from an Electroencephalography (EEG). Put simply, the subject wears a clear shower cap with funny looking suction cups and is asked to perform some kind of task. The brain's responses are recorded based the electrical activity produced. The image of the two brains is from one of Dr. Charles H. Hillman's research experiments at the Neurocognitive Kinesiology Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Fascinating stuff, right?

So, recntly while driving down the interstate I was listening to Radiolab. As described on their website, "Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience." It's a thought-provoking hour of radio. This particular episode, After Life, is about the never-ending, mostly unanswerable question, "When someone is officially dead?"

One of the articles reports on the findings of Dr. Adrian Owen, a British neuroscientist. The study, "Bedside detection of awareness in the vegetative state: a cohort study." To summarize, Dr. Owen found that when a person in a vegetative state is given a verbal command to imagine playing a sport, in this case tennis, the EEG is almost identical to a person actively playing tennis. The study is, I think, to determine if people that are diagnosed as "brain dead" are actually brain dead. But, that's not very useful for me, as a non-neuroscientist runner. Or is it?

If the electrical output of imagination produces almost an identical electrical output as actually performing an activity should we be thinking about running a lot more? Assuming we want to get better, that is. The study sheds light on the actual effectiveness of gymnast, divers, and other athletes that do a few mental performance runs before they step-up to actually attempt it their event. Lets apply this to running. If anything, it can't hurt. For the next few runs take a few minutes to warm-up your brain by imagining yourself running. Run the route, run with your form, and take note of how you feel before, during, and after. Send me an email with your results, Include: Imagination. as the email's subject line. I'll keep your name, and email completely anonymous when I publish the results. We'll end the project on March 6th. Get your friends, family, and co-workers involved, too.

Friday, February 22, 2013

"You don't need a $400 GPS-enabled, heart-rate tracking, cadence recording, calorie counting ceramic toilet seat."

I uploaded a picture on Instagram titled, "Pre-run Traditions. We've all got 'em." The picture shows my legs, from knees-to-feet, with running shorts wrapped around my ankles and a full cup of coffee sitting in front of my exposed toes. The viewpoint: looking down from a comfortable perch on a porcelain toilet seat. I was taking care of business. We all do it. Don't believe me? There's a great children's book about it: "Everyone Poops" by Taro Gomi.

There was something unique about this digestive cycle, though. -Don't worry it's not going to get crude.- Biologically, this digestion is exactly the same as every other bowel movement. Ingest food, breakdown food, digest the leftovers. The difference with this movement is that it's a part of my pre-run routine. I refuse to run, if it doesn't happen. It's akin to a morning cup of coffee, or brushing your teeth before you go to sleep, or even turning off the lights in a specific order. But there is more to be learned from digestive routines for runners.

Your body isn't exactly fond of running. Your mind, yes. Your internal temperature rises, your veins are forced to dilate the accompanying rise in hear-rate, and your brain releases an endorphin to numb the pain of each stride as your foot slams into the ground. These changes, and more, are all a part of homeostatic regulation. It's a good thing, too. It means your body is functioning properly. Another tell-tale sign that your body is ready to run: bowel movements.

Timing is almost everything. As B.Nelson commented on the picture, "Better than DURING run traditions." Truth. But the crucial piece of evidence you can derive from your bowel movements: If it happens on a regular basis, you're body is functioning properly. I notice major changes in my morning tradition, if I'm sick. If I'm tired. If I'm stressed. Sometimes it doesn't happen first thing, which I associate with fatigue, or I didn't eat enough -or healthily- the night before. Sometimes it happens too frequently. I correct my training: A long run may need to wait until the evening when my body can correct itself. Speed work might need to be put off for another day.

Conveniently, you don't need a $400 GPS-enabled, heart-rate tracking, cadence recording, calorie counting ceramic toilet seat. Just taking a mental note of bowel patterns is really all you need. You could write it down, and to be honest, keeping track of consistency, color, and time from when you last ingested food may produce a more profound analysis. It's up to you how detailed you want to be in your bowel pattern tracking. Bottom-line, don't flush down an easy tell-tale sign of how ready your body is to run.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I Bought A FREE Newsletter

As I pulled into the McDonald's drive-thru, exhaust fumes filling my senses I noticed a man standing on the sidewalk. Lonely, and broken he carried a weathered American flag. Strands of red and white whipped with age through the cold breeze. I placed my artery clogging order, a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit, and drove my car around the clean concrete corridor. The man was now face-to-face with his reflection in my car's passenger window. I glanced at the his calloused clothing, full of patches, and crude sewing jobs. Admittedly, I usually cringe seeing people give money to highway exit bums, and other society failures. I don't know why, but there was something different about this guy. It was the desperation in his eyes.

The idea that he's at a point in his life where he's standing outside of McDonald's selling a FREE newsletter to earn money dug a trench into me. I rolled down the window and gave the man a five dollar bill. I know, I know. Why didn't I just give him food? For one thing, what if he didn't like what I bought him? Too many people will instantly turn their noses up at the idea that homeless and underprivileged families deserve choice. I've heard it, and said it myself: "Take what you get." There's plenty of truth in that ideology, but it's too common to take the human out of someone because they're in a different situation than yourself. We all have different tastes, and there's nothing wrong with that.

I have a few special people in my life that have always given me advice that I'll never forget. This particular advice came years ago from an inspiring, hard working, successful single-mother of six: "You can't speculate what happens to the money you give because it doesn't matter. What matters is that you unselfishly gave what you had to give." - K.M.

Why does this matter as a runner? Because running can be life changing. As a community we can change lives. We can help each other stride-for-stride. You don't have to be homeless, or poor to need help. Sometimes people in your life are going through times they could use help with. Divorce, bankruptcy, or even something as simple as their dog dying, or drama at work. The next time you're out on a run, think about it. Maybe you're the one that needs help. Running lends every runner with plenty of miles to be all ears.

Here are several organizations, and events that help others through running. See what you can do to help.

Dock St. Walking & Running. Website
This organization responds to the need for an athletic community that raises awareness of homelessness and self-empowerment. Dock St. Walking & Running serves as a friendly, non-competitive group where people of all kinds run together to be energized, think positive, get motivated, and gain the inspiration to get their life back on track.

Medals 4 Mettle. Website
Medals4Mettle (M4M) is a non-profit organization that facilitates the gifting of marathon, half marathon, and triathlon finishers’ medals. Runners from around the world give their hard earned medals to Medals4Mettle. Our worldwide network of physicians and volunteers then awards these medals attached to a Medals4Mettle ribbon to children and adults fighting debilitating illnesses who might not be able to run a race, but are in a race of their own just to continue to live their life. It is in honor of this mettle and courage in bravely facing these challenges that they are awarded a medal.

Back on My Feet. Website
Back on My Feet (BoMF) is a national nonprofit organization that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness change the way they see themselves so they can make real change in their lives that results in employment and independent living.
The organization’s mission is not to create runners within the homeless population, but to use running to create self-sufficiency in the lives of those experiencing homelessness. The program’s success is measured by how many Members achieve independence through employment and housing.

Can Do 5k. Website
Your registration, donation, or sponsorship provides funds for programs that support the mission of Northwest Special Families and the Northshore YMCA. NSF activities serve over 100 families in the local area, with special needs such as Down Syndrome, sensory integration disorder, autism, cerebral palsy, and genetic disorders, to name a few. We offer monthly family dinners with professional childcare, family outings, special events such as Special Santa, Moms outings, Dads outings, and sibling workshops.

MMRF. Website
Held annually in nine cities across the country -- Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis, Tri-State (New Canaan, CT), Twin Cities, and Washington, DC -- this family friendly 5K walk/run raises both awareness and funds for multiple myeloma. Since its inception in 2001 in Chicago, the MMRF Race for Research program has raised more than $17 million to support the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation’s urgent work. Participation offers camaraderie and knowledge sharing for patients, patient family members and friends, members of the myeloma community, and others.

Monday, February 4, 2013

"Lines for a thousand, Trebek. What is a cowboy state line?"

In elementary school I was never a Geography Bee Champion. In fact, a few weeks ago I made the mistake of identifying Washington's capitol as Seattle. In full confidence, too. It didn't take long for the stunned faces of my friends to make me think, "Was I suppose to answer in the form of question?"

But it got me thinking. On one of my few runs this year I became lost in a train of thought about shapes. An odd segue, but bear with me. This is strange to type, but it's a loose recap of my thought process:

"Shapes have such a distinct, well, shape. We learn, after a few attempts for most, that placing the red circle in the blue triangle slot doesn't work. States have interesting shapes. Counties have odd shapes, too. Georgia has 157 counties. That's a lot. I wonder who got to decide to go around the tree in the middle of the woods. I imagine a cowboy barreling north in the forest with red paint. Tagging trees as his horse twists and turns. Eventually he gets tired and turns east. Yes, all counties are drawn in a clockwise direction. States must be made up in the same way."

After finishing my run, I hurried to upload my latest data from my watch. Looking at the map on my computer page I saw shapes. The outline of my route: bold red; just like a cowboy had been chasing me. Saddle-up, pawt-na. <- phonetic, with a Southern drawl.

<Light bulb Moment>

I'm going to start naming my routes after states they look like on a map. I quickly open up a Google map and start comparing. My first run: Nevada. Okay, it's not perfect. It's Nevada on a diet. Or, somehow Nevada got stretched vertically. Regardless, this simple way of categorizing my routes now affords me a way to easily look-up and compare times over specific routes. It seems like that would be simple, but if you use eight different trails, or a ton of different roads you're left with a huge route name. Or, you're left with some off-the-wall thought like, "Red Triangle Through The Night." With this system you can easily get fifty repeatable routes, and avoid telling your friend to go run, "Loopy Potholes On Sidewalk Beneath A Pine Tree."

But there are a few drawbacks. Out-and-back routes don't get a name. And routes that have two loops connected by straight lines all look like Hawaii. My solution to running the route in reverse, I just add reverse to the route name. Original, I know. Biggest problem: How am I going to run a route that looks like Michigan?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Running People's Campaign

Running People’s Campaign

It’s hard to believe that up until 2000 not all 50 states celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The holiday was signed into law by Ronald Reagan, and was first observed January 20, 1986. King’s name is synonymous with the civil rights movement in the United States, and his efforts laid the foundation for other civil rights movements across the globe. King’s defiance of racially discriminating federal and state laws through non-violent activism is something to always celebrate. Not just annually, but daily. There will always be individuals and groups that attempt to portray Martin Luther King Jr. Day as some form of reverse racism, but at least these groups are equally represented in non-discriminating laws that give them the ability to voice their opinions.

As a person that runs, I am a runner. And there are a lot of runners. Together we make up a collective whole that take strides as a group, and footsteps as individuals. We do not discriminate. Yes, there are social groups inside the collective: joggers, marathoners, elites, and ultramarathoners. Yes, we have our disagreements: “5ks are easy,” said the ultramarathoner. “Not if you’re running it fast,” said the 5k’er. In the end, or I should say, at the finish-line, we are all equal. It’s important that we protect this unspoken bond, and acknowledge that it may not have just started with us as runners. There are important footsteps that have been taken before us, and not just in the form of running that have laid the groundwork for equality among neighbors.

If you plan to run on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, run with someone you don’t normally run with. Slow down, or speed up. Run trails, or run roads. However you run, run with a focus on the understanding that we are all equal. Not just as runners, but as humans, too.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Footstep Poetry on Haiku Trails

Footstep Poetry on Haiku Trails
Waking Up The Sun
Up before alarm
Guided by a headlamp light
Silence before dawn
Making The Team
Among the forest
We roam and we ramble on
I am trail runner
Sole Searching
Wandering alone
Searching for more than my soul
Lost my shoe in snow
Material Training
Did I run or not
No data in fancy watch
Forgot to hit start
Late To Aid Station #2
Fumbling like ball
Rushing like holiday sale
No water, no food
Run To Born
Read the latest book
Took off the shoes, hit the dirt
Sat on couch injured
Paved Trails
Tap, tap, tap, stomp, stomp
Honk, swerve, finger, yell, finger
Road is dangerous
Pac-Northwest Trails
Muddy beginning
Sliding up, down, and around
Together with dirt
Snowy Trail Run
Running through the air
Snow falling all around me
Crunch crunch crunch slip fall
Chafing Is
Sweat dripping down face
Red cheeks, cold hands, icy breath
Fun run, painful bath
This post can also been seen here: The Balanced Athlete Blog