September 24, 2010

Flattened By A Glacier

Not me. I wasn't flattened by a glacier although I may run slow enough for that to happen. I'm referring to the land north of Charleston, IL. Now, nhere may not be much to Charleston except being the home of Jimmy John Sandwiches and EIU with all it's famous alumni but it is an excellent town for runners. I may have blogged about this earlier but let me illustrate one reason why. A long time ago a glacier slid southward through Illinois stopping at Charleston. I don’t know why it stopped here but my best guess was for a Jimmy John’s sandwich. Eventually, the glacier receded leaving behind a very flat terrain chuck full of corn and soy been seeds that, to this day, continue to magically spring forth corn and soy bean plants each spring. 

Last Saturday I wanted my long run on level ground so I went north of town and ran mostly on the bike trail that connects Charleston with Mattoon. The trail is a converted railroad bed build on the glacier leveled turf. I drove to the trail so I didn’t have to run any little hills along the way. (For the record, it was just past mile 4 that I was scared by the wall cloud.) You can see the elevation at the bottom of the map below.

This week I opted for a shorter long run with a few hills thrown because running up inclines is suppose to improve your speed even if you don't have any to being with, like me. Plus, if I happen to gain a few more fast twitch fibers I wouldn't mind setting a new PR at the Monumental Marathon in November. Running south into glacier-virgin territory, I followed a 14 mile out-and-back route I call Five Hills. (See its elevation at the bottom on the map below). Brett Bartlett introduced me to this run some 8 years ago and its been a favorite ever since especially in the fall when most of the route in lined with colorful autumn trees. More than once I've left my legs on these hills but it's a more scenic route than any over glacier levels grounds which sports mostly the previously mentioned corn and soy beans fields. My legs ran up all fiver hills but nearly collapse at the top of the last hill. In fact, I was tempted to walk up the last 20 yards but a woman runner was coming down the hill so I guess my legs got a boost from my fragile male ego. Compare the elevation to last weeks run.

Next long run on the schedule is an 18 miler. I think I'll head north. 

September 16, 2010

Scared Running

Dogs have scared me while running. Cars, or rather their drivers, have scared me while running. But, on Saturday I was scared as much or worse than any dog or car. The plan was to run another 16 miler in preparation for the Monumental Marathon on November, 6th. The skies were partially cloudy day but I checked the weather before I left and the radar was clear as a bell. A little wind but cool for early September so nearly perfect for running. Running east of town, I periodically looked over my shoulder to see if any storm clouds. Nothing.

I feel much different than the week previous where I couldn't stop thinking about dad. I'm still thinking about dad but more so the good things. Like skiing, water skiing, and rides in the '31 Chev. Again, I see clear skies to the west and I also see fields of corn and soy beans that have already been harvested. Autumn is arriving early most due to a very dry August. But, that's okay. I love fall. In fact, one fall 30 years ago dad did me the biggest favor ever. I had just come home from morning classes at USU. Mom and dad were in the kitchen. I don't remember all that was said except that dad gave me the best advice possible. "Jake," he told me, "there's a sale going on down at Cardon's Jeweler's. Go buy Lesa an engagement ring." It was more of a command than suggestion. That was October 8, 1980, the day I asked Lesa to marry me. It is without doubt the best decision I have ever made and the best advice I have ever followed.

Almost as a reflex, I look over my right shoulder to check the weather. As my head turns towards the northeast I see something very similar to this...

Now, when you are expecting, for the fourth or fifth time to see clear skies but turn and see a black wall cloud instead, you get scared. At least I did. Without a heart rate monitor I could feel my heart rate sore. It might as well be a rapid pit bull or a drunken driver baring down on me. I was at least 2-3 miles from town with only a few random farm houses nearby enough to run to. The storm was heading southeast and I was "running" eastward. I don't know how fast storms fly but this one was obviously going faster than my 10 minute per mile pace. Should try to run east and hope the storm passes below me or, at the upcoming intersection, turn south praying the storm will go above me? I see a small metal shed to the south so I figure I run that direction even though I don't see any protective overhangs on the shed. Hopefully, I think, just standing on the east side will protect me from the wind. Other than that, I only had the brim of my running hat to hid under. At this point I was running a little scared.

(Here are Gegorgy Hines and Billy Crystal in Running Scared, a semi-entertaining 1980's Beverly Hill's Cop wannabe buddy-buddy cob movie set in Chicago and Key West)

I've been caught in rain storms before and don't mind them particularly if it's a warm day. Well, it was warm but I could feel the temperatures dropping as the storm approached but my biggest fear was getting blown to Terre Haute. And, if you've ever been to Terre Haute, IN you'd understand my fear. A farmer approaches in his truck and I think about stopping them and asking for a ride but then I'll get a lecture about running and how dumb it is and that I should be doing something more productive with my energy like milking cows. I decided to keep running and deal with the consequences. At least, it will give me something to blog about. 

I turn south and with the storm nearly overhead brace for impact. At worst, the road is lined with a ditch perfectly made for tornado protection. The ski darkens and the wind gets colder but that's it. A few minutes more and the darkest clouds have passed without a single rain drop and wind that was not match for my 174 pound frame. Wow, I couldn't believe it. Just like most dogs, that wall clouds' bark was bigger than it's bite. 

September 6, 2010

Labor Day

Growing up we spent many Labor Day's at Bear Lake. I think it was one Labor Day that dad crashed through the Daines' sliding glass window after seeing the boat slowly drifting away from shore. The next time, the Daine's had flower stickers covering the sliding door windows.

Labor day also signals a new year, at least for me. Summer is gone and fall and winter next in line. For me, the next six months are full of greater anticipation and excitement than the last six months. Baseball is getting serious. Football is starting. Skiing is soon to be in the air. Fall marathons waiting to be run.

This years' Labor Day celebration is a little more special. Not that I'm doing anything exciting or made any significant Labor Day resolutions. This year I'm leaving more baggage behind me in terms of my job. I'm no long the graduate coordinator. I'm back to teaching full time. I love forwarding emails full of questions and inquiries to the new coordinator. I love leaving graduate faculty meetings with no agenda items to follow-up on. Mostly, I love that the term "assessment" means so much less to me now.

Summer also had a nice closing act to it. Lucky enough to find cheap airfare from Indy to SLC, I was able to fly to Utah for a week in August. I got to spend some time with mom and dad at the Twin Pine Ranch. It was good to see dad despite the weakness cancer and its treatments have inflicted upon him. I also got to see the rest of the family with one of the best family home evenings ever! I wish Lesa and Erin could have been there but I'm also glad they let me go. It a great trip and a perfect way to celebrate the end of three years of higher education administration and frustration. (Yes, those terms are redundant.)

Now I'm looking forward to fall. First and at the top of the list, is the arrival of Clara Jane who was due to arrive on Saturday the 4th. If she's as cute as her mom says she is (and who am I doubt it?) I'm sure she'll be worth the wait. I'm also looking forward to another trip to Utah in October for Clara's blessing and the Emmett Family Fun Ultra 5K Run. November brings with it the Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis and my favorite day of the year–Thanksgiving.

While life may not be fair, life is good.