Wednesday, October 18, 2017

PNC Milwaukee Marathon: Race Report


This race report will get at least one update, but it won't be a three-parter like last year's (read them here if you're so inclined). I'll just get most of the negativity over first, then write about how my race went.

First off, I talked with a speaker at the expo about how the course would be marked, since I missed the turnaround last year. "On thing we learned from last year," he said, "is that we needed to mark the course better. This year there'll be way more markers." He wasn't wrong. There were a lot of cones marking the route, but unfortunately there were several spots where it wasn't clear which way to turn.

Around mile 8.5 the course came to a Y at the bottom of the hill. A right turn brought you on a sidewalk toward a bridge and a left turn brought you on a paved path along a river. I didn't know which way to go, so I stopped, turned around, and yelled, "Do you know which way?" to a runner twenty yards behind me.

"I don't know," he said. Then he shrugged and said, "maybe right?" We turned right, and fortunately he was correct. There was at least one other spot I had to guess. The route went through some city parks, and the trails would sometimes come to an intersection and you really needed to look ahead for the next cone since it wasn't always clear which way to go. There was also a spot where a volunteer had to yell at me that I was turning the wrong way.

So while the turnaround at least had cones and a volunteer this year, there were actually more spots with the potential to get a runner off course. I read on the PNC Milwaukee Marathon Facebook page that several runners ran off course. If getting enough volunteers to direct runners at turns was an issue, most places where it was confusing could have been solved by simply having an arrow pointing which way to turn. Although there were tons of cones, I don't remember seeing a single arrow to mark a turn.

OK, negativity over for now. The actual race went well. We started at 6:30 a.m., about half an hour before sunrise. It was a little chilly waiting for the race to start due to some very gusty winds, but the air temperature was almost perfect at right around 60*. Throughout the race the temperature dropped until it was down in the low 50s -- perfect for a marathon.

The tough part about the weather was the wind. The course was a loop, so there was a decent amount of tailwind, but at some points the headwinds were ridiculous. There was one section about half a mile long that went through some buildings and it was an absolute wind tunnel.

Despite the wind, I did enjoy the course. It's by no means a flat, fast course -- too many hills and turns, but there's a good amount of variety. Although there are a lot of hills, most are just rollers and the longer ones have pretty gradual inclines.

The course also does a nice job of going through the different areas of Milwaukee. There are some great views of the lake, some nature areas, historical neighborhoods, and landmarks like Miller Park, MillerCoors brewery, and Harley-Davidson.

I wasn't sure what to expect going into this race. I hurt my right foot a few weeks previously, and had been dealing with some peroneal tendonitis in the opposite ankle that wasn't getting any better, so I finally went to physical therapy. Thankfully the physical therapist cleared me to run, but told me not to expect a PR. I definitely felt some pain in both the right foot and the left ankle, but I don't think they really slowed me down.

Although I knew my foot and ankle would hurt, I tried for a PR anyway. I went into the race with a plan to start out slower than goal pace and then speed up until I was on target by the half marathon point. My mile splits weren't perfectly even, but I generally sped up as the race went on. I got a nice pick-me-up at mile 21 where Laura and Calvin were waiting for me. They were at a great spot because they saw me right as I was headed on the out portion of the out and back section of the Hank Aaron trail, so I got to see them twice.

Blowing kisses to Laura and Calvin
I was feeling pretty good when I went by Laura and Calvin and headed for the turnaround on the Hank Aaron Trail. Unlike last year's race, this year there was a ton of cones and a volunteer at the turnaround. I went around the cones, and despite being at the point of the race where the fatigue starts to set in, my legs still felt good and I was still on pace for a PR.

My watch ticked past mile 22 and I started to wonder just how far off it was going to be on the mile 22 marker. Last year the course was long, and I was hoping that wasn't going to be the case again. Finally, I saw a mile marker up ahead and looked down at my watch. I was almost at 22.5 miles -- I didn't expect to be that far off of mile 22. Then, I got closer and noticed that it was the mile 23 marker. I hadn't seen a mile 22 marker at all.

After that, things are kind of a blur. I don't remember the scenery much, and I know I passed two other runners, but I don't remember where. I hit the mile 24 and 25 markers and they were still half a mile short. I was holding onto hope that the final distance would be correct, but it was not. When I went through the finish my watch read 25.69 -- not even close to a full marathon distance of 26.2 miles.

I was pretty chilly after finishing, so I put on some warmer clothes from my drop bag, found Laura and Calvin, took a couple pictures, then got my post-race beer. Later, I confirmed on the race's Facebook page that many people had found the course to be short.

Today I got a email from the race organizers confirming that the course was in fact short by about 4,200 feet. There was some miscommunication about the course map and markings, and the turnaround was placed in the wrong spot.

I did some math, and depending on how the organizers decide to adjust times, I may have a new PR. I ran 2:45:03 for the short course. If they adjust the times by simply adding on the 4,200 feet and multiplying by that pace ran through the finish, then my adjusted time will be about 2:50:14, a twelve second PR.

We'll see what happens. I'll keep you in the loop

Run well.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

PNC Milwaukee Marathon: It's Goal Time

After the 2016 Milwaukee Marathon

Last year I was aiming for a shiny new PR at the PNC Bank Milwaukee Marathon, and if the course had been properly marked and measured, I would have had it. I will say, however, that the race organizers did right by me and refunded my entry fee.

This year I'm giving it another shot. Here are my goals:

A. Set a new PR. That means running under 2:50:26

B. Run under three hours

C. Run under 3:05

D. Finish the race

This race is going to be interesting. There are several reasons why I feel like I can meet my "A" goal. First, my training went pretty well. I had a lot of solid workouts, and got a tempo run, speed workout, and long run in every week but one. My mileage was high, and I averaged over sixty miles a week from July 10 to October 1.

There are also several reasons why I might not meet my "A" goal. My speed workouts went well, but my tempo runs were a little slower than before I ran the Milwaukee Marathon last year. Also, I'm a little banged up after smashing my right big toe against a median, as well as having a little tendinitis in my left ankle.

So I don't know what's going to happen. I'm going to try to go out at a conservative pace and slowly speed up to hit the half marathon split right around 1:25:00.

Thanks for all the support and well wishes.

Run well.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hospital Stays

Twin Cities Marathon the day I was discharged
One year ago this week I was in the hospital (read about it here). It was frustrating because I had been hospitalized just over a year earlier, and before that I hadn't been hospitalized for over eight years. Late summer and early fall are often difficult for me as I tend to experience symptoms of bipolar disorder. Last year it was a depressive state, and in years past it's been mixed states, hypomanic states, and manic states. Read more about it here: Bipolar symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic.

It'd been a goal to stay out of the hospital ever since my first hospital visit when I was fifteen, back in 1998 when I was hospitalized with an unspecified mental illness. I made it from 1998 until 2002 without being hospitalized. Then, in 2002 I received an official diagnosis of bipolar I, and after being on a consistent medication regiment, I went from 2002 until 2007 without a hospital stay.

Two thousand and seven was my first stay for a major depressive episode. I didn't have health insurance, and I'd stopped taking my medication. At that time my medication cost over $300 a month, and I thought I could make it without it.

Sharing my hospital stays with others had always made me anxious and embarrassed in the past. I didn't want too many people to know about my condition, fearing they would think less of me or treat me differently. Now, I realize my amazing circle of professionals, friends, and family has been nothing but supportive. Instead of making me feel guilty or embarrassed, they've helped me feel loved, supportive, and accepted.

The stigma of mental illness is still real. Following the tragic shooting in Las Vegas, cries have gone up from celebrities and politicians to, "improve access to mental health care." While improving access to mental health care is important, we shouldn't do it because we're afraid of violence from the mentally ill. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
"The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population." - from MentalHealth.gov
I get it: mental illness can be scary. People with depression can wind up in a place where they are hurting themselves or threatening to hurt themselves. People with schizophrenia can hear or see things others can't. People with bipolar can talk nonstop or share delusions of grandeur.

Though these things can be scary (and in some cases it's appropriate to be scared), the illnesses and the people with these illnesses need not be stigmatized. Part of of stigmatization is silence. I was ashamed of being hospitalized for a long time. I felt I'd failed at keeping myself stable, and although there are factors I can control when it comes to mitigating, coping with, and preventing episodes of  hypomania, mania, and depression, some factors are out of my control.

Higher levels of stress, seasonal changes, and medications that just stop working are all things out of my control. Anticipating and planning for these times are in my control. I'm not perfect at managing, but I try. Still, as much as I work at it, there have still been times when I need to be hospitalized, and there's always a possibility I'll need to be hospitalized again.

Part of breaking the stigmatization for me is being more honest about my condition. It's a difficult balance between oversharing and staying silent when I need help or when I hear people talking about mental illness in a stigmatizing manner--especially when I'm dealing with a high or low patch.

Thankfully, I've been blessed beyond measure with people who love and support me. A year ago when I was in the hospital, I was visited by the pastor of my church, and my wife, and received many phone calls from friends and family.

Mental illness, along with hospital stays, need not be stigmatizing. While some people may create a distance in a relationship when they find out I've been hospitalized for a bipolar cycle, most offer nothing by caring, support, and prayers.

Are there times when I get well-meaning but unwanted advice? Sure. But for the most part all people have offered is a listening ear or asking what they can do to help. And that's usually all someone wants when they're dealing with mental illness -- someone to listen and to support them.

Thank you to all my readers. Knowing you read what I write and know me through this blog makes me feel listened to and appreciated. When I have strangers come to me at a race and talk to me about my blog, it always makes me grateful. And when I hear from friends, family, running buddies, and acquaintances commenting and offering encouragement, I feel supported and cared for.

No hospital stay this October.

Run well.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Peak Week(s) Part 2 - Dances with Medians



I started writing about the second toughest week of my training cycle, but then I thought, who wants to read a glorified training log? What people really want is gore. So gore it is. I drew out the story a bit to give it some drama and stuff. Feel free to skip to the end if you're more interested in the workouts I did the two and three weeks weeks before my marathon.

My first hard workout of the week was on Tuesday. I wanted to watch the Burnsville High School Cross Country Team race that afternoon, so I decided to get my workout done before work.

My run started before 6 AM, and that means it's dark. It was also raining, so I didn't even get that predawn light. I put on a headlamp to deal with the darkness, and a hat to deal with the rain.

The workout involved running two 3.5 mile intervals at 5:55 / mile with one mile of easy running in between. I usually plan my routes to avoid as many stoplights as possible, so I ran an out and back that only had two intersections with lights.

The run was going pretty well when I came to the intersection of Diffley and Johnny Cake Ridge Road. I was about to run a section of Diffley known by runners and cyclists for its lung bursting hills. I needed to go east on Diffley, then south on Pilot Knob (don't we have awesome street names in Eagan?), so I had to cross Diffley.

I could have waited for the light at Johnny Cake and Diffley, but I was in the zone. I decided to turn left on Diffley since the light was red. Then, I could have just waited for the light at Pilot Knob and Diffley, but I figured there was a good chance that would be red too.

There was no sense in breaking my rhythm, so  when I came to a side street I looked back and forth for traffic before crossing. I turned right when I got to Pilot Knob, then turned around back toward Diffley. The light to cross Diffley was red, so I turned left again and figured I'd cross at side street again.

Halfway between Pilot Knob and Johnny Cake there was  a side street. Traffic was clear, so I started to cross. I looked across the street and noticed the side street didn't go through. There's probably a median, I thought, so I shined my headlamp in front me toward the street, but unfortunately my right foot found the median before my headlamp.

I was running fairly fast at that point -- faster than 10 mph, so I stubbed my right toe really hard. I fell face first, mostly on my right forearm, and landed flat in the street. I was able to get back up pretty quickly and resume my run. My foot hut pretty bad and I could tell I'd scraped my forearm and cut my hands.

Thankfully my foot stopped hurting after a few minutes and I was able to continue my workout. When I got home, Laura was in the kitchen. "I think I hurt myself," I said. I showed her my right forearm -- it was pretty torn up. Blood was oozing out of a patch 2.5" long and 1.5" wide starting from my elbow and then in another 3" X 1" section from the middle of my forearm to my wrist.

I also had some road rash on my thighs and scrapes on my hands, but miraculously my chin didn't get cut. My post-run shower was excruciating as I scrubbed street dirt from my wounds. The next day we discovered sand in the bathtub, and after some detective work we realized it had probably stuck to me when I fell in the street and had been rinsed off in the shower,

My running suffered a little the next few days. I did a little jogging at the cross country meet the evening after my fall, and my foot was really bugging me, which made me change my gait, which made my left knee start hurting.

I probably should have taken Wednesday off -- my foot hurt was sore that morning, so I skipped the run. That afternoon, however, my foot was feeling a little better, so I went for a very slow run pushing Calvin in the jogging stroller. I had a streak of over 80 days in a row of running, and I didn't want to break it.

The knee was bothering me through Friday, but fortunately it started feeling better by Saturday. The foot still hurt a little, but it wasn't affecting my running too much.

This past Sunday was my last hard long run of this training cycle. I made it 16 miles with the last eight at marathon pace.

Here's how my peak weeks broke down:

Week 1 Workouts

  •  9.7 miles with 10 minutes at 5:50 / mile, 6 X 400m at 5:25 / mile, 10 minutes at 5:50
  • 10 miles with 8 miles at 6:30 / mile
  • 20 mile long run with a 5k race
  • 82 miles total for the week


Week 2 Workouts

  • 9.4 miles with 2 X 3.5 miles at 5:55 / mile pace and a trip and fall
  • 11.5 miles with 8 miles at 6:30 / mile pace and 2 miles at 5:52 / mile pace
  • 16 mile long run with last 8 miles at 6:29 pace




Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Endurance and Dehydration


I touched on how tough my long run was during my first peak week. The heat index was 88*-- way too hot for the end of September.

Running in the heat really got me dehydrated, and I started to feel nauseous after the run. I thought I'd drank enough -- two full 16 oz bottles of water and a 20 oz Gatorade as well as two stops at a water fountain. Still, it wasn't enough.

I make a habit of weighing myself right away in the morning and then again after a workout to see how much fluid I should replace. I'd lost around nine pounds. It isn't unusual for me to lose 4 - 5 pounds during a long run in the heat, but considering I'd drank a fair amount, nine was pretty high.

Nine pounds might sound like a lot, but elite marathons much lighter than me have lost more. Haile Gebreselassie is reported to have lost 12.5 pounds (almost 10% of his body weight) during the Dubai Marathon in 2009, and other marathoners have lost similar amounts. You can read more about it in, "How Much Do Champion Marathoners Sweat and Drink" from Runner's World.

Traditional advice has been, "if you wait until you're thirsty to drink, you're already dehydrated." In fact, it's actually more dangerous to drink too much water. Hyponatremia is a condition caused by over consumption of water. Your blood sodium can drop dangerously low, and you could experience symptoms like seizures, confusion, or even death. Read more about it in, "Tim Noakes on the Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports."

Which brings me back to my run long run in the heat. Since I first read about hyponatremia, I started drinking more to thirst, but I found like I still wasn't getting quite enough fluid. Now, I drink just a little bit more than I'm thirsty for, and I seem to feel better. During the long run in the heat, I didn't have quite enough water to keep up with my thirst. I retrospect, I should have stopped at the water fountain a few more times.

When I got home I was planning on drinking some chocolate milk to replenish lost fluid, carbs and protein, but I didn't think milk would sit well, so I drank some water and Sprite. Unfortunately, it didn't stay down. For the next hour and a half, I tried really hard to keep from throwing up, but it just kept happening. Fortunately, the Sprite started to go down, and then I could start drinking plain water.

So the next time you're working out, remember that thirst is a pretty good indication of how much you should be drinking.

Run well.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Peak Week(s)

Peak weeks are big. They usually involve the most mileage of a training cycle and some of the toughest workouts. Last week was it--Monday through Friday was my peak week for marathon training. Really, I do more like a peak 12 - 14 days, ending by running a hard (but not as long) long run two weeks before the race. I've read that training takes about 8 - 14 days to give a benefit (read this article if you're interested benefit times), so for my last two marathons I did tough long runs two weeks before the race.

My peak week went well, but not as well as I would have hoped. The thing that threw a wrench in the training was a tough long run. I always have at least one bad long run during a training cycle, but it was too bad it happened on the peak week long run.

On the morning of my long run, a buddy came and raced a 5k beforehand (and smoked me), and then we did a cool down jog together and chatted for a bit. After the race and cool down, I had about 11 miles left. I was hoping to run the last 10 miles at marathon goal pace, but after one easy mile and two miles at miles at goal pace, I knew wasn't going to happen. My legs were heavy from a tough week of training. The race also took its toll, and the heat index by the time I finished the run was 88*.

Eagan parkrun 5k without a stroller
So instead of running the last 10 miles at marathon pace, I decided to do two miles at marathon pace and then mix in some goal pace during the last mile. I hit those paces OK, and my pace overall for 20 miles wasn't bad. I was feeling pretty sick afterward, but I'll write about that a bit more in my next post.

Although my long run didn't go great, the workouts earlier in the week did. Both my speed workout and tempo run went well, and I ran just over 80 miles for the week--the most I've run in quite a while. I'll write about my next big week of training in one of my next posts.

Run well.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Metro Wildlife

I've bounced around the idea of doing a weekly post on wildlife, but as I thought about it more, I decided it would get pretty redundant. Yeah, I see a lot of wildlife, but generally it's the same animals throughout the week. So, instead, it seems better to do a little general post about wildlife.



I've already written a couple posts about my various wildlife sightings, although not nearly as many as I would have thought. If you're interested, you can read them here:
A warning: This post is long. Really long. I've been running in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Area for over seven years now, so there's a lot of wildlife encounters I've stored up along the way.

One of my favorite parts about running is being outdoors enjoying nature. I wish I could run on un paved trails more often, but for convenience's sake, I usually run on the paved sidewalks and bike paths near my house.

Fortunately for me, even running through suburbia, there's a great deal of wildlife within the Minneapolis and St. Paul metropolitan area. Eagan, where I reside, has ample green space. According to the City of Eagan's website, Eagan has 56 city parks, along with a county park and an adjacent state park. I've run by and through many of these parks, and seen an amazing variety of wildlife within the city limits.

Besides Eagan, I also get around the Twin Cities area for other runs. Many are urban, but even on those routes I often end up running along a lake, river, or stream, through a wooded area, or a restored prairie. In 2011 I did a lot of training in Afton State Park, and have run at several other county and regional parks over the past several years.

I don't have a single favorite place to run--either in general or for seeing wildlife. Some runs in places I'd expect to see wildlife--wooded parks, along rivers--end without seeing much of anything. Other runs--through suburban housing developments or near businesses--bring some of the most interesting wildlife sightings I've had while running through the twin cities.

Here's been some highlights of my year so far, along with some past sightings of note:

Mammals:

I see tons of the two most common city mammals--squirrels and rabbits--as well as the semi-common ones--ground squirrels, chipmunks, muskrats, and deer. This year I've seen lots of all of these animals. Though squirrels aren't generally noteworthy, it is interesting to catch sight of a black or white squirrel. One of the coolest squirrels I saw was black, but it had a reddish brown tail--first time I've seen one like that.

I seem to see deer in spurts. Generally I see them early in the morning or later in the evening. Pretty much anywhere there's a patch of trees--even if it's in the middle of a housing development--there's a chance to see a deer. I've gotten pretty close to several deer. One morning I was running through a residential area, and in some pine trees I encountered three deer no more than forty feet away. All three kept munching on whatever they were eating and only glanced at me, obviously not considering me a threat. The other day a deer stood in the middle of the Minnesota River Bottoms Trail and allowed me to walk within twenty yards.

A little less common are raccoon--especially in the daylight hours--but last week I saw one climbing a giant cottonwood tree. I was running around Blackhawk Lake, and I was admiring a tree that's about twenty feet taller than any of the other trees. It just so happened that a raccoon was making her way up the tree as I was looking. I took a second lap around the lake, and when I came by the next time, several park goers had stopped to watch the raccoon moving on the cottonwood's thick trunk.

Beaver are another less common mammal to see--especially within the metro, but they can be spotted in some of our lakes and in the tributaries of the Minnesota and Mississippi. I see signs of beaver--houses, dams, felled trees with the tell-tale beaver gnaw mark--all the time when I run on the Fort Snelling Trail in Eagan, but seeing an actual beaver is pretty rare.

Some mammals I haven't spotted have in the past include a long tailed weasel, red fox, and coyote. The weasel was in Lebanon Hills Regional Park, and I saw it last spring. In was jumping in and out of some brush next to the trail about twenty yards ahead of me. It was pretty cool as I'd never seen a weasel before.

The fox was in what I would consider to be a pretty unlikely place. Central Park in Eagan is not a very "woodsy" park, geared more toward the playground, picnic areas, band shell, and outdoor workout equipment. Still, one evening as I was running near Central Park, a fox appeared on a small hill in one of the fields adjacent to the park. I've only seen a few foxes in the wild, and this one was by far the prettiest. It had a thick, auburn coat with black and white patches on its fur, and it seemed well-fed and healthy. Though I've unfortunately seen some roadkill foxes since, that's the only live one I've seen in Eagan.

Though I've read that there are quite a few coyotes in the metro area, I've only seen a couple. Once I was running on the Highline Trail in Eagan early one morning,. About twenty yards ahead of me a coyote was just standing in the middle of the trail. It stared at me for a while, and I stopped running to take a look at it. The other time I saw a coyote was when Laura and I were running early--before the sun came up--and a coyote was right next to the sidewalk just outside a copse of trees and a drainage pond. Pretty neat. Most recently I saw a coyote running out of a cemetery while I was coaching and running with the Burnsville High School Cross Country team.

Probably the coolest mammal I've seen was a river otter. On the way to the FANS 12 and 24 Hour Race to run a few laps with a couple buddies, I ran past some river backwaters in Fort Snelling State Park. In a pool of water near Lake Snelling, a river otter was floating on its back.


Birds:

I could go on for pages about birds. My friends know me as a little bit of a bird nerd--not only do I actively look for birds when hiking, running, walking, driving, canoeing, or doing pretty much anything outdoors, I also have several bird feeders in my yard.

This post is already outlandishly long, but, as always, feel free to skip the next several paragraphs if you think watching birds is a waste of time, and reading about them is even worse.

There's an amazing variety of birds in the twin cities metro area; raptors, songbirds, and waterfowl are some of the major groups.

I really enjoy seeing raptors when I run. Some of the most interesting are the sharp-shinned, red-tail and Cooper's hawks, barred owls, and bald eagles. The other day I was running on a trail that passes through a wooded area interspersed with some marsh, and on a fallen branch within a few yards of a trail were a crow and a Cooper's hawk. It happened to be one of the few times I was running with my iPod, so I attempted to get a picture. The crow flew away as soon as I stopped, but the hawk moved to a higher branch. Unfortunately, by the time I had the iPod out and the camera turned on, the hawk was gone.

Bald eagle sightings are common. Generally I see them soaring in the skyline, but occasionally they're doing something interesting while airborne. I've witnessed a few engaged in mid-flight acrobatics. Just the other day, I saw an eagle carrying some type of mammal--possibly a rabbit or muskrat. Besides airborne eagles, I occasionally see eagles perched in trees or nests. On a run on a Fort Snelling riverside trail, a fledgling bald eagle squawked, presumably signaling its eagle parents that it was time to eat.

Songbirds are another of my favorites. Scarlet tanagers, indigo buntings, Baltimore orioles, cardinals, and various warblers always add nice splashes of color to runs.

A couple years ago was a particularly good year for bird sightings. I saw good amount of birds less common to my part of the metro including pelicans, an indigo bunting, and a cormorant. I've also seen lots of the semi-common birds like oriels, northern flickers, cat birds, yellow warblers, and ruby-throated humming birds.I also spotted a couple pileated woodpeckers.

I always have my eyes open for birds--scanning the trunks of oaks and cottonwoods along the Minnesota River for hairy, downy, and red-breasted woodpeckers; gazing into the distance at the sound of a pileated woodpecker; squinting into the sky wondering what waterfowl or raptor is soaring above my head.

Reptiles

Spring and early summer are a particularly good time for spotting reptiles. Snapping turtles leave the wetlands to lay their eggs on higher ground. Western painted turtles sun themselves on logs and rocks in lakes and ponds. Garner, bull, and fox snakes warm themselves on bike paths and sidewalks.

I never tire of watching a painted turtle stretch its head out, its neck reflecting translucent rainbow hues. Or of a snapping turtle crossing a sidewalk or sitting by its edge, laying its eggs in soft dirt, ready to snap out with powerful jaws at careless observers.

Once, I was running down Blue Cross Blue Shield Road. Across the street from Blue Cross is a large pond. A small snapping turtle had made its way from the pond and up to the sidewalk and decided that the best place to dig its nest was about six inches from the sidewalk. As I ran by, I gave the turtle a wide berth.

...

Some people avoid being alone with their thoughts as they run, or, worse yet, thinking about the running itself. More often the not, runners I pass have earbuds, presumably listening to music, podcasts, or, less likely, recorded books.

I don't mind occasionally listening to music, an audio book, or a podcast, though I mainly distract myself with such things in the winter while running indoors. Occasionally, as I put in more miles and longer runs by myself, I'll take along my iPod and listen to something once or twice per week.

Still, I prefer focusing on my surroundings, and, if at all possible, nature. The varied colors of the sky, the many hues of green in the spring and summer woods, giving way to splashes of auburn, maroon, and reds in the fall--these sights along with the accompanying animals--whether mammal, bird, or reptile--all add to the experience of a run, quieting my inner monologue as I make my way down paths and trails, streets and sidewalks.

Thanks for reading.

Happy running.