An Addict

I saw an addict I know the other day.
We met at the library.

Our boys played
together
listened contently
to the librarian’s
stories.

He had just been accepted
to school;
rehabilitation counselling.
He disappeared
as intensity increased.

I saw him yesterday.
Stumbling down the County Road.
Drunk concentration
cemented on his face
knees knocking together
threatening to crash.

It was 8:30 in the morning.


So I’m not a poet. Seemed the best medium to tell the story…

Happy Fall – Sort Of…

Happy Fall – Sort Of…

I don’t mind fall, but it harbours winter, and that sucks for a lot of reasons around here. But fall isn’t all bad: I can finally use Xfinity’s (Comcast, dirty bastards) ability to DVR 15 shows all at one time! (I actually don’t have a TV and didn’t realize there was that much TV worth watching.) In seriousness though, fall brings new lines of… SHOES!!!

Yup. SKORA just put out their new Fall/Winter Line-Up. There’s lots of sweet colors to run with. One of my favorites is the Ladies Cyan Flo. Yellow FIT.ladies cyan fit Unfortunately, I can’t fit them, so I’ll have to stick with the men’s selections, which are equally as sleek. There are a couple of men’s Fit, including a variation from the intial releases silver/cyan. These are cyan and black which really makes the cyan pop. And then there’s a black on black FIT, which almost looks it coudl be worn in a formal setting without much hoopla. men black-black
There’s also a blue-monochroatic iteration of the PHASE which looks totally dope, especially if blue is your thing.blue phase And if blue isn’t your think, there’s a pretty sweet dark version of the CORE. They call it Gray/Green/Black, but it’s so much more. A dark shoe, not black with a splash of color. Humble and quiet spoken, but shouting at the same time.gray core And then of course is my favorite. The digital camo FORM. Dark, but not too dark, and a bright red sole. Something about that colored sole just does it for me. I mean, how can it not?form
Now the question becomes, which one to get first…

The Leg Calendar

I was updating my log yesterday, and I realized that had I not taken the day off after VT100, I would have hit a year streak on the 16th. Instead, I’ve started over and am at day 60 or so. My log also tells me some information regarding mileage.

Prior to VT100, I had run 2541.6 miles over 306 days averaging 8.3 miles per day. After VT100, I’ve been rehabbing my Achilles and taking it easy and my mileage has subsequently plummeted to 3.7 per day. None-the-less, my mileage from 9/17/13-9/16/14 is 2759.2. For me, that’s a huge number. Since I’ve started keeping track, my mileage has been building, but nothing more than 2300. What’s even more interesting, is that since my mileage has declined and I’m going easy, I might finish the calendar year 2014 around 2300/2400 miles again. No where in my log will I have recorded that big – for me – 2700 number.

But really, how much does that matter? Do my legs know the difference between a calendar year and 365 days? I’m going to go ahead and say probably not. While time isn’t man made, the way we keep track of it kind of is. Sure, it’s nice to tweet the crazy miles you ran in a year, or shout it out on facebook that you just ran the highest mileage week ever, but the reality is, is that it doesn’t really matter. These segments of time we have created are really meaningless to our legs. They don’t know a 31 day month to a 28 day month.

What is important, is that our mileage is increasing – to a point – overall. Mileage should be something that builds on itself; there are ebbs and floes, higher mileage periods and lower mileage periods. It shouldn’t be a flat line. Our legs need lower mileage periods to rest and recover. Even steady low mileage should have peaks and dips. During the off-season throw in a higher mileage period just to keep the legs limber and ready to go. Yes mileage is important, yes how we measure it and keep track of it is important, but it’s important not to get wrapped up in mileage on the short term. Over time, it all irons out.

Summer Losses

It happens every few months, without fail. To write about it seems an imprudent waste of time: the changing of the seasons. We’ve entered full fledged fall in Vermont, and it sucks. I’m not sure if living in Georgia negated the work the previous 28 winters of living in Upstate and Northern New York did on my blood, or perhaps it was the vicious cold last year coupled with a not-so-warm summer (according to accuweather.com we had two days that hit 90 on the nose), and more predictions of a nasty winter – this time with more snow. Either way the cooler weather of the fall has already made me ornery so I’ve made a list of the things I’ll be missing about summer.

1. Barefoot Runs. I love running barefoot. I don’t do it all the time, but I do try to incorporate 5% of weekly mileage barefoot. Sometimes it’s on the road, others it’s the field or track. Not in winter. I can push pretty far into the winter unshod, but once the salt goes down, forget it. Foot coffins here we come. Now I know I can hit the treadmill barefoot, but running on the treadmill seems to contradict the whole idea of running barefoot and naturally. Besides which, no one likes the smell of roasting flesh.

2. The Track. I hit the track once, sometimes twice a week. I enjoy an easy warm-up to the track, a nice hard workout that requires no thoughts about oncoming traffic, slushy puddles, black ice, or guessed distances. You find a pace and rock it. Not in winter. I do my best to get out when the early snow flies and keep the first lane cleared – and sometimes I can make it into December – but it’s hard work. And once the snows on the track, it’s there until April.

3. Sweat. A good sweat makes everything more enjoyable. All the toxins in your body purged through your skin and flushed into the air. You feel accomplished. A job well done. You know you just worked your backside off, and you can strip down to your shorts and just bask in the glory of your stank self. When you’re done, a cool hose for a quick rinse and off you go. Not in the winter. There is no sweat in the winter. Sweat just turns to ice, and when it does stay melted it does an awesome job at wicking away your body heat, too.

4. Clothes. As a stay at home dad, I do my share of the laundry. I do lots of laundry. Every day I do laundry. Wash, dry, fold, away. And with kids, if you don’t get to the ‘away’ part quick enough, you end up folding twice. In summer, there’s less clothes. Sometimes, (albeit rarely) it’s warm enough I start a run without a shirt on. One less item in the wash. Not to mention the size of the clothes. A t-shirt and shorts takes up so little space in a load, but when you start adding shorts, running pants, short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, maybe a third shirt because it’s that damn cold, that’s almost a load of laundry in and of itself. In one run.

5. Rain, streams, ponds, lakes. Water. Who doesn’t love water on a hot summer day? A quick jump in a pond or lake will cool you down instantaneously and you’re off on your way again. Just a stream? Splash some water on your head and let it run down your back. Rain? Awesome. Who doesn’t run faster with less effort in the rain? In winter? Look out. Rain in the winter turns to ice, black ice. Sometimes it comes down as ice. It hurts. It soaks clothes and rubs body parts raw. Crossing a stream? Be careful you don’t punch through, it’s an excellent way to get frostbite.

6. No leaves. When you start doing long long runs, and you’re out for extended periods of time, you’ll quickly learn that it is prudent to bring toilet paper. However, if you forget in the summer time, no sweat; grab some leaves and you’re good. In the winter there are no leaves except for some crinkly, crumbly beech leaves still hanging on. Don’t use those, they won’t work. If you forgot toilet paper in the winter, you’re out of luck. Say hello to Mr. Tom Thumb, or you can use a snow ball. If you did happen to bring toilet paper, you’re stuck bumbling around with exposed fingers in the bitter cold, trying not to drop a glove while you attempt to keep the TP from getting wet in the snow. Meanwhile, your backside is hanging out, and you’re literally freezing your ass off. Mind you, this is all after you’ve trudged through knee deep snow an appropriate distane off the trail so as to not offend others. Try squatting in that. (True story: Doodi called – badum… – while I was on a night run in sub-zero temps this past winter. That was a shitty – ching! – expierence.)

7. Evening Light. Not all complaints are about temperatures. As I do near half of my runs at 8:00PM or later, I love summer when it doesn’t start to get dark until 9:00 or so. I can head out on any loop I choose, and not have to worry about the fading light. As fall and winter approach, my loops start getting more and more limited, until I’m eventually running out-and-backs along the damn highway because a.) it’s the only thing clear of ice and snow, b.) if I fall over and freeze it’s the only place I’ll be found, and c.) I’m scared of the dark and dirt roads with dense tree could be hiding any number of baddies including hungry ass catamounts.

8. Stretching. I’m not an avid stretcher, but as i get older, I find that if I can do a little stretching ten minutes or so into a run, I’ll feel better during and after the run. In the summer – and fall to some extent – I can sit down wherever I want and stretch myself out. It might garner some funny looks when at first glance I’m flashing the world, but it helps. Do that in the winter and you’re hard up. It’s not the flashing part I miss – though who doesn’t like a good flash? – it’s the dry, warm ground to sit on that I miss. Sit down in the winter, and you’ll either freeze up, or get a wet bottom, which will then freeze up. I suppose I could just do laps around my house and go inside to stretch, but then I’d be all sweaty and freeze when I went back out – if my wife let me go back out.

9. Procrastination. In the summer, my wife and I have no problem getting out in the morning on the weekends. I have no problem getting out at night. The weather is warm, there’s probably some daylight; it’s easy. As darkness and coldness progress, getting out the door gets harder and harder. Instead of getting out the door to go for a run, we sit and drink our coffee dreading the venture outside. At first it isn’t so bad, but as the winter wears on, the foot dragging gets worse. No one wants to go outside for a run when it’s single digits, no matter their gear.

10. Vitamin D. We’ve all heard of the stuff. And while you can get Vit D supplements, the main source is the sun. Well the sun doesn’t go away in winter, but as you head further north, the Earth’s angle of insolation becomes steeper and less Vitamin D can get through. Not to mention the fact that in order to absorb Vitamin D you have to have exposed skin. In winter, that usually consists of your face, which for most of us, isn’t that big. So for November-March, I’m absorbing zero Vitamin D on account of the angle of insolation being too steep, and for September and October, there’s so much grayness, little Vit D is being absorbed anyway. That’s near six months without Vitamin D.

So no, I’m not looking forward to winter. I’m not enjoying the cool fall breezes, the turning of the maples, or the harvest of the garden. I want 90+ and sun. I want to sweat faster than I can hydrate. I want summer. I want a real summer.

Post-Partum: VT100 Part III

The Forethought: VT100 Part I
Delivering: VT100 Part II

I will preface this post by saying that I am a male and have not, nor will I, first handedly experience the pain and glory of childbirth. I have, however, witnessed the birth of two children and have a vague sense of the whole process. That said, I feel that preparing and executing a 100 mile race can be compared – in a sense – to childbirth. I mean no disrespect, nor do I mean to take anything from anyone who has given birth.

Disclaimer: Some of the photos found in this post are of a graphic nature and may be considered disturbing by some. While they may be photos of ordinary circumstances to ultra runners, for the non-ultra runner they may be repulsive.

We'll get to how these happened.

We’ll get to how these happened.

The After-Birth

At some point you find that you’ve signed up for a 100 mile run. Sometimes it is planned, others, it is on a dare, or a challenge from a friend. You’ll spend the next length of time preparing for your 100 mile run and eventually the day will come and you’ll begin. No matter how in shape you are or how prepared your body is, there are certain things for which you cannot prepare. And while you keep telling yourself that this will all be over when you cross the finish line you are being forgetful of the fact that there will be repercussions for the self-mutilation you are causing.

When I crossed the finish line, I slowed further, stood kind of dazed, fell in line with my wife and brother who were carrying two sleeping toddlers and wandered through the woods to the tent. It hurt, but it was manageable. The frantic voice telling me to hurry and finish had gone to sleep. I was ‘relaxed,’ if you could call it that. I took my time and wobbled over the obstacles no one but a shell of a human would find daunting. It couldn’t have been more than a quarter mile to the tent, but it seemed longer. I followed the glow and din of the tent and wandered inside, a weary traveler looking for nowt but a cup of broth as my party traveled onward.

After downing my broth and conversing with some of the other wayward beings in the tent, I wandered to the end of the tent to wait for my family to return. As I stood, I noticed a chair. It looked inviting; a place to rest my legs and soul. I grasped the back of the chair and tried to contort my body to sit with little success. As I tried to figure out how to let myself down without knocking it over, I realized that this was one of the worst ideas ever. Provided I could make it into the chair, how long would it be before I could get up? How much help would I need? Instead I continued to stand and watch. There was enough of a soft gleam from head lights and and head lamps to provide glimpses of the other worn passengers milling about. No words were spoken, just nods of sullen approval at the feat just accomplished.

Eventually, my brother came back for me, and as I tried to walk up the hill to the car I had to give-in and use his help. While he didn’t carry me, his shoulder was a much needed support. As we reached the car, I decided to sit shot gun – the most accessible seat, as opposed to laying down – perhaps forever – in the back. As I went to sit, I leaned back and let the seat catch my fall. My legs were either too tired to move, or they simply refused; moving my legs into the car required both hands – a task I wasn’t sure my arms were up for. Eighteen inches off the ground never seemed so far.

Home

I don’t remember much of the car ride home. It was pretty uneventful, but by the end of the twenty minute ride, I was nearly falling asleep. I could only focus on the yellow lines and random headlights for so long before the weariness took over. At some point it had been decided that climbing the stairs to my bedroom was out of the question and the couch was instead the best answer. We pulled into the driveway, and all I could think of was bed. I opened the car door and got out; I was going on my own. Sleep. I hobbled to the front of my car at which point my wife came over to help as I leaned on her shoulder.

It’s not a far walk from the car to the backdoor – maybe fifteen feet – but I was moving at a shuffle in the pitch black. My wife told my brother to go turn the lights on in the house and he left our side to go open the door and turn on the exterior lights. But it was dark, and I was exhausted. I stopped walking. My wife tried to move me forward. I refused. I could feel the hot flashes and cold sweats. My torso was hot, my face clammy. I knew this feeling quite well: I was ready to pass out. I dropped to my knees – slowly – with my wife’s help and sort of crumbled in the driveway.

I don’t remember much at this point. I know that I wasn’t completely out. My wife was freaking out at my brother to call an ambulance, and my brother was freaking out trying to find a pulse. Meanwhile, I was feeling good, unable to speak. I’d been here before. All they had to do was turn the lights on, give me someplace to go. Direction.

At some point in the commotion, my brother went inside and turned the light on. That was what I needed. I awoke from my nap and shrugged off any help to get me on my feet. Instead I crawled. I crawled on my hands and knees across the driveway and into my house. I crawled through the kitchen and up the half stair. Through the dining room and into the living room where I propped myself up on the couch, knees bent, arms folded across my knees to make a resting place for my head.

My brother helped me remove my shoes, and peeled off my shirt. Between he and my wife, the kids were brought inside and put to bed, and my feet and armpits were wiped down with baby wipes. I hoisted myself up on to the couch and laid on my stomach. My brother put some fruit snacks near my mouth and I managed to suck them up slowly like an anteater. It was a spectacle.

The Morning After

I don’t really know what I was expecting, but the morning after was not a pretty sight. I got up and hobbled around the house until I felt awake enough to take a shower – problem: shower is on the second floor. I managed my way up the stairs on all fours. I tried using the railing for support, but it wasn’t enough; this was a hand over hand ordeal.

Once in the bathroom, I had to get my legs over the side of the tub. Unlike the car ride home where I was sitting and could use both hands to lift my legs into the car, I was standing. It took some figuring, but eventually I figured out how to hold onto the toilet and get myself into the shower without falling over, but it wasn’t done yet. I had to wash my lower legs, too. I couldn’t bend over, and I couldn’t really lift my foot up. Again, it was a two handed finagle to get my foot on the edge of the tub without falling out of the tub.

Balance

As I tried to hobble around, I found that I was holding onto anything solid around me. My hand would rest against the wall, I would grab a chair or table in passing. It was a slow and labored pace, but I was moving. Surprisingly, harder than moving was standing still. What I didn’t realize – mostly because I never really thought about it – is that to hold our bodies upright, our bodies utilize a number of muscles we take for granted everyday. Those muscles of mine were so fatigued and worn out, if I leaned too far one way or another – and it wasn’t far – I’d find myself falling and trying to catch onto something solid.

So it was when I went for a walk later that afternoon, I needed to take the jogging stroller with me to keep from falling over. At first, my daughter was in the stroller, but after the slowest tenth of a mile in her life, she opted to get out and left me pushing an empty stroller. I would have been better with a cane.

The Swelling

That's my ankle. Seriously.

That’s my ankle. Seriously.

As the days wore on, the swelling eventually went down, but it took at least a week. For the first couple of days, my ankles were missing. I’ve had pitting oedema before, so I wasn’t too impressed, but when the swelling and fluid was accompanied with my blackened toe nails, it made for an interesting sight.

I could be making this up, but I think that since my toenails were falling off, and I had an open wound – an open blister – some of the fluid from my ankles seemed to be draining through the pin hole in the blister. Since the toenail was only attached at the sides and loose in the middle, I could depress the toenail and create an oozy, smelly pile of bubbles – slightly reminiscent of spittle. At first I thought it was blister fluid, but it kept coming. It was more than just blister fluid.

Tiny bubbles make me warm all over...

Tiny bubbles make me warm all over…

I suppose it could have been the start of an infection, but after a couple days of red and itchy toes that didn’t seem like healing, I started some epsom salt soaks and it seemed to dry things up pretty quickly.

The Hormones

To say that I was cranky the first couple of days after would be an understatement. I’d wager to say I was unbearable. The thing is, when you run that far or that long, your body produces a ton of hormones; when you stop running, those hormones drop to below normal. They swing. Well when they swing below normal there is nothing but grumpiness. As any good binger will tell you, a little hair of the dog is the best thing to keep that withdrawal away. Unfortunately for me, there was no little taste to be had the next day.

Running Again

I had been on a 2500 mile streak of 306 days at the end of Vermont, but sadly, that

Hows that for gaping?

Hows that for gaping?

streak came to an end the day after. I wanted to, and I even tried, but I could hardly muster a walk. I managed to get out the day after and do a mile around the block. It was slow, but it was all I could do. Each day things got progressively easier and my legs felt a little better after every run. It might be different for everyone, but it took a good two weeks before the legs were free of any soreness on an easy run. I think some of it has to do with over training, and maybe a bit of burnout, but my easy pace runs are still significantly slower. I haven’t tried anything with any pace but for a few strides or a 400 here or there, but I find it hard to believe I was ever doing 8×1600 with a minute rest as 5:48s.

Again?

After every long race, it’s what everyone says. It’s almost cliche. “I’ll never do that again. And then three days later I signed up for another.” And while I do like a good cliche now and again, I avoided the phrase. Instead, I said not for a while. Right now, I truly have little interest in doing another 100 mile run. I’d much rather a 12/24 hour event. I hope to do some longer runs again one day, but the kids need to be older.

I was aware of the time training would take, and I even was ready for a whole day to be set aside for my one event – but what I didn’t think about, was the recovery process and how long that was going to take. Not to mention the stress it put on my family when I collapsed in the driveway.

Yes, it was awesome. Yes, I feel accomplished. Yes, I feel incredibly selfish.

The Buckle

The Buckle