Friday, March 19, 2010

Reminder from E.B. White

Last night, my five year old daughter let me read to her. I say this because lately she only wants to read to her mom and dad, not be read TO. Yet, last night she wanted to read a chapter book and asked me to start reading one of her favorites, "Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White. Now this book may hold a special place in her heart partly because she shares her name with that amazing spider, but nonetheless it stands on its own as a wonderful tale of friendship.

In the first chapter, Fern, aged 8 I believe, successfully talked her father out of killing the runt of the litter pig by stating "This is the most terrible case of injustice I ever heard of." Her father, Arable, then decides to let her have a chance to raise the pig herself. Later, Fern's brother comes downstairs and wonders why he can't have a pig too and receives the following response.

"No, I only distribute pigs to early risers," said Mr. Arable. "Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid the world of injustice. As a result, she now has a pig. A small one, to be sure, but nevertheless a pig. It just shows what can happen if a person gets out of bed promptly. Let's eat!"

I smiled last night reading that, just as I smile now having returned from biking and swimming this morning, finishing up a six am, well before the sunrise. Now, maybe we don't all want pigs, though I imagine there has been plenty of bacon consumed after Rise Up Runs on the weekends, and I can't claim that we are able to rid the world of injustice, but the point still rings true almost sixty years after it was written. Have a wonder-filled day and go claim your pig!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What a Beautiful Day for Running Barefoot in the Park

Today is one of those rare days that just feels like a gift. Maybe, just maybe, all that that cold, snowy weather was worth it just to be rewarded such a warm, remarkably comfortable day. I am fortunate enough to be off work on Thursdays, and I took advantage of the weather to get outside first for a short bike ride with my wife followed by a run around the park.

It felt good to slip into some running shorts for the first time in a long time and head outside. I initially grabbed some thin wool gloves, but tossed them back into the yard before even putting them on as it was clear they wouldn't be needed. I decided to start off wearing my homemade huaraches courtesy of Barefoot Ted and head down to the park about a half mile away and do some laps around the fine gravel track. As I laced them up, Megan asked how I could remember how to tie them as it must look somewhat haphazard and random. I told her by now it seems pretty easy, but that I was inventing my own style to it over time and playing with different methods- mainly with how to secure the final tie. It is a work in progress, but I am certainly getting faster and more comfortable tying them.

I headed down the street and quickly fell into a nice, rapid turnover and light foot-fall type stride. It was my first run since Sunday when Shaun, Mike and I ran about 11 miles around town. I think I overdid it a little, and I've been fighting off a cold so I felt a little tight at the start. By the time I hit the track at the park, the sun was feeling warm, and I felt a lot looser. After a couple laps on the track, my MapMyRun announcer friend called out the mile and the pace, and I figured it was a good time to ditch the huaraches and go totally barefoot. Next thing I knew, I was running along with the huaraches in one hand and making my own trail all around the perimeter of the park. I felt free, relaxed and at least ten years younger as my toes gently squished into the still cool and wet grass along the Idlewild Sreet side of the park. It was fun to feel different textures as I ran: the cool, refreshing grass, the firmer yet surprisingly comfortable concrete sidewalk, the less comfortable (due to numerous pebbles)and very temperature-dependent asphalt road, the small pinecones under the large evergreens at the opposite side of the park, and the firm, moist sand of the ball fields in the center.

Not surprisingly it was way more fun making my own trail than staying on the gravel track. Besides, though my feet have toughened some since running in FiveFingers on the treadmill, the gravel still hurts quite a bit in barefeet. Every other surface varied from mildly irritating to incredibly comfortable and almost addictive. The small sticks and cones under the evergreens gave me the most trouble, as on one lap I stumbled over a large stick that managed to cut me slightly on the side of one foot and the back of the opposite calf. Other than that, no blood, but I did get a little mud between the toes that perhaps felt the absolute best.

I quickly met my goal of three miles unshod at the park, briefly considered sliding the huaraches on for the short jaunt home, but reconsidered and finished up by running barefoot on the asphalt back to my house. At that point, the sun had warmed the dark, absorbant surface enough that it felt quite pleasant, and I couldn't help but wonder what it must feel like to run on the asphalt in August in the middle of the day in bare feet. But that thought can be left to ponder another day. Today was a special day, better left to reflecting on the sensations of my first barefoot run in the park.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tuckahoe Sunday

Well, we've been waiting for a nice, dry and warm spring day to check out Tuckahoe after all the snow we've had this winter. Shaun, Mike V., Dominic, and I met in town and drove out to Tuckahoe where Andrew was waiting for us. We seem stuck on the number five for group runs, which isn't a bad number at all. Luckily, it didn't rain, but we sure didn't stay dry thanks to a chilly creek crossing that had everyone struggling to keep from being swept downstream. And it sure felt warm yesterday, at least several hours AFTER we ran. When we ran it was still around 30 degrees and plenty brisk. Still, it was Tuckahoe, and there was a creek crossing which allowed for plenty of smiles and good-spirited cursing to go around. And overall, the course was actually pretty dry. It only got swampy and messy around the creek crossing and the first part of Little Florida trail as expected. I do have some sad news to report to our friend Keene, the log-hopping Wood Frog, as his preferred crossing apparatus was swept somewhere down into the great Chesapeake Bay by now.

I geeked out on tech yesterday, bringing along both my iPhone with MapMyRun app and Megan's newly gifted Garmin 405 watch complete with heart rate monitor. I felt a little overburdened sporting a chest strap, armband complete with iPhone and a watch strapped to my wrist. Amazingly, it all worked and the only slight challenge was trying to switch settings on the Garmin when it got wet at the creek crossing what with all the fancy touch screen bezel and all. I can see why people like to train by heart rate, it give you something other than your heavy breathing to focus on when things get tough.

At the end of the run, most refueled with Andrew's concoction of peanut butter, graham crackers and dried fruit(I think that's what the others had though I can't be sure because I was a little tired at the time and still somewhat frozen and foggy). We dried off and changed into warmer clothes and took stock in the fact that no fingers or toes were lost to frostbite. All in all, we couldn't ask for a better Tuckahoe day.

-- Landy