Peeling Scabs

I love that feeling, the slow tearing of dead skin, sometimes a little too early for the new growth underneath, but the sweet itch is too tempting to pass up. Another bad habit from the scraped-knee years that I have brought with me. I push on my bruises too, and I have had ample opportunity over the past couple weeks to enjoy that dull pain on the blue and yellow bruise cloud of post-A.R.T. quadriceps.

My knee is pretty much healed and those last two torturous, long weeks where I wasn't able to run are now a memory. One of the key principles of Shorinji Kempo, the martial art that I studied for over ten years, is that the body and the mind are one.  This was drilled into our heads, not forcefully drilled, but quietly, after meditation. I have been depressed, struggling with not being able to run, and even before that, I felt like I had hit a stagnant plateau with my running, and during the last couple of weeks I decided to do something to get "it" back, whatever that "it" was, it was missing.

Ten things I did instead of running over the past two weeks:
  • A.R.T. -- I feel like this was the key to overcoming the knee pain.
  • Cycling on the trainer in my office while watching Touching the Void.
  • Two core workouts a week courtesy of the Runner's Workout at Core Performance.
  • Scrapping my previous training plan and realizing that if I wanted to run the 50 miler in October and double cross the Grand Canyon in November, I was going to have to consult someone smarter than me.
  • Found a coach.
  • Watched some really good trail running videos:


  • Planned my Vegas trip for next weekend where I am going to see a lot of good bands perform and mix in some Red Rock Canyon running.

My ears will be happy
  • Foam rolled the shit out of my legs, not literally, although if there were shit in my legs, I think I did enough foam rolling to push it out.
  • Re-read parts of my favorite running book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami. One of my favorite quotes from the book:
My time, the rank I attain, my outward appearance — all of these are secondary. For a runner like me, what’s really important is reaching the goal I set myself, under my own power. I give it everything I have, endure what needs enduring, and am able, in my own way, to be satisfied. From out of the failures and joys I always try to come away having grasped a concrete lesson. (It’s got to be concrete, no matter how small it is.) And I hope that, over time, as one race follows another, in the end I’ll reach a place I’m content with. Or maybe just catch a glimpse of it. (Yes, that’s a more appropriate way of putting it.)
These were good things and they kept me sane during the layoff, but for me, nothing really compares to the feeling of getting out and pushing the limits of discomfort, turning the feet over, and embracing the pain that starts in my lungs, then travels to the muscles in my legs, then to my head, fighting off the urge to walk, pushing through that pain and finishing hard, seeing my truck 1/2 mile away and then letting go of the pain, kicking the heels back, breathing hard and feeling the drops of sweat falling behind me. It has been awhile since I ran like that, but today, my coach scheduled a ten mile tempo run with very specific instructions about pace and heart-rate, and as I was putting on my Garmin, the top fell off, and my spirits sank because in my desire to please and hit exact splits while keeping my heart-rate under 165, I was looking forward to tracking this with technology. Instead, I went by feel. The problem with me going by feel is that I tend to go too hard, but damn it felt so good to run fast again.

The last few runs have been amazing, and I feel like I am back, and running happy. A couple of days ago I was wondering why everyone that I passed along 101 was saying hi or good morning. Usually I give the runner's wave as I'm passing and then I get pissed off when it isn't acknowledged by the baby-pushing-Starbucks-drinking-blackberry-earinged set that frequents that part of the coastal route. On this particular run, I was getting all kinds of acknowledgements and realized it was because I was smiling.

I see so many people running with pain on their faces, twisted and hurting and I wonder what they are doing wrong, why are they running, putting themselves through this agony if they don't enjoy it. I know that a lot of people run to stay in shape, and for the feeling that you get after a good run, but the moment, being present for the run, should be a reward in itself. I realized that I had gotten away from that and I needed help breaking through that plateau, so I found a coach. I picked him because I enjoy reading his blog, he has sensible rules and, and I talked to him on the phone and he reaffirmed my choice by telling me he was just a dad who likes to run, and he has had some amazing races, and who wouldn't want to work with a guy who posts pictures of foxes that he has adopted. And, judging from the last few workouts and my body's response to these workouts, I think I have made a good choice.

I am still conflicted about dropping out of Noble Canyon 50K. It's a great race and I hate to have to miss it. I'm feeling good, and right now I think I could go out there and run 34 miles on Saturday, but if I do, and I take a step backwards in my training, the drama queen in me would come out and I wouldn't want to subject anyone to more of my depression-laden ramblings. So, for now, I'll be taking it easy and testing the knee with a 20 miler on Saturday, and I'm actually looking forward to it.

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