Running a Mile: An Odyssey

I didn’t intend to start running. It all started with a dog: Auggie. After the divorce, I decided that I should have a dog; something to sit at my feet while I worked. I had grand images of a pampered pooch splayed out on the rug, chin resting on my feet, always at the ready with some Norman Rockwell version of my life involving slippers and newspapers in his mouth.

Once I got him, I remembered that slippers made my feet sweat, and I read my newspaper online. All I was left with after I brought Auggie home from the SPCA was a floppy puppy that looked like a brown sack of bones. With ears and giant paws. And it was staring at me as if it wanted me to do something for him. So I fed him. He ate the food in a second. I watched him as he snorted and pushed my cereal bowl around the kitchen as if he was digging to the bottom of it for some unfound stock of food.

I began by taking Auggie on long walks at Fort Funston where he quickly learned to be off leash. I walked with my headphones on, and he sniffed and peed on the ice plant. On the beach, he’d chase the ball, and sniff the shells, touch the water with his feet and jump back as if it had bit him.

The walks lasted, at first, for about a half hour. After about the first week, the walks lasted an hour, and then about an hour and a half. Auggie and I explored different routes, weaving between trees whose branches had grown in an arch creating a tree-cave.  We wandered around Funston’s different landscapes of beach and tens of trails leading back to the parking lot. No matter how much we walked, the six-month-old Auggie would not tire. So I kept walking him.

As soon as we got home, Auggie was a sandy, sleeping mess. A puddle of a dog lying at my feet while I worked for the rest of the day.

At the end of that first year, I moved from San Francisco to LA. Working from home three days a week, Auggie and I took daily hikes at Griffith Park at midday. The heat was a different challenge for me. At the time I was a larger statured guy. Being hairy, I come from a family whose genetics involves an intolerance to heat, our best defense is to sweat excessively, soaking any fabric that dares to stand between me and the outside world. The heat, however, was especially hard for Auggie, by this point a 75 pound, dark chocolate lab.

The first part of the hike was all tree-lined and shady. Auggie would run ahead, sniffing wildly, sneezing at the pollen from the flowers, peeing on the honey suckle and growling at the bushes. As soon as we hit the top of the hill, however, the trees vanished, and the sun struck us like a spotlight in the night. Auggie would immediately run ahead, diving into a bush with a worried look, panting heavily at me until I passed him. As soon as I’d get farther up the trail, he’d stay behind me for a while, laboring in my shadow until he’d sprint ahead for another bush.

These hikes lasted for about an hour every day. After two weeks, I began to test our abilities and see how far we’d be able to go. On cooler days, some times we’d last for two hours. I no longer despised the feeling of a beating heart, and a sweaty body. I noticed that my breathing worked in conjunction with my body and my heart in conjunction with my will to continue up the hill. The longer the hike, the more electric my muscles felt.

It was about this time that Nike and Apple got together to create the “Nike +”, a pedometer that hooks up to your iPod and tracks your runs. The second I saw it, I knew I needed it. Not only am I a whore for gadgets, but I was curious as to how many miles Auggie and I clocked on a daily basis. It turns out it was a little more than three.

After using the pedometer for about a week, I had a day where the slow, walk through the mountains seemed like a labor that I was not willing to do. Auggie, not being tired of the hike, stood at the end of my sofa looking at me with eager anticipation. Dogs, I had learned by this point, are creatures of habit, and while they might not be able to learn how to sit, shake or not chew your shoe, they somehow kept an impeccable sense of time and schedule.

I noticed a cheap pair of basketball high tops sitting in the corner of my room. They were white with a silver silhouette of Shaquille O’Neal on the tongue. Across the tongue, and across the Shaq silhouette was a Velcro strap. I had bought these when I lived in San Francisco for the purpose of pick-up games at the Pan Handle. They were twenty dollars at Payless. They were still perfectly white.

I figured that the main purpose for basketball shoes was to run in them, so I strapped them on, tucked the iPod pedometer in the side of the shoe, put on some old green nylon basketball shorts, and a cotton t-shirt.

I walked into the living room, and my roommate asked “where are you going?”

I am going running.” I replied.
“You?” He asked.

“Yes, me. I’m going running.” Auggie, on the end of his leash, dropped down, resting his head on his paw.
“Have you run before?”

“In high school, we had to run the track. Yeah. I’ve run before.” I said defensively, kicking my foot backwards toward my ass and trying to catch it in attempt to stretch my thigh muscle. I missed my foot and stumbled over Auggie, who jumped to his feet. I caught my balance, leaned one hand against the wall, and bent over to pick up my foot.

“Good luck,” my roommate said with a smile.

“All of this hiking has gotten me in really good shape. I’m going to run like the wind.”

“Run like the wind then.”

“I will.”

“Well, don’t trip on those baggy shorts,” he laughed.

“Screw you.” I said and we jogged out of the house through the screen door. Auggie lagged behind wagging his tail at my roommate, and getting stuck on the other side of the screen door. Not noticing, I pulled on his leash and he whined as his head hit the wrong side of the door.

My roommate opened the door for Auggie, who came barreling out of the door toward me. “You’re going to need this,” my roommate said and went back inside.  I flipped him off.

I walked outside and began stretching. Just like I had learned from my high school PE class. One hand on my hip, the other, like a ballerina, arching over my head. I pointed my fingers toward the neighbor’s yard and jerked my body awkwardly for about twenty seconds. I then touched my toes once, did a few fast heel kicks to my butt and decided that I was all stretched out. I was not all stretched out.

I took off jogging down the street. My feet slapping the concrete made a sound like a child running with swimming fins on at the local pool. My arms pumped wildly and I exhaled from my mouth in quick hard bursts, inhaling short intakes.

By the end of block, I felt as if I was slowly swallowing my tongue. My lungs tightened, my legs wobbled underneath me, and the arches of my feet ached. I checked my iPod. The lady’s voice chimed condescendingly by saying “You have run .18 miles. Current pace: 10 minutes and 48 seconds per mile.” In spite of my roommate’s condescending words whipping in my brain, I continued up the street, swallowing and panting.

Auggie pulled me, running hard. The only difference between my facial expression and Auggie’s by the time we hit the end of the block was his tongue was hanging from his mouth. Mine was in my mouth, barely. At the end of the block, I checked the iPod. “You have run .3 miles. Current pace: 10 minutes and 34 seconds per mile.”

I ran 0.6 miles that day. I felt every step as if each step had somehow come back and kicked me in my exposed lungs. I hated it. I felt miserable. But I wanted to run a mile. So I went again the next day.

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To Goo or not to Goo

To Goo or not to Goo
Cynthia Bates, Whole Body Health

Today I went out to talk to runners training for the marathon. One of the questions that came up was “to Goo or not to Goo” – what do you do to sustain energy on a long run?

Let’s start first with the physiology of the digestive system. Digestion is one of the bodies long-term projects. When our body is under any kind of stress (physical, emotional or psychological) our “Fight or Flight” mechanism switches on and long-term projects like digestion shut down. What this means, is that if you body thinks you need to be running away from a saber-toothed tiger then it’s going to put whatever food comes into the body on hold. What this feels like is gas, bloating, nausea as the food putrifies in the stomach and small intestine. Not good.

So, my first recommendation is to make sure you eat enough extra calories the day before a long run so you don’t need to eat WHILE running. The body can store up to 2,000 calories depending on your size and metabolism which should last you a couple of hours. (More on this in a future posting!)

My second recommendation is to eat some healthy fat 30 minutes to an hour before you run so you have some longer-acting fuel in the system. Something like an apple and 2 Tb of almond butter or ½ cup granola with berries and ½ cup full-fat coconut milk. A client of mine has taken to just downing a spoon of Flax seed oil before he heads out and says it really keeps him going.

However, if you are running over two hours, your body is going to need refueling and something as easily as absorbable as possible, thus the gels and goos.

I have taken a look at the commercial preparations and the “healthiest” ones are those with organic ingredients, rice syrup or honey vs maltodextrin or sugar and include extra vitamins and minerals.  But, I have challenged myself to come up with an even healthier alternative….STAY TUNED!

Sweaty Style: Jiu-Jitsu Josh – Marina Green

I was running on the Marina Green and bumped into Josh, a Jui-Jitsu fighter.  Josh runs 4-6 miles a few times a week to stay in shape for combat.  I was struck by his red, green, and black ensemble — he was coordinated head-to-toe, tattoos and all.  He had a wonderfully appealing and offbeat personality to match his apparel…. learn more about him below….




Where did you grow up?
Novato, CA
Where did you live?
I’ve lived in Truckee, San Francisco, and Sandpoint, Idaho
What is your personal soundtrack at the moment?
TV on the Radio – Wolf Like Me
Band of Horses – The Funeral
Why? – The Vowels Pt. 2
Dead to Me – Goodbye Regret
Iron Maiden – Aces High
Wu-Tang Clan – Thug World
Heads Will Roll – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Love You All – Cloud Cult
Your zodiac sign?
Aquarius
Who is your style icon?
Tom Selleck circa 1984 no question.
What do you do or what would you like to do when you grow up?
When I grow up I want to live a simple life in the Portuguese countryside and teach kids jiu-jitsu classes.
Where do you workout?
Rocha Jiu-Jitsu in Oakland & Justin Chin is my personal trainer in SF.
What motivates you to do Jui-Jitsu?
The primitive human instinct to fight or kill. I don’t play video games or start fights in bars.
Combat sports in general provide healthy outlet for focused aggression. I’m a much happier and more pleasant person when I’m training everyday.
Who did your tattoos?
Theo Mindell at Spider Murphy’s Tattoo in San Rafael.
Relationship status? (sorry my co-worker insisted I ask)
I have an amazing girlfriend. She’d tell you it’s an entirely overrated experience

Run,Eat,Repeat’s “Salty Carbs”

Hello! This is Monica from Run, Eat, Repeat (www.runeatrepeat.com) . I write a little blog about my two favorite things – running and eating.  Sometimes these two topics collide in a great way when I have to figure out what to eat before I run.  My go to meal is Salt Carbs.

The night before a long run or race I swear by salt carbs. I believe in carb loading, but I also make sure that I eat enough salt as I sweat abnormal amounts 😉

My go-to meal is a big stir-fry with tofu, veggies and copious amounts of brown rice with soy sauce. It doesn’t hurt that this is one of my favorite meals too!

Before my last race I wasn’t going to have access to brown rice so I made sure to snack on pretzels as an afternoon snack. (pb pretzels pic)

Other salt carb options I’ve tried:

–          Thai food – noodles with soy sauce is a similar combo

–          Pizza

–          Soft Pretzel

All is carb-loading talk is making me hungry! But, I have to admit, one of the perks of running is being able to enjoy my favorite foods mentioned above and knowing they are good running foods too!

I know everyone is different so the most important thing is to figure out what works with your body during training. And it’s key to make sure you do a “test run” (no pun intended!) with your pre-run eats before any race!  The last thing you want is to have stomach issues the day of a race. Aren’t race day jitters bad enough?!

Hopefully, you can find a meal that you love and loves you back on that run J If you have any questions feel free to contact me at runeatrepeat@gmail.com or www.runeatrepeat.com.

Happy Running!

Running Green!

As a runner, I have found a deeper appreciation for the environment, the public parks, city streets, and paths that I scamper along on my daily runs.  These roads and trails are the places I go to unwind, breathe, and center myself.  That is why I’m so thankful to live in a place with lush green trees, sandy beaches, pebble paths, grassy fields, and air fresh off the ocean.

I think all of us at The SF Marathon would agree that we’d like to keep this city (and planet) in pristine condition.  So this Thursday April 22nd, in honor of Earth Day, we will all be running to work and hope you’ll join us!  Here are the details:

Beginning at 8AM, Abe, Libby, Francis, Michelle, Roslyn, Natalie, and I will leave our homes to run to work.  If you want to join us, we will be out running (scattered around different SF neighborhoods) with prizes for runners who find us on our way to work.  We will be out running until about 9AM.

We will each have one free race registration to give out, socks, discounts, hats, and more.  If you find us- you can choose any prize we’ve got left!  Pretty sweet deal if you ask me, you’ll get your training run in for the day, spare the environment, and win cool stuff!

Stay tuned, we will be posting details on what/who exactly to look for, and tips on how to find us later in the week.

So lace up your shoes this Thursday and run green with us!

sabrina

Tapering Runner Ahead

I can’t sleep, I worry about every little twinge in my body and I’m too distracted to even pack. In a word, I’m tapering. Ah, the taper – you either love it or hate it. It drives me a little nuts since I feel like I have all this extra time, but I fill most of that with fretting about whether my goal pace is appropriate or backpedaling on which shoes to wear. Instead of falling asleep, my mind races around about travel logistics, whether I should pack that many darn shoes and how on earth I’m supposed to squeeze in seeing all of my old friends in Boston on Monday after the race. And don’t get me started on weather – I’ve seen everything from rain to wind to snow to sun forecasted for race day. That doesn’t really help the packing situation. Sadly, all of this is pretty normal for me in the last week or two before a marathon. But something about it being the Boston Marathon just exacerbates the taper madness a tad more.

Boston. That word has so many meanings to so many runners: hope, challenge, weather, hills, elusive, heartbreaking, fun, crazy, history…. I could go on. For me, the Boston Marathon is what got me into this whole marathoning mess to begin with. When I took a half-hour break from work eight years ago to check out the marathon, I had no idea how much it would change my life. Though I’d never run more than 5 miles that day, as I watched the race unfold before my eyes, I knew right then and there that I had to run that race. No matter how much blood, sweat and tears it took to get there (and for the record, it was a lot of the latter two). It took several attempts before I first qualified but in the end, it was all the sweeter. I ran Boston last year and simply loved every bit of it – the atmosphere of the weekend, the crowds on the course and even running past where I’d first watched the race as a spectator. For me, Boston means going back to my roots as a runner and I found it hard not to sign up again this year because of that.

But because of those roots, I am simply bouncing off the walls right now. I’m full of nerves, anticipation, fear, excitement, apprehension…. I can’t wait for Marathon Monday to get here. But yet, I feel like I need more time for all I have left to do: packing, a last minute massage, a last test run, confirming hotels, printing off articles on the course, coordinating meeting up with friends, practicing my Boston accent, deciding on shoes, getting the right gear for the right weather, staring at maps, eating a whole lot of carbs, and most importantly attempting to actually sleep. So much to do and so little time.

Meanwhile, here at The San Francisco Marathon headquarters, I’m feeling like there is so much to do to make this July’s race great. It doesn’t involve last minute massages (though maybe it should… hmm…), but it does involve a lot of coordination and planning to culminate with a great event. An event which also will have thousands of runners anxiously awaiting their big day, fretting about whether their goal pace is appropriate or backpedaling on which shoes to wear…

I guess it’s all part of this sport: anticipation. And as much as it’s driving me nuts, I wouldn’t change it one bit. Especially as I’m getting ready to start the carbo-load part of the taper. I mean, what runner doesn’t like carbs?

Love the run.

Running Yoga

Running Yoga
Ryan DeMatteo, Yoga Instructor

I would not call myself a runner, though like many I have participated in the act before.  Running is of a universal language for many species living on our planet.  The banana slug may not speak it, but it may be that running (like everything) is relative.  Maybe that slug is running? Maybe not.  From my observations any individual that runs needs feet, legs, hips, heads and most importantly a reason.  Be it the child for play, me for the phone, the morning for exercise or the training for marathon; there is motivation behind those body parts. There is motivation behind all movement, for every living thing.

Yoga is a household word that has also come to represent many things.  It is widely defined as stretching, contortion, gymnastics, physical therapeutics and meditation.  To some these definitions are true, though yoga is as relative to the individual as running.  The word yoga is a Sanskrit term that goes back five thousand years in ancient India.  The root of the word is ‘yuj’ meaning to ‘bind’, ‘join’, ‘yoke’ or simply ‘union’.  Yoga was originally (and in some cases still is) an investigation of the mind and spirit.  It’s practices can include but are not limited to the chanting of ancient verses, bodily austerities, intricate breath control, and investigation of the subtlest parts of the mind.  These techniques have been designed and refined to reveal the the highest states of existence. And to seek the motivation behind it.

Now we may ask, how did such an esoteric word become a household term? Because Yoga can be applied to and seen in anything.  The entire universe can be split into subjects and objects, qualities and quantities, runners and ran.  And when we begin the practice of yoga, it first asks us to define these distinctions in our own lives.  What am I doing and why? Yoga then aims to actually do Yoga by showing us the meeting place of these two forces.  So the next question behind our drive for knowledge is… HOW?

You can say, I run for exercise or I run just for the love of it..but these are only statements of opinion, even if they are true. When you are running, actually in run, then you have the opportunity to experience why you are running. The whole body is being joined in run and there is nothing else… Well yes traffic, dogs, wet grass, and the rest of it.  But at some point the mind goes completely quiet… and there is only running.  This is the practice of Yoga.  I’m sure all of you have felt it at some point in time even if it was for half a city block. And in those moments (or shall I say between moments) there was no runner and no body being ran, there was only (if I may put it this way) ‘runningness’.  The forces had joined so the mind didn’t need to speak at all, for once it had nothing to do!

Often when the experience of the mindless state is realized, we want more of it.  So a striving for a more yogic life or more ‘runningness’- becomes extremely important and difficult to recreate.  And here arises the question of WHAT is the best way to do this?

We can push ourselves to the physical limits of possibility, but it is hard to sustain that drive. It is rare to experience that “mindless” state of yoga if the mind is constantly yelling at the body- faster, harder, higher!!  The body will tire and then retire.  The mind will get upset or angry.  This is not a productive way of working.  And as you marathoners know it is true balance (yoga) that defines the line of endurance.  As nature reveals- working in balance is the only sustainable way.

Now okay, by now you may be saying ‘I just thought yoga could get my steel cable hamstrings a little looser..?’  It can, but not just by using another steel cable to wrench the first one open.  So, lets now look at the physical side of yoga practice for another example and maybe it’ll also help those hammy’s.  Lets take forward bends.  I often see runners in the park or waiting for the light, bending forward to touch their toes.  Now bending forward to just stretch the backside of the legs and torso is not a balanced stretch.  Part of the body is being stretched, part of it is over working to hold the stretch and other parts we don’t even know exist.  To over simplify, in a forward bend, the front of the torso and legs also need to be engaged.

Try this (on an empty stomach please):  stand up, forget about what you just read, and simply bend forward to touch your toes.  Observe the length of the front torso.  The stomach is short and the chest is most likely caved in towards the diaphragm.  Now try it again like this: while standing, lift the top of the chest towards the sky- lengthening from the abdomen all the way up.  This is a backwards bending action of the torso.  Now keeping that length to the front body slowly bend forward at the hips (on an exhalation).  If it helps- bring the hands to a wall or chair and push down for leverage to keep the front body long.

You may have noticed a vast difference in your poseor it may only seem slight.   But the point is that the second set of directions is helping to bring more balance in the body during your forward bend (which are actually called forward extensions in yoga).  This allows the breath to better fill the lungs as they become more open. It allows the organs more room to continue working and allows the energy in the body to more readily move.  If the body were a machine (thankfully it is not) the more well oiled the parts- the more productive the machine.  The better we know all the parts of the machine- the more easily we can keep them oiled!  So in Yoga practice we do postures (called asana’s in Sanskrit) to seek the body’s most organic alignment and reveal it’s restrictions.  If we reveal our restrictions, we can then finely tune our motivation to address our weak areas.

To sum it up, there is motivation behind all actions of the body be they aggressive, lazy, natural, or unknown.  The more we become aware of these actions, the more we become aware of the motivation. And the more we become aware, period.   And when there is yoga, the whole organism is in it’s peak performance, it’s own organic purpose.  And if that state wouldn’t improve your marathon this year, then we better go ask a banana slug for some help.

Run well.

For a more in depth look at the details of yoga practice for runner’s, see Jean Couch’s “The Runner’s Yoga Book”.
My blessings to Francis  for the opportunity to write and teach.