Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How quickly they forget

Editorial note: If you came by here for running stuff, today is not your day. If you're a general fan of me ranting, enjoy!

I was reading the paper Sunday morning (one of my favorite all time rituals) and noticed the lack of argument over school funding. This surprised me because for the last nine months school funding issues have been at the forefront of the local/state picture.


This got me thinking; I remembered how one of the biggest complaints among educators every fall is how much the students have forgotten or regressed over the summer.

Then I thought some more. And I came to the conclusion that it is unrealistic to expect students to care about their education over the summer if the adults in their lives also take a summer vacation. Have any of us ever considered that each school year would be less of a funding and priority battle if we, as the responsible ones, kept our attention on the issues regardless of season? Out of sight out of mind is a plague of the American consciousness; if an issue isn't staring us in the face making us immediately angry or uncomfortable we let it slip from our attention and cease to care about it. That is until it jumps into our view again and we have to start over at square one, making up all our lost ground with little actual progress. Sounds a bit like students at the first of the school year, doesn't it?

If you expect your kids to learn and achieve, don't take the summer off; don't wait for the solutions to be provided for you. Get involved, stay involved and keep everyone else aware that education doesn't just happen from September to June. It takes commitment year-round to ensure our kids get the education they need and deserve.

Remember, our kids are watching; if we think about schools even when they're not in session, they will too.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Soooo Close!!!

but no donut.

(I was this close...)

I think I've made it clear that I am building slowly (think glaciers) into barefoot running. I have been making progress, but it is incremental at best and probably only noticeable from one run to the next by me. I set out yesterday for my run and it was going well, I thought. I did my usual lap around the park, but was feeling strong so I decided to keep going. I pulled another lap around the perimeter of the park and then ran the full load home.

At this point I was pretty stoked because i had achieved a persistent 15-minute run without walk breaks. I told you I was building it slow; stop looking at me with your judgmental eyes. Any way; I checked the GPS and saw the numbers: .96 mile! I was so close to the "first barefoot mile" mark and I didn't even feel awful. This was a good day! I wasn't shooting for distance at all, so it was quite a surprise.

My form is still developing and I have some friction blisters on my feet today, but that's just part of the deal and keeps me humble and slow-going. Gotta work on that; I haven't found good reference videos of good barefoot form yet. Anyone got any suggestions? Leave a comment and let me know!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A word about the wife


I don't brag on my wife enough. She is my best friend, a heckuva teacher and my biggest cheerleader (aside from my kids, that is. Nobody tops Stinky for cheering on dad).

This last week has been really trying, for reasons I won't go into detail about; it is summed up pretty well by saying my dream of going into teaching was almost dead in the water. When things like this happen I get stuck in my head and focus a little too much on the catastrophic possibilities. Jen has been encouraging me and sticking by me all through this week while we waded through some murky, incredibly stinky waters. She's great like that, and I can always count on her to be there, though I am always surprised at how she keeps it up (I give her plenty of reason to tell me to take a flying leap) each and every time*.

She has been a huge supporter of my running renaissance as well. She has also made a return to running this year (though with *sigh* shoes. We'll work on that later...) and has been encouraging me to get out there for a run even (especially) on the days I just didn't want to. She's my best pal and I'm lucky as a guy can be to have her. So raise a glass, all you lot, to the wife (or husband or committed life partner, if it so applies to your situation). Without 'em we'd be sunk.

Later; I'm off for a run.

*Special thanks also go out to my folks. Words can't express how much we appreciate you, mom & dad. You are the best.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Shocking Turn of Events!!!

(By the way---see over there on the right side? Click to follow, or subscribe to my blog. I'd appreciate the company and there will be something in it for you. Stay tuned until the end of this post for details!)

First off -  I checked the distance on last night's run: a measly 1/2 mile. But, it was all barefoot so I am making progress.

The shocking piece is the utter lack of pain and soreness today! I fully expected calves contracted into knots and achilles tendons shrunken in revolt. Turns out that my only issue was some hot spots (or pre-blisters, either one will do) on the balls of my feet. This is totally normal and expected, reminding me that A). my form is not quite ready for prime time and B.) I went just far enough without pushing it too far (i.e. no irreparable damage).

OK, enough with the boring run recap.

The other thing I am working on is leading a more active overall life. I'm focused on getting off my (enlarged) arse and incorporating movement into my daily routine. Long ago this wasn't a problem. Mrs. M and I lived in the city and I used my bike for a large portion of my transportational needs. Of course that city was Seattle and the food and beverage options cancelled out my activity, rendering me, as a coworker so subtly pointed out (in front of a customer) a "big guy."

It's been downhill since then and I have finally decided it is worth the challenge of getting back up, er down, ummmm..You know...up the hill, down in weight. That. It isn't easy, because my wife is a fantastic cook and I love (LOVE) food. And beer. Not just any beer, but Pacific Northwest, microbrewed, calorie-laden beer. I don't really drink a lot of it, but I know, deep down inside, it is my frenemy and eagerly waits to sabotage my fitness efforts by catching me before I get out for a run or bike ride.

Stay strong, fellow fitness-seekers. Summer is tough. Sure the weather is great for exercise; but the cool treats are there, lurking in the shadows, waiting to kneecap us and keep us off the road, trail, gym floor.

Curse you, Ice Cream Man.

So, be a follower; all the cool kids are doing it. Once I get to fifteen (15) followers I will hold a drawing. One of you lucky folks will be the recipient of a $15 gift card to either REI (my favorite store on the planet) or Target (most rational peoples favorite place for basic need stuff). Seriously, how much can it hurt to click an icon?

Monday, June 20, 2011

I'm gonna pay for this tomorrow

I'm keeping with my mission to bore you with reports on every little run I must share today's with you.

Since my phone has decided to only work when it feels like it, I have no data on distance until tomorrow; I'll let you know on that. Either way, I pulled off two full laps around the park loop, followed by continued running from the park back to my house. This is THE longest continuous stretch of shoeless running yet for me. It feels like a huge milestone and a big victory.

Tomorrow it will feel like my legs are going to explode from the knees down.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Father's Day is here and I am lucky to be the dad of the two greatest girls in the world (no your kids are NOT the best. Mine are, and I'm on the internet so I am obviously correct).

(See? She's wearing Van's. I rest my case for awesomeness)

Stinky and GoGo are the reason I found my way back to running (and teaching, the other third of the reason for this blog). I want to be healthy and energy-filled to keep up with this pair of wild-children. I'm so proud that Stinky (the big one) wants to start running with me this summer! This made my day, and then made me think about what made me a runner. So, here's a bit about my dad:

My dad was a runner (he's not dead or anything; I used past tense because he doesn't run any more).  I  seem to remember him saying it started in the Army, and he kept running after he got out. This was the mid 70's and jogging/fun-running was big, so it all adds up in my memory. I remember him getting up super early and running before going to work (I also remember a stretch of him biking to work, so there's probably another way he influenced me). 

Once I got into elementary school I can remember tramping all around South Georgia on the weekends to go the the 10K races he loved running. I think he was about a 42-minute 10K runner,but may be wrong; either way he was faster than I am...Like any 8-year old, I wanted to be just like him so I started running. I did the one mile fun runs at some of the races, usually our hometown Winnersville Classic in Valdosta, GA. I loved running and REALLY loved getting a T-shirt to show I was in a race. It made for cool bragging rights at school. Even though I have been on-and-off with running all my life I've always been a runner at heart, wanting to run even when I wasn't in shape or in any way prepared to do so. When I get down about running, or want to skip out on a run I think back to the times I actually got to run WITH my dad. Those were the best! 

There are a ton of other reasons my dad is the greatest to be sure. He is amazingly generous and always willing to help people out when they need it, and is one heck of a carpenter (you should see the cabinetry he makes. As a hobby. It's better than stuff you can buy in furniture stores). We don't always agree on everything and I'm sure I've let him down more times than he'll ever admit to, but one thing's for sure. I love my dad and am lucky to have had his influence in my life. 

Thanks for everything, again, dad.

P.S. I don't think he reads this blog, so this is totally not sucking up!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

no fair weather runners here


yes. yes I am. 

Any way. In my past incarnations of runnerdom I hated running in anything less than "perfect" weather, defined as 80-ish degrees, sunny and low humidity. I'd do it, but I'd hate it. One thing I wouldn't do is run in the rain.

It is the WORST.
(What the world likes through my glasses on a rainy day. ewww)

I've worn Glasses for 25 years. This has made me dislike doing many things out in the rain; but running was always the worst because not only did my glasses get all spattered but they fogged up as well, rendering me blind(er).

(Daddy's gonna kill Ralphie!)

Now that I've taken to running barefoot I am opening my eyes to the joy of the challenge. I like challenge in many areas, but when it comes to physical activity I always preferred the ones that came easiest to me, tree climbing and bikes. Now, though, I've made the bike more challenging (single speed mountain bike), which made the easy more difficult. Now the difficult is becoming easier in running in the form of being more (and I mean MOAR!!!) fun and easier on my old bones (contrary as that notion may seem-the less cushiony my shoes, the less it hurts me to run. True story).

All that to say our three days of summer have gone and the cold, wet embrace that is the Pacific Northwet has returned. Today was a "run" day for me and despite being 58 degrees and raining I suited up and went for a run. I did wear shoes, but they are basically thin strips of rubber attached to a mesh top; no cushion or any such shenanigans to undermine my mission or erase the wondrous muscle memory I am creating with my little jogs around the park. 

The big takeaway is that I loved running in the rain! Yes my glasses got all foggy and spretzled, but I did. not. care. i ran through the little patch of woods down the hill and then (most of the way) back up the hill to the house. It was great and i'll definitely do it again.

Rain or shine.

P.S. Happy Father's Day to all you dad's out there. Especially mine, who got me hooked on this running thing in the first place xxx years ago! Thanks Dad. For everything.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I'm an idiot

And I have the book to prove it.

It's been a crazy week, to be sure. I was still hurting a bit and didn't get to run for several days. Bummer one, because the last thing I need right now is a momentum killer with my history of great starts followed by rapid not finishing. Bummer two came in the form of a letter from my doc, telling me my blood tests called me out as prediabetic. Yeah. I didn't know what the hell that meant either,so I freaked out. I thought I was on the fast track to diabetic living.

Not exciting.

So, of course I went to the Google to determine how bad this was really going to be. And I got more concerned. I should note here that EVERY source I have found on barefoot running says diabetics should not attempt. This would not do. I was am excited and motivated to run for the first time in eons and now I'm reading my feet may fall off (for reals). What the heck?! Luckily, I had a doctor's appointment already scheduled for the busted foot; I brought the test results sheet with me to chat over since my foot is already feeling much better...

Cue the Vincent Price music.

Turns out my doc is pretty laid back and put me at ease right away. My numbers were barely at the cutoff for prediabetes so I just need to be mindful of what I eat (I try...) and stay active (I do OK). The big thing is barefoot is A-O.K. I am, per the MD, not at any risk of losing sensation or other associated issues the internet terrorized me with. That stuff is generally a problem for severely diabetic individuals who are not treating their condition. That will not be a problem for me. I'm making sure to make improved food choices and stay active, both running and biking. Again Barefoot is a Go!

I was so happy after my appointment I kicked off my shoes and ran a barefoot half-mile before dinner.

It felt great!

 Dig it. I'm back!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gah! stupid rock

I mean, if I were fit, sure. That ain't me

It was bound to happen. Running progress slowed again due to hurty bits. I think this is an injury from just before I kicked off the shoes. I was trail running more and stubbed a toe. The change in stride and landing more on my toe/ball of the foot in barefootin' put more pressure in that spot and angered it. So now I'm not running (grumble grumble grumble) and am icing, elevating, and swearing.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not the most patient guy. So being delayed in my progress is killing me and forcing me to find other ways to keep motivated. So I've been reading; I've consumed two barefoot running-related books recently. Well, finished one motivational, working through another more instructional now.
Best read in a long while

Born To Run is the one I just finished, and it was unbelievably good. Mrs. M is set to read it once the school year ends and I predict it will hit her similarly*. The book is about running, and discussed barefoot running a bit, but is more a criticism of modern running shoes and their negative impact on our knees, ankles and feet. Beyond that, it's a story of great human accomplishment and relationships across cultural lines. The culminating event of the book is a race between top American ultratrunners(100? MILES??? RUNNING?!?!?!?!) and the Tarahumara people of Mexico's Copper Canyon region. The Tarahumara (thanks, Wikipedia!) are among the world's most running-centric societies, covering long distances in steep terrain at amazing speed, wearing little more on their feet than a strip of old tire rubber held in place with a cord. Seriously, read this book; it's that good, even if you aren't a runner.

The other is a barefoot running instructional book. It's probably only interesting if you want to try barefooting. Leave a comment if you're interested and I'll hit you with the details.

Summer's finally here, so I need to go ice my foot and get back to form. Later!
*I make no claim that anyone else should try barefoot running. It's a personal decision and not for everyone. It is for me and I dig it. You probably would too if you tried it but whatever. I'm not the boss of you. make your own decisions but, please, do the research and take it slow if you do try it!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Leaving my shoes at the door

(I'm not fat! I'm unfit!)
Wow. It's been a while since I've posted. Sorry to the two of you who are actually reading.....

Whatever. I haven't written in a while because I haven't really liked the tone or direction the blahg has taken and I wanted to re-direct, in honor of the name and spirit of the enterprise. So I'm hitting the reset button yet again to return focus to my rejuvenated spirit and whatnot, of which my grasping (or gasping, more accurately) for a return to my fitter, more energized self is a major component. I'll be chronicling my misguided and harder than they need to be activities for you to enjoy/mock. First up: Run Fatboy Run!

I used to run lots. My dad was one of the late 70's/early 80's 10k road racing types, so we spent a lot of weekends hauling around south Georgia to different races. I started doing the fun-run mile at some of them and have run ever since, off and on (more off than on, let's be serious!). I always loved running, but it was never easy for me and I would quit, then start again,then quit, then, well you get it. Anyway, I've always wanted to make running fun again and started looking for a way. Trail running is the first source of fun running I've rediscovered. Being in the woods and a little isolated helps me push a bit harder and keeps me on my toes, literally; the changing terrain and obstacles keep my mind actively engaged. The past few weeks of trail running have totally renewed my drive and "running spirit," as the hippies say. Variety is the spice of life, though, so I had to find more ways to keep me stepping out the door for a run.

I should note here, before moving on, that I have a tendency to take the most difficult option available more often than not. Probably explains why I get frustrated and quit stuff...Anyway...

Another reason I would stop my running was pain. I have less than awesome knees and would have to nurse an injury pretty quickly after getting back on the run, sidelining, setting back and just making me want to give up. So, I usually did. I noticed, though, that when I was trail running, my knees, legs, feet all felt great after a run, it was just my cardio holding me back (the past year of ultraslacking finally calling my tab). This was awesome! I could get fitter, sure, but I didn't hurt for the first time in ages, which meant I COULD get fitter if I kept at it. WooHoo!

Now, me being about as nerdy and researcher-y as they come, I of course began looking for reasons why three miles on the trail felt great, but a quarter mile on pavement made me want to walk home on my hands after chopping my leg off above the knee. I found a ton of stuff on biomechanics that I didn't understand, but also found information about running style and form. Down the rabbit hole I went and uncovered the wonderland of barefoot running. As in, no shoes. It borders on a religion, but looking past that I saw some really interesting stuff about reduced injury rates, better form, longer distances and fell in love. 
(not my feet.)
So here I am now, striking out daily for a run around the neighborhood without shoes. It's a little weird, but oddly invigorating. The transition is slow, due to the adjustments in my stride and running form needed to re-train myself, but so far it seems worth it. I'm enjoying the running like I did as a kid; if trying weird, new-to-me ways of doing stuff is what it takes to keep me moving, then heck, I might try running in clown shoes.
(Not really. Even I have my limits.)
So, I'm going to keep running; hopefully it'll give me the energy to post more frequently. If nothing else, it should provide more things to mock about myself for your reading pleasure. 

Thanks for reading!