Friday, September 09, 2016

New directions

This blog is not over. Let's make that clear from the start. A lot of love has gone into this, and I will not leave it hanging.I will post about my latest half marathon, or whatever. But, new stuff is happening.

I have started a new blog on WordPress, and even sprung for a domain: . I am on iPad and Blogger app does not have all the fancy options WordPress does. So copy and paste to your browser and go there. That is where my writing soul will be. But the story of my life will be here, for a while.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon 2016

I wasn't so sure about this, going in. I was coming to dread the weekly long runs, I was worried about a dreadful 10K I had run in early May (hampered by a respiratory bug that would not go away). I was thinking I needed a break from running, for a while. But then, stuff like this happens. A great race when everything works out. This is the story of how it happened.

My daughter Nina and I set out for Duluth, a mere hour's drive from our house, at about 11:30 Friday morning. We had a place to stay, in a large suite in a converted warehouse building in Duluth's Canal Park, thanks to my long time friend Val. This was the second year we would be staying with this group of runners, and we knew it would be fun. But first, shopping. Race essentials, of course. We went to the mall and we both decided we needed Sanuk sandals for post race. It would turn out to be a great decision.

We arrived at the hotel, and I parked my car, not to be touched until Sunday. That was kind of nice. Driving in and out of Canal Park on marathon weekend is a hassle that is best avoided.

We then walked to the expo at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC) to pick up our race packets and get free samples of stuff. It was very crowded. This was the very same spot I had attended a Bernie Sanders rally a few months ago. I ended up buying the race belt I needed, and a few headbands that I thought were pretty cool. We went to the huge spaghetti dinner that is a Grandma's Marathon tradition. They had Ben and Jerry's ice cream for dessert. I had Cherry Garcia, one of my favorites. 

Our suite has strict pre race night rules: lights out at 9 PM, which is good, since half marathon runners have to wake up at 4 AM. Nina and I slept on a very luxurious queen air mattress that was provided by our new friend JoElle. I kept waking up because the refrigerator was making strange noises, but when my phone alarm rang I felt well rested.

We grabbed hotel breakfast, and weak coffee, on our way to the buses. I normally don't eat much before a run, so I had half a banana, and half a bagel with peanut butter. I watched the sun rise over Lake Superior on the school bus that took us to the start. We arrived approximately 45 minutes before starting time. Plenty of time, right? Actually, not Due to the very rural, small nature of the starting area, we had to walk about half a mile from where the bus dropped us off. There were portable toilets spaced along this route, and huge lines at each of them. Nina and I eventually chose one, and the line turned out to move exceptionally slow. I was in the bathroom when the starting horn sounded. No worries, chip timing. 

I finally crossed the starting line about 10 minutes after the official start. My plan was to run the first six miles conservatively, and I kept checking Map My Run for a pace. The first mile clocked in at 11:08. Perfect. I also wanted to remember something about each mile of the race, and for the first mile I remembered running by McQuade Harbor on Lake Superior. The second mile was something about lupines framing an incredible lake view. I almost wanted to stop and take a picture, but I had a half marathon to run. So I kept to my strategy of getting the first half of the race behind me without thinking too much. That worked. My mile paces were pretty consistent. 

The first six miles of the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon are run along a two lane scenic highway along Lake Superior. Scenic, but not much for spectators. Still, there are the conversations among runners. I can't imagine chatting with people while running a half. Part of me wants to wear headphones and listen to music to drown it all out next time, the other part is intrigued.

My plan was to take a gel at 4 miles, but somehow I missed the water station, so I had to wait until 6 miles because I did not want to take a gel without water. Oh well, I felt fine and I was not stopping. At six miles the scenic road turns into London Road on the outskirts of Duluth, a residential highway where spectator participation increases. There was music. There were bacon stands. I noticed a guy running barefoot. Wow. 

After six miles, it was starting to get hot, and humid. I felt strong, but I started walking intervals to pace myself. Between seven and eight miles, I blessedly forgot if the next mile was seven or eight, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was indeed the eighth mile already. Between eight and nine miles, the course takes its steepest hill. I walked the hill, having nothing to prove and a lot to lose. Then the course turned on to Superior Street, the heart of downtown Duluth. The energy really picks up there, but the street is quaint cobblestone so you have to watch your step. The Superior Street portion seems to go on forever, but when you turn the corner and head towards the harbor that means there is only a mile left. And, I was feeling better that I remember feeling on this course last year at that point. I had taken another energy gel at mile 9. Good to go. 

This was taken by a race photographer on a bridge that goes over I-35 towards Duluth Harbor and the end of the race. I normally ignore race photographers, but I was feeling so good and having such a good time, I played along. 

The rest of the course winds around the DECC and two blocks to Canal Park Drive and a couple blocks to the finish. It seems to take forever. But I ran most of that last mile, and I was one of those runners who did the sprint thing in the last quarter mile and passed maybe five runners before the finish. It was over. And I didn't feel like I was about to die. I was full of life!

I can't fully say what this race did for me. It renewed my confidence as a runner. I did everything right, and I could have done it faster had it not been for the heat. I had the support of a suite full of running friends, and I enjoyed the rest of Saturday with a walk with Nina to the beach, and then reading and chilling out by the ship canal. Duluth is beautiful, I am so thankful I can run, and I am looking forward again to more races and maybe longer distances. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A bad run, and a good run

I am coming off a respiratory infection. After boxes of tissues, and a strange feeling in my chest, I think I may be getting over a mild case of viral pneumonia. Confirmed by my run today.

I started out good. I parked at a wildlife management area just west of the town of Sturgeon Lake, and headed east on County Road 46, the paved road I had just driven on. There was very little traffic, except, as I would find out later, my son and his friend. They had camped out on the Kettle River, fishing into the night. I don't remember seeing Keith's truck, but I am glad they had a great fishing adventure. 

I ran my first mile in 10:30. Pretty good, but it was mostly downhill. I realized I would have to make up the altitude later. 

My plan was to run that county road to a gravel road that would take me to an ATV trail that would take me to an old railroad trestle over the Kettle River. Then over that, another mile or so, back to the county road. 7 miles or so. But, after mile 2, I realized I was struggling. I could no longer run more than a quarter mile or so without feeling short of breath. My legs were willing but my lungs were weak.

I found the trail and ran/walked to the river. It was there I had to confront another demon: fear of heights. I knew this run would lead me onto an old railroad trestle. I just didn't realize I would be at treetop height before I was actually over the river. Crazy fear I know, after all this bridge was built for trains, and now all terrain vehicles weighing much more than me cross it every day. But still. I did not make it across the bridge.

This is the lovely view I had from the bridge. I'm sure it would have been even better had I made it across the bridge. 

The rest of the run, if you could call it that, was hard. I ended up going back along the trail to a road that would take me back to my car. I tried to run when I could, but my snot loaded lungs would have no more. When I hit 5 miles I called it quits on Map My Run, even though it was about a half mile to the car. I gladly opened my Bell's Two Hearted Ale, about an hour and five minutes after I started. A measly five miles. With the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in two months. Oh well.

I was glad I ventured out to new territory for my run. And next time, I am going to cross that bridge.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Journey

This poem, by Mary Oliver, says it all.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life that you could save.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The road to 50

I turned 49 on Sunday. That means I'm counting down 361 days to a milestone age. And suddenly I'm thinking about where my life is, where I want it to be, etc. and, how I can make this one wild and precious life the best it can be. Not that I didn't think about it before, but face it: I will, for all practical purposes, have two kids in college next year (Nina will be full time Post Secondary Enrollment Opportunity, spending her senior year of high school at Lake Superior College; Vinny will be at University of Minnesota-Duluth). It's a time of letting them fly, but also a time to discover myself. 

A lot of good things have happened over the last few years. I've started practicing yoga, which has had great mental and physical benefits. I've started seriously running and completed two half marathons. I have played a few musical gigs and even developed a group of friends who come out to see me play. In short, I have become much more comfortable in my own skin. 

Still, there are things I want to be better at. Parts of myself that still scare me! I think one of the best ways of working these things out is by writing. I used to blog a lot, and I think the time has come once more. There is so much I have discovered that I want to share.

I don't have a plan for this. I don't want to commit myself to a post a day, because one day I'll break down and not post, and, seeing I have broken the commitment I'll say "What's the use?" And not post for months. So, let me just say, I want to share, regularly, stuff that makes me stand in awe. Stuff that makes me think. There's a lot of beauty that happens every single day, if we allow ourselves to see it.

So today I had some time between work and yoga class. I am fortunate to be able to take a yoga class in the small town/rural area where I live. I started with a class offered through Community Education, then a few classes with a circle of friends, and now I am taking advantage of the class at Anytime Fitness. Getting back to today, the sun was out, weather warm enough to go for a short hike along the Kettle River. The photo above is at Robinson Park, a former sandstone quarry from the 1900's, from which the town of Sandstone gets its name. The trees have grown up among the piles of rock, but the Kettle River flows on.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Something special about an eight mile run Big Goal for this year is to run a marathon. Yes. The part of me that said "a half marathon is all I want to ever run" is officially silenced. I have chosen the WhistleStop Marathon, October 15, from Iron River to Ashland, Wisconsin, along a beautiful old railroad grade. All downhill. Perfect!

I am also running the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in Duluth June 18th. Last year I was kind of disappointed in how I ran it, although I beat my previous half marathon time by one minute. But, I was not adequately prepared. I forgot to take an energy gel before the race, and there were none available during the race. And, I wore some stupid thin socks that resulted in ugly blisters. Oh well, a learning experience.

This year, I plan to be over prepared for the half marathon. If I am running 8 miles in February, I should be running at least 15 once a week by June 18. So, the half will be just another little training run! 

Anyway, I have noticed what happens when distance is increased. Anything up to 5 miles seems like small stuff these days. 6 miles seems to be the threshold. That is when your body starts asking "WTF???" And, starts reluctantly burning fat. Which is part of my plan. 

Today I had a goal of eight miles. And I did it in personal record time. I had to adjust my course, running on ice covered gravel roads was out of the question. So I had The Hermit drop me off at the nearest paved road. The plan was to run down to the end of the road and back. Eight miles. The first mile and a half was all downhill, with the wind at my back. I was fully aware that this would be a difficult last mile.

I felt strong, although I did ask myself more than once "Why am I doing this?" My phone, and Map My Run froze, so I didn't get any split times past 6.5 miles. Which was probably good. That last mile, uphill and against the 28 degree wind, was a challenge.

Now, six hours later, I am basking in a glow. Yes, I am moving slowly, and I will feel it in my legs tomorrow, but here it is: The feeling you get after running eight miles is a high! So much better than if I had not run eight miles, or only three. Like a good yoga session, only more intense. Running is meditation for me, and in eight miles I get to feel everything. And let it go. 

I have many longer runs ahead of me this year. Anything after eight is tough. But, doing eight in February is a good start!

Sunday, January 03, 2016

My intentions for 2016

I sat down with the intention of writing intentions for 2016, with no single intention in mind. These statements came to me clearly and unexpectedly.

-GROW in art and music. Define my musical style. Define myself as an artist and musician with a message.

-CELEBRATE the abilities of my physical body, and work towards ever improving fitness. Cross the finish line of the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon (and maybe another?) feeling GOOD! 

-MOVE deeper into self understanding through yoga, meditation, and writing.

-USE my gifts to help realize my vision of a human society aware of its connectedness with ALL. (I had a hard time phrasing this one; what I am trying to say is I believe there is no duality between human and nonhuman, living and inanimate, alive at this moment and alive in some past time; we are all the same infinite energy.)

HONOR my time as precious and fleeting.

GIVE THANKS in every moment.

Namaste and may you find happiness in 2016.