Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “wind”

Checking Your Endurance IQ

As an educator and PhD student, I read quite a bit, and spend a lot of time pouring over scholarly journals and other texts, soaking up as much as I can and deciding what to include in my work and what to leave out. One of my biggest annoyances in that process is coming across a popular book or article, claiming to be authoritative on a subject I am working on, and then discovering that the author has no actual background in that field. Now, sometimes people do just have a strong analytical mind and can think through a problem very well, regardless of their prior academic pursuits. However, far too often, people see the letters “PhD” behind someone’s name, and they give their work instant credibility, without ever questioning what field that doctorate actually came from. Just because I will have a PhD in Education soon does not mean I’ll ever be qualified to write about aerospace engineering, no matter how much I may enjoy planes, flight, and the space industry. It just doesn’t work that way.

The same is true for endurance sports.

I am still very much an amateur distance runner, but I have a decent number of marathons and ultra-marathons under my belt. Thus, I walk out the door for a run with a certain level of confidence, knowing what my body is capable of, what I need nutritionally, and where I am going (I’m a far more competent navigator on foot than I am while driving, just ask the beautiful epicurean!). Yesterday, I made the mistake of letting that confidence translate into cycling.

It was quite hot yesterday (92 degrees), and I probably should have chosen to ride in the early morning (mistake #1), but we were having a lazy Sunday morning, and I figured I could still get the ride in. With a nice breeze, I assumed the heat wouldn’t be as much of a factor since I’d be pedaling instead of running (mistake #2). I packed up my bike, fully stocking my water bottles and nutrition, and headed out. As I got onto the open highway (with a great shoulder for riding), heading east, I very quickly became aware of a much more significant wind. On the 10 miles to the next town, I felt as though I was spending the whole time trying not to get blown over by the wind. If you haven’t been to Iowa before, let me just say that it is flat and open (yes, many native Iowans will proudly point out the numerous hilly and tree-covered areas), but from my perspective, that’s the equivalent  of calling New York City lush and green based on visiting Central Park. Needless to say, there is nothing to block the wind. As I arrived into the next town and decided on the next leg of my journey, I was tired but it was near the beginning of my travels, so I still had plenty of spirit and excitement about the ride (mistake #3?). I headed north, and with the wind at my back, I felt as though I could have ridden for hours. I came up to my intended westward turn, and decided to keep going because it felt great (mistake #4).

The small portion I enjoyed was quite beautiful!

By the time I reached the next paved road (did I mention it’s rural Iowa, so approximately 1% of the roads are actually paved?), I had traveled twice as far as I had planned for that leg, but I still felt really good. I headed west, my journey 1/2 way complete, and again battled to stay on my bike.   I passed the first paved road, not wanting to travel down it because it was typically much more heavily used. However, after about 1.5 miles, I realized I had no choice, so I doubled back, and headed south. This was the point when mother nature decided to spite me with all of her power (mistake #5). I was pedaling directly into 30 mph sustained winds, on tired legs, and every revolution felt like the last one I would take. I reached an intersection to rest and take a drink, and dreaded going any further on this road. I made a tactical choice to pedal west down a gravel road because it looked rather deserted (mistake #6).

I get it…pay more attention to the forecast!

It’s called a “road” bike for a reason. Although I managed down this road, it certainly wasn’t the most enjoyable experience. Plus, I still had to travel south into the wind eventually, and it was surprisingly not any easier to do on a gravel road 🙂 I did finally make it home, having traveled a good 20 miles further than I had planned, and I was exhausted.

However, I learned quite a bit about myself and what I knew and didn’t know. I realized just how much studying and saddle-time I still needed to put in before I felt the same level of confidence as I did when I went out for a run. If your endurance IQ is the sum total of your knowledge in each of the endurance sports you choose to tackle, then I might be able to pass the running section of the exam well, but I still have a lot of “studying” to do before I can pass the cycling section.

So, let me know if you’d like to study together, and I’m always looking for tutors!

Just Breathe

Many runners, and many athletes of all genres of sport for that matter, spend a lot of time thinking about the proper tools for the sport. As runners, we put a lot of time into thinking about the right shoes (minimalist, support, laces, heel drop), the right clothes (wicking, SPF, cooling, warming, style), eye protection, hats/visors, technology (watches, GPS, apps)…the options are quite endless at this point, and the industry is making money hand-over-fist. However, perhaps the most critical tool in our running arsenal is one that we can’t shop around for, and are left with no choice but to make due- our lungs. Whether we like it or not, the pace and distance we are able to tackle is ultimately controlled by our breathing.

Photo Credit: Runner’s World

As someone who has suffered from asthma (full blown, not just exercise-induced) pretty much his whole life, breathing has always been front and center in my mind. Nothing reminds you of just how important oxygen really is to your existence like being pumped full of adrenaline as you suck on a nebulizer in a hospital bed. In many ways, my current passion for running is quite a new and novel experience. As a child, my asthma was much more severe, and the thought of even running once around the track at school was daunting and unbearable. I’ll never forget the gym teacher in 5th grade who was convinced that asthma was all in your head, and forced me to run the mile, despite a doctor’s note. Luckily, modern medicine has come a long way, and I am now on a daily inhaler which controls my asthma pretty well, and allows me to breathe much easier (pun intended).None-the-less, I don’t take my breathing for granted.

Additionally, running without music (which I always do) provides me with a lot of time to think about any of a number of things, not the least of which is my breathing. I find that I pay attention to my breathing much more when I’m running. Many researchers will say that breathing in a 2:2 ratio (taking 2 steps while you breath in, 2 steps while you breath out), which ultimately equates to syncing your breathing with your running cadence. Although this isn’t necessarily a natural pattern, I’ve found that once you focus, it’s not too terribly difficult to adjust. It has the added bonus of making you a more efficient runner as well, in terms of utilizing your lung capacity to maintain endurance. Learning to breathe deeper can have positive effects as well.

In terms of nose-breathing vs. mouth-breathing, you really need to test this for yourself. Some people will tell you that breathing through your mouth will offer less resistance, while others indicate that breathing through your nose is preferable because it warms the air before it hits your lungs (great for cold weather running), and increases CO2 saturation in the blood, which can produce a calming effect.

Ultimately you need to decide for yourself, hopefully through trail and error, what works best for you. Remember that how you breathe during running will not necessarily be the same as your pattern during other forms of exercise. As someone who enjoys yoga as a means of core strengthening and flexibility, I can certainly attest to this fact.

I may always have my emergency inhaler handy, but as long as I remember to just breathe, I’ll continue to move forward!

Race Report: 100% Irish For A Day 10-Miler

In America, everyone becomes Irish on March 17th. The irony of that in the context of our nation’s history is not the topic of this post. However, I truly am 50% Irish, and love this time of year. Aside from the excuse to eat delicious food and drink delicious beer, it also seems to mark the start of the race season in the Midwest. The weather is finally nice enough and organizers can convince enough people to come out to run and enjoy the weather and the road.
I’ve been running outside all winter with some wonderful intrepid friends who continue to brave the winds and cold of Iowa so this race ended up being quite the change. We were on our way out East for vacation and flying out of Minneapolis, which just happens to be one of my favorite places to run. As luck would have it, the 100% Irish For A Day 10-Miler was scheduled for Saturday with a fantastic route around the Minneapolis lakes. Needless to say, it was a perfect first race of the season for me!
I needed 3 hours of running (for my previously mentioned ultra-marathon), and our hotel was only 4.5 miles away from the start of the race, so I decided to run to the starting line, which turned out to be a great choice. It was already 45 degrees and sunny when I walked outside, and the quiet city streets of downtown Minneapolis made for a wonderful warmup run. I arrived early at the start, and the festivities at the Lake Harriet Bandshell were well under way. They had hot cider, water, and fire pits to greet runners and guests prior to the start, and the energy of excitement was in the air. Minneapolis has a fantastic and committed running community, and it was wonderful to see such a wonderful turnout for the race. By the time the gun went off and I crossed the timing pad, I had already logged 7 miles, and my legs felt great.
The route took us around the lakes on closed off roads, with water/gatorade stops @ miles 3.5 and 7. The volunteers along the way were energetic and encouraging, and the crowd of runners spread out nicely as the race progressed. The route wasn’t overly hilly, but still provided a nice challenge at times. As has been the case in Iowa, the winter in Minnesota has been unseasonably warm, so there was no snow to speak of along the route, and the roads were uncharacteristically free of potholes (give the weather time!).
I ended up finishing right around 1:30 as the announcer called out my name as I crossed the finish line (thanks to a timing pad a few hundred feet before the finish tagging my chip), and I headed back for some snacks and water. Now, it was an Irish race, and would not have been complete without a cold pint. Finnegan’s Irish Ale was there to help! Any race that ends with free beer is a good race in my estimation! The race was USATF-certified, and they had each mile marked, as well as several timing clocks.
As I headed back to the hotel to shower, and head to the airport, the sun shining on my face and sweat building up, I was fully content with a great start to the race season. If this race is any indication, it’s going to be a great year!

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The Snowflakes Turn Into Snot…I Swear!

Global Warming is real. If you didn’t believe it before, than this winter should give you all the evidence you need. The tornadoes plaguing the US in the last week have wreaked havoc, and the lack of snow and cold all winter has led to unseasonably warm weather and very little precipitation. This is why when it started snowing this morning, I expected it to die out very quickly. The large snowflakes gave me hope that it would. However, they turned into small flakes, and it most certainly didn’t die out. However, I had a run scheduled for today, and I wasn’t going to miss it.

I logged 24.5 miles yesterday despite another windy day, and needed to get in another long run to keep up with my training. Although I wasn’t certain it would be snowing, I still planned to meet a friend and head out- accountability and peer pressure are wonderful things sometimes! By the time I left, it was snowing at a pretty solid clip, with no signs of slowing. As we continued, it became clear that it was only going to get worse, and sure enough, it did. It got heavier and our visibility disappeared faster than a group of college kids after the cops bust a house party. None-the-less, we pushed forward, determined to get through it.

Now, normally I bring a pocketful of tissues on long runs. However, I had emptied my pockets yesterday, and forgot to restock. As if on que, my nose apparently became aware of this fact, and decided to run along with me. My friend and I almost simultaneously commented on the excessive amounts of snot dripping from our noses- perhaps our noses were racing. At the same time, as is always the case, dehydration began to set in just enough to remind us to keep drinking water, despite the magic of the cold to make us forget.

Photo Credit: Grossology.org

That’s when it all started to make sense. How on earth could I still be mopping up the snot coming out of my nose after I had lost so much moisture. Clearly, the only solution was that our bodies secretly turn precipitation into snot. It makes perfect sense. I’ll keep wiping my nose with my gloves,
which are covered with snow, thus putting the snow right back on and in my nose, and the cycle repeats itself. It’s a good thing most running gloves are inherently made to double as tissues.

Luckily, I was at least somewhat distracted from the race I was having with my snot by the snow building up in my shoes. I love the shoes I’m running in right now, but the concave design of the sole serves as a perfect container for the wet snow on the ground. This in turn means I find myself needing to stop every 1/4 miles to dig a snowball out of my heels. Now, if I was out on the playground, this would be great. However, for distance running, this becomes annoying. I finally stopped back at home to pick up my ice cleats, which definitely helped, but the flaw in my soles remains.

Maybe, through some strange scientific oddity, the snowballs in my heels are converted, through osmosis, into snot, which is then excreted through my nose, which I then wipe up with my gloves, which I use to dig the snow out of my heels. Are you seeing a pattern here? Coincidence- I think not!

Sometimes Getting Out the Door Isn’t The Hardest Part

As I stepped out the door, the thermometer read 31 degrees, with winds out of the west at 37 mph. It was sleeting, and the sidewalks were covered with slop.   Did I mention that I hate wind, rain, and messy sidewalks & roads?

Photo Credit: Trailblazer Hub

Perhaps one of the biggest cliches in running is “getting out the door is the hardest part!”. The idea, of course, being that as long as you get suited up, lace up your shoes, and get out there, you’ve overcome the biggest hurdle to a consistent running routine.

However, as I walked out my door and ventured into the ridiculously windy afternoon, I couldn’t help but think that simply walking out the door was the easy part. I was right. When I turned left down a main road I typically run along, and headed west, the wind and sleet hit me like a load of freezing buckshot in the face (at least I imagine it felt something like that, seeing as how I have, luckily, never experienced a load of buckshot to the face!). After about 1/2 a mile, I felt like I was running through a wind tunnel, designed to test the aerodynamic nature of cars…in this case, I guess it was testing the aerodynamics of ME! Somehow, I suddenly felt like I understood my car a bit better…you know, if it was alive, and had nerves and skin, and, well, feelings. Alas, I don’t think our technology is quite there yet.

After about 20 minutes of running into the wind, the intersection looked very enticing and I was certainly looking to making the turn. However, as is the case with most windy days in a state with nothing on the landscape to break the wind, it followed me. Now I was going uphill and battling the wind. I could hardly stand the fun. When I finally made another turn, and had the wind at my back, I might as well have been flying! It didn’t last long, but it was a welcome reprieve none-the-less.

Plenty of Wind Energy!

I arrived home, thoroughly wet, but thankful to have gotten the run in. Lord knows I wasn’t going to be getting on the treadmill (we’ll get to that later). As always, in any of a number of ways, I felt better for having done it, having tackled the wind and sleet and my own body.

So, the hardest part might not be getting out the door, but rather continuing on when your house is no longer in sight, and when the only thoughts you are having are the myriad of complaints you are going to share with your running friends. They are the ones who take it for what it is, and know that at the end of it, you still love it, and you’ll head right back out again tomorrow.

Leave the door and bring on the wind!

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