17 March 2016

The Joy (and Hallucination) of Running

February and March have been challenging for me as a beginning runner. Back in February, just as I was beginning to log uninterrupted mileage from the run/walk ramp-up program I'd been using, I managed to roll my heel. ...nope. Not a typo. I managed to roll not my ankle, but my heel.

I was turning onto a long hill, feeling strong for a Saturday long run of 3-4 miles (I hadn't really made up my mind 1/2 a mile in and was feeling strong and ambitious) and mentally playing out the curving 200-yard climb when I planted my foot unevenly in an ice rivet. I felt my heel dip down and start to roll over, and gave myself a mental high five for my cat-like reflexes, quickly shifting weight and pulling out of the roll.

"Whew! That could have been disastrous," I thought. I stopped. Stood. Hmmm. Bears my full weight. Hmmm. no pain when I move it around. Hmmm. Looks like I lucked out!

Smiling and feeling good, I took a few slow strides just to make sure. Still feeling good.

I was ecstatic. Years ago, I managed to pretty severely sprain BOTH ankles in short succession playing soccer. I remember how awful the pain was and worse, how frustrating it was to stay stationary, letting all those hard-won fitness gains slip away as I healed.

The idea of a sprain as I was leveling up after two and a half months of plodding along did not fill my soul with sunshine and ice cream.

Off I set to finish my run.

About a mile later was when it really started to act up and another couple hundred yards I knew my luck hadn't held. I had a long cold limp home.

As it turned out, I was much luckier than I realized. A few years ago, I probably would have just let it go, rested until there was manageable pain and tried agin, likely hurting myself again in the process. With this injury, calculating my weight, age, the potential lasting damage of a sprain and balancing against the benefits I was seeing in my health, endurance and mood, I opted for the doc. What I imagined was going to be catastrophic for my running, turned out to be a micro tear of the Achilles tendon in fibers attached to a heel-borne bone spur. Sounds awful, but it resulted in a week of walking rather than months.

I was happy to get back out on the road, making good progress until being laid up with cold/flu or whatever was going around. And then a lost week due to it being cold and my laziness/refusal to go back out in miserable cold when I'd already been running in shorts. Your choice on that one.

This week I renewed my milage goals as I finished Born to Run, the classic tale of prehistoric running super athletes. (And yes, I fully realize I'm likely the last runner on the planet to have read it.)

Tonight's run was three and a half miles. It was hellish and a struggle. My knees were tender and I was painfully aware of the ground I've lost in the past month.

It was, in a word, awesome.

I've come to realize in my running, both in the past few months and in spat we had a few years ago in pursuit of the Beach 2 Beacon, that the sport is at least as much a mental game as a physical one. I settled into as close to a tempo as I can manage and focused on form and pressure to let the knees take care of themselves. I pushed myself into a new neighborhood to pick up a few extra yards. I tackled a long hill (not the same one I rolled my heel on). And I forgot about time and distance and struggle.

Around about mile three, I realized I was smiling, standing up straight and literally high-fiving street signs along the route.

Because, shit, those street signs thinking I'm doing great!

Yeah, not kidding on that one. I honestly caught myself thinking that. Which probably should have embarrassed me. But nope. Just made me smile more.

As much as a struggle as tonight's run was, I feel at peace, the inner running monologue of my life is quiet, and, hey! I'm writing to boot!

The point being that while I am by no means a challenger to the Tarahumara, I am quickly becoming a believer in the idea that humans evolved to run, and there is a supreme joy in doing what, on a primal, primordial level, we were made to do.

There is joy. And, apparently, there is hallucination. Which isn't such a bad thing either. 

19 February 2016


n. 1) a natural elevation of the earth's surface, smaller than a mountain; an incline, 
especially in a road 

Hills are also known as the bane of many runners' existence. Certainly the bane of a new runners' training regimen. 

When I decided to go out for cross country in high school, I wasn't really looking for anything strenuous. I played hockey outside of the school system and a friend suggested we try out. I think he had his eye on a girl. I figured why not. It's just running (how hard can it be). And better yet, it was running in the woods, which in my mind put me way ahead of the curve since hiking with the family and running in the woods was a huge part of my childhood. 

To say I was wrong would be an enormous understatement. 

Cross country track turned out to be little more than a slog of endless miles in shitty weather capped by weekly runs on trail courses where I had the distinction of finishing dead last in nearly every race. I sucked at track. 

I'd love to say that even though I was terrible at track, I truly found joy and freedom in running for its own sake. 

Nope. Not that either. I hated track. And it got worse when cross country ended and winter track started and races were indoors, doing endless laps around a track in a gym. And I hated it the following year when, for some indecipherable reason I signed up again. 

Looking back, I honestly do not know how I lasted three years of running track with how bad at it I was and how much I disliked it. And it's even further beyond my ken why I ever came back to it. It may have something to do with the fact that I grew up in Hopkinton, Mass. (in case you're not a runner or otherwise familiar with the geography of New England, my hometown's claim to fame is the start of the grail of distance running - the Boston Marathon) and then proceeded to spend another ten years in Boston proper. 

I suspect it has more to do with the moments of peace I found when I finally let go of the misery and drudgery of one foot in front of the other mile after mile long enough to fall into a rhythm and a sort of oneness with the surroundings. I distinctly remember a series of god-awful runs that remain in my memory the pinnacle of my high school running career involving a solo trek, a cemetery and snow and freezing rain. In sweats. 

And the hills. 

At the time that I started running with any manner of structure, the words "hill day" were as dreaded as the phrase "pop quiz". More, probably. For someone with a slow gait, shuffling pace and gasping sports-induced asthma (not to mention the beginning of a very unhealthy smoking habit, hills were the absolute worst. Torture. Running sprints up hills, jogging back down and sprinting back up, over and over. And in some cases, the workout was just miles of up and down alternately rolling and steep hills. They were miserable. 

I suppose it's funny that now, more than two decades later, I see hills not as misery, but look forward to them. As I'm building endurance and mileage, I feel stronger with every foot of elevation and find things fall away as I climb. 

I'm coming to appreciate that running is as much a mind game as a physical one. The challenge isn't in the personal record or the time trial or the race. The challenge is in getting out there in the first place. It's in continuing to get up and run, even when the weather is terrible and you don't feel like it and you're sore. It's in those first steps up the hill. 

An appropos metaphor? I think so. 

15 February 2016

Story On The Prowl

The Hermes 3000 cinched the broad silk tie tight around its neck. It glanced in the mirror, made sure the knot was straight. Then shrugged into its jacket. It pulled the hardware from the holster under its arm and turned to the hotel door.

"Time to go to work," typed quietly across the crisp blank page.

12 February 2016

I am a runner.

I am a runner. Not because I run fast nor far. But because I run. Period. (Image of a wintery road.)

Running & Resurrection

A little over two years ago I last posted on this blog. Over the years, I've had various intentions for this column, including using it as a live journal, a writing lab, an ongoing experiment in coding and a portfolio/sketchbook, among other things.

I'm now returning with the intent to foster a more long-term writing discipline. To this end, I intend to write on topics of public relations, running, surfing, motivation and mindfulness, design and illustration, and various other subjects that strike my fancy.

Since a little before Thanksgiving, 2015, I have been running.

The beginning and the bible.
To be more precise, I have been walk-running. I had been entertaining the thought that I would someday run again and start getting fit for some time, without actually doing anything about it. Becca and I were doing our regular turn around the god-awful bookstore we're now saddled with in South Portland since the tragic demise of Borders and came across Runner's World's 2015 edition of Learn to Run. I flipped through, as I do every time I come upon the "Learn to Run" or "Get Super Fit" or whatever annual super-prestige book-magazine is out that month because, to be honest, I'm a magazine junkie and I have a problem.

For whatever reason, the plans and layout of this edition resonated and I decided that I'd start running. I laid out the 16 bucks and away we went. It was a few weeks later I picked up a fresh pair of Brooks Adrenalines from our local Fleet Feet Sports and another week or so before I was mentally committed enough to set my daily alarm for 5:00 a.m. to allow enough time for a 20-minute walk-run with 5-minute bookend walks.

...and I have been running steadily since. Four times a week for three months, taking off two weeks only for a recent rolled ankle and micro-tear in the achilles tendon off a heel bone spur.

I feel great.

This is a big deal for me. For those who know me, even admitting, that I feel great is a massive change. My mood, focus and productivity are all improving. I'm more patient, my clothes are fitting differently, and I don't get winded by the stairs at work.

Over three months of consistent running including adding daily yoga into the routine, I have developed a thirst for accomplishment, finding pleasure in the small accomplishment of simply getting out of bed in the morning and running, regardless of the weather.

What I laugh about is that I ran track in high school and I hated it. Hate may not even be strong enough of a word for it. I was awful at running, was almost always last across the finish line and was frankly too stubborn to hang it up even though I often found ample reason to slack off. Now I find that just getting out the door is a joy and the worse the weather, the better I feel about having run.

And I'm not walking anymore. Now it's all miles. 

29 December 2013

Mega Orbital

Watching a marathon of TV via Netflix and aimlessly scrolling through Tumblr, I came across a whimsical illustration of the movie Gravity by Bebosoho and thought it was a good Illustrator exercise. Happy with the result of the line work and overall form.

27 December 2013

A Samples-y New Year

Working on a New Year's card design for the year-end wrap-up this afternoon, I had free reign in the office to just let the (internet) radio play and forgot some of the stuff I had queued up. 

Little Silver Ring by the Samples on an album I haven't listened to in probably ten years popped up as I'm closing out the year with the lyric "growing old, watching silver turn to gold." 

In the setting sun of Casco Bay's wintery light, I miss old friends I haven't connected with in far to long and the adventures of a younger self. With a slight smile I wish all my friends and family, from this life and past versions, a happy new year and wishes for a prosperous year ahead; a year of watching a little silver ring turn to gold. 

09 December 2013

The Sun Sets on an Interesting Year

And interesting it has been, though you wouldn't know it from the activity (or lack thereof) on this blog. This year has involved an eight month job hunt, a weekend certification in reiki, deep explorations into meditation and the shamanic role of art work, and the beginnings of a freelance illustration and design practice. And the entirety has been capped by a new career opportunity in the field of PR.

It feels odd to be relearning many skills I haven't actively used since I was in the journalism program at Emerson almost 15 years ago. And odder still to reflect that in the heat of collegiate angst, marketing, advertising and public relations were "dirty" in my mind, being concerned more with corporate promotion than with truth. And now, many years later, finding myself embedded in this industry, the irony is not lost on me. 

However, in the course of this year, despite many areas of discovery, there have been a number of areas where I have let things go. This can not be stood for any longer. The wife and I have begun the long road of shaping up for road races and we anticipate beginning a new Whole 30 challenge starting January 1. 

And while in the midst of tonight's "we're taking things back" jag, coupled with my utter disgust and frustration with Instagram's total lack of cooperation with my visual blogging efforts, I resolved to reclaim this space as well. 

So...yeah. Hi. I'll be around a little more now.