Since it has been decided by unanimous executive decision (by me, myself, and I) to prepare for the Hyner Challenge 50K as best as possible over the next two months, today was my first of 8 planned weekly “long” runs. The object of this plan is to build up my distance each week until I reach the goal of 31 miles at the race on April 21. This is the plan of a lunatic, but I won’t get into that now. Maybe I’ll address the lunacy as I move along in the plan.
If you peruse my blog posts over the past year, it quickly becomes evident that one of my favorite places to run is Mahlon Dickerson Reservation. It’s close to home. It has varied terrain. I usually do a 6 mile loop there. So it made sense to start with that loop on my return to training after my latest injury.
Below are some photos from the trail with a few more comments mixed in.
Of course, my ankle was bothersome while running. That’s my new norm. My legs where a bit tired. My aerobic capacity has declined due to inactivity. Weighing 226 pounds now doesn’t help anything.
While writing this post I learned that a beaver’s home is called a “lodge.” I guess you could say I relearned it, because when I looked it up I thought, I knew that. But that spoiled a pun I was going to make for the next 2 pictures. I was going to say, “Beaver Dam” for the first and then, “Damn Beaver” for the second. You know, because the damn thing is eating the hell out of that tree. But that bit of wit got “lodged” midstream by my reacquired knowledge.
What is interesting about the next 2 pictures is that one half of the sky was covered by clouds and the other half was perfectly blue. There was a demarcation directly overhead. When I faced the direction of the clear sky, my surroundings appeared more colorfully and the blue of the sky was reflected off the wet trail. (The photo does not do it justice.). When I faced the opposite direction toward the cloudy sky, everything looked bland. If you had seen me at that point, turning 180 degrees back and forth, you would have sworn I was lost. I was simply amused by the color observations.
And then there is graffiti on a tree. These letters were either sliced long, long ago and have expanded in width, or someone carved them with a spoon. Logic says it’s the former. I hope “JW” is still remembered.
That’s a wrap until the next batch of photos from the woods.
I love running on trails. I enjoy the challenge of the uneven ground, negotiating the rocks and roots and mud and the occasional snake. I love the varied scenery, surrounded by trees and weeds and boulders and wildlife, snakes included. For the past 2 1/2 years, this has been my preferred running environment.
But then I tore a tendon in my ankle and had to have surgery. Several months after that I had tendinitis in the same ankle. Most recently I sprained ligaments near that very same ankle. (My whole right ankle has become my Achilles heel.) It’s been a long slow road back to trail running.
That road has begun here after each injury. Pictured is a flat and friendly course at a local recreation area. It loops around a lake and passes ball fields. This is where I go to start over.
Incidentally, this picture is of a section of the park called “Fishermen’s Lane.” I did a little research to find out why it was name that. It turns out that it is named in memory of two local young men who were walking along the railroad tracks to go fishing when they were struck and killed by a train in 1989. (I found this information at this link.)
Starting over here, this road needs to take me to a 50K in Hyner, PA on April 21, 2018. That’s right, just two months from now. The cutoff date to drop out and get a refund on my registration fee is in two days. But I’ve made up my mind to attempt to go the distance. It might not be the smartest thing given the shape of my ankle. But this ankle is going to be with me every step for the rest of my life. I better get used to it if I want to run long races. I’m sure today isn’t the only time I’ll be starting over.
Hearts = 1 minute hip/pelvis stretch using yoga blocks
Diamonds = 1 minute back stretch on an exercise ball (while praying the thing would not burst under my 226 pounds)
Clubs = 5 dumbell curls each arm (The heaviest dumbell we have is 15. There are weights in the garage out back. But I didn’t want to be a dumbell and walk in the cold to go use them.)
Spades = 5 sit-ups
The stretching was fantastic and sorely needed. I tend to run and not do much else. I never stretch before or after I run. I just like to run. That’s it. That’s why it takes some dorky trick like using a deck of cards to get me to do anything other than run. But I know that only running is a bad long-term plan. I guess the frigid weather has dealt me a good opportunity to see what other exercises suit me. (See what I did there? Two puns in one sentence.)
Tonight I went through the entire deck. So, 13 times through each exercise. That equals 65 sit-ups. But as I said yesterday, I hate math. So, I’ll stop all the fancy calculations right there.
More precisely, I love numbers in spreadsheets. I like keeping track of days, and miles, and books I’ve read, and our family’s monthly budget. Thirty is a good number of books for a year. A monthly income higher than our expenses is a number that makes me smile. A higher percentage of days exercised than not is a hard-earned and satisfying number.
So far in 2018, I am at 100% days exercised.
The rule for a day counting as an exercise day is simple: 30 consecutive minutes of exercise. It can be running, biking, walking, yoga, sit-ups, push-ups, boulder rolling, etc. This concept comes from Coach Jenny Hadfield’s Challenge Program, of which I have been a participant since 2014 and have benefited greatly. (You should click that link and join!)
With the start of a new year, I was determined to exercise on the first day of the year, thereby igniting some momentum toward doing better in 2018 than I did in 2017. My 2017 percentage was not a good number. It was a sad number. It was a number that caused me to make excuses: “Well, I was still in physical therapy in the first quarter of 2017.” “You know, I couldn’t always exercise because my ankle is still pretty sore.” “Hey! We had a baby in 2017! Who has time to exercise now??” My 2017 percentage of days exercised was… 28.49%. Look at that sad wimpy number. That’s less than two days per week! (1.9943, if you do the math.)
Finding time to exercise is often a challenge in our household, particularly because of that baby we had in 2017. My wife also runs her own business and has a freelance music career going. So, our schedules are often hectic. Add my full time job, extended family responsibilities, and the recent holidays into the equation and time for exercise becomes nearly nil. (I sound like I am making excuses again.)
I got a little better at making time to exercise in recent weeks. The reasons for this were: a.) I got disgusted with my laziness, b.) The end of the year was approaching and I needed to get my numbers up, c.) I didn’t want the holidays to get the best of me, and d.) It’s been adversely cold, making running outside difficult and even dangerous. (When I ran outside in the afternoon on December 28 it was 10° with a windchill of -4°.)
We don’t have a treadmill at home. I don’t have a gym membership. (I hate the gym.) We have weights, a medicine ball, a jump rope. But my main interest was in finding a substitute for running. The closest thing was climbing stairs.
Our flight of stairs to the second floor consists of 15 stairs. It has an elevation of 10 feet. My brain instantly calculated how many flights of stairs I would need to do to equal the elevation gain of my favorite mountain, Mt. Tammany at the Delaware Water Gap. 1,100 feet = 110 flights of stairs. My first stair session took me about 40 minutes to complete 110 flights.
For the first day of 2018, I had grand but steadily diminishing ideas for exercising. First idea: get up very early, run Mt. Tammany and maybe go out to Sunfish Pond and back for a distance of 10 miles. The temperature was 3°. Second idea: get up early, do just one loop on Mt. Tammany for a distance of 3.35 miles. The temperature was still 3°. Third idea: explore the trails in a park close to home. Then the day got away from me. Things to do. People to see. Errands to run. Before I knew it it was 10 PM and I was still pouring over the numbers in our December budget. (Our income number was happily higher than our expense number, allowing us to make an extra payment on our debt. Winning!)
At 11:20 PM I was skimming through Facebook and feeling bummed that I allowed the first day of the year to go by without exercising when I read a discussion of alternative exercise ideas for when it’s too cold to run outside and you don’t have a treadmill. Someone suggested using a deck of cards to make things more interesting. Assign an exercise to each of the four suits in the deck. Shuffle the deck. Then draw a card and do the exercise that corresponds to the suit of the card. What a novel idea! I still had enough time to get my 30 minutes in before midnight! Since I am a weakling, I assigned exercises as such:
Hearts = 5 flights of stairs (changed to 20 squats after the second draw because I woke the baby up by going up and down our noisy stairs)
Diamonds = 15 lunges (that’s how many I can do through the length of our first floor)
Clubs = 5 sit-ups (weakling)
Spades = 2 push-ups (definitely a weakling)
I drew cards for 30 minutes with the numbers adding up as follows:
That is a lot more of each of those exercises than I have done in a long time! And it was a lot of fun! I want to see those numbers go higher on a consistent basis.
I absolutely intend to see better numbers in 2018 than I did in 2017. I have a few ultra trail races lined up in the coming months. I have other challenging personal distance goals for this new year. I intend to lose 30 pounds. Consistent exercising, whether running outdoors or getting creative indoors, is a must. I have a perfect record of exercise so far this year. I only have 364 days left to maintain it! I can win if I play my cards right!
This time my son, Tim, joined me on the six mile loop through the woods. He could have run circles around me, an overweight guy with a gimpy ankle and 24 more years of age. But he was polite enough to not do so.