Category Archives: Positive Thinking

FFS!! Cactus Rose Clusterfunk

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The start line. That cool little guy is playing guitar, I believe.

I’ve come to realize that during extended periods of running, my heart must be diverting blood and oxygen headed for my brain to my legs, because my mental capacity bottoms out. I made logistical mistakes that slowed me down, but one huge demoralizing blunder earned me the Einstein title: I took a wrong turn.

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The field where I “camped.”

I got to the park, dropped off my stuff, and picked up my packet. I ate some food, pinned on my bib, got my clothes ready. Even though it was still daylight, I figured I might as well try and go to sleep. Later in the evening, it started to sprinkle. It was off and on for a few hours, and I was glad to not be in a tent. Then I realized that the drop bag with my change of clothes and my rain jacket were just outside of the aid station tent, exposed to the rain. Even though it hadn’t full on rained, I figured my clothes were soaking wet by now. The only thing I could do was to accept it and know that I’d be running in the same clothes all day.

As I lay there, tossing and turning trying to get comfortable, I remember thinking, “Jeez, right now I’m just laying here trying to sleep, but tomorrow I’ll actually be running.” And then bam! It’s 4:55 a.m. I’m standing in a small crowd and some lady is yelling, “It’s 5 minutes till the start!”

The countdown commenced 4, 3, 2, 1 and away goes the pack! The first 14 miles went by pretty quickly, as this is the easiest part of the course, and I was still pumped up. When I picked up my first food bag, I discovered that I put the wrong bag in the cooler, and so I had the wrong split information. No big deal. I ate up everything in my food bag and was feeling good about that. Extra bonus was being able to blast a duke while it was still dark. Fortunately, other than being slightly hungry, I had no stomach issues at all during the race.

At the second aid station, Nachos, I wanted some cold water. Three giant Gatorade coolers and I’m looking around for cups. “Cups?” I ask. Guy replies, “Not at this race.” I was at a loss, and was going to just open my mouth under the spigot, but thankfully the same guy let me borrow his cup. (I had no idea that they weren’t going to provide cups! And I thought that there weren’t any volunteers, but that had to be wrong. No doubt many of the people were spectators waiting for friends / family, but there were definitely some volunteers.) Next aid station: Equestrian B.

I had one food bag that was supposed to be for the Lodge aid station (Mile 25). In an effort to simplify the drop bag business, I decided to leave that bag at Equestrian B. My plan was to grab two food bags when I went through. No big deal, right? Well not if you remember to grab the bag! Which I didn’t! It would be much later until I realized I’d fudged up.

I start working on food bag #2. Power Bar brand gels are freaking sweet, and not in a good way. The vanilla tastes like vanilla frosting. And normally I like Chips Ahoy cookies, but they tasted extremely weird and chemically. The pretzels were pretty rocking, probably due to the salt. The tropical lifesavers were good for keeping dry mouth at bay and tasted yummy. But the big winner was the cola flavored gummies. AWESOME!

By this point in the race, the field of runners was spread out. It seemed like I was the only one out there. Somewhere in there I ran with Ed Brown for a little while. He, in his insanity, was doing the 100 mile. I thought he was going too fast, and so did he. But he was having a good time and was super upbeat.

Miles 18-24 were the big hills. Strangely, they didn’t seem so bad. I was pretty stoked around Mile 23, knowing that I was almost halfway done. And then I got to Mile 24ish. The course came to a tee. There were two signs, one said LOOP 1&3, the other LOOP 2&4. I stopped and looked at the signs, confused. I asked some runner, “Is this the way for loop 1?” I now realize he was probably just as confused as I was. He said, “Yes.” What I should have asked him was, “Which way to the Lodge?” Or better yet, the sign should have said (for the benefit of Einsteins like myself) LODGE with a big fat arrow pointing right. Instead, I went left.

I saw trail markers and thought that was a positive sign. But I didn’t see any runners behind me, in front of me, or coming from the other direction. (When you reach the Lodge at Mile 25, you turn around and go back. So there was two way traffic on the trail.) After 3.5 miles, I came across two ladies on horseback. They’d stopped because one of the horses was taking a huge dump. I asked them where the Lodge was and they told me it was behind me. My heart sunk.

Backtracking was absolutely dreadful because it was hard not to dwell on my mistake. I really wanted to quit. Why did it take me so long to realize I was going the wrong way? Why didn’t I figure that out sooner? Why didn’t I just ask that guy, “Where’s the Lodge?” 

Coming down Lucky’s Peak, I slipped and fell on my butt. I got up and two steps later fell on my butt again. I sat there for a minute. I felt like a baby. I thought for sure I was going to cry. I really wanted to cry, to get all the anger and frustration. But for some reason, I couldn’t. Since I couldn’t get myself to cry, I tried to push all the negative thoughts aside and shift my focus to the trail directly in front of me. That helped. My spirits were lifted when I finally reached the Lodge, but there was still plenty of running to do.

The

next

ten

miles

felt

like

this.

It was soooo slow. Now I understand what they mean when they say you have to train yourself to run on tired legs. It’s like your legs blow a fuse and refuse to run. As a result, I walked a lot. But you can push the reset / manual override and tell your legs to keep running. Provided you are consuming enough calories.

Ah, calories. I was very fortunate that they had gels available at the Lodge. I grabbed only two because I didn’t want to take more than my fair share, but I should have grabbed like four.  As a result, Course Miles 25-35 were tough because I was short on calories. I was actually licking my arms for salt. It would have been way worse without those gels. And I will say this about Hammer Apple Cinnamon gels: as much as I’m not generally a big fan of apple cinnamon flavor, they are the perfect amount of sweetness.

When I finally made it to the Equestrian B aid station, I immediately went to my cooler and gorged: massive instant gratification by chugging a chocolate protein drink, then starting in on some watermelon, and a string cheese, a sip of coke, and chase it all with coconut water…. Glorious! There were several Rockhoppers there that checked up on me and offered assistance. Weirdly, I’d see them again at the next three aid stations. (I believe they were following a runner behind me.)

Having finally consumed some much needed calories, I was able to run some of the last 15 miles. They weren’t fast miles by any means, but speed was the last thing I was concerned with. It was all about finishing.

At this time I, came to the conclusion that I must have kicked every single rock in the park. Twice. I thought about coming back with a sledgehammer and smashing some of those damn rocks, a la Office Space. But rocks are like Gremlins, if you smash one, they turn into more rocks.

My toes were getting pretty beat up, and my shoes felt tighter than usual. Going downhill became a new challenge. I had to be very slow and deliberate with my foot placement, and it was still painful because my toes would get all jammed up in the toe box. I think the Cascadia’s I was wearing simply DO NOT have a large enough toe box. I thought for sure when I finally peeled off my socks, all my toenails would be black. Surprisingly, as of now, I have only one.

Amazingly though, I got not a single blister! I attribute that feat to my double sock method. Injinji toe socks “liners” with Drymax super trail socks. (The Drymax were like $25, but worth every penny.) And I’m not too big of a sweater, so normally chafing isn’t a problem. But I did chafe –ahem this might be TMI– on my nutsack. That has never happened before, and was quite unpleasant.

When I made it to the last aid station, all I could think was, “I’d be done by now.” I tried to enjoy the fact that the finish was close. Maybe an hour. Tim helped fill my Camelback and reminded that, “The rest of the course is easy, it’s all flat.” Except of course, for Lucky’s Peak. Criminy! Just when you think you’re done, the course gives you the finger one more time.

But I finally found my way to the finish line in 12:51. (By my Garmin, official results still pending.)

Jiminy Christmas, the Finish!!!
Jiminy Christmas, the Finish!!!

*   *   *   *   *

So what did I learn?

Planning & Organization = Success. The importance of having your ducks in a row before the race cannot be understated, especially with an undertaking so complicated. I thought I was organized, boy was I wrong!

Make sure your calories and hydration are positioned where and when you need them. Eating solid food early in the race was a little difficult. The food bag was a nice concept, and somewhat successful. However, consuming calories in liquid form is way more efficient. I didn’t drink the Perpetuem like I had planned, so I don’t know how my stomach will handle that. But now I can test it out in training. And I’ll save solid food for the end of the race.

Study the course. Bring a map. You’ll never regret it. If you do get lost or turned around, just concentrate on what’s 5 feet in front of you until you are back on track. Don’t dwell on mistakes and don’t let a time goal be the end-all; sometimes it’s just about finishing. Once you’re finished, you can think of your excursion as “bonus” miles.

Finally, your attitude makes all the difference. You might feel overwhelmed by the difficulties you are facing, but try and remember that it’s the difficulties that make you stronger. Get out of your head and focus five feet in front of you and just keep running.

Cactus Rose Medal. I really earned this one!
Cactus Rose Medal. I really earned this one!

D-Day Again So Soon?

It’s go time again. Nerves! Anxiety! Excitement! Fear! Giddiness! And Delirium

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Tomorrow I am running the Cactus Rose 50 Miler, which will be my second 50. Under ten hours is my goal, which translates to a 12 min pace. That seems downright slow after running 7 minute miles in Chicago, but I have to remember that this is a trail race, there are steep hills. And it’s fifty freaking miles. I fully expect to cry at least once. If not tears of frustration, surely tears of joy once I cross the finish.

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This is the the first loop. You just turn around and head back to the start for the second loop.

In order to avoid bonking at the end of the race like I did in Chicago, the past few days I’ve been gorging on carbohydrates in order to fully load my glycogen stores. I’ve also managed to avoid alcohol, and tried to avoid caffeine. I’ve manged to forgo my morning coffee, but had a Coke yesterday. I’ve eaten a lot of quinoa and bulghur, potatoes, rice, bread… and I think I’m going to have some pasta before I head out.

I’m going to leave today and go get a camping spot at the park where the race is. (Well, really a parking spot, as I’ll be car camping since I don’t have a tent.) The race starts at 5am, packet pickup is 4am if you pick it up the day of the race, the drive is 45 min, so that would make for one hell of an early morning if I chose to stay home. The last race I ran at this park, there was a traffic jam getting in. Luckily my dad had driven me, because I had to jump out of the car and run up to the start to get my bib and get to the start line. Not going to let that happen again, no sir!

I’m not sure if this race is considered “unsupported” or not, but there are no volunteers at the aid stations, and no food at the aid stations. The only thing provided is water, ice and, at two aid stations, a portajon. You have to bring your own food. Which in a way is good, because it has forced me to pay more attention to a crucial aspect of running a good race.

Reading from a couple sources, I’m figuring on 250 calories per hour, and about 30 oz of fluids per hour. The sources are pretty far apart in their recommendations, so I’m taking an average. I made “food bags,” for lack of a better term, that contain various gels, cookies, chips, snacks etc that total at least 500 calories. I will pick up a bag at every other aid station. There enough calories per bag to keep me chugging along, and hopefully enough variety that I don’t get sick of any particular thing. (If you’ve ever had more than 3 or 4 gels in a race, you know what I mean.)

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“Food Bag” with splits taped on back.

On the back of each bag, I attached a print out of the splits from that aid station till the next food bag. I plan to hang and clip this bag around the sternum strap of my Camelbak. I like the idea of having all my food easily accessible right in front of my stupid face. But if that turns out to be annoying, I’ll shove it all into the pockets.

As far as hydration goes, I’ll be relying mainly on water, with a handheld with Hammer Perpetuem. I haven’t really tried the Perpetuem in training, and I KNOW YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO TRY NEW THINGS COME RACE DAY, but I’m going to anyway. I’m going to rely on my “food bags” for my calories, so the Perpetuem is more of a supplement. Also, It may help to have something to drink other than water.

So that’s the plan to get through the race. Watch my pace, hydrate, and consume calories. Keep a sense of humour, talk to people, and most of all, remember that no matter how terrible you feel, this is fun!

Today is the day!

Lighthouse 20M Results Bad and Good

Perhaps it’s time to schedule an eye exam.

Two ten-mile loops. Easy peasy, right? Actually, it was super easy.

While it had rained the night before and the threat of mud was high, there was very little mud to speak of. The most mud we encountered was on the walk to the start. The course had a few tiny hills, but it was mostly flat and super runnable. Had I known how fast the course was, I definitely would have signed up for the 50K.

One of the worst parts of the day was when the 50K’ers took off. There was a huge crowd of people, then BANG! They take off and there’s like four other people left. It totally felt like the party just left me behind. And I would have to wait a whole freaking hour for my start.

More people eventually showed up and it seemed like we had our own little party ready to roll. The gun went off and the fun began. I wasn’t really trying, but I got ahead of the crowd pretty quick. However there were two guys ahead of me that were hauling. I tried to keep them in my sights. But the gap widened at mile 2.5 when I had to stop to take a sh*t. After that, I never saw the dudes again.

I cruised along, feeling good and strong. Even though I forgot my handheld in the car, it wasn’t a big deal since there were 4 aid stations per loop. I was totally fine without it and actually glad that I wasn’t carrying water.

For a several miles, it was like I was the only runner. The two dudes in front were just gone, and there didn’t seem to be anyone behind me. Finally, at about mile 5, a guy catches up to me. I  slowed down because I was confused. The fence line I was following ran perpendicular right into another fence. I was like, “What the?!” But then I saw there was an ever so slight trail following this new fence line. And then a hundred feet later, the trail disappears behind some trees. Again I was unsure if I was still on trail. I expressed my doubts to the other guy, he seemed unconcerned. Eventually we saw a big sign with a big arrow, which was perfect.

Trail anxieties relieved, I started talking with the guy. Mike from Boston, just moved to Austin, doing the 10 Miler. It was nice talking to someone after running alone for what seemed like forever. Mike probably felt the same way. We ran for several miles, talking about -what else-  running. About mile 8, he said he was taking off for the finish. I was sad to see him go because it was nice having company, and even nicer having another pair of eyes finding the trail.

When I got back to the start, I saw Mike. I asked how far out the two guys were. Turns out, one was a 10 miler, so there was only one guy ahead of me, although I had no idea how far ahead. But with 10 miles, there was still a chance. Mike had finished second in his race.

The second loop went by quickly. I started passing the slower 50K’ers. I was hustling along. One thing that struck me: I don’t push myself hard enough. Or more accurately, I’m not sure what I am actually capable of. I filed that away for a later training date. I’m nearing the finish and still feel like I have plenty of gas in the tank. Although I’m worried because I seemed to have missed that one section with the fence line business… Or did I just not pay attention?

My Garmin has my finish at 2:30:32. And only 19.52 miles. Oh $%^#!! I did miss part of the course. I tell the three people working the race. They seemed unconcerned and/or unsure what to do. I look at the tiny map on my Garmin and I can plainly see, yep, I missed that right turn. (Later, on Map My Run, I saw that I fudged up not once, but twice, and unintentionally cut off a half mile. A HALF MILE.) I told the lady who handling passing out the medals that I should be disqualified. While it would have been nice to place, it was a 20 mile race, not 19.52.

The more unsettling thing of all this was not having my name listed on the web page official results. No DQ, or even an asterisk. Nope, I was not part of that race. Oh well.

The next two days I redirected that bummer energy onto canvas. Finished two paintings in two days. Maybe I’ll sign up for a 5K and get lost…

bitchin'
bitchin’
THE QUICK BROWN
THE QUICK BROWN

Procrastinate Later, Write NOW!

I’m sure I’m not alone in my constant procrastination, and it’s time to do something about it.

Blogging has been on the backburner for too long. Good things are happening, and it’s time to share. I’m not going to worry some much about “crafting” my writing (since I’m not a writer), I’m just going to write. The biggest news for me: Running is fun again!

My Achilles seems to be pretty good for the most part. There are occasionally still times when it hurts, but the intensity and duration are lessened. I’m on 5 days a week, mostly following a Hal Higdon marathon schedule. Last week I ran with the R-U-N group for the first time in a million years and that was a blast. There’s a guy David who is pretty fast and I tried to keep up with him, and that was a great chase. The group is meeting again tonight and I have just enough time to write something…

An observation for you: I’m running the same greenway 5 days a week, at about the same time each day. Without fail, I see the same little old man walking the path. He seems very happy, and probably he waves or smiles at everyone. Whenever I passed him, I’d wave at him and he’d wave back. We don’t know each other, and I’ve never stopped and talked to the guy. But I’ve seen him so many times, I sort of feel like I know him. And now it’s gotten to the point where I can’t stop smiling when I see this old guy out there, in the heat, walking and smiling at everyone.

I’m tempted to stop and ask his name, just so I can say “Hi Fred! (or whatever his name is) when I see him. But I’m not skilled in the art of introduction, so I may just let that go. It may be enough to enjoy things as they are, and not want more.

*   *   *   *   *

I just completed the fourth week of the 100 push up program! I’m elated, but not looking forward to week 5 and 6. This week was tough and I’m thinking about repeating the week. I will make 100 pushups. Perhaps this weekend I’ll see how many I can do in a single go.

That’s my entry to get myself back on track. An injury sucked all the gun out of running, but now, things are starting to look up. There’s plenty more good news I’d like to share.

Next up: Juicing!

Fun Sun Run

“Fun” may be stretching it a bit, but today’s run was a good one.

bingo_cards-1My mom loves play Bingo. Today, there was a special, so she wanted me to go with her. ( I don’t really like to play, I only go for her sake.) We’d leave at 6pm and get back around 10. If I chose to go, I’d have to run before we left, which meant running at 3, pretty much in the heat of the day. Okay, so what if it’s a million degrees out! I’m from Texas, I can handle the heat, right? And why don’t I run a couple of errands just to make things interesting?!

Oh, and did I mention this would be my first double-digit run in almost three months?

*   *   *   *

johnny_automatic_ornate_sunThe high was (only) 97, and yeah, it was pretty dang tough. What’s worse is I couldn’t find my sunglasses. I ran some trail and some paved, staying in the shade whenever possible. Usually I don’t sweat much, but today, I was sweating like nobody’s business! In fact I weighed myself before and after the run, there was almost a four pound difference.

And as much as I hate wearing a Camelback, they are helpful days like this. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have enough water is worth the sweaty back. Having food is pretty nice, too. Today, I brought a Powerbar Vanilla gel and one of their new fruit gels. The vanilla gel is one of the few gels I actually like. It’s kind of a strong fake vanilla, but I like it. I just wish it had caffeine in it. The fruit gel I did not eat. I tried one a couple of weeks ago, and it was just okay. I think it’s basically baby food in a different, more expensive package.

My first errand was to deposit cash at my bank. Not even 4 miles in, I was fantasizing about how great the AC in the vestibule would feel. Usually it’s ridiculously cool. Usually, but not today. Dammit Chase! I lingered for a minute after my transaction, hoping maybe it would get cooler… it wasn’t getting any cooler. Very well, to the libary! (sic)

The heat was working its magic, so I stopped and sat down. I saw a deer, it looked at me. I did that slow blink thing that’s supposed to relax cats (it shows you aren’t a threat) and it seemed to work on the deer. It went back to nibbling leaves.

Poppy_FlowerI stared at a bright red flower. My gaze lost focus and then I could see everything. And  those bugs, whatever those bugs are, singing their slow heat song. Everything was very still and it was beautiful. It was a very cool moment. Mighta been the influence of The Power of Now.

Or more likely it was just the heat.

10 minutes later, I’m in the library. The AC feels amazing. I drop off my overdue Ayurveda video, and head to the hold racks. The book won’t fit in my Camelback. Just as well, less for me to carry! I’d like to stay and absorb every molecule of this fantastic AC air, but I feel weird wearing my running get-up here, so I split. 7 miles down, 3 to go.

No, wait, I’m supposed to do 11 today, I’ve got 4 more to go. Fuuuuudge. I mean, awesome!

I tack on a short diversion. I stop and eat my gel, hoping it’s enough to get me through 4 more miles. As I get closer to my finish, I realize I’m going to have to run a bit more. I make it to 10 miles and turn around. I stop and pause under some shade only to discover some stickers stuck to my shorts from sitting in the grass. And a sliver has embedded itself into my finger. Sweating furiously, trying to use non-existent fingernails to extract the thing, I’m cursing my luck, cursing this heat, wondering why did I choose to run now just so I can go play a game I don’t even like.

And then I looked up and saw a deer staring at me.

Doe_1_I immediately snapped out of sourpuss mode. The sliver could wait till I got home. There was only one more mile to go. And I’d just completed my first double-digit run since forever!! And perhaps most amazingly, the whole run went down without a peep from my Achilles. Hot or not, this was a good run. I ran the final mile encouraged and much happier.

*   *   *   *

johnny_automatic_bag_of_money I didn’t pay attention to the time when I got home. I was just making my post run smoothie when I noticed it was 5:55. Holy crap! That took me three hours?! I drank my smoothie faster than usual and iced my feet for a few minutes. I was totally beat and seriously contemplated bailing out, but I didn’t want to upset my mom.

I’m super glad I went because, wouldn’t you know it, I actually won a game! $475! Woo hoo! New shoes, here I come!

 Sometimes doing stuff you’d rather not do pays off. 

Jeebus Answers Prayers

Jeebus-Plaque-Car-Emblem-(2235)Running has been difficult the last two months. So I’ve tried to push running out of my mind. As a result, writing about running has been impossible. However, things may have just turned around.

I’ve been running shorter runs (8 miles or less) to ease back into running since aggravating my Achilles. Yesterday I ran a short out-and-back, 4.5 miles. At first I my Achilles was sore, but it warmed up. On the way back, I unintentionally started running fartleks. I ran fast for a bit, which felt great, but each burst was short-lived as my endurance is shot. So I’d walk for a minute and catch my breath. Then take off again.

On one of the sprints, I was trying to concentrate on my form. I could very well have imagined it, but I thought I heard and/or felt a weird crunching sound from my heel.  Immediately after hearing that, I stopped and walked. My Achilles felt slightly warm -like I could feel the blood flowing through it- and remarkably loose. I twisted it all around and there was no pain at all.  It felt like a big ugly knot just broken up and instantly dissolved.

I don’t know what happened, but it’s nothing short of a miracle.

This whole Achilles thing has been scary because I was afraid it was going to ruin two races.  But that might not be the case after all. When I got home I looked up Hal Higdon’s marathon training program. I pencilled that onto my calendar. I’m already two weeks behind, but that’s okay.

Even more heartening is that when I woke up, there was no residual soreness in my Achilles. Hallelujah! I’m supposed to run 3 miles today. My brain says take it easy, do JUST 3 MILES. But my heart has other ideas…

The Good News Part III

FINDING BUDDHA, GETTING LOST

The Buddha I "discovered"
The Buddha I “discovered”

One day I really went exploring. I went down a road I noticed running home from the zoo. Ten minutes into the run, I stumbled upon this Buddha statue. I took some photos (with my iPod, which is why the pictures all these picture are so crummy) and as I made my way onward, I realized this was the backside of a temple my cousin had taken me to. I’d just never seen the Buddha statue.

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DSC_0067 DSC_0059Now I had a vague idea of where I was. I made my way around a small pond and lo and behold it’s the same pond we’ve been getting water for the farm from! Now I had a much better idea where I was, but that would change soon enough.

I found some really awesome trails made not by runners, but people walking and riding motorbikes. (They ride those things EVERYWHERE.) The trail just seemed to keep going, and even better, it was uphill. Wherever the trail split off, I tried my damnedest to remember where I’d went. I encountered a few people foraging for food, and one guy with a really long, skinny rifle. I think he was hunting birds.

After following the trails for at least an hour, my water supply told me it would be wise to head back home. Attempting to make my way back out, I got myself all turned around and lost. I tried to conjure up some hunter tracking skills looking for my footprints, but couldn’t conjure any results.

I remembered the find-your-way-back GPS function on my Garmin. I had no idea how to use it, but I sort of figured it out. However, I think it just tells you how to backtrack, without regard for where you are in relation to the start/finish, and there was no way I was going to re-run the entire distance. So it may have been more dumb luck than anything, but I did somehow get un-lost.

I was pretty stoked about discovering these trails, and even more stoked about finding my way back home. When I unpacked my Camelback, I saw it was one pull away from completely empty.

THE LONGEST RUN AND GETTING LOST AGAIN

My longest run was 12.3 miles, but it was an awesome 12.3.

I started down another road I’d passed by several times. Going down the dirt road, it came to a T. I went left and saw a trail leading into the woods. After a few minutes, I came upon a pond I’d never seen before. I sat down on the bank. There were some other people there: two kids playing in the water and some guys hanging out on their motorbikes, smoking- which would seem to be the national past time for Thai men.

I sat and relaxed for a spell, watching the kids have fun splashing around in the water. I would love to come back and take a dip here. I’m sure the neighborhood kids would too. I knew I was relatively close to the house, so I was surprised no one had ever taken me here or even told me about it. Are ponds are boring?

Not wanting to get too relaxed, I took off looking for the road the smoking motorbike guys rode in on. Once I found it, I followed it. It ran along side the boundary fence of the zoo. Then into more farming territory. I passed a small hut which appeared to be abandoned.

Up the road, a dog barked and started toward me. Luckily it’s owner, a guy I recognized from the neighborhood, appeared and called the dog off. I thanked him and continued on. I came to a point where I wasn’t sure where to run. I noticed some footprints in the sand [my delayed hunter tracker skills!] and decided to follow them. They took me by a tree farm and then I took a short exploratory detour into the trees. My anal retentive nature loved the orderliness of the trees in rows and had to document it. It’s nowhere near as cool as the real thing.

Again following the footprints, the farmland gave way to a road which offered a small dose of relief. I thought I knew the road, but decided I didn’t. I could flag someone down and ask for directions or a ride if I needed to. Unsure which way to go, I spotted a temple in the distance and decided to go check it out. I saw a truck in the distance heading toward me; I thought it was my Uncle. I kept running, waiting for the truck to pass me, expecting to hear a honk any moment.

The truck passed, it wasn’t my Uncle.

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I wasn’t in the mood, so I didn’t enter the temple, as I figured taking a few photos was enough excitement. I’ve come to realize these small temples are pretty common, so no big deal. I continued on, and heard prayer chanting coming from… somewhere. I stopped and listened, trying to determine the source. I thought it might be a function related to the temple.

It would be cool to witness whatever ritual was going on. I headed down the street and entered a residential area. I heard the prayer chant growing louder and louder and then I found it – coming from a loudspeaker. It was a recording.

Slightly amused, I continued through the neighborhood. The garbage was being collected. They still did it the old fashioned way, the poor saps have to pick up each bin by hand. Those guys must be pretty strong. That has got to be a hell of a workout. Hmmm….

Along the way, I did a little garbage collecting of my own. I make collaged postcards using “trash”or “litter,” however you call it. I told my running group that I would send one to whoever wanted one. ( I made about 10 for the group. ) As I ran through the neighborhood, I found some interesting wrappers and assorted trash. I stuffed them into my Camelback. With limited space, I had to be choosy about what trash to pickup. (How ridiculous does that sound?!)

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I ran by some people in the neighborhood, and they all gave me that WTF look. I passed one guy and he just smiled. Then there were two seriously pissed off dogs. I turned around and started walking the other way. The guy I’d just passed had also turned around and was walking back toward me; they were his dogs. I guess he knew the dogs wouldn’t like me.

I tried my best to ask him how to get to Moo 9 (our neighborhood). He hollered at some lady laying in a hammock, I assume he was asking her where Moo 9 was. She said something and then he said something to me. I didn’t understand either of them but then he pointed. The pointing was enough for me. That and corraling his dogs. Off I went, with only the vaguest notion of where I was going.

I turned the corner and saw train tracks. The tracks were a welcome sight because they would lead me to the train station, which is very close to the house… If I just knew which direction the train station was. I had a 50/50 chance of guessing right. I immediately gave up on the tracks and just ran. I ran under a small bridge and was back in a another residential area.

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Khao Suan Kwang sign

Things were seeming pretty hopeless, until I came to this sign. I’d never been so happy to see a road sign. I still didn’t know where I was, but this was concrete proof I was headed in the right direction. I kept running and eventually figured out where I was. I was flooded with relief once I knew exactly where I was. And i was absolutely thrilled about getting lost, and finding my way.

Tired, sweaty, and hungry, I stopped by one of the roadside restaurants near the house. I had eaten there yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed the meal. I told the lady that I would be back for more. She was happy to see me, and quite amused by my running get-up, and the fact that I had just been running. I mean, who does that? I know that’s what she was thinking.

The food was, whether by virtue of hunger or otherwise, absolutely marvelous. Soup never tasted so good. I almost ordered a second bowl, but didn’t have enough cash on me. I walked the rest of the way home, content with another awesome run.

The Good News Part II

THE ZOO

Sadly, the entrance is the best part of the zoo
Sadly, the entrance is the best part.

The first week I ran up to the zoo. I’d run there once on a previous visit, so I knew I’d be safe. There are just a few houses on the way to the zoo, and thus the dog threat diminished, but I was still leery. Only once I got passed the gates did I feel at ease.

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The beginning of the hill…
The hill at the zoo
In case you didn’t realize the hill was steep, here’s a sign.

Inside the gates, all I had to worry about was dying from exertion trying to make it up the hill. It was a pretty decent grade, gaining almost 400 ft elevation over two miles, which might be peanuts to some folks, but it was a tough workout for me.

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The small shrine at the zoo
Offerings
Offering stage

One of my cousins works at the zoo. I was chugging up the hill and I saw her at the small shrine where the workers make offerings. When I saw her, I was like, “She looks familiar. Do I know her…Oh snap, that’s my cousin!” I waved. She didn’t recognize me at first either. I didn’t stop to chat, which I later realized is really is rude, sorry, but lesson learned.

The downhill run was super fun though. It was hard to slow down. I was flying! I’m sure the workers there were thinking “Crazy Farang (foreigner).” Actually, most of Thai people that saw me running had a confused look on their face, that I understood as, “What is that idiot doing?”

THROUGH FARMLAND AND THE WOODS

My earliest run. It was awesome!
My earliest run. The sun was a super intense orange, simply awesome.

The next few runs were out through some farmland. I wanted to be adventurous and go explore. Running in an unfamiliar location is thrilling in that you have no idea where you are, so it’s very easy to get lost – and that’s the best part! You just go. You don’t know where you’re going or what you’ll run into, but you’ll find out when you get there.

I  followed this dirt road for what seemed like eternity. Running unfamiliar locations has that effect, making distances seem greater than they actually are. Eventually the road ended and I turned around. The next time I ran the same course, but ventured out a bit more at the end of the road. And I ran the course a third time and ventured even further.

Thrilling as it was, the idea of getting lost was scary. After all, I couldn’t exactly tell anyone where I was going, since I didn’t know myself. So they wouldn’t know where to look for me if something happened. Often, I was in the middle of nowhere and if I had been injured, it would be hours or days before I saw a person.

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Much of the area had recently burned.
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For all I know, the sign says, “TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT”

I tried to take mental notes about where I was running. I figured worst case scenario, I could simply backtrack. But after a certain point, my brain could recall only so many  “unique” rocks or trees or whatever. And when it’s a million degrees and you’ve been running for an hour… all of a sudden backtracking isn’t so easy. I also had an idea of leaving a trail of bits of torn up neon colored paper, but I tried it and that wasn’t as good an idea in practice as in theory. Big surprise there!

A posted sign however, is unmistakable. This sign was my landmark for where the “road” ended and I ventured off into the woods. There was always a sense of relief when I saw the sign on my way back. I was cautious on those runs and didn’t get lost. So naturally, I stopped being cautious.

The Good News Part I

Imagine a hundred of these suckers going off every ten minutes...okay it wasn't that bad. But close.
Imagine a hundred of these suckers going off every ten minutes…okay it wasn’t that bad. But close.

Whether the rooster population made it impossible to sleep past dawn, or everyone had to get ready for work in the fields, it’s hard to say (it’s the latter), but most people in the village were early risers. I could hear everyone in the neighborhood gearing up for the day, which included making som tum. (Som tum is a side dish consisting mainly of shredded papaya, tomato, peppers, fish sauce and lime. Thais eat som tum like Americans eat french fries.) You could always hear the pounding of the mortar and pestle from somewhere.

Also, everyday someone – not always the same person – would play music that the whole neighborhood could hear. While that might seem obnoxious, the music was always appropriate for the hour, and it was actually very pleasant and soothing. I think the music was a form of community sharing, and I miss that immensely.

I stayed with my uncle and he frequently cooked sticky rice to take with him to the farm, so I’d wake up to the smell of a wood fire. As much as I wanted to stay in bed, I had to get up. There was always a slight twinge of guilt that other people could get up and be productive, and here I am, the lazy American… Not to mention if I dawdled too long, it would be super hot. I’d get up, get dressed, put in my contacts, and fill my Camelback. I carried a stick to fend off any aggressive dogs.

Uncle Bpan
Uncle Bpan

Aside from acclimating to the heat and humidity, dogs were another challenge. The area I was in is a poor farming area where dogs roamed the streets. Basically wherever there was a house, there was a dog or two. The dogs may have had an “owner” but ultimately, they were their own masters. They constantly patrolled their territory and dog fights were common, even among dogs that knew each other. The dogs were used to automobiles and motorbikes, but they were most certainly not used to runners.

Even just running down the street the first few days was a little nerve-wracking. I tried to leave at a time the “owners” would still be around so they could call off their dog. And really, there was never just one dog. As soon as a dog barked, three more would spring out of nowhere, barking and ready for blood. At least, that’s how it seemed. Honestly, I’m not one for abusing animals, no sir, but I started to hope for a dog to attack me so that I could beat the dog and get over my fear.  I was tired of running scared. Luckily, being on the edge of town surrounded by farmland would offer more than enough mileage.

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Panda, one of the nicest, most flea infested dogs on the street. He went to work with us several times.

And just for the record, I made friends with several dogs on the street, flea infested or not.

Two Months Later… The Bad News

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This is actually in Laos, but ignore that.

Two months have come and gone. I had some high hopes for my time in Thailand. Unfortunately, I didn’t achieve either of my fitness goals, which is disappointing, but not the end of the world. I am very excited to get back on track and more importantly, I still had a really great time.

I ran almost every other day for the first two weeks. I ran relatively short distances at a casual pace to acclimate to the heat and humidity. Then I increased my distance, keeping the same pace. The third week I did 12.3, two days later by 8.8, two days later 6.13. By no means is that running too much, but that’s when my Achilles started to become really sore.

3 days later I did another a short 5 mile run thinking it would “warm up” and be okay, but no such luck. It was sore during the run, after the run, the next morning, and occasionally during the day when I was just walking around. Having injured my Achilles before, I was not going to take any chances, so I stopped running. Waiting for the ache to subside, I was constantly fretting about the days I was missing, and after two weeks without any improvement, I just said the heck with it and decided to just let it go. If I could not run, so be it. Better to lay off for 6 weeks than injure myself and be out for even longer.

What did bother me about the not-running situation was that I had no idea what caused the pain. My mileage and pacing were well within normal limits, I was running exclusively in my New Balance Minimus, (which aren’t much different from any of the other non-supportive shoes I usually wear), and I was running was mainly dirt roads. The only thing different was my diet; namely I wasn’t able to have my post-run nutritional smoothie. I had to make do with one or two juice boxes of chocolate soy/milk. (Which is better than nothing?) But how does that translate to a sore Achilles? I don’t know, but that’s the only thing I could come up with. Looking at it now, maybe it was too many miles on inadequate nutrition.

My other un-achieved goal was the 100 pushup challenge. The first two weeks were cake. So cake in fact, that I thought I copied the schedule down wrong. But then it got really tough. So tough, there were several days I could not manage the minimum on the maxout set. I was flabbergasted and bummed out by this turn of events. I think the combination of this secondary small failure, getting sidelined from running, and simply adjusting to living in different environment was just too much for me to handle. I guess I just gave up. Which is the biggest disappointment.

But I plan to undertake and accomplish this challenge. There’s no way I’m going not going to make 100 pushups. I know I can do it.