My Love Hate Relationship with Running

40554446_1929070970472585_1579221588832681984_nWhen I first took up exercise and healthier eating and living five and half years ago, I started with walking. I tried to walk at least three miles per day but I got bored with it and lower leg injuries started to get me down. Four months in I turned to weight lifting as well.

A family friend who is an avid runner told me that I was going to catch the bug. I told her she was nuts. I enjoyed a nice bit of humble pie with a side of crow when I had to admit to her that she was right. I had caught the running bug. I started with my standard, pat distance of three miles. My dearest friend, who just happens to be a cross-country coach, and former cross-country teammate of mine, told me I better switch up distances and pace or else wasn’t going to get any better.

Over time, I gained an appreciation for running. It became therapy. It became an idea incubator for my fiction writing. It became a sanctuary. Me, my music and residence in my own head. I ran a few organized 5Ks and I was building up to bigger races.

When I hurt my back in 2015, one of the toughest parts of recovery after surgery was not being able to run. I busted my hump to be able to get back to it and even had a 5K to train for to keep me focused.

A 2014 run in England hatched an idea. Normally, I travel a lot for work, as I have chronicled in this space. So, my regular readers will recall that I set a goal to run in every city I visit. The first year, I missed a run in Detroit because of the flu, the second year, I missed a run in Denver because I had the flu, and last year I hit them all, including Mexico City for the second year in a row.

The last run of the year and of the travel schedule was in Los Angeles. After that I must have felt like I had accomplished something. I no longer had the fire or the energy to run. I washed my hands of it.

Now, I hadn’t become a marathoner, hell, I haven’t even tried a half yet. I never managed to run an organized 10K either. My longest run to date is eight miles in Baltimore. In five and a half years, I have logged nearly 1,400 miles walking and running using the Nike Running Club app. I know that mileage is some people’s one year total, but I’m pretty sure I have logged 1,398 more miles than a lot of people.

I tried to pick running back up in March. Back pain, fear of injury, cardio-vascular degradation because of lack of running, tight quads and a terrible pace kept me from getting back to it on a regular basis. My last run came along the beach in Carlsbad, Calif., during a vacation back in June. That was more “Jerry wants to run on the beach in Carlsbad” than “Jerry is running for exercise.”

But I suppose that has been the point all along, right? Enjoy it. Run in different places. Experience the world through a different lens. I had forgotten that.

After that run in Los Angeles, you could say I fell out of love with running. After today, I won’t say I have fallen for running again, but it was a good first date.

And oh by the way, in case you had forgotten …

…I still run this town.

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B-Boy Running Adventures 2017 – Goal Accomplished

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In 2015, I set a goal. I set out to run in every city I visited as I traveled for work. I usually make 10 trips a year, sometimes a few more, sometimes a few less, and I thought this would be a great way to see the cities I visit and also keep me from getting bored with running. In 2015, I missed one run – Detroit – because I had the flu. In 2016, I made nine trips, and missed one run – Denver – because I had the flu. But I was able to add Mexico City to the list. This past year, I made 11 trips, including Mexico City again, and I nailed all 11. I was able to add a few to the list as well.

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The last two were polar opposites. I ran in Philadelphia on Christmas Eve, and near LAX in Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve. Philly was fun and interesting, except for the young lady who wouldn’t yield to me on the sidewalk and thought it would be better to mean-mug me instead. The City of Brotherly Love was less than friendly as the streets were packed with last-second Christmas shoppers. Most were oblivious to runners and pedestrians as they skylarked their way out of the shops along the busy byways of this historic city.

I got to see some of the historic sites and old neighborhoods. There is such a stark contrast between east coast and west coast architecture. I grew up in western New York so I am used to the rude behavior, the cold weather (it was a balmy 39 degrees) and the austerity of the buildings. I ran 3.61 miles in 38:08. I would have gone further, but the pedestrians and traffic lights get to be a bit bothersome after awhile.

IMG_1850My route took me past Independence Hall, Independence Historical National Park and the Liberty Bell. There’s something to be said engaging in such a modern activity like running, with state-of-the-art Bluetooth headphones connected to an iPhone and a GPS capable mobile app, through iconic, historic neighborhoods. What exactly I don’t know, but there is something.

I only spent approximately 30 hours in Los Angeles and I was determined to get a run in. I met up with my buddy Sal and we headed out toward LAX. I really would have liked to run Santa Monica Pier, but there just wasn’t enough time. It was just a bit too far from where I stayed.

IMG_1972The neighborhood was unremarkable. I think I did this one just to get it done. We ran a full 5K and my time came in at 33:26, not quite race speed. It was a cloudy 51 degrees in Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve.

I am quite happy with the fact that I finally nailed every city. I even ran in Lima, Ohio, on vacation over the summer.

Here is the complete list of the cities I’ve claimed with a run the past three years:

In no particular order

Philadelphia – 1
Pittsburgh – 1
Buffalo – 1
Chicago – 1
San Diego – 2
Nashville – 4
Los Angeles – 1
Miami – 1
Jacksonville – 1
Tampa – 1
New Orleans – 1
Seattle – 1
Houston – 1
Dallas – 1
Kansas City – 2
IMG_1855Overland Park, Kansas – 1
Denver – 2
Minneapolis – 1
Phoenix – 1
Mexico City – 2
Washington, D.C. – 1
Baltimore – 1
Cleveland – 1
Lima, Ohio – 3 (one trip)

I’ll even throw in Pennyhill/Bagshot, England, in 2014 here because that is where I got this idea to run in the different places I visit. That’s 25 cities, two continents and three countries.

I must admit, I haven’t run in a month, and frankly, I have fallen out of love with it for the moment. Don’t worry, I’m starting to get the itch again. In 2018, I’ll be able to check off a few new cities and return to some old haunts.

“City to city, I’ma runnin’ my rhyme.”

B-Boy Running Adventures: Another Crack at Mexico City and A Pleasant Surprise

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The view from my room in Overland Park, Kansas, shows part of my running route along Lamar Ave. to the left.

Kansas City has become one of my favorite cities in the United States. The barbecue, the people, the aesthetic. It’s more cosmopolitan than you think it would be. I get to visit KC once a year and I have my usual haunts. I have made a couple of good friends there and we usually see a few sights and indulge in the local fare.

IMG_1830This year I stayed in Overland Park, Kansas, not too far from Kansas City proper, but far enough to be inconvenient. I wasn’t sure where I would be able to get a run in. Since I started this little project of mine, Kansas City runs have been a disappointment for some reason, I usually stay at Crown Center and I have never been able to find a good route. When you think of Kansas, you think flat and boring. You would be wrong.

I made sure I was ready for the weather this time after the Buffalo debacle.

A quick map check showed two parks, Nall Park and Roe Park,  not too far away. The heart of one was 1.3 miles from my hotel. I figured I would run to that spot and see what I could find. I headed out and took note that the first 3/4 of a mile were downhill. Just before I got to the park, I saw a paved trail to the right and I broke for it. Little did I know I had just discovered the Indian Creek Bike Trail.

What a pleasant surprise this was.

The trail led east with Indian Creek on my left. There were plenty of challenging hills and rises that left my quads burning in short order. The trail took me to the Overland Park Bike and Hike Trail into the other park and I made a bit of a loop after crossing Nall Ave. and ran back on the other side of the creek after making my way through Roe Park. The trail featured wooded areas and wooden pedestrian bridges. I got 4 1/2 miles in. That 3/4 mile uphill finish was a bitch or I would have gotten 5 miles done. My thighs and calves did their best Roberto Duran impression.

IMG_1831The run previous to this took place in Mexico City. I ran this amazing city the year before and did not have great results. The altitude was a killer and I had to stop every 1/2 mile to catch my breath. I am in better shape this year, and after a blistering fast run (for me) in Denver, I thought I could handle it.

After running into Chapultapec Park last year, my buddy Sal and I decided to run the main drag along the park instead. We ran to a traffic circle that featured a beautiful statue in the middle of the round-about. We took a photo break before resuming our run. This was the only break we took and we managed to get 4 miles done.

The statue is was none other than the Angel of Independence, or El Ángel and is officially known as Monumento a la Independencia.

It was a slow 4 miles for me, but I ran farther and longer non-stop at that altitude than I did the year before so I’ll consider it a win. All Sal did was complain about how I ruined his average per mile pace.

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The Angel of Independence, or El Ángel.

The street was blocked off for a 5K that had taken place earlier in the day as Mexico City celebrated the Mexican Revolution, which began Nov. 20, 1910, and lasted for more than a decade.

I have fallen in love with Mexico City and I hope to visit again someday when I have more time to see the sights and sites.

My last two road runs have been in two of my favorite places, and frankly I am glad I stayed in Overland Park. That was the best run I have had in the Kansas City area since I started my B-Boy Running Adventures.

Now I get to conquer the City of Brotherly Love, another city in which I haven’t run. I’ll have to do my best Rocky Balboa impression.

City to city, I’m running my rhyme.

B-Boy Running Adventures – More Cities Checked Off

IMG_1445I am nothing if not a creature of habit, and if I visit a city multiple times, I tend to run the same routes. I am not always that comfortable running in unusual places, this is usually reflected in my per-mile pace.

I normally run the 16th Street Mall in Denver. While out and about at my two favorite haunts in Denver, The Tattered Cover bookstore and My Brother’s Bar, I noticed a park I hadn’t seen before. If I had it was during the winter and at night, so I paid it no mind.

IMG_1293Commons Park beckoned. The riverside trails were fantastic and I turned in a terrific time for a three-mile run. I was only in Denver for one night so I had to make it a quick early morning excursion. Running along the South Platte River for a stretch was very pleasant. I had walked by Confluence Park, a favorite spot of The Beats in the late 1940s, so Commons Park was a nice find.

I usually stick close to the hotel, and Commons Park wasn’t too far at all. I definitely left a lot of trails to explore and I will hit this park again next time.

Ah Buffalo. What can I say about this western New York city 60 miles west of my hometown? Late October weather in Buffalo can be unpredictable. When I was a kid growing up in Rochester, I went trick-or-treating in the snow a few times. Oh, it’s not like  was trudging through six-foot drifts in one of those God awful plastic/vinyl drugstore Halloween costumes with the “I can’t see and/or breathe” mask with the cheap-ass rubber band to secure it.

IMG_1387I had no idea where I was going. I just ventured out and ran through the local neighborhood. Eventually, I found myself downtown in the theater district. The weather was shit. It was colder than it was supposed to be. It was windier than it was supposed to be. It was wetter than it was supposed to be. I don’t mind running in a little bit of weather, but I didn’t bring the proper gear and I was ill-equipped. I managed to make the best of it and get my three miles in.

I have been to Buffalo numerous times in my life. When I enlisted in the United States Navy, I did all of my in-processing at the Military Entrance Processing Station at the Federal Building. I don’t remember that many churches in Buffalo. Most were neighborhood Catholic parishes just like the ones back home. Austere brick buildings with elementary schools or rectories – or both – attached. I had never run in Buffalo, and although it was a familiar experience because it was so close and similar to Rochester, it was a singularly unique experience.

IMG_1455Miami. Another new one. I had been to Miami before but I had never stayed downtown, and I had never gone running there. Well, let me tell you. All of Miami thinks it is a dance club. The area near my hotel was so congested and under construction I figured running there would be too dangerous. I figured it would have been a bad look to get hit by a car while trying to get my miles in.

So, I decided to head to Miami Beach. I had never been to Miami Beach before and an online review of the best places to run in Miami had the beach at Miami Beach at the top of the list. I took an Uber over and set out.

Most of the beach is what you would expect, soft sand, barcaloungers, and plenty of beach goers. It was a bit overcast and the sky was threatening rain. I was thankful for that. The sun wasn’t blazing hot in the middle of the day like I thought it would be.

The back of the beach, however, was packed sand, plenty good for running. It was a little softer than I would have liked. You don’t get the return on each step like you do on a harder surface. I didn’t mind, I was running on Miami Beach for cryin’ out loud.

I headed south and just past the two-mile mark, I came upon a pier. I took a photo break and then turned around and headed back to my point of origin.

All of the beachfront resort hotels operate concession stands with a variety of refreshments. I took advantage of the opportunity and finished my four-mile run with an ice cold beer. I planted my feet in the Atlantic ocean and took in the scenery with a celebratory brew. It was a straight-line run for the most part. I do like some twists and turns, but I won’t complain.

Next up is Mexico City again, I hope. I hope I have time to get one in this trip. I am in much better shape than the last time and I hope to run farther non-stop than the last time. The altitude is a killer. I did better in Denver this time. That was an encouraging sign.

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B-Boy Running Adventures Continue with New Spots and Old Stomping Grounds

IMG_1137The fall work travel continues and so do the B-Boy Running Adventures. Some of this travel involves annual trips to certain cities, and some trips to either new cities, or places I haven’t been to in a long time. Dallas, Nashville, and Washington, D.C. are the latest three.

As many times as I have been to Dallas, I have never gone running there. It was technically Irving, but I enjoyed running around Las Colinas. The weather wasn’t too hot and I got a good three miles done in 31:17. The ritzy suburban neighborhood near the Byron Nelson golf course was pleasant enough. The gym at the Four Seasons was a sight to behold. You can actually join this state-of-the-art gym with the fitness facility, and the tennis and the racquetball and the swimming and the fancy-ass AntiGravity Aerial Yoga nobody has ever heard of, provided you already own a small country (golf is extra). I’m not sure about the underground labyrinth I had to traverse to get there. I kept expecting to turn a corner and find a Minotaur asking to see my room key.

Nashville is a recurring theme, I have gone running there four times in the past three years, the last two took place at Gaylord Opryland. I had previously run just off Broadway and around Nissan Stadium, but the past two trips, I stayed at Opryland. Last year, I didn’t really check out the hotel property, but this year I did. Oh my, what a hotel. I’ve never seen anything like it. From the built-in radio station, 650 AM WSM, (where Pat Sajak once worked) to the conservatory and numerous bars, restaurants, and boutiques, it’s almost a self-contained city. It was a workout just trying to find the gym and you definitely needed a map, or GPS, or a Sherpa. I thought I was trying to find the Indiana Jones ride at Disney.

I ran by the Grand Old Opry by day, and walked by it lit up at night as I returned to the hotel after seeing Stephen King’s “It” at the local toomanyscreensplex. My pace and run time were phenomenal. I was really surprised. Last year, I had trouble plotting a route. There is an official 5K route that runs a loop around the hotel, Opryland itself and a nearby Bass Pro Shops-anchored spend-all-your-money-in-one-day shopping complex. Without markings, the route didn’t make much sense. But this year, I managed a better route and a better time. A full 5K in 29:36. I really am back to my 5K race pace. Losing approximately 20 pounds over the last 12 weeks or so has made a difference.

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My last assignment in the United States Navy was at the Washington Navy Yard. I got out of the Navy 20 years ago this past July. I have been back a few times, most recently 2005. The only time I ever went running there was to pass a physical fitness test. I wasn’t much of a runner back then, and I was a pack-a-day smoker.

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I’ve always known that the National Mall was a great place to go running and I found out for myself that knowledge was indeed correct. I got three miles in with a time of 30:43. My first mile was 9:01, blistering fast for me. I ran out of gas due to the heat and too many traffic lights so I couldn’t maintain that pace. But the sights were fantastic.

I started down 9th Street NW and headed for the Capitol building. I turned right on the National Mall and ran from there to near the Washington monument before breaking back toward 9th Street NW. Although it was late morning, it wasn’t too crowded.

Here comes the soapbox rant. I don’t know how it is where you live, but almost everyone I see when I am out running out walking gives a nod, a wave, a tip of the cap, a verbal greeting, something. Washington, D.C., runners are freaking rude. There were plenty of runners out and I got one acknowledgement, one.

IMG_1231Maybe they didn’t get the e-mail.

Okay, the soapbox is put away, for now.

Of the last three running spots, D.C. was the only one in “town.” I thoroughly enjoyed all three for different reasons. Nashville because I improved the route and my time, Dallas because it was new experience, and Washington because it was a new experience on my old stomping grounds.

I’ll be in Denver again soon and I am looking forward to revisiting a city I have a new appreciation for after more than a decade of loathing. The weather will be better too and I won’t have to pack the cold weather gear like I have the last few times.

B-Boy Running Adventures Continue in 2017: Starting off with a Scorcher

It’s that time of year and I am traveling for work once again. In 2015, I started a tradition of running in every city I visit. Although there are some repeat cities each summer/fall (and winter), there are always new spots on the itinerary. I have only missed two cities, Detroit in 2015 and Denver in 2016, and only because of the flu. I’ll be able to add several new cities this year.

I am no stranger to running in weather, especially heat. I prefer temperatures between 55-65 degrees, but I have run in the mid-90s and the low teens. Running in the summer where I live in California usually means higher temperatures unless I get up very early. And that’s usually a non-starter.

This past weekend, my occupation took me to Phoenix, Arizona, where temperatures are consistently in the triple digits during the day this time of year. The forecast told me that mid-80s were the overnight lows and early morning norm. So, I figured I’d get up early and get three miles in before heat stroke conditions kicked in.

I got up a little later than I wanted to, but I still headed out early enough, 8:00 a.m. PT or so. I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going. My hotel was near Camelback Mountain, which was visible on the other side of the Camelback Mall. I decided to head east on E. Camelback Road and see where it went. Just over a mile in to the run I decided to take a left and break toward the mountains. I headed north on N. 32nd until I edged past the 1.5-mile mark. I know better than try to run more than three miles or so in that kind of heat. I also know better than to try to set any new land speed records. My Nike Run Club app says it was 83 degrees during my run. Lies, all lies!

Cloud cover had shielded me from the harsh rays of the morning sun during the first mile or so. After running into the sunrise on my way out, the angry yellow nuclear reactor at the center of our solar system was at my back.

This happens to be the time of year in Phoenix when it gets a little humid. Thunderstorms are common as well. Although the temperatures in Phoenix are akin to June in my backyard, there’s something different about the heat there. Maybe it’s the proximity to the equator. But I basically ran through a blast furnace during the second half.

I like getting out for these runs so I can explore the local environs. Sometimes, though, I do them just to do them, just to say I did it. This run was a bit of both. My route wasn’t particularly exciting, it looks like an “L” on the map. But there was some scenery.

As I was trotting along, I had a good view of the mountains, there was a man-made pond of some variety, and I crossed a short bridge over a canal. Had I planned a bit better, running along the canal might have been the better option, but it also looked hot and dusty, kind of like my aqueduct runs here in California. On second thought, the canal probably would have been a bad idea.

This was my first run in Arizona. All things considered it wasn’t bad at all. I would have liked to have been a bit more adventurous. But I tend to be cautious when running in a new place unless I can find some established, well-worn running trails near my accommodations. The next travel run will be in Dallas and that will be a new one for me as well.

Funny, I was just looking at an old blog post about my goals for 2017. I wrote that I would blog more. Whups. I still have five months. Time to get cracking. I did finish my first novel, so accomplishing those goals wasn’t exactly a pipe dream.

B-Boy Running Adventures: Mexican Style

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A monument in Chapultepec Park in Mexico City.

I just experienced my first trip to Mexico. You’d think living in California would afford ample opportunities to venture south of the border and partake in adventures in the birthplace of the Aztecs, most of the American southwest and California, and the taco. But alas, this was my first trek and unfortunately it only lasted 36 hours. I accomplished a lot in a short amount of time and I enjoyed the experience thoroughly.

It was not lost on me that one of my literary heroes, Jack Kerouac, wrote of many Mexican adventures and I was hoping to have a similar Beatnik experience. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to explore even a fraction of what Mexico City has to offer. The New York Times’ Damien Cave actually went in search of Kerouac’s Mexico.

“I found Jack Kerouac’s Mexico on a strip of beach that separated the old hotels from the heaving Pacific, at a bar near where he sat on the sea wall and watched the sunset 61 years ago.” Damien Cave, New York Times

I landed at Toluca International Airport, (Licenciado Adolfo López Mateos International Airport), which was out in the weeds. The bus ride into Mexico City was long and winding. The sun went down shortly after landing so I didn’t get to see much. It gets dark quickly this time of year.

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The view from my room at the Hyatt Regency, Mexico City.

I stayed in a hotel near Chapultepec Park (Bosque de Chapultepec), which many liken to New York’s Central Park. A colleague mentioned that it takes an hour to walk around the perimeter of the park.

After getting checked in I met up with a pair of colleagues/friends, Ambrosio and Fernando, who are natives of Mexico. I must admit it was really cool to drink authentic Mexican beer (Modelo Negro) with a couple of authentic Mexicans.

Mexico City, and Mexico in general, has a reputation among many people I have known. Much of that reputation is undeserved as far I can tell. Home to more than 20 million people, it is much like any other mega-city with sprawling neighborhoods, mixed eras of architecture, upscale areas, down-trodden sections, and everything between. The traffic sucks and the place definitely qualifies as a sprawling metropolis.

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This taco chef at El Farolito became my new best friend.

After a few Modelo Negros, mis amigos and I set out to find some authentic tacos. We had a rough idea of where we were headed, but Fernando felt the need to ask directions every other block. We came across a Mariachi band serenading some tourists. The lead singer gave us the stink eye as Fernando began singing along as he was trying to put his mack down.

The three of us came across a couple of police officers walking the beat, and they pointed us in the right direction. Never mind the next set of cops we saw, who were apparently in the middle of a sting operation. I didn’t want to stick around for that.

We eventually found our destination – El Farolito – a neighborhood taqueria (18 locations). The first thing you notice when you walk in is the taco “chef” slicing pork off a giant rotisserie. The second thing you notice is the aroma. Your sense of smell is bombarded with the amazing aromas of several roasted, smoked and grilled meats. We enjoyed pork, chorizo and carne asada tacos. The first bite sent me into a tizzy. These were the best tacos I have ever had. And I’ve had authentic before.

Before you travel to Mexico, you hear all the stories and admonitions. Don’t drink the water, don’t eat this, don’t eat that. When you are with folks who grew up there, you trust them and my pals didn’t steer me wrong. Another Modelo Negro accompanied our meal.

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Best. Tacos. Ever.

We definitely needed the walk back to the hotel to burn off some calories. The evening ended with a couple of obligatory pours of tequila. When in Rome (do as the Romans do).

If you are a loyal reader, or know me at all, you know that I like to go running in the cities I visit. I went on 10 trips in 2015 and ran in nine cities. So far this year I have gone running in New Orleans, Nashville (twice), Baltimore, Jacksonville and Tampa. Two years ago, I had the opportunity to run in Bagshot, which is not too far from London, England. So, of course I was going to go running in Mexico City. I met up with two other colleagues, one a native of Mexico, and we set out for Chapultepec Park.

img_0217Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Mexico City sits at 7,382 feet above sea level. I have run in Denver, the Mile High City, which sits between 5,130–5,690 feet above sea level. The last time I went running in Denver, the altitude didn’t bother me. Maybe that was because I run regularly. The time before, I was miserable but that was at the beginning of my fitness journey. Last winter I rather enjoyed my cold three-mile run in Denver.

I haven’t run in three weeks for various reasons. My back has been bothering me, and I had a head cold, which graduated into electric yellow snot flowing sinus infection.

Let’s just say I wasn’t ready for the elevation in Mexico City. We lost one pal less than half a mile in. I could call him out, but I won’t be mean. My other friend, Sal, and I managed a mile non-stop before I needed a break. After that we took a break every half mile or so. My body felt pretty good but I just couldn’t catch my breath.

We ran around part of and through part of Chapultepec Park. The park was stunning. The natural beauty was interrupted with historical monuments. That’s not a bad thing. Visitors walked, ran and paddle-boated their way through the expanse.

My run time wasn’t horrible had it been non-stop. That’s what I get for taking three weeks off from running. I highly doubt it would have made a difference. At my age, with my body, taking any time off from exercise is almost catastrophic. It is so easy to get out of shape, and so hard to get back in shape. I only feel good when I am exercising – or eating amazing chorizo tacos.

As I mentioned, I was only in Mexico City for 36 hours or so, and I was there to work. I didn’t get a chance to visit the pyramids of Teotihuacan, or the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. But I did enjoy authentic tacos and I got to go running in another exotic locale.

Muy beuno.

Muchas gracias, Ciudad de México.

I Feel the Need for Speed

Not sure why I ripped my headline from a movie I absolutely detest, but the quote is appropriate for what I have going on with my running.

When I first started this fitness journey I did nothing but walk for exercise for about four months. I then added weight lifting. As I gradually got faster walking I often felt like breaking into a run. I’ve never been much of a runner. One year in high school on the cross-country team hardly qualifies. But, because I had fitness goals and thought organized 5K races would be fun I picked it up.

After dismissing folks who said it was addictive and that I would “catch the bug,” I caught the bug. I have been addicted to running for more than two years now. I think about running when I am not running. Injuries – major and minor – that keep me from running anger me. I am glad that I have strength training in my life because my body can’t handle more than three runs a week and it keeps from bagging off exercise when I can’t run.

I have had chronic back problems for more than 10 years and after herniating a disc last year and undergoing surgery, my per mile pace took a nosedive after a I resumed running. I worked very hard to get in shape for a 5K last September. I had six weeks after being cleared for full activity. I ran a 30:05 race. I haven’t been under 30 minutes for a three-mile run since Jan. 4. In March of 2015, I was routinely well under 30 minutes. My per mile pace was well under 10 minutes.

My pace was steadily improving during the early part of this year and then I strained my back in May. I wasn’t able to run for about two weeks. Then I suffered a rash of minor foot injuries that forced me to take a week here and a week there.

After my schedule got in the way, I took about a week and a half off and ran three miles this past Wednesday, and four and a half today. I have my Nike+ Running app set to give me ½-mile hacks and when I am under five minutes for my first half-mile, I know it’s going to be a good run. I guess any run is a good run, but you know what I mean.

I don’t know what it is – the time off or number of days between runs, keeping up with my strength training and not skipping legs days in particular, something has my pace coming down. On top of that, I feel pretty good, especially today.

13880280_1143320122381011_8604912016051867540_nI have been trying to exercise some demons this year. I ran a six-mile route a year after I hurt my back lifting weights the same week as running that route. I ran the same six-mile route on which I had been stung by a bee a few weeks earlier. And now, this four and a half mile route I first attempted a few weekends ago and could not run non-stop because of my fitness and 94-degree heat. I made it about three miles and then had to alternate walking and running the rest of the way. Well, I conquered that course non-stop today on a 77-degree morning. And, I was fast. Well, fast by my warped standards.

My first mile went by in 9:22, my second in 9:43, third in 10:03 and fourth in 10:45. My overall pace was 10:03 per mile and I ran 4.5 miles in 45:15. A few weeks ago, I was running at 11 minutes a mile and I would have been lucky to go four in 44 minutes. It started to get very warm during my last mile, mile and a half and I slowed my pace so I could make sure I finished on a dead run without walking.

They say you should change up your course and do something different. I must admit I usually run the same three routes – two here at the house and one at the office. Now, I have four courses I can run and this fourth is very much a challenge. I want to work my way back up to including that longer run in my weekly regimen. Maybe now I am on my way back to that.

I maintain that any run is better than no run, and that any workout is better than no workout. CBS Sunday Morning ran an inspiring story today about athletes in their 80s and 90s who are still exercising, still running and still competing. One gentleman is the only man to ever run a 10-minute mile past 80 years old. If he can do it, what’s my excuse?

 

Don’t Ever Grow Up or Get Older

Aging sucks donkey balls.

I just turned 47, rather celebrated the 17th anniversary of my 30th birthday. I don’t know what 47 is supposed to feel like. I didn’t know what 30 was supposed to feel like either but I do know I was 30 pounds lighter back then.

The first thing you notice when you get older is how much longer it takes to heal. Cuts, scratches, bruises, sprains – things that used to take days to heal now take weeks and months. It takes longer to get back on track after recovering from an injury too. I’ve had the thought to just wrap myself in bubble wrap and never leave the house again.

You would think that after three years of diet and exercise after making a commitment to a healthier lifestyle that I would have somewhat undone 16 years of relative inactivity and 18 years of smoking. But, unfortunately, every time I hurt myself and have to take a week or two off from running, it takes quite awhile to get my groove back. My cardiovascular can’t maintain my previously attained per mile pace when I am able to pick it back up again. Just when I think I’m driving that pace back down I hurt myself again and have to take a week off.

Graphic showing my running activity June - July
Gaps in my running activity due to stupid foot injuries don’t make me happy.

And these are not catastrophic injuries. These are stupid, living life injuries. I kicked a boulder jumping into my pool and bruised the living hell out of my foot. Boom – no running for nine days. I moved the coffee table so I could vacuum and destroyed the toenail on my left big toe, blood everywhere. Boom – no running for seven days.

Back in May I strained my disaster of a back, again, and was down for two weeks.

The good news about these other stupid little mishaps is that I don’t miss any time exercising. I just don’t run. With the exception of the back strain, I still have been able to lift weights several days a week. About the only thing I couldn’t do was walking lunges because I couldn’t flex the bruised foot.

Considering I couldn’t run at all last July after back surgery, I guess I should be lucky I am running at all. Before I herniated the disc at L4L5 and needed surgery to repair it, I was down to a pace of about 9:30 minutes per mile, some days faster, some days a twitch slower. Now, I’m lucky I can turn in a three-mile run with a pace under 10:30. I don’t know if it’s my back, my stride, my cardiovascular, my age or a combination of all these things.

My weight lifting doesn’t seem to be suffering. I blame my set up and my equipment, along with my schedule and commute, for lack of significant gains. But then again, I really don’t know what my goals are anymore.

I find trying to hit my macro nutrients every day to be an onerous activity. Trying to get 180g of protein, drink 56 ounces of water, commute, work, exercise and do everything else there is to do in my life is a full-time job. Once again, I am finding so much conflicting information. To whey protein or not to whey protein. To creatine or not creatine. I’m not a “bodybuilder” so do I need to do all of this? I just feel bloated when I protein and creatine myself silly.

What’s my point? The older I get it seems like it is less about living life and more about managing it. I take cholesterol medication and fish oil every day, I try to eat right and exercise. I just don’t know what I want to be physically anymore. I don’t like hurting myself but I can only imagine what I would be like if I had not lost all this weight and become an active person.

I should be happy that I can play basketball in the street or chuck the football around without getting winded after five minutes. But there is no guarantee I won’t dislocate a hip.