Friday, August 20, 2010

Running Origins continued...

After a trip to Norfolk, Nebraska coupled with a month layoff from teaching I've had a lot of time to ponder the beginning of my running career. In my previous post I said the origin of my recreational and competitive running was Northeast Nebraska; that wasn't entirely true.

I was always an active kid and movement was a big part of my life. My parents signed me up for soccer when we were living in Lincoln, Nebraska and as soon as I was old enough I started playing basketball. I liked to run and move around--in sports, PE, and just playing outside.

I'm not sure when the first time I tried to run more than was required for an organized sport, though one event sticks out in my mind. My dad was a recreational runner when we lived in Lincoln and continued his running habit when he took a job as a principal out on the island of Oahu in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Fortunately for our family he took us with him.

One day while we were living in Aiea dad took me running with him. He usually ran on a paved trail next to Pearl Harbor. It wasn't the kind of picturesque beachfront trail you'd think of when picturing Hawaii. Pearl Harbor has some nice areas but the shoreline is mostly industrialized though with some military memorials and parks sprinkled here and there.

Still, my dad still found the trail pleasant enough to run on--it was flat and free from runner-hunting cars so he seemed to enjoy it enough. The day I ran with him--I don't remember if I asked to come along or was invited--I was most likely 11 or 12. I'm almost certain I'd never run at a consistent speed in one direction for any distance beyond a couple hundred meters before this father and son run.

What I remember about the run was this: I'd stay with my dad for a little bit, get bored, and sprint ahead. I'd cruise by myself among rotting mattresses, old Bento Meal containers, and puddles of brackish water until I started getting winded. After I got too tired my dad would catch up and the whole process would begin anew.

Besides some trysts with junior high track and field (no further than a couple miles I'm sure), running for football and basketball in high school, and running away from a couple of rednecks in rural Nebraska, running for running's sake didn't happen again for me until the 11th grade.

I've already mentioned the story of how I started high school track in a previous post, so I won't get into it here. I did have a good couple years of track in high school--made some good friends, ran some decent races, and ended up with a small scholarship to a small college near Lincoln, Nebraska. Unfortunately my college running career was short and injury-riddled.

I'd be surprised if I got more than 25 miles in a week of high school running, and my college team probably averaged 60 a week for freshmen, more for older runners. Most of the season I didn't run near that much. Instead, I made friends in the training room with injured athletes from every sport. Quadriceps tendinitis, shin splints, and finally tendinitis in my hip made college running more painful than fun, and after a season of cross country and two seasons of track I was finished running competitively for six years.

Thanks to my wife asking me to run the Twin Cities Marathon last October I'm back to doing some competitive (albeit amateur) running. Reading frequently about training and injury prevention and improving my practices has also helped me stay relatively injury-free and thus made running more enjoyable.

If you've stayed with this post for this long I commend you. I have no idea how many people read this blog, but it's nice to write things down and reminisce about the past. Tomorrow Laura and I are headed up to the Superior Hiking Trail north of Duluth for a four day backpacking trip. Laura's talked me into breaking my goal of running every day in August. After I run tomorrow I will have made it 28 days straight. I suppose missing a couple of runs while hiking ten miles a day won't kill my fitness. If I run three miles or more tomorrow I'll have over fifty for the week.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Running Origins

Last week I was down in Nebraska visiting the parents in my old stomping grounds of Norfolk--a small town in the Northeast corner of the state. Norfolk is the birth of my recreational and competitive running. I went to a small Lutheran high school there and my junior year my dad (who happened to be the principal) informed me that I would not, in fact, be allowed to work every night of the week--not if I wanted to use his car to get there.

A three mile round trip seemed like a long way to walk to work at a gas station, so I resigned myself to the idea that I'd have to work only a couple of times a week. With basketball season over I wasn't sure what I was going to do with all my free time. In hindsight I probably should have done a little homework but that's neither here nor there--though it did probably cost me thousands of dollars in lost scholarship money.

So, with some extra free time on my hands I decided to go out for track. I'd ran around the track in junior high a couple of times and it didn't seem too hard. Also, I really liked the new track coach. My school had about 100 students so making the team wasn't really a problem.

Back then I had a wiry frame of 6' and 135 lbs. Finding clothes that fit was a nightmare but my track coach thought I'd be a good fit for the 2 mile. And then, in the year 2000, I began the wonderful hobby of running around to nowhere in particular.

Being back in Norfolk, running around town, and getting to go fishing with my dad and my old track coach got me a little nostalgic about running. Sometimes while I'm running I wonder what kind of a runner I would have been if I'd started running before age 17 or if I didn't stop training seriously for several years after two seasons in college track. But those thoughts are best entertained in a forthcoming post.

The trip to Nebraska was great. I got to spend some quality time with my brother-in-law, see an old friend, hang out with both my sisters and two nieces, and get some work done for my parents. I also got to see Coach Tom Osborne speak at an event hosted by a business whose owners are friends with my parents.

I used to have a blog about fishing, so in honor of that blog and my former high school track coach, I thought I'd throw up a picture of my biggest fish this summer--a blue catfish caught while fishing for bass in a puddle of a farm pond in Northeast Nebraska. In this shot you can see it trying to chew my fingers off as Coach Rathke looks on.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Yesterday evening I went on a nice picnic with my wife at a park about 5 miles from our house. We'd gone to church in the morning and the day was so warm I was planning on running in the evening. After all our daily activities, including swimming, it was after seven by the time we finally got to the picnic. Fortunately I had my running gear on already--I was planning on running once we got home.

Then, an incredible idea hit me: I would just run home from the lake park. I knew there were sidewalks the whole way and it'd save me time. This would have been a pretty normal run except that I didn't have my Garmin.

Now, I know running can happen without charting your average pace, distance to the hundredth of a mile, and heart rate, but I hadn't done it forever. So, on my run from Holland Lake back to our townhouse I was free of a Garmin. In fact, I didn't have a watch at all. No watch, no iPod, nothing.

It was strange in some ways--every once-in-a-while I would check my wrist only to find that there was no digital display between my arm hairs. I also went to pause my time at least twice when I had to stop at stop lights. In the end, however, it was nice to get through a run with nothing but the sensation of movement and the meandering train of thought running through my head. I think I'm going to get a few more runs in sans the Garmin--just to keep things interesting.

Eight days through August and I've ran on every one of them. The first week I made it 47 miles, which was actually a fair amount more than I was planning on. Nothing's hurting too bad so I'll aim to stay around 45-50 miles for a couple weeks--I'm just hoping the weather cooperates. It's hard to get any real long runs in when it's 85+ out.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Holy Hot!

It's official: I'm a wimp. Running in cool, nice weather is just fantastic. Running in 20 degree weather is also OK if I dress right. But after the temperature hits about 78 degrees and the humidity is past 60 percent I tend to curl up in the fetal position and slowly rock back and forth on the sidewalk whilst sucking my thumb.

Then, I find out that my Aunt Anita, who's current stationed in Iraq, is running five miles three times a week--in Iraq!. Now, I heard it was hot there so I thought I'd check the weather to find out if the rumors were true. Apparently the high today in Baghdad was 113. And the low there--86. I thought I was miserable running in 80 degree weather this morning. Of course the humidity in Iraq is only like 15%. It was around 80% here all day, so take that Iraq.

I'm looking forward to when the air gets a little dry. I'm tired of having my sweat fail to evaporate and finishing a run with a tech shirt that's carrying 3 lbs worth of perspiration. It doesn't matter how good a tech shirt is at wicking sweat from my body, when the air is already thick with moisture it's going to stay right on that shirt.

Running's going pretty great now that I'm in between teaching assignments. I've run 9 days straight now and I'm shooting for running every day in August--minimum of three miles per day. So far I'm two for two!