Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Running & Being: Reflections in Quotes

This frigid winter has left plenty of time to curl up with a good book, a warm blanket, a warm and snuggly dog and/or cat, and a cup of coffee. One of the many books on my reading list this year was Running & Being: The Total Experienceby Dr. George Sheehan. This classic running text was first published in 1978, and became a bit of a running bible during the rise of the sport, with Sheehan serving as a muse and wise sage for the burgeoning recreational running community. The title had been on my docket for a while, and I was excited to crack it open (although carefully so as not to damage the spin, out of respect to my conservator partner!). Even after almost 30 years, Sheehan’s words ring true and I found myself connecting with his thoughts and perspective more and more as I turned the pages. His writing style, half philosopher, half runner, appealed to my intellectual curiosities as much as running passions.

Numerous reviews of the book have been published over the years, so it would be a bit presumptuous to think I could add anything in that genre that had not already been said. However, I found more and more quotes that spoke to me particularly, and I thought it would be engaging, at least to me, to document those. Perhaps you’ll discover new meaning in the book, or an interest in it that will cause you to pick it up for the first time. Either way, there’s meaning to be found if one is open to letting it in. Enjoy!

Chapter 1- Living

Our day-to-day living may seem mindless to the mind and of no consequence to the body, but the heart tells us different. The heart is where faith lies. Where we find the supreme act of courage, the courage to be. To take arms against oneself and become one’s own perfection. (p. 9)

Chapter 2- Discovering

The runner does not run because he is too slight for football or hasn’t the ability to put a ball through a hoop or can’t hit a curve ball. He runs because he has to. Because in being a runner, in moving through pain and fatigue and suffering, in imposing stress upon stress, in eliminating all but the necessities of life, he is fulfilling himself and becoming the person he is. (p. 22)

Chapter 3- Understanding

So I run in joy and even afterward there is a completeness that lingers and is even restored in the long, hot shower. I am “away”, not in the mind but in its warm, relaxed, tingling happy body, the feeling of running still in my legs and arms and chest. I am still enjoying who I was and what I did that hour on the road. (p. 28)

Chapter 4- Beginning

Where fitness ends, self-discovery starts. The athlete who is in complete command of the skills of his sport comes to understand the person he is through his attachment to his particular sport and his response to the stresses and strains that arise within it. He finds out what he is made of. What his true personality is.” (pp. 45-46)

Chapter 5- Becoming

So let us forget about longevity. Get away from the idea of prolonging life. Let us realize the truth of Thurber’s dictum “There is no safety in numbers- or in anything else.” Despite exercise, diet and abstention from all the vices, we will die in our appointed time. That should not concern. It is what happens from now until then that is important.” (pp. 56-57)

Chapter 6- Playing

Play is where life lives. Where the game is the game. At its borders, we slip into heresy. Become serious. Lose our sense of humor. Fail to see the incongruities of everything we hold to be important. Right and wrong become problematic. Money, power, position become ends. The game becomes winning. And we lose the good life and the good things that play provides.” (p. 61)

Chapter 7- Learning

What is school for the student, wrote philosopher Paul Weiss, is leisure for the mature. A time when we devote ourselves to detecting who we are and what we can do, a time to understand the world and how it works, a time to loaf and invite the imagination to full activity, a time to exhaust ourselves in play and dance and celebration.” (p.77)

Chapter 8- Excelling

Boredom, like beauty, is in the mind of the beholder. “There is no such thing as an uninteresting subject,” said Chesterton. “The only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.” (p.92)

Chapter 9- Running

Running reminds me that at any age man is still the marvel of creation. With the passage of time, there is little deterioration of our physical or psychic powers, little worth thinking that is lost. The only important issue, as Rollo May said, is not whether a person is twenty or forty or sixty, but whether he fulfills his own capacity of self-conscious choice at his own particular level.” (p. 116)

Chapter 10- Training

Life is the great experiment. Each of us is an experiment of one- observer and subject- making choices, living with them, recording the effects. “Living”, said the philosopher Ortega, “is nothing more than doing one thing instead of another.” (p. 130)

Chapter 11- Healing

The athlete is medicine’s most difficult patient. His pursuit of perfection is an unprecedented challenge to what Cannon called “homeostasis” and Claude Bernard termed the “internal milieu,” the body’s inner harmony with its external environment.” (p. 147)

Chapter 12- Racing

I have no need for short-lived bursts of superhuman energy. My game is endurance. My object perfection. My race is a product of training, determination, and reason. Strong emotions often contribute nothing but stupidity. It is the fired-up, psyched-up runner who runs the most irrationally placed races.” (p. 157)

Chapter 13- Winning

Some think guts is sprinting at the end of a race. But guts is what got you there to begin with. Guts start in the back hills with six miles still to go and you’re thinking of how you can get out of this race without anyone noticing. Guts begin when you still have forty minutes of torture left and you’re already hurting more than you ever remember.” (p. 181)

Chapter 14- Losing

Sport is where an entire life can be compressed into a few hours. Where the emotions of a lifetime can be felt on the acre or two of ground. Where a person can suffer and die and rise again on six miles of trails through a New York City park.” (p. 189)

Chapter 15- Suffering

Why I began running is no longer important. It is enough that it generated a desire to run. Then the running itself took over. Running became self-renewing compulsion. The more I ran, the more I wanted to run.” (p. 197)

Chapter 16- Meditating

On the road I become a philosopher and follow the philosopher’s tradition. I affirm my own existence and no one else’s. I am occupied with my own inner life. I am constructing a system that will justify  my own way of being in the world. And discovering, as Emerson said, that there are thoughts in my brain that have no other watchman or lover or defender than me.” (p. 220)

Chapter 17- Growing

Running is a dangerous game. At one pole the danger is contentment. Running becomes so addictive physically, so habit-forming psychologically, that it takes willpower for me not to run. And it has a solitude so satisfying that I sometimes wonder if the hermit isn’t the supreme hedonist.” (p. 229)

Chapter 18- Seeing

The world belongs to those who laugh and cry. Laughter is the beginning of wisdom, the first evidence of the divine sense of humor…Crying starts when we see things as they really are. When we realize with William Blake that everything that lives is holy. When everything is seen to be infinite and we are part of the infinity.” (p. 246)

 

Latest Running Research- Listen to your Damn Body!

I just completed a multi-year study of running and endurance, and the findings are going to completely redefine the sport! This study is probably bigger than the Harvard Love Study and the Kinsey Reports combined! Are you ready to be amazed and completely rethink everything you know about running?

Here are the important take-away findings:

1. Speed and distance are inversely proportional: All of my recent PRs have come on the heals of long runs the previous day. Forget what you know about tapering, and head out for that 20-miler the day before your marathon. Watch the magic happen!

2. Hydration and gastrointestinal Distress are related: I’ve been playing around with my diet for quite some time, trying to figure out why the threat of the runs occurs on my long runs. Then, it hit me. Hydration! I’ve consumed water every single time I’ve had to make a pit stop at a gas station, in the woods, or behind a dumpster. The obvious solution is to simply stop drinking water. You’re welcome, internet!

3. Wind impacts pace: You’ve probably all thought about this anecdotally, and now you have the scientific proof to back up those hunches. Your pace does in fact decrease when running into the wind. That is, unless you push harder and increase your pace to compensate.

4. Bodyglide suppresses lactation in men! This was a rather unexpected finding, but the facts don’t lie. I do my best to avoid chafing on longer runs and apply my Bodyglide consistently. Surprisingly, I’ve never lactated on those days. Now, to my knowledge, I’ve never lactated period, but we’re just talking about running here.

bodyglide-detail-group-original

5. Black socks make you run faster: We all know that darker colors absorb more energy from the sun, and solar energy is becoming more and more important as we rip through our remaining coal reserves. It then stands to reason that the solar energy entering my legs is providing more power and energy, and I’m running faster as a result. I went back and looked at race pictures, and sure enough, I’m wearing black socks for all of my fastest races.

Now, you’ve probably figured out by now that these findings aren’t EXACTLY scientific, but they are none-the-less true…at least for me. Sometimes. In the right conditions. If I think hard enough about them. My point here is more of a response to what seems like a constant onslaught of articles, commentaries, and studies that suggest running will do this or that to your body, or running too far will hurt your body, you need this much recovery, or you need to eat this balance of foods. The messages we receive are endless in a media-saturated, social-media intensive society. What’s more, we’ve been trained by Western medicine to assume everything is objective, has a solution, and more than likely involves a pill.

I hate to break it to you but there is no such think as objective research. Everyone involved in every research study made decisions about how to go about their work, what and who to include, and what questions to ask (and thus what questions not to ask). The reality is that humanity is amazing, infuriating, sometimes terrifying, and mostly beautifully diverse. Thus, there are as many “ways” to do something as there are people to do them. Running is simply one of those things.

We’ve gotten away from listening to our bodies. Really stopping to pay attention to not only what hurts so we can tell our doctor, but what feels good, how long something lasts, and what differences exist when we try new things. The beauty, of course, is that we can start doing this any time. It may take some time to flip that switch in your mind, but the benefit is well worth the time. Just as we invest time in hill work, speed work, intervals, and endurance training, we should invest time in listening to our bodies.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with reading the articles that flood our news feeds every day. The trick is not to get so wrapped up in what other people are saying that we stop trusting ourselves to know what’s best for our running, our goals, and our bodies. The findings of that study may just surprise you, and will certainly prove more beneficial to your overall performance!

 

 

January By The Numbers

This was a month of contrasts, and the beginning of what will no doubt be a very exciting, adventurous, and diverse year of experiences. The temperatures varied by close to 80 degrees, the epicurean and I made the decision to move half way across the country, I signed up for many of my “last hurrah” races in Iowa, and I ran more total miles than in any other previous month (I think).

Let’s run the numbers for January:

running

9,144- Total feet of elevation gain for the month…I need to try and step it up! (pun intended)

1,080- The number of miles between Ames, IA & our new home in Delaware. We have a lot of packing, planning, and house shopping to do between now and then. Don’t worry, though, as I’ve been sure to begin scouting running groups and new races to tackle in the area!

334.7- Total number of miles run in January…yikes!

80- Approximate temperature variance from -30 wind chills to 50 degree days…oh, Iowa :)

temps-drop-but-running-wont-stop

34- Number of runs during the month- I added in a second two-a-day on Thursday to increase the fatigue on my legs heading into my weekend miles. It’s been a slow transition, but I’m feeling good about it.

14- Number of old pairs of running shoes I finally parted ways with after they served their distance. It was hard to say goodbye!

6- Races I’ve signed up for, with more to come once the schedule is a bit more consistent!

5- Number of classes I’m teaching this semester…I didn’t really want to sleep, right?

Keep running…just not in place!

5- Number of marathon-or-longer distances run this month…the base miles will start to give way to more challenging runs now!

2- Number of pairs of shoes I’ve retired and replaced.

0- Number of indoor runs, treadmill or otherwise…a good month indeed!

poster-38

 

Keep #chasing42 !

Want to be a Race Reviewer? (Your answer should be yes!)

I love reading race reviews. The number of ultramarathons, marathons and half marathons has grown a great deal in recent years, and all other distances are on the rise as well. People love running, and they love hearing about other people running. With so many races competing for our time and money, it makes sense to learn as much about the race as possible before pulling the trigger and adding it to your schedule.

More people are running and racing now than ever before!

More people are running and racing now than ever before!

I also enjoy writing reviews once I’ve completed races. It’s a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the experience, think about what I enjoyed and what I didn’t, and make mental notes for my next race. With each race I run and review, I get a better idea of my ideal race conditions (time, location, distance, aid, numbers, etc.), which in turn helps me plan a lot better for future races.

Photo Credit: Runner's World

Photo Credit: Runner’s World

I have enough friends that would echo my comments, and I thought it would be nice to give them an opportunity to review a race as well. Not everyone has the time to maintain a full-fledged blog, but many more folks would enjoy the opportunity to reflect back on their latest race, no matter the outcome. As such, I’m officially opening up Chasing 42 to guest bloggers that would be interested in reviewing races I am not fortunate enough to attend but would love to hear about…and hopefully others would as well!

So, if you just got back from a race, are heading off to a race, or are planning your race schedule for the future, I’d love to hear from you. Runners of all abilities and races of all distances are welcome and encouraged. The goal is to make this blog a one-stop shop for race reports in Iowa, around the country, and around the world! Feel free to fill out the embedded form, click on the race report page, or navigate up to the Race Reports header above. I can’t wait to hear from you- keep chasing!

 

Trail and Ultra-Running Hygiene Thoughts

I just got out of the shower. This might not seem like a profound statement, most likely because it isn’t. However, it did get me to thinking about hygiene. More specifically, I began to think about the unique aspects of hygiene found among trail and ultra-runners. We are, of course, a different breed in many ways, and we embrace that as part of our cultural and sport identity. I know we comment on many of these aspects in our daily conversation. In many instances, we interact with enough other trail and ultrarunners that these conversations become normal, even if they aren’t necessarily. It’s after you are talking with a non-runner about peeing on the side of a trail 4 hours into a run that you realize just how special we really are in this, and many other ways.

With that introduction, I thought it would be fun to start the list of unique, outrageous, or otherwise outside of the norm hygiene practices that we so happily embrace when out on the trails…and perhaps the office as well. Whether we should or not is always open for debate (as long as you agree with me, of course)!

1. It’s probably appropriate to start with the subject of showering. My most recent shower was my second of the day. It’s not a coincidence that I had just completed my second run of the day. I’ve found myself measuring my need for a shower based more on frequency of runs than repetition of days. This could be good or bad. I haven’t had any complaints yet, and I still clean up quite well.

I do clean up pretty well :) It helps to have the perfect motivation!

I do clean up pretty well :) It helps to have the perfect motivation!

2. Am I the only one that’s reaching for deodorant and accidentally grabbed the Body Glide instead? Vice-versa? I’m pretty sure I use them both in equal amounts!

adidas_002

3. Cologne/Perfume- I’m going for a run this afternoon…why would I spray that on? This is where I give all of you body-spray loving runners the stink-eye. Don’t bring that stuff into the woods with you!

4. Although many different activities necessitate additional laundry, I feel like it becomes even more of a love/hate relationship with trail and ultra-running. Although I probably wash running clothes twice as much as all other clothing, I also look for anti-microbial performance fabrics so I can stretch out the usefulness of my running clothing further. In addition, we all have the bag of dirty clothes from a previous race that never quite made it to the washing machine…or was at least delayed considerably. It’s time to go check the backseat of your car now!

5. Sweating takes on new meaning once you’ve been doing it for 8 or 10 hours. At a certain point, it shifts from being a nuisance to an important marker of hydration, and thus desirable. I also find myself much more annoyed when I’m particularly active on a hot day and not wearing running clothes. A cotton dress shirt just doesn’t cut it in 100% humidity.

6. Snot rockets. They’re oh so acceptable, enviable even, while out on the trail. However, you tend to get some pretty funny looks when you let one rip at the bus stop, or on your way to a meeting at work. What else am I supposed to do?

Snot-Rocket1

7. The 10-Second Rule…extended- It’s amazing how your tolerance for a little dirt and dust on your food goes up considerably once you’ve been running for several hours. The orange slices, pretzels, and candy at that aid station looks amazing, and it doesn’t matter in the least that you are the 200th person to stick your hand in that bowl!

8. Taking Care of Business…on the trail, on the run? There is so much beauty in nature worth exploring, but you best make sure you stick to the trail and don’t do too much bushwhacking. You’re never quite sure what you are going to step in, or what species it belongs to for that matter. Sadly, stepping to the side to quickly pee, or go a bit deeper and squat is considered illegal in most states unless you happen to be out on the trail. Just don’t forget the extra toilet paper in a ziplock bag, or brush up on your leaf identification skills. Special props that those unique runners that have masters the art of literally going on the run.

9. Blood, sweat, and tears are a way of life after so many hours out on the trail. Under normal circumstances, we might reach for a band-aid after the smallest paper cut. However, head out on the trail and our threshold for pain explodes. I ran square into a low hanging branch 5 miles into my very first 50K. I wiped up the massive amounts of blood with my sweat towel, put my hat back on, and kept going. It wasn’t until after I finished the race that I headed to the med tent and they told me to go to the ER to get 4 staples in my head. :)

10. Travel Product Priorities- Have you noticed that you started filling your toiletries kit a bit differently for trips? It’s amazing how normal personal care items are slowly pushed out by the likes of Body Glide, foot and toe lubricant, sun screen, and that special lip balm. This hygiene message demands a special shout-out to Dr. Bronner’s (the magic everything soap that leaves everything minty fresh, whether it’s your body or your dishes), and Trail Toes (keep the rubbing and blisters away no matter the distance or terrain!).

I know there are more unique hygiene practices out there, and I’d love to hear all about them. Add to the list and feel free to share any and all stories along the way!

Race Across the USA: VA-Style!

I’ve been giving my 2015 race schedule a great deal of thought over the course of the last few weeks. My planning has been mildly complicated by the fact that the beautiful epicurean and I will be moving out to the East Coast in May for new opportunities (more on that later!). Thus, a whole new section of the country will be within driving distance, and that means researching some amazing races that weren’t economically feasible before, but now are within reach. I’m doing my best not to go crazy and register for every exciting race I see, but it’s definitely going to allow me to cross quite a few new states off my list and do a lot of exploring on trails and roads I’ve never seen.

A few months ago, I read an article about the Race Across the USA. I was immediately intrigued by the possibilities and quickly navigated to the route to see if it would be passing near Iowa. Alas, they were taking a southern route, but they were ended the journey in Virginia, and I happened to have some amazing friends in Virginia that might just be up for a little challenge. The entire race serves as a fundraiser for childhood obesity initiatives through the 100-mile Club. If you feel so inclined, I would be eternally grateful for any donation amount toward those goals! In addition, the small group of runners completing the entire 3,080 mile journey are being studied as part of a research project to examine the physiological effects on endurance athletes. Additional participants have the opportunity to join this core group of runners across the various states, either tackling an entire state, or running 4 back-to-back marathons. Although the though of covering an entire state did cross my mind, time wouldn’t permit. However, I am excited to be able to run the last 4 marathons of the entire race, across Virginia, and ending at the White House!

RAUSA-Map-v2-1024x576

I was able to convince my amazing Virginia friends to join me, and I can’t wait for the experience. As it so happens, I’ll now be able to drive out there instead of fly because we’ll be living out there by the start on May 30th. My plan is to treat this experience like any other 100K or 100-mile event (we’ll be traveling a total of 114 miles), and train accordingly. However, I’ll be throwing in a few more back-to-back training runs, and I’ve added a second two-a-day to my weekly schedule as well.

RAVA Logo

I’ve got some other great races in the mix for 2015, but you’ll have to wait until next week for the official unveiling! It’s going to be a busy year, but things are already off to a great start. Be on the lookout for more information about how you can share your race stories with Chasing 42 as well!

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2014 in Review: Reflecting & Giving Thanks

It’s a bit hard to believe that 2015 is already upon us. It’s been an incredible year of running for me, and has left me even more excited for what is to come this year! The new year is typically a time of reflection, resolutions, and giving thanks for those things in your life that you are…well…thankful for. I’m not much for resolutions, as I think you should be able to begin something new or change something for the better in your life at any point during the year. In truth, I hear and read more about people breaking “resolutions” that they began on January 1st, whereas I read countless stories about people who decided to change their lives at other points during the year and are ultimately more successful. You need look no further than the change in gym attendance between January 1st and March 1st (see, 2 months…that’s about as much optimism as you’ll get from me :) ) to understand broken New Years resolutions! While I may not be one for resolutions, I certainly understand the value of reflection and giving thanks.

I began this year riding a bit of a running high after just completing the Across the Years 24 Hour Run and hitting the 100-mile mark for the first time. This fed my running enthusiasm, and I was eager to begin planning my race calendar for the upcoming year. In the process, I set two larger goals for myself, and decided to let the rest fill itself in as the year unfolded. I wanted to complete my first 100K race, which was a distance I had still yet to race, and I wanted to tackle a true trail 100 mile race. My first 100K attempt taught me a lot, including how to endure my first DNF, and I bounced back to summit the distance a month later. This accomplishment left me feeling great heading into the summer months, and ready to take on my Mark Twain 100 adventure. My training over the summer months went splendidly as the miles added up, and I traveled down to the Mark Twain National forest feeling ready and eager to hit the trails. The experience proved to be more challenging than I could have imagined, and I learned quite a bit about my running and myself along the way. I ultimately completed the race with the help of an incredible partner & crew chief, and some amazing friends. That belt buckle was certainly the highlight of my running year, and has left me excited for future 100-mile (and beyond!) adventures. Along the way, I tossed in some wonderful relays with friends, as well as several marathons, and some unexpected PRs.

Adam- 2014

For as many races as I ran, there were and are always others that I’ve yet to run. The beautiful epicurean will attest to the fact that I’m constantly talking about exciting race destinations, and there is a part of me that would probably travel every weekend if I could. However, this year has given me pause to appreciate the daily miles, the early morning runs with friends, the solo lunchtime runs, and the opportunity to explore my daily existence in a new way. In total, I covered more than 3,100 miles this year, a number I could hardly fathom just a few years ago. I didn’t set out to break the 3,000 mile mark, but I did find new value in consistency. I finished up that consistency with the #RWRUNSTREAK with a group of friends this year, and ran at least once every day from Thanksgiving until New Years Day. In all, I tallied 313 miles during that period, but also grew to love the consistency of regular running even more. Today is my first potential day off, and head is telling me to rest so I can be ready for a long run tomorrow morning, but my heart is itching to get out there for a few miles. We’ll see which one wins out!

More than the races, miles, and accomplishments, I find myself thankful for quite a few things this year. Running is so much more than exercise. It truly is a way of life, however cliché that may sound, and I feel more alive, more energized, and more passionate every day because of it. It is a constant reminder of so many things, as well as an opportunity to clear my head. The beauty is, of course, that it’s also the best time to fill my head back up with crazy running plans, philosophical monologues, and stories yet to be written. The opportunity to run with so many amazing people on a regular basis leaves me incredibly thankful for such a generous, caring, energetic, sarcastic, and sincere community. Running with someone allows you to be yourself in a way that few other activities do, and I’m constantly amazed and grateful for that. On the whole, we spend far too little time truly being ourselves, and we should all be so eager to slip on a pair of running shoes and let the thoughts, emotions, and opinions flow. In particular, I’ve met some of the most amazing friends I’ve ever had through my running adventures, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Everyone brings something just a little bit different to the table, shares something unique with me, trusts me and allows me the opportunity to open up to them. I’ll always be convinced that true friendships are forged through lived experiences, adventures, and miles traveled. I am constantly honored to share those miles with the such an amazing group of friends.

Ending the year with a fantastic Holiday party!

Ending the year with a fantastic Holiday party!

This year of running has also left me that much more aware of what an amazing, loving, and supportive partner I get to spend my life with and share in adventures. There seem to be plenty of articles out there about “how to live with a runner”, “how to live with a ultrarunner”, or “how to make sure running doesn’t take over your marriage”. There are just as many stories out there by frustrated runners with partners that aren’t as supportive as they would like, tell them they are crazy for what they love, or view running as an impediment to a strong relationship. I would venture to guess that if you are blaming running for problems in your relationship, then you may just have some other concerns to address. I have no doubt that running makes our relationship stronger each and every day. I see that in the excitement in her eyes when I share my running thoughts, the intentional inquiries about how my runs went, and the detailed support at races and the daily adjustments she makes so running continues to be a part of OUR lives.

So, as I cross the starting line that is 2015, I know that as long as I have a pair of running shoes, I have everything. Not just health and fitness, but community, friends, thoughtful contemplation, and a life partner. What more could I ask for?

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