Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the category “Running Thoughts”

Daily Chase: Vol. 80

Happy Holidays, all! Is it just me, or did Fall suddenly appear? Mind you, this is perhaps the longest I’ve gone between blog posts, and I’m filled with equal parts guilt and contentment. Life has continued to be busy, both professionally, and personally, and it has caused my priorities to shift a certain degree such that more regular musings on my running haven’t necessarily had the same urgency that they once did. I’ve spent the fall continuing to run, but with more frequent, shorter runs to accumulate the mileage and keep my streak alive. I may not have been able to commit myself to the intensity of training I would have liked over the past few months, but the miles have been consistent, and the joy of running continues to fuel my movement. The daily chase is real, and the motivation to continue chasing 42 is as strong as ever. Have you thought much about the changing periods in your own life, and the impact that has on your running? Does running mean different things to you at different points in your life? It’s nice to pause and give it some thought. The miles will mean more and the motivation will rejuvenate you no matter where you’re at in your own running journey!

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It was a beautiful morning to #optoutside. 

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Run: So, it’s been two months since my last log. I’ve been running. Each of those days. Consistently. The streak is still alive and now into it’s third year. That’s pretty good, eh? My Fall racing season lacked some of the focus and targeted racing that I’ve had in previous years, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. After Laurel Highlands, I think I thought I had so much time to plan out my Fall season, and I kept putting it off. Eventually, I ran out of time and never managed to find a true A-race like those I’ve had in the past. I wanted to target a 100 mile follow-up, but it just wasn’t in the cards this fall. Perhaps my mind and body needed the rest regardless of my intentions. At any rate, I still managed to experience my first self-supported ultra distance run in the mountains courtesy of the SRT 30-Miler in the Catskills, and I enjoyed a soggy day in the mountains of Virginia during the Mountain Masochist 50-miler.  I wrapped things up with a local non-race I helped play a small part in planning on our home trails in Brandywine Creek State Park, and probably had the most fun I’d had in quite some time in the process! I’ve got my sights set on some exciting adventures next year as well, and I’m hopefully planning far enough in advance to lock them in for the sake of consistent motivation. It might be the off-season now, but the planning never stopped. What do you have your eye on for 2018?

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Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. 

Thought: It’s the day after Thanksgiving, a somewhat misguided holiday that marks the violent theft of native lands from countless tribes, and our consumer-driven society has invented “Black Friday” to encourage rampant consumerism and needless spending. However, it’s also the second year of the #optoutside movement, begun ironically enough by REI. There may be other issues to tackle when it comes to who accesses our national parks and outdoor lands, but I fully support the sentiment and the idea of investing in experiences and opportunities to reconnect with the natural world instead of contributing to its destruction. I’ve thought more about my own history with “Black Friday’ this year as well. I certainly got excited for and participated in the consumerism in previous years, and it felt natural until it didn’t. It’s also caused me to think more about the class and race issues wrapped up in a day dedicated to deep discounts on countless consumer products. In a country where happiness has been erroneously linked to the accumulation of material wealth, this celebration of “stuff” only further serves to entrench those of lower socioeconomic means in a state of perpetual debt for the sake of a short-lived dopamine hit Those with the means to purchase these goods at any time of year are far less concerned with finding deals. By default, these same individuals can more easily brush off the sales and #optoutside. So, I wholeheartedly support the push to #optoutside but I will give more pause before chastising folks who choose to line up in the wee hours of the morning for a store opening. Instead, perhaps we can think about how we can encourage a more diverse swath of the population to #optoutside not just the day after Thanksgiving, but every day, and consider who we can invest in the resources and infrastructure to make that more accessible. Until everyone has the means to #optoutside, there will always be those who settle for the great digital outdoors. #chasing42

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Annapolis at sunrise. 

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Daily Chase: Vol. 74

I’m pretty sure that I blinked and two months rolled by before my eyes! That’s about the easiest way to describe the hectic efforts to continue #chasing42. There’s a lot to fill you in on over the last two months, not the least of which is the fact that #chasing42streak is still going strong at 552 days and counting.

Perhaps the most significant alternation to my schedule this past semester was the addition of two evening classes. I’ve taught both of them previously, but never at the same time, and managing two three hour evening commitments, which meant not getting home until around 9PM, proved to be quite taxing on my training and life in general. I found myself begrudgingly squeezing in runs where I could on these days in particular. I certainly managed to make it work, but I’ve noticed the difference in my energy levels for the past 4 months. Happily, the semester ended yesterday, commencement is tomorrow, and I’ll have grades submitted by the end of the weekend. I’m very much looking forward to the change of pace ushered in by summer, and the increased availability for runs and other spontaneous activities!

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An appropriate poster in the University of Delaware Library 🙂 

The most significant event since the Umstead 100 was my now annual pilgrimage back to Iowa for the Market-to-Market Relay over Mother’s Day weekend. I was able to spend an extra day out there this year, and the added time spent with friends was just what my heart, my mind, and my liver needed! I’ll have a belated “race” report up shortly 🙂

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The Speedy Streakers returned for year 5! 

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Run: As I already mentioned, the streak is most definitely still in play and the miles have continued to add up, despite the additional demands on my time. I’ve been adding in some additional Friday miles to compensate for the decreases on Mondays and Wednesdays so my overall weekly average hasn’t dipped all that much. We’ve been getting a fair bit of rain over the past month, which has kept the temperatures down for the most part, and made for some beautiful running weather. My main training focus now is preparing for the Laurel Highlands Ultra on June 10th, so I’ve been focusing much more on vertical gain and technical downhill running.

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I can’t get enough of these trails! 

Thought: Becoming a morning person is an elusive dream. I’m familiar with the science, and realize there’s plenty of evidence to support the futility of my efforts. Nonetheless, I can’t seem to let go of the dream. In my ideal world, I enjoy a beautiful, quiet morning run to wake myself up every morning and start my day off right. I return to this dream periodically throughout the year but I’ve yet to put my finger on the strategy that will work best for me. Going to bed earlier obviously makes plenty of sense but it’s often pointless if I’m not actually tired. So, what’s the trick? Who out there has pushed through the struggle and truly overcome not being a morning person to get up early and enjoy those quiet workouts? What tips and tricks can you share? I’ll be waiting anxiously as I sip my coffee and continue #chasing42!

Exploring Shenandoah National Park

I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll say it again. Living on the east coast certainly has its perks when it comes to proximity to trails. So, when the beautiful epicurean told me she needed to make a trip to the University of Virginia for work, I was eager to tag along and run some trails in nearby Shenandoah National Park. I was able to set aside my dislike for UVA due to my Virginia Tech alumnus status, and embrace my time in Charlottesville, VA.

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We made the 5 hour drive on a Thursday afternoon, leaving me enough time for a shake-out run around campus before dinner with friends. Upon returning to the hotel, I discovered that I had forgotten the cap for my hydration bladder. This certainly didn’t bode well for what I hoped would be an extended trip to the park. I considered duct tape my best option after a quick search revealed no nearby stores with new bladders. I stayed positive, and got everything squared away for a long jaunt in the woods the next day.

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I had planned to wake up early to make the 45 minute drive to the trailhead, but need to wait for stores to open so I could find some duct tape. After my first stop was a bust, I found myself at Walmart and surprisingly discovered a cheap bladder that seemed like it would fit in my pack with some creative adjustments. It certainly wasn’t ideal, and the cheap valve ultimately ended up slowly leaking and wetting out my shirt, but it worked well enough that I was able to focus on the adventure at hand!

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I arrived at the Old Rag Mountain trail parking lot around 10am after a winding but uneventful drive. There was a couple getting ready to venture out on a hike, but the lot was empty otherwise. Temps were in the 30s with a slight breeze and overcast skies, which no doubt kept more people away. Over the course the day, I maybe saw 5 people, and seemed to have the entire park to myself, which was just fine with me! After a few confusing minutes, I found the trailhead and even managed to accurately use a compass to send myself in the direction I had planned. If you know how directionly challenged I am, then you realize what a big deal this was for me!

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The route I had originally mapped out didn’t involve summiting Old Rag Mountain. However, I’d heard more than a few amazing stories and seen plenty of pictures of the views, so clearly I needed to climb! I took the more runnable trail up to the summit with little issue, and bagged some serious elevation gain in the process. The views at all stages of the climb were as incredible as promised, and I was quite thankful I had decided on the detour. I’ll let the pictures tell the story!

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After Old Rag, my next destination was Lower and Upper White Oak Falls. As I navigated my map and the trails I was running, I couldn’t help but be impressed with how well I’d been able to follow the map I’d laid out for myself. This no doubt seems pretty trivial to most folks, but it seemed like a major accomplishment for me. I took in the gorgeous scenery along the way, stopping for pictures and I made sure to pause enough to appreciate the silent, still winter beauty around me, minus the snow that the park had clearly not seen as of late.

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In all, I wandered to the tune of 22 miles or so, complete with over 6,000 feet of gain, which made for a quality training run. More importantly, however, the opportunity to explore a new national park and further remind myself of why I love being out on the trails so much. I probably could have spent the rest of the day and all night out there and been perfectly happy, but my empty hydration pack and lack of additional nutrition made for a logical end to the day. Plus, I had another delicious dinner in Charlottesville waiting for me when I got back. All in all, it was the perfect opportunity for #chasing42!

Daily Chase: Vol. 71

The chase continues! It’s been a hectic couple of weeks, but that’s what keeps things interesting, right? If you follow politics even remotely, then you’ve had plenty of opportunities to shake your head, roll your eyes, and let out a sigh of sadness, confusion, or utter frustration. It’s about this time of the year that the higher education professional in me begins to feel the stagnation of the semester, as do the students. This is a bit mitigated now that I’m working at the University of Delaware, since the spring semester doesn’t begin until February, but students still get antsy very quickly. I’ve been adjusting to my new schedule this semester, and the changes to my workouts as well. However, the clock continues to count down towards the Umstead 100 so I will continue #chasing42!

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A weekend getaway to Virginia meant some quality time in Shenandoah National Park. 

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Run: It has been an incredibly busy and adventurous two weeks of running and I have the numbers to show for it! I’ve clocked in around 150 miles and 14,000 feet of vertical gain in the last two weeks as my training reached a peak weekend yesterday and today. Getting up early on Mondays and Wednesdays to run a few miles has proven quite the unique challenge but a necessary evil since I’m on campus both evenings teaching. The flip side this semester is that with my Tuesday evenings free, I’m able to make it to the track workouts and get in some speed work, which I certainly missed during the fall. So, not only is the streak alive but I’m feeling really good about my training as I head into a busy spring filled with plenty of work trips and responsibilities, and some exciting races. Did I mention that it was 70 degrees and sunny this weekend? This is normal February weather, right?

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Nature’s beauty rarely disappoints. 

Thought: Don’t worry, folks, climate change isn’t that big of a deal. There’s nothing to see here. The strange weather patterns, melting glaciers, and disappearing species are a perfectly normal part of the natural world.

Well, at least that seems to be the messages many of the financially motivated, administratively inept and otherwise corrupt members of our new governmental regime would have us believe. It’s absolutely unbelievable to me that despite the overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrating the impact of humanity on the global climate, we are still debating it. We are still arguing over putting in place measures to preserve the dwindling natural environment around us, secure the clean water sources that give us life, and protect the species that keep our ecosystem in balance. We should not need to host data collection parties to preserve scientific research before it disappears from government websites. We should not find ourselves needing to protest the destruction of our environment by corporations seeking to irresponsibly develop protected lands in an effort to make money by producing goods that nobody needs in the first place. Don’t start lecturing my on the nature of capitalism, either. This isn’t capitalism. The benefits (if there are any) do not outweigh the costs. Those in power continue to demonstrate their inability to act in favor of the greater good, and not what’s good for their re-election campaigns.

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Appreciation and action go hand-in-hand. 

The more time I spend on the trails, running and hiking, the more I think about how fragile the beauty around me truly is at the hands of man. The gorgeous mountain top views, flowing streams, and rushing waterfalls have been around for millions of years, existing in harmony with the flora and fauna they support. It’s sad to realize that in the blink of an eye, our species has managed to destroy so much of that beauty, and replace it with concrete jungles and fossil fuel pollution. I know I have a role to play in that, as a consumer, and as a steward of the land I explore, but it’s hard not to throw up my hands in disgust. It’s hard to fight when what you believe is so seemingly logical and rationale, and yet pushed aside in favor of fleeting notions of personal wealth and comfort. Sometimes #chasing42 feels like chasing my tail. Still, we must continue to #resist!

Daily Chase: Vol. 70

January was a bit of a blur in many regards. The University of Delaware offers a 6-week winter term for students, of which a small percentage partake and an even smaller percentage are on campus. The result was an incredibly calm, quiet, and productive month that was nothing like the rest of the year. I’m typically juggling quite a few projects, so January was a wonderful opportunity to get a lot of uninterrupted work done, as well as tackle some meetings that would typically be much more difficult to schedule. Since I wasn’t teaching yet in the evenings, it also meant a much more consistent and easy-to-follow training calendar. The consistently mild temperatures meant I was able to really start the year off right, and my 325+ miles in January are proof positive of that. I know things will be getting much busier beginning on Monday with the start of the Spring semester, but I’m ready to return to a more fast-paced schedule. I’ve always been someone that thrives when I have more on my plate, and I’m looking forward to getting back in the buffet line on Monday!

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Chasing42 Log: 20170129-20170204

Run: It was another solid, consistent week of training, helped in part by the fact that I finally put together my training plan for the first 6 months of the year. Although I love to just go out and run, I know that I need to be a bit more regimented with my schedule so I don’t burn out, and I can truly enjoy the races I have coming up. This past week was my last opportunity for Monday and Wednesday evening runs for a few months, as I’ll be teaching those evenings during the Spring semester. This likely means attempting to get up early to squeeze in a run before work. This is a prospect I am far from excited about and uncertain as to how effective it will be. All I can do is try, but waking up is already a challenge during the week! After some sound advice, I made my way over to the UD football stadium earlier this week, and was pleased to find out it was open and I could venture in for a very rewarding stadium stairs workout. I followed this up with the first of six club hill workouts on Thursday, and my climbing was in solid form heading into the weekend. I capped off a solid week yesterday with a strong 27-mile effort on the trails at Brandywine Creek State Park, and I couldn’t be more happy with how well my legs are feeling. It’s time to hit the semester running and #chasing42!

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Thought: I have declared that this is the season of downhill training. I know, after quite a few experiences, that the downhills are the bane of my existence late in a race, and I’m determined to have more strength for those late race downhills this year. This means I’ve been hammering the downhills during my hill workouts, and pushing upward more methodically. It’s a strange reversal for me, but it seems to be working already, based on yesterday’s long run. I can only hope that my quads are ready for the Umstead 100 in April and Laurel Highlands in June. I have every intention of training hard so I can push those downhills while I’m #chasing42!

Daily Chase: Vol. 62

It’s election day, and I’m doing my best to put off permanently attaching my eyes and heart to the news coverage as the citizens of this country decide on the fate of democracy. It’s been a long, chaotic, vitriolic, and drama-filled election cycle, unlike any before it, and it almost seems surreal to have gotten to this point. It’s been close to 600 days since the first candidate declared (his) intent to run for president, and things have gone from unbelievable to downright preposterous as the campaign dragged on. I think it’s safe to assume that many folks are feeling some fatigue, so I hope you are exercising your right to vote, and then taking every opportunity to #optoutside and put a few miles between yourself and the frustration that may have been simmering just below the surface!

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Run: First and foremost, the streak is still in play as I near the one year mark! After taking some time to ease back into longer distances, I’ve been slowly building up my training again, and decided to start adding a bit of speed work back into my weekly routine. Needless to say, after about two months of LSD running in preparation for the Grindstone 100, my legs were a bit confused when I asked them to go fast again! I had registered many moons ago for the Operation Warm 10K at Winterthur on the 23rd because I obviously couldn’t pass up a chance to run a race in such a beautiful place. The epicurean volunteered at the race, so we made a morning of it. I had done 20+ on the trails the day before, so I figured I’d make it a heavier weekend and see where my legs were at two weeks out. I ran the 6 miles from home to the start of the race, and then rested a bit before the start. Although this was the first year of the race, it was amazingly well-organized, and drew a crowd of over 1400 runners. They released us in waves and I had every intention of making it an easy training run, but the adrenaline got the best of me as it typically does, and I decided about 100m into the race to push it and see what I had. I’ve run at Winterthur enough to know just how hilly it is, so I knew what to expect, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to test my legs. After a 6:47 first mile, my legs were screaming a bit, but holding up fine, and I kept pushing for the next 5 miles, up and down the undulating course. I thoroughly enjoyed the run, and felt surprisingly in control for how fast I was going. I pushed it up the final climb towards the finish and crossed the line in 45:08 (7:19/mile), which was good enough for 37/1400, but still only 14th in my age group! 🙂 Afterwards, I ran back down to hang out with the epicurean for a bit and cheer on other runners, and then took off to run the 7 or so miles home. I was definitely feeling the effort by the time I got home, but I proved to myself that my legs were fully recovered. The following week was incredibly busy at work, so my runs were a bit more rushed, but I made up for on the weekend with two more fantastic runs, as well as a wonderful hike at French Creek State Park with the epicurean and the dogs. In all, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well my legs have adapted to daily running, and I am looking forward to keeping it going!

Thought: Everyone has had a bad race, right? Our friends are quick to remind us that there will be other races, that it doesn’t define us as a runner, and that we have plenty to look forward to and many other races to experience. I wonder what would happen if we took this attitude in other areas of our life? Instead of dwelling on past failures, arguing ad nauseam about previous mistakes, and resurrecting the past, what if we looked ahead to the future, and asked each other what we learned from those mistakes? The campaign rhetoric during this election cycle has focused so much on previous incidents, and so little on the ideas and actions that either candidate possesses for leading our country moving forward. I know at least one candidate has legitimate, well thought-out ideas for how to move our country forward, and it’s unfortunate that those ideas will not determine the fate of this election. Now, I’m certainly not saying we should ignore the past. Obviously, there are glaring differences in the past actions of our two major party candidates, and those past indiscretions in large part make them who they are, but history isn’t changing. We can read it, hear it, and then move on to the history that is yet to be written. I’m relatively happy with how my most recent training block turned out, and it left me with some amazing memories, but I’ll be looking forward now. It’s time to focus on the next run and the next race, and use the past to help us all keep #chasing42!

An Open Response to Female Runners…from me

“An Open Letter to Men from Female Runners” has been making the rounds on my own and many other folks’ social media feeds. Runner’s World re-published it, which drew even further attention to the article. Make no mistake…this is an important message, and one that more men need to hear, and more women need to feel empowered to make on a regular basis. Women should feel empowered to share this message without fear of reprisal, without fear of being told they are over-reacting, or being told to calm down. This fear is real, and we created this fear. This feeling begins when we wrap girls in pink blankets and boys in blue blankets, continues when we reinforce stereotypical gender roles and communicate to girls and women that their worth rests in their bodies. Not their bodies as active instruments of achievement, but passive instruments of visual and physical pleasure for men. This fear is reinforced when we teach girls to carry their keys between their fingers, use the buddy system, cover their drinks, and cross to the other side of the street when a man they don’t know approaches. I am certainly in favor of safety, but putting this responsibility in the hands of women alone ignores the problem. We shy away from teaching boys and men to respect men and women equally, and to be quite blunt, not to rape!

photo credit: Jen Benna

photo credit: Jen Benna

This is such an important message. Sadly, this is the reason that I intentionally avoid solitary women when I am out running. I take as large of an arc around them, cross to the other side of the street, and at the very least yell “on your left” as far back as my voice will carry me, and speed up when I’m passing a woman to make it clear that I’m not stopping or slowing down. I always smile and say hi, but avert my own eyes. I hate that I have to do that. I hate that I need to assume any woman is going to be fearful of me, without even knowing who I am. It doesn’t matter that I just launched a campus-wide sexual assault and misconduct awareness campaign, that I proudly identify as a feminist, or that I teach Women’s Studies courses, give workshops on diversity and inclusion, and research sexuality and gender. It doesn’t matter that I firmly believe I have a responsibility to act proactively to end sexual misconduct, or that I reach out to get more men involved as active bystanders. It doesn’t matter that I grew up in the Midwest and everything about me is “Minnesota nice”. On that dark street or trail, I’m a nameless man and my identity gives a woman running the other way reason to fear for her safety.

I’ve been attached on the street before, been harassed by passers-by in cars and had homophobic slurs hurled at me, but I still don’t know what it’s like to constantly be on guard. However naive I may be, I still feel comfortable heading onto the trails before the sun rises, by myself, with only my headlamp to light my way. My mind might conjure up images of animals jumping out to attack me, but ultimately I still feel confident enough to not wait for the sun to come up or to join the rest of the group. Many women wouldn’t make that choice, and I hate that. It infuriates me that I live in a society where common sense human decency has not yet been normalized. It infuriates me that the female runners I know and those that I don’t can’t have the same meditative running experience that I have so often. There is no feeling quite like it, and I’d give anything to be able to extend that opportunity to every woman who has ever feared for her safety while out running. However, I know I can’t, so my work continues. In the meantime, I’ll always be “on your left” from a quarter mile away, chasing42.

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