Out Run CF, New Shoes, and Some Random Writing

I just scheduled a Meetup for the Out Run CF Virtual Race, so if you are in San Diego, come join us, and we can all race virtually together. If you haven't registered yet, there is still time (you can run wherever you want and as long or short as you want) and you get this beautiful t-shirt modeled by my technical wife (sorry, technical t-shirt modeled by my beautiful wife).

I want these shoes. I haven't bought new trail shoes in awhile and I don't really need new shoes, but I really want these. I have been switching between my Adidas Adizero XTs, my La Sportiva Crosslites, and my New Balance 100s for the last couple of years. So, come March, I'm picking some of these up.

I have been using this site called 750words.com as a private journal; stuff that I usually don't share, but I wrote something today about some thoughts going through my head on a recent run, and wanted to share it here.

This is the way, as my head pounds and my breath clouds the sharp morning air, running alone on the wide trail with room for more, this isn't the worst day.

The worst day was hill repeats with nicotine-stained lungs and coughing tar. The warm-up was one block from my couch to the gently sloping road that looked, at the time, like a ramp that led all the way up to hell. That wasn't the good hurt of lactic acid burning legs, that was the searing birth of new capillaries, muscles and habit.

It's not the best day either. There are a lot of best days, but this isn't one of them. That run with my uncle, showing up to my house after school to run through the suburban streets. He would ask me how I was doing, ask how I was handling everything with the divorce. The uncle who picked me up one morning at 5 AM so we could drive up to San Juan Capistrano and run a 10K together, I saw him behind me at the turnaround, cheering. He smiled and hugged me at the finish, saying he was proud, and having no idea how much that meant to me.

I run down the empty trail, telling myself that this is the way to go, to the soft edge of the world. The edge of slipping rocks and dust clouds that cover sliding feet, not looking over, not looking down into the sun, with hands tightly gripping the sharp bones and stretched skin as we try not to fall.

Out Run CF -- Virtual Race

My sister Sharlie emailed me an invitation to join her in a virtual race. Sharlie has CF (cystic fibrosis), a genetic, degenerative disease that affects the lungs and the digestive system. She is running this virtual race to raise money for CF and I am asking you to join her, and me, on Sunday March 20th to raise money, and awareness for CF.

Sharlie lives with one lung, a lung that currently functions at 18% of the capacity of a normal, healthy lung. Sharlie runs nearly every day. She gets on the treadmill, connects a breathing tube to her portable oxygen tank and runs. If you saw her pace you may argue that she's not running, not even jogging, but when I think of her on that treadmill, struggling for her next breath, knowing that the more she struggles the stronger she gets, it makes any PR I have set or any distance I have gone seem trivial. To me, she is flying.

As I have written here before, one of the reasons I run is to feel the pain of breathing hard, and to never take my breath for granted. The difference between me and my sister, my niece, and my nephew, who all live with CF, is that when I am finished, I can forget about my breath, letting it go back to automatic...easy in, easy out; but for them, breathing is a struggle, a process that is always at the forefront of their lives.

So, I am asking you to join us. It's an inexpensive race ($20), you choose the distance, you can walk or run, and you even get a t-shirt. I'll be running to honor my sister Sharlie, my niece Lauren, my nephew Ben, and I will be running in memory of my sister, Lexi. I will choose a hard course, one that forces me to breathe short, hard breaths, and with each breath and each footfall I will be grateful.

You can register here.

Please share this opportunity with friends and family.

Thank you for joining us.

Me and my sister

San Dieguito Half Marathon

A few thoughts on Sunday's race.

This was my fifth time doing this local half marathon, and in the era of triple-crowns, acres of expos, medals the size of Flav's clocks, corrals, races selling out 6 months early, and $100+ entry fees, the San Dieguito Half Marathon is a breath of fresh air. This is one of the oldest running half marathons in the country, and is one of the most beautiful. The race doesn't sell out, there is no mandatory expo, a field of under 2,000 runners (which is small for a 1/2 in San Diego), all while maintaining the grass-roots feel of a race that has been going strong for 43 years. The course winds up and down through Rancho Santa Fe, California, and Sunday was a gorgeous, sunny but cool day, near perfect weather for the Hash House Harrier-sponsored race. If you ever have the chance to do a race put on by the Harriers, do it. Where else can you run through an aid station smelling of cigar smoke and stale beer with shouts of "water on your left, beer on your right," at miles 1 and 12, and a sangria aid station at miles 3 and 10.

It was a tough race for me, the first road race I've done in a year, the last time I ran the San Dieguito 1/2, and I quickly remembered how much it hurts to run on the roads, pushing a steady pace, with none of the hilly breaks of a trail race. I ran with a couple of friends for the majority of the race and we kept about a 7:15 pace for a 1:34 finish, which at this point in the season is pretty good, faster than what I thought I'd run it in, but slower than last year. It's no fun running the same race slower than what I've previously done, but I realize that I'm building back up for peak races later in the year, and that there really isn't a need for me to be setting half marathon PRs in February. It's going to be a slow build.

I'm glad that I had a couple of friends to run this with, the clipped conversation and jokes helped the miles pass. I am pretty sure I wouldn't have kept the pace on my own, the motivation just wasn't there yesterday. In fact, I even thought about breaking out my dusty surfboard and starting a surfing blog, and then I saw someone wearing this shirt. Running does suck. It hurts, and it can be frustrating, and sometimes the stretch of miles between those moments of elation is longer than I want to endure, but I'm a runner, and runners endure. The promise of a Stone Brewery-sponsored beer garden with free beer after the race was the highlight of the day and a key motivation to finishing early, while there's still a spot to sit on the warm grass with a cup of Stone Arrogant Bastard in one hand and a Lost Abbey Lost and Found Ale in the other, tired muscles stretching in the sun.

Running With My Dog

Hazel is a 7-month old shepherd mix. We were told when we picked her up from the shelter that she was a mix of German and Australian Shepherd, but as she grows people have been telling me she has Collie in her. They say she whines like a Collie (so do all of my kids, but I don't think they have any Collie in them). She's a good dog with a ton of energy, and I have been slowly introducing her to running.

The day we brought her home
We started with short walks on the trails across the street from my house. She was nervous at first and dug her feet in, not wanting to venture too far out into the world of strange animal smells, but she slowly became accustomed to the sights, smells and sounds of the trails. About a month ago I began letting her off leash when I was sure that she wasn't going to dart away. We would walk and run and she would get distracted by something inedible that she would try to eat and I ended up digging a lot of crap out of her mouth, but recently she is getting the hang of it.

When she is on-leash, she likes to run in front and I am constantly pulling her back to my side, but when she is off-leash, she hangs back, taking some time to sniff around the trails, then she runs to catch up with me. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite running partners.

I walk the neighborhood kids to school on Wednesday mornings, and even though I'm not 100% with this whole chest/sinus thing, I felt I would be committing some kind of sin if I didn't get out and enjoy some of this beautiful weather, especially after seeing some of these pictures from fellow runners. So, I grabbed the leash and the camera and took Hazel out on the trails. Check out the video below for some hot doggy action (the search engines are going to love that one).

I have found that running with my dog has been an excellent way for me to mix up my training. Hazel runs in short, fast, bursts, and then she takes it easy and recovers, so it has become a natural fartlek run. She also reminds me to stay hydrated; dogs can easily overheat, so I am constantly concerned about her hydration, and as a result, mine.

Do you run with your dog? Any tips for a couple of novices?

It Feels Like a Slow Motion Punch to the Head, the Kind Where the Skull Moves Before the Skin and Muscle Have Time to Catch Up

This doesn't have much to do with running. I feel like I have been punched repeatedly in the head, and yes, I know what that feels like. Right now, it's a combination of too much bargain bin Trader Joe's, "make sure you let that one breathe for at least an hour" red mixed with an upper respiratory infection slash sinus infection slash coughing up various colors and consistencies of sickness as my body tries to purge itself. Maybe it's time to start drugs.

To add to the general cloudiness in my head, yesterday, I caught my front tire in a rain-carved trail rut and went down, with my bike, sideways falling towards the upturned handle bar, and taking that shot to the chin and tasting the blood and pieces of inner lip now covering my lower teeth, spitting red, and getting back up.

I read a great Muhammad Ali quote today, "It's hard to beat a guy when he's got his mind made up that he's going to win." It reminded me of taking the aforementioned punches to the head, sparring, full contact, being on the other side of that quote, and not sure if I was going to last the hour. I was paired up with too much heavyweight Iraqi muscle, the guy was a former All-American high school wrestler, could have been UFC, all muscles and veins with a neck the size of a telephone pole, who at the time was either a 3rd or 4th degree black belt and I was matched up with him as a fairly inexperienced, but eager brown belt, eager enough to show up at the Saturday advanced class that was talked about in hushed tones after the regular Tuesday and Thursday practice.
The instructor was old-school, Japanese old-school, no water during class, no breaks, weed out the weak old-school, as he watched me take shot after shot to the stomach as I tried to keep my guard up because as soon as I dropped it, slam, to the jaw. We trained with light gloves, just enough padding to protect the knuckles, not enough to protect the head. It was brain jarring and knee buckling to get hit in the head, so I kept my guard up, and took shot after shot to the stomach, right below the sternum, backing me up to the corner of the class, not able to breathe, falling over the bags of gloves, focus mits, and kicking bags. "Stop" the instructor clipped, of course after I had fallen and the barrage had already been halted by a mixture of retreat and clumsiness. Getting up, smiling at the big Iraqi, knowing that I was out of my league, knowing that I would be back, and that now I had stories to tell in hushed tones after the Tuesday and Thursday sessions, showing off green bruises that would turn brown, then black, then fade away in a color scale of testosterone, and knowing, without a doubt, that I would train as hard as I could to get to that level, the level where I already had my mind made up that I couldn't be beat.

A lot of people are getting strong right now, training in the snow and the cold. In winter, when I used to live in the snow and my hands would freeze, fingers pink and numb with frozen snot half dripped, half frozen from my nose, pulling the inner tube up the hill. It was a big, yellow,  rubber tube with a cartoon bobcat painted on the seat and thick plastic handles to hold when we hit the homemade jumps and fly in the air, legs twisting like cats and frozen fingers clutching and white knuckles inside musty gloves and landing, sometimes on my head, burning pink skin and feeling the punch of the ground, the momentary forgetfulness of a concussion, small brain bumping against thin skull, shaking my head a couple of times and watching the grey black blur become blinding white before grabbing the black rubber handle of the tube and digging my cold, wet toes into the front of my boots trying to gain a hold for the long climb back to the top of the hill.

Maybe this does have something to do with running. Maybe I've just taken a couple too many hits to the head.

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