Monday, April 30, 2012

Ben Franklin, vegetarian (sometimes)

Many runners pay careful attention to what they eat.  I know I should, but I don't.  Many runners are vegetarians.  I'm an omnivore, and I do mean omni.  Benjamin Franklin, as far as I know, wasn't a runner, but for part of his life, he was a vegetarian.

I was amused by his descriptions of his vegetarianism in his Autobiography.  At 16, he decided to try a "vegetable diet," inspired by a book by someone named Tryon.  In order to have more money to buy books, he saved money by eating lighter meals, like "a bisket [sic] or a slice of bread, a handful of raisins or a tart from the pastry-cook's, and a glass of water."  He benefited from "that greater clearness of head and quicker apprehension which usually attend temperance in eating and drinking."  Later he tried to convince Keimer, the printer for whom he worked, to adopt "the doctrine of using no animal food."  Franklin deadpans, "He was usually a great glutton, and I promised myself some diversion in half starving him."

For some time, Franklin refrained from eating "animal food," following Tryon's teaching that eating meat is "unprovoked murder, since none of them had, or ever could do us any injury that might justify the slaughter."  But one time, while very hungry at sea, some others on the ship were frying some fish, which "smelt admirably well."  He began to waver, then remembered that "when the fish were opened, I saw smaller fish taken out of their stomachs; then thought I, 'If you eat one another, I don't see why we mayn't eat you.' So I din'd upon cod very heartily, and continued to eat with other people, returning only now and then occasionally to a vegetable diet."

Here follows one of the great justifications for doing whatever the heck you want: "So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do."  Q.E.D.

What does all this have to do with running?  Nothing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Barefoot running clinic

For some time now I have followed Jason Robillard's Barefoot Running University blog.  Jason, the author of The Barefoot Running Book, is on tour with Merrell promoting barefoot running and Merrell's line of minimalist footwear.  Tonight he stopped by Backwoods in Fort Worth for a barefoot running clinic.

Jason at another clinic.
After his talk and Q&A session, about 30 of us took a short run with Jason.  Backwoods provided some Merrell road gloves for us to try out.  I tried out a pair, and liked them OK, but similar to the Vibram Bikila, they have a stiff midsole, which, since I'm used to running in Vibram Sprints, I didn't like so much.  I ended up pulling them off and running barefoot.  Back at the store, I tried on the Merrell Trail Glove; I didn't buy a pair, but that might be my next trail shoe.

If you have any interest at all in minimalist running or barefoot running, check out Jason's web site.  He is one of those rare minimalist runners who was running barefoot before Born to Run was published.  He had been traveling around, doing barefoot running clinics, when Merrell asked him to help with educational assistance to go with their new line of minimalist shoes.  Jason's easy-going demeanor and his "I'm just a regular guy who runs" attitude will help even the most skeptical runner consider that barefoot running might be worth a try.

Kudos to Merrell for promoting good running form and caution on the transition to barefoot/minimalist running; they've shown responsibility for providing education through Jason and on their website.  And kudos to Jason for being in the right time and place for Merrell to approach him about being their barefoot running ambassador.  He's living his dream of being a "running nomad," traveling the country with his family, living in their RV, running in beautiful places and spreading the gospel of barefoot running.  Not a bad gig!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Running from the Crazy

It's no secret that, among other benefits, running can be quite therapeutic.  I recently read an account of Brian Castner's experiences as a bomb technician in Iraq.  In his forthcoming book, The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows, Castner tells the story of his frequently harrowing experiences in Iraq, either destroying and disabling IEDs and car bombs, or, in too many cases, analyzing the aftermath.  Besides living the imagery of the bloody bombings' aftermath, he also suffers from blast-induced traumatic brain injury, which affects his memory, personality, and relationships.

Castner today.
Back on U.S. soil, he had to find a way to cope, to keep "the Crazy" at bay.  "The Crazy is winning.  So I run.  I run every day, twice a day sometimes . . .  I run as fast as I can, as long as I can, my feet hitting the pavement in a furious rhythm. . . . I run, and run, and run, and in the Is try to pound out of my head what once Was."  Running can be an escape, a coping mechanism, a release.  For Castner, it was one way to keep away from the Crazy.

His regular running buddy and fellow bomb technician, Ricky, had some pretty good running advice.  Life is a race, but not like a marathon, with a set distance.  "It's not the distance that's set, it's the time . . . and you don't get to see how much time is left. . . . Forget the starter's pistol.  There is a finisher's pistol, and it could go off at any time.  You are concentrating so hard on how far you run that you have ignored how well you run.  Or enjoyed the steps you are taking today.  Learn from me.  I enjoyed each of my steps.  Are you enjoying yours?"  Good stuff.  And you have to love a book whose last line is, "The next day, I put on my shoes and go for a run."

Here's hoping you don't have bombs going off around you, but whether you do or not, enjoy life, run well, and be ready for that finisher's pistol.

Thanks to and the publisher, Random House/Doubleday for the complimentary digital review copy!
Read more about Castner at his blog, Fever Dreams.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hells Hills Race Report

Total mileage run this year through Friday: 93.05 miles
Longest run in 2012 through Friday: 10 miles
Not exactly a formula for success for a 50K.  I knew I would need to take it slow today, so I did.  Maybe a little slower than I thought I would, but I still felt good at the end.
Mark is the family 50K champion.  Perhaps my protruding gut and his fit physique have something to do with that. . . .
The day started with a 4:30 wake-up at the Skeeter's farm house (Thanks, Stuart, for the hospitality!).  We drove from Round Top to Rocky Hill Ranch in Smithville in plenty of time for a 6 a.m. start.  We got our race packets, greeted some familiar faces, and got ready to roll.  The moon was full, and lots of runners had headlamps, so Mark and I started out without lights.  Joe counted down and gave us the signal to head down the trail for a long day.

My plan was to stay with Mark as long as I could, hoping that would be the first loop of the two-loop 50K course.  After a couple of miles, it became clear that I wouldn't be able to, so I let him slip away into the distance.  Shortly after, I caught up with Fred.  He's 62, and we finished close to one another at Rockledge Rumble, so I thought I'd run with him.  He took off and I didn't see him again on the trail.  He's a strong runner!  So I plugged away on my own through the first loop.  I knew Mark was way ahead of me, and I knew Joe is very generous about letting 50K runners drop and claim a 25K finish.  But I decided I might as well head out for another loop.

As I pulled out of the start/finish area, I jokingly asked another runner if she was ready to pace me for the second loop.  She laughed, but little did she know I would tag along for half the loop.  Malea is from the Dallas area, and we know many of the same people in NTTR.  Once again, I had to give up trying to keep pace with my elders.  She's a good 10 years older than me, but clearly in great shape.  She hung back for a bit, I think, but I told her to feel free to go on without me, so she did after setting a great pace for 6-7 miles.
Malea heading into the distance. . . .
Shortly after she left, I fell in with Raul, a San Antonio police detective.  We took it easy together, and made each other feel better about walking much of the last 1/4 of the race.  Finally I cruised through the finish chute, where I saw Fred hanging out--he'd clearly been there a while!--and across the finish line where Mark met me, after waiting on me for an hour and seventeen minutes!  Poor guy.  I did warn him, though. . . .
Piney woods along the course.
This was my first time to run at Hells Hills.  It's a Tejas Trails race, so, no surprise, it was hosted flawlessly by Joe and his team of volunteers.  Trail runners in Texas are lucky to have him putting on great races.  The course was terrific, highly runnable, with some ups and downs but not a lot of climbing.  At times it reminded me of Lake Grapevine North Shore, with its short descents and climbs, and at times of Huntsville State Park, where Rocky Raccoon is held, with some long, straight portions and tall pines.  The day did get pretty warm; it was at least in the low 80s by the time I finished.  I was starting to feel overheated and underhydrated.  I considered going shirtless, but after being stuck by a shirtless, flabby runner for an unpleasant portion of a race a couple years ago, I decided that unless and until I was flabless, I would wear a shirt at all times when running.  All told, even though this was my slowest 50K to date, I still felt decent at  the end and had a good time on the course.  Maybe next time I'll actually try to train for it. . . .
The wildflowers were more beautiful than this picture can show.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My 50Ks and Hells Hills

Saturday is Hells Hills and I don't really know what to expect of the race or of myself.  I have run a handful of 50Ks, with finish times ranging from 5:19 (El Scorcho, flat and easy) to 7:35 (Toughest in Texas, hilly, rugged, and, well, toughest).  Based on what I've heard about the Hells Hills course, I'm thinking it will be comparable to the courses at Rockledge Rumble (6:50) or Isle du Bois (7:17).

At Rockledge, I was in pretty good shape, in full training mode for White Rock.  IDB was six days after White Rock, so I was a bit fatigued.  Since IDB, which was mid-December, my training has been sporadic and erratic, and I've put on a few pounds, so I'm certainly not looking for a PR.  I'm thinking I'll take at least 7 hours, but hopefully no longer than 8.

I'm not too concerned about my time or my finish place.  Mostly I'm looking forward to running this trail, which sounds like it's right up my alley.  (From the race web site: "A fair bit of rocks, a collection of rolling creek bed drop-ins and rollouts, a twisty turny riot of single-track trails, with the Wall & the Grind at the end of each loop. Not much for elevation. Mostly single-track through a forest of pines.")  I'm also looking forward to running with my brother, although he might have to leave his fatter, older, slower brother behind. . . .