Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year’s Resolution, Part III: Fueling the Runner

Over the past several months I have become attentive to where all of my calories are coming from. Not just carbs, protein, or fat, but literally what type of food and how far it must be transported before consumption. My previous posts were less about a vow to change and were primarily meant as reminders to myself that life happens, deal with it. There are many things that are much more important than running, but when there is time, get out and run. Today’s post is about what I am striving to change. As a runner, I consume a lot of calories (kilocalories, technically). The additional calories I consume to support my running should have as little impact to the environment as possible. For 2009 I will strive to eat lower on the food chain, buy local foods, and supplement our food with a garden.

Eating Lower on the Food Chain: My family does not eat a lot of beef, and I am not advocating a meat free or animal product free diet. A vegetarian/vegan diet would be easier if I either lived alone (don’t want to do that), or had a spouse that wanted to be a vegetarian/vegan (not trying to change her), but my caloric intake beyond ~2,200 calories/day should come from fruits or vegetables, which are the most efficient source of foods when looking at the energy required to produce to energy contained within. I had concerns of low protein consumption if more of my caloric needs were met via fruits and vegetables. Then I learned that many ultra-runners, including some of the very best (see Scott Jurek, for example) are vegetarian or vegan. If they can get all of their protein needs from fruits and vegetables, then I can supplement some of my poultry/fish/dairy protein with fruits and vegetables.

Buy Local Foods: It just doesn’t make much sense to buy food that has been shipped from all over the world, when much of the food that I consume is grown locally. I will buy directly from the local farmers whenever possible.

Garden: I usually grow tomatoes, but this year I would like to expand. We don’t live on a huge tract of land, but we can allocate part of our yard to grow food. I may need to solicit the good folks at the Frost Bottom Farm for some pointers on good gardening techniques.

So that’s it. Regardless of where my running year for 2009 takes me, I will strive to change where all of my calories come from.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Year’s Resolution, Part II: Keep On Keeping On

I was fortunate to not have a lingering illness or injury to keep me from running during my 2008 running year. Looking back through my log book, rarely did I take two consecutive days off from running. With the exception of an important milestone, I will strive to maintain that consistency in 2009. The important milestone is that come February, Braedon will be a big brother! I’m certain I will log fewer miles for a couple of months after the baby is born as we get readjusted to life with midnight feedings and changings. I registered for a March 50K and a May marathon as motivation to keep running. Prior to Braedon’s birth, I was an active runner that rarely drank coffee. I also grossly underestimated the demands of an infant on his/her parents’ time. And soon I became a very inactive person that required nothing but the strongest coffee in order to get out of bed in the morning. Slowly, I got back into the fitness thing, and I have since weaned myself from my caffeine fix. Having a better realization of what it is like to be a caregiver for an infant (I’ll let my wife be the judge of that), I will try to prioritize my time so that I can be the supportive husband and good father while still logging a few miles. That I may not be in the best condition possible for my two upcoming races is of little concern to me. The important thing is to keep on keeping on.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

New Year's Resolution, Part I: Be Flexible

The more you run, the better you get at running. But, because running doesn’t pay the bills in my house, sometimes life gets in the way and prevents me from running. Frustrating as this is, I need not try to squeeze in a five-mile run at 11:00 p.m. just because I had planned a five-miler before whatever life threw at me got in the way. My predominant curve balls from life are: weather, work schedule, illness/injury, and child illnesses. But hey, all of these inconveniences can be overcome. Relax. Be flexible.

Weather: I have absolutely no control over the weather, and while I kind of enjoy running in the muck and the mud, sometimes I should just stay at home. There is nothing wrong with running in what may appear to be miserable conditions so long as it serves a purpose and does not pose an undue risk of injury. Relax. Run tomorrow if necessary. Be flexible.

Work Schedule: I have direct control over my efficiency at work, but I do not always have control over the tasks assigned to me or the expected completion date of those tasks. I need to realize that I will have to work late at times, or over the occasional weekend. I was supposed to be on vacation all of last week, but ended up working on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. It happens. I am just glad to have a job. Be flexible.

Illness/Injury: Catching a cold or the flu is a fact of life. All I can do is try my best to minimize my chances of getting sick by washing my hands often, and getting a good night’s sleep. Generally, I am good about taking it easy when I don’t feel well. Injuries are another issue. Although I did much better this year than past years, there were still days I should not have been running due to soreness. A day off from running to adequately heal is better than a week off, a week off from running is better than a month off. Be flexible.

Child Illnesses: Most first-time parents probably learn early on that little kids seem to get sick often. Sometimes, in addition to increasing our own exposure to the sickly germs, this requires staying up most of the night. This is a case of “what’s really more important:” running a few miles, or my kid’s well-being. Be flexible.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Nice Christmas

Braedon hasn’t gotten the full gist of Christmas just yet and he stayed in bed until well after his parents were up and had already eaten breakfast. As a parent, it was a lot of fun to watch my son open his presents. It was also fun to watch him present his mom’s present to her. Back in October when we visited a pumpkin patch, Braedon was ready to take home the first pumpkin he walked up to. My wife had to constantly tell him to just keep looking. A few weeks ago while we were at the Christmas tree farm on a cold and windy day, both my wife and I, bundled up and shivering, asked Braedon on several occasions, “How’s this tree?” And his reply: “Just keep looking.” To remind Mom of this moment Braedon found a little jack-o-lantern charm for her bracelet and hid it on the tree. So when Mom asked Braedon if he had any presents for her, he simply said, “Just keep looking.”

My in-laws got me a nice, bright yellow, reflective jacket to wear when I run in the dark. I have been wearing a reflective belt when I run, but this jacket is much nicer as it has more reflective material and the functionality of a jacket. My sister sent me a pair of flashing red lights to wear too. I have seen cyclists with these lights and I think they are a good idea for runners/walkers who are out in the dark in or near traffic. They are not too expensive (mine are about $6), and anything you can do to make yourself more visible is a good thing. Wearing my new reflective jacket with one flashing light fastened to the front and one to the back, I set out on an early morning run with a new confidence of being highly visible to motorists. I ran for nearly an hour and a half in darkness before sunrise. I even saw a shooting star – that’s a neat way to begin the day. As the sun rose, my pace quickened and I felt stronger, which probably shouldn’t be too big of a surprise as I could see better and felt better about my footing. The last two miles were downhill, and the sunrise over the Chesapeake Bay was spectacular. I need to start carrying a camera when I run.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I am a Sloppy Present Wrapper

After another epic bedtime battle, a time when Braedon turns into his alter ego, Bedtime Wonder Boy, “we” began wrapping presents. Now, I say “we,” but what I really mean is she, because my wife is the resident present wrapper. I have heard throughout the years that I am a sloppy present wrapper, and, truth be known, I have nothing on my wife when it comes to wrapping presents. My folding never results in aesthetically pleasing congruent angles, and the pattern on the paper never ever lines up at the seam (would you like me wall paper your house?). The best thing that I can do is stay out of the way. So I tried to at least sound useful by saying, “the dog needs exercise, so I’ll take him for a run so you won’t have to.” ….She wasn’t buying it, but I think she was somewhat glad to have the peace and quiet once we left (and after Wonder Boy finally quit the fight for another day). It was another cold and windy night time run; there were even breakers in the bay. And now that all of our work is done, we can say that we were really productive tonight because Braedon finally fell asleep, Joe is resting peacefully by my feet, and the presents are absolutely beautiful.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Running with Orion

Another cold day, but it is a clear night for a nice change. The wind was strong off of the bay, but we weren’t running into it for too long. We startled some deer, which ran in the direction of the great hunter Orion as he looked down from his celestial perch. Hopefully he was pleased and will watch over this dog and runner on future night time jaunts.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Frozen Run and a Warm Shower

Winter welcomed me with a mix of sleet, snow, and rain as I stepped outside to begin my morning run. After checking the street to make sure it wasn’t too slick, I decided to run in the stuff (why not, I was already up). It was slow going for the first five or so miles while it was still dark, and because my glasses essentially acted as rain and ice collectors – and the portions of my lenses that were free of debris were usually fogged up. So, I ran most of the way looking directly at my feet, which resulted in running through a lot of puddles. Oddly, my feet did not seem to mind. After about ten miles I began to wonder what kept hitting my neck and shoulders. Only after looking down did I realize that my shirt had frozen. As I neared home, my neighbor greeted me with, “You’re insane!” And my wife said something about being crazy in my head. That may be, but it made a warm shower that much more enjoyable.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Joe Louis: 2, Me: 0

Joe Louis and I went for a run after lunch today and he got two compliments within the span of about a block. He can really turn it on when he wants to, and then once we were out of sight, he resumed his squirrel searching, cat treeing, goose chasing ways. How come I didn’t hear anybody exclaim “that’s a well behaved dog” while you were leading me off the beaten path and into the mud, Mr. Louis?!....On another note, it was nice to run during daylight this afternoon and actually see where we were going.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Running Past Bedtime

I worked a lot of hours this week, and the only way I could fit running into the schedule was to run past bedtime. As I often wake up early on weekends to run, I figured why not stay up late on the weekdays to run too. Each night, after Braedon was in bed, Joe Louis and I would head out for our run. The reward was the transformation of tired, stressed, grumpy person to relaxed runner enjoying the euphoric rush of endorphins. My favorite part of each run was about the half way point, when we were the furthest from any road, and all I could hear was the sound of feet and paws hitting earth, and the jingle of the tags fixed to Joe’s collar. Occasionally, we’d scare up some deer, and watch their silhouettes leap and bound against the moonlit Chesapeake Bay. We’d end each run with the sight of festive lights decorating the town and homes in our neighborhood. All in all, I don’t care for sleep deprivation, but if I am going to stay up later than I should, I’d much rather it be for a run than for TV. I’m going to bed.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Another Cold Race

The temperature was in the mid-twenties when the race director started the hundred or so runners participating in this morning’s Santa’s Sleigh 5K. Braedon and I stayed near the back of the pack for the first half-mile, waiting to find our stride until there was room to safely maneuver. With the exception of about a twenty-five yard grass crossing, the course was all pavement and mostly flat, which made for some fast times. I was surprised when we reached the first mile marker in only 7:30, as we usually do not run that fast. Braedon enjoyed seeing the many runners in Santa, or elf, attire and was especially fond of the runners wearing bells. Because there was not a significant wind, the cool temperature did not bother me, and in fact, I felt pretty good. We covered the course in 22:07, faster than expected, which is why Mom wasn’t ready with the camera when we approached the finish line. She is the smart one in our family and stayed inside during the race.
Great job, hi-five!
After the race we did some Christmas shopping and my wife and I are now well aware that the terrible-twos have nothing on a three-year-old’s tantrum…

Thursday, December 11, 2008

So Let it Rain, Let it Rain, Let it Rain

It’s been raining quite a lot in Maryland this week, making the stroller hard to push in the soft ground; thus I have gone on several solo runs. Today I got a quick run in during lunch and again this evening while “running” an errand. Surprisingly, I didn’t see any other runners during either of my puddle jumping jaunts today. Clear skies are in the forecast for tomorrow afternoon, which will hopefully allow for the race course to dry enough so that I can push Braedon in Saturday’s 5K.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Next Time It’s Mom’s Turn

This morning I took Braedon to his first dentist appointment. It was a wonderful time. The waiting room was stocked with plenty of toys that any child would find irresistible. And then, with the realization that I was the adult responsible for a three-year-old about to meet a dentist for the first time, the hygienist called for us to come on back to the examination room. That alone may have been enough to cause some sort of panic attack, but add to this dilemma the fact that the hygienist was competing with a bucket full of toys for Braedon’s undivided attention, and, well, more eyes were on us, awaiting the action to unfold, than on the television set in the waiting room. It was a hard fought battle, one that included screaming, dragging, and flailing limbs, but in the end, I won (at least in the sense that I met the objective of seating Braedon into the examination chair). Bent over from the kick to the groin, I retreated to the waiting room, which was now oddly quiet, and retrieved the shoes Braedon managed to fall out of during this little escapade. I am sure that the Dentist sees this type of debacle from time to time, and I must say that the hygienist, Ms. Janice, did an excellent job of calming Braedon down and explaining everything about his checkup to him, but I certainly felt like a first class jack ass….at least they said he has nice teeth. On a better note, while returning from this adventure, I noticed a sign for a local 5K. I called the race director, got the approval to push a stroller, and registered us for next weekend’s Santa’s Sleigh 5K.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Busy Week

It’s been a busy week thus far, but who isn’t busy at this time of year. The hectic schedule has forced me to rest my leg, which is good. I’ve only ran a few two-milers this week without incident. I am taking tomorrow off from work to take Braedon to his first dentist appointment. I am certain that will be a joy. After that, Braedon, the dog, and I are going to go for a good run and test the leg.