Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What was he thinking?

I went running today at lunchtime. It was a beautiful day outside. Temps in the 60's and sunny. I decided that I was going to do my favorite 10K course. It's a large loop that consists primarily of nice, quiet New Englandy back roads. I left my place of employment and headed up towards North Street. As I turned left on North, I saw a man running ahead of me. He was not fat, but he definitely was not slim. He wore long, basketball shorts and could generally tell he was not a top-10 kind of race if you know what I mean. I was going really slow, just easing into the run. I was slowly gaining on him, but I wasn't trying to do so. As my legs warm up I just naturally start running faster. The course takes me down North road about 1 mile, then left onto some other road who's name I forgot. The guy ahead of me makes the same turn and I see him take a quick look back and he sees me. I can see him suddenly pick up the pace and he starts to pull away. The chase is on!

I admit that I began to pick up the pace too. I felt like a tiger chasing down a sickly doe. I was just loping along while the doomed doe struggled. The guys pace began to fade in a few minutes and I quickly caught up to him. As I was running next to him I said hello and introduced myself. I asked if he wanted to join me on my 10K. He said he had a different 10K course, but he was willing to join me. I don't run with people often and I was not planning on going fast so I welcomed the company.

The road we were on went up a hill, through a 4-way stop, and then down a hill. I could tell by this guys respiration that he was out of his zone. He was breathing too hard when going up hill this early in the run. But what amazed me was that he took off down the hill. Why would he do that? I think he wanted to drop me. To show me what a great runner he was. I let him get a little ahead of me as we went down the hill. Tigers do that once in a while so that their prey would get more tired and the kill would be easier.

At the bottom of the hill we made a left. He was ahead of me and I called forward to tell him to make a left. He didn't know where he was and I wondered what he was thinking. When you're running with someone on roads you don't know, you don't run ahead and try to drop the person you just agreed to run with. I decided not to kill him right there on the spot. Instead, I decided to drag him down the road and leave him for dead in the bushes. I picked up the pace, just a little so that he could stay with me. At this point, I'm not really running that hard. My legs are using impulse engines, but I was soon to switch over to warp engines. We rounded a corner and I could hear his breathing getting labored. I tweaked the pace a little more, but he was hanging on. I began to switch over to warp drive, but he started falling off too quickly. Mustn't kill the prey yet. It's no fun unless this game goes on for a while. I throttle back a little to let him catch up. He calls back saying not to wait for him. Alrightythen. Helm? Warp 1. Make it so!

I switched to real running mode and attacked the hills with vigor. I didn't need to look back to know my prey was in trouble. One minute I heard his wheezing and whimpering, the next I heard nothing. I kept the pace at a moderate level, maybe at 80% effort. I knew the poor bastard was going to struggle up the hills, but I decided this guy needed to be taught a lesson. Arrogant? You betcha. But I was annoyed he tried to drop me.

I kept the pace until the end of the road. At this point, I turned around expecting to see him. The road was fairly straight and I could see a long way, but no prey. He was gone! I know her was lost and didn't know which way to turn. But I was still annoyed and I was having such a good run that I decided to leave the carcass for the vultures. I headed back to work and completed the run in record time. :)

I wonder what will happen when he sees me out on the roads next time? :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On Being Invisible

As a runner, when you're injured it's almost as if you don't exist. You're not there for your daily run through the neighborhood, you can't participate in the weekly track workouts with your running club, and you're most definitely not able to race with (or against) your friends at the local 5k. You feel like you're invisible. Instead of being outside where you want to be, you're stuck inside getting physical therapy, or having a deep tissue massage, or on the couch with an ice pack on your injury.

The reason that I've been contemplating the existence of the injured runner is because I currently am one. I have a calf injury. I stupidly did an early morning 8-mile tempo run two weeks ago without being properly hydrated. Being short on time (before work) I just bolted out the door with very little fluid intake. I hammered the run (6:08 pace) and finished feeling good, but my calf tightened up in the last 1/2 mile of the cool down. And, I haven't been able to loosen it up.

Since then, I have been doing precious little running, a lot of biking, and once a week I have been getting my calf worked on by my sadistic massage therapist. I'm not kidding. After each session my calf throbs like it's got its own heartbeat. She's tough. So, to recap, I went from running 70 miles a week and biking 20, to running 20 miles a week and biking 140 (Including a 50+ mile odyssey last Sunday). It's sort of like the Kerry Litka method of transition training, only in reverse. Hopefully, with sufficient time, I'll be able to tip the scales back in favor of running.

Until then, I'll be pounding the pavement with my mountain bike that has a chain that grinds against the derailleur with each pedal stroke. It's not ideal, but, it's the best I can do for now. And, even though I despise my bike, I'm actually starting to get good at riding it. I've averaged almost 19 mph for each of my rides. I've also had a couple of close calls with some cars. But, I can't really blame them. I am invisible after all!

Friday, August 3, 2007

It's all in the name...

I need new running shoes. I discovered that after 10+ years, the people in charge of R&D over at Adidas decided to change the shape/fit/form of my preferred Trail Response and the new shoe is not the same shoe that I trained in exclusively back in the college days.


Which is too bad since I really liked that shoe. A few years back (2004, I believe) when I casually started running again in the off season, I picked up a pair of Adidas Precision trail and really liked those. They fit well and they were cheap... unfortunately they don't seem to make those anymore.

So here I am in search of a new shoe that will serve my needs - semi curved last, not too much cusioning, trail friendliness, and under $90.

A careful dissection of the latest Eastbay catalog revealed that shoe names have evolved quite a bit in the years since my absence from the sport commenced. And the marketing people are in a desperate attempt to give the shoe a name the reflects what it's made for, but also has a sense of glamour, speed, or flash. Somewhere they went a little off track with their names. Back in the day I ran in Nike Air Icarus (what a fiasco that was), Nike Air Verona (nice shoe, didn't work for me), Adidas Response Trail (my one and only true love), Nike Air Structure Triax (bad, bad bad) and one pair of Saucony Grid something or other as lightweight trainers/road racing flats. Today I run in Mizuno Wave Riders in road races, but I need new trainers since I realized my most recent pair of Adidas trail shoes were causing me problems (namely, they are too wide for my feet). Here's a sample of what is available out there:

I remember when Nike premiered the Air Max running shoe. They have since expanded the line to include the Air Max 180, Air Max 360, and the Air Turbulence.

Air Turbulence? Is anybody home over there? And while we're on the subject, how about an Air 90, or an Air 45? Or perhaps an Air Meridian or an Air Latitude or something...

Then we have shoes like the Asics family: the Cumulous, the Nimbus, the Stratus...
umm, why are they all named after clouds?

Adidas has the ClimaCool Rotterdam IV...that is way too many words for 1 shoe...almost as bad as having a name like Thomas C. Mapother IV.

Brooks has the Beast and the Ariel. Spare me the Disney character names, please. They also have the Glycerine...glycerine? Isn't that a Bush song?

New Balance has always stuck with numbers - that is safe. But boring. Number tell me nothing about the shoe.

Saucony: the Grid Omni, Grid Hurricane (her we go again with the weather references), Grid Tangent (oh look, geometry..that's never been done before..) Saucony needs some originality. I do give them credit for simply adding the word "Pro" to the shoe name (ProGrid Triumph, ProGrid Hurricane) and charging roughly $25 more for the extra syllable.

Speaking of originality, there is a lot of overlap in shoe names. Adidas had a Precision Trail (this I know because I own a pair, even though the fact laden world of the Internet appears to have no prior evidence of such a shoe), Mizuno has a Wave Precision. Most trail runners have the word "trail" in them - Response Trail, Trailfox (Puma... apparently they didn't realize that a Puma already kind of implies mountainous terrain, so they figured changing species wouldn't further confuse the consumer); Excursion TR2 (oh, we're going on an excursion. Good thing you added the TR on there so I knew what type of excursion it would be - why, that of the off road variety).

I wish I were in charge of naming running shoes. Here is my list of tentative model names:

Nike Air America - they retail for $300 because unlike every other Nike shoe, they are not assembled overseas in some third world Southeast Asian sweatshop by a 6 year old who earns 37 cents a day in wages

The Asics Gel Cumulonimbus - dark, puffy, shoots water out at you

Saucony GridLock - I don't really have anything to say about this one, except that gridlock implies not moving...so this one if for those posers who buy the shoes and then leave them on a shelf in the closet

Brooks Glycogenesis - this one makes sense. I'm getting an intellectual property patent on that one...got it, punk?

New Balance - the DNF and the DFL. Maybe a DNS as well. The track spike could be The Scratch.

Adidas Don'tFuckWithMe - the ultimate in off road trail running