By Means of the Sole

Last Sunday I had planned on finding a new trail to run in or around Houston, or maybe revisiting one if I had too. As I sat in my living room trying to figure out where to go, I felt unmotivated to drive far, and settled for running the gravel path around Memorial Park. I had run only five other miles in the week because of some funkiness in my knee, but with the issue under control, I wanted to at least get in another hour of running before the week expired. I made two decisions. I would settle for a relatively dull run around the park, but would treat myself to a trip out of town the next weekend for something different.

Fast-forward four days, and you’ve found me writing this from a coffee shop in Austin, Texas. I found a AirBnB in West Austin, taking out a room in a house full of dudes designing an app. I was really excited at the prospect of inserting myself in a “Silicon Valley” type situation, but alas, I have no high-stakes shenanigans to report (yet). What I do have to report is that I went on a delightful trail run not long after arriving, which I’ll report on a paragraph or two down.

On my drive from Houston to Austin, I picked up listening to “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. I started it last September, on my drive from Los Angeles to Houston. It’s a dark choice, but I saw a gorgeous and grotesque artist’s interpretation at the Chicago Art Institute last June and got inspired to read (listen to) Oscar Wilde’s gothic novel. ANYWHO, a character in the novel, Lord Henry, is dependable for accurate yet somewhat depressing descriptions of human behavior and beliefs, and he tells Gray at one point that the senses are a cure for the soul, and the soul a cure for the senses. I mulled this over, as I was driving to the Texas Hill Country to cure something that I was yearning for in my soul- a taste of adventure.

When things suck, for lack of a better word, when life just doesn’t feel right, I throw myself into something that will startle, refresh, or at least be distracting for, my senses. Watch something mindless, eat like its going out of style, or seek out some sort of companionship because being alone is just unbearable. Then there are more rare moments, where nothing is as interesting as what is going on internally, and I’m pushing away all the distractions at once, so I can figure out what is happening in the space between my ears. Unfortunately I think I live more in the former mode than the latter, and I think it would be nice to flip the situation. I’ll never figure the world out, but I think I have a fighting chance of nailing down what really makes me tick someday.

Trail Running often joins those two extremes. Outside, alone on the trails I experience life first hand.  The sensory experience of the world is limited to how I take it in, no memes or sitcoms to interpret human behavior for me. This is how I get closer to answering, “Who am I”? For the record, I still am not sure.

Today’s run was great. About a mile in, as I was mulling over life events and major decisions, I crossed paths with two people on a tandem mountain bike, and they warned me about a rattlesnake they had seen. I tried to be chill about it at first, but called out as they rode off, “ON THE TRAIL?”

“YES!” they shouted back.

Yikes. I came across a freakin’ alligator on a trail not too long ago, and that was startling, but this gave me the willies. The trail had a decent amount of overgrown single track, and I didn’t feel comfortable letting myself zone out with my thoughts for the rest of the run, so I didn’t. I paid heavy attention to every step, taking in as much detail of the ground as I could with each move forward. I never saw the snake, but for my efforts in avoiding it, I caught sight of a bunny that held still as long as I needed to snap a picture, and as I turned to resume the run, three deer bounded right in front of me! If I hadn’t been looking for the snake, I wouldn’t have seen the bunny, and if I hadn’t stopped for the bunny, I might have missed the deer.

I have two more days of running to do here, and I’m really looking forward to them. Whether I see something new or think something new, its all good. Lord Henry was right, sometimes we need to get away from all the input, and other times its great to get out of ourselves.

THE RUN:

Slaughter Creek Preserve Trail

 

 

 

Do the Things. Run the Miles.

Recently I posted a picture to Instagram of a post-it I placed on my mirror a few months ago, with a phrase I’ve lived by for years. It reads,

“Do the things you don’t want to do, to do the things you do want to do”.

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This has been on my mirror since I moved to Houston. I wanted to be more active in making my life what I wanted it to be, no longer relying on luck or chance for good things to happen.

Yesterday I struggled to start my 8 mile run. I wavered back and forth. The plan had been to run to a local run club (2.8), do mileage with them (3), and finish off the mileage on the way home, walking the difference once I reached the 8 mile mark. At 3pm I was sure I was going. By 4pm I was fading and ready to cave. I took a quick 25 minute nap, just dozing, while my thoughts nagged at me. It wasn’t even the distance that really bothered me, it was the time. For no particular reason I was in a cranky mood with negative running rampant, and I didn’t want to be alone with just my brain for that long! In the end I realized I wasn’t going to change my attitude by skipping the run, so I just did the damn thing.

“How will I feel if I go to bed and I didn’t work on (insert task) today”? This question catches all the excuses that my motivational post-it doesn’t. I can procrastinate, and put most things off till tomorrow, without dire results. When I know I let opportunities or time windows go by, I get anxious. At some point, I got sick of feeling that way, and though my way of living now is pretty intense, I go to bed every night feeling confident in the direction that I’m heading.

 

IN OTHER NEWS:

I ran a last minute trail 5k that was part of the San Felipe Shootout with Trail Racing over Texas this past weekend. I signed up for it at 8pm the night before the race. It was a good move. The 5k was part of a larger event, the “Shootout”, which consisted of a 5k, followed by a 10k and a ½ marathon. Many talented runners showed up, and I had to work harder to keep up. I went out too fast, but was glad I did- I saw the 10k go out, and realized that if I had held back I would have gotten caught in a cluster-fJck in the first couple hundred meters! My pace in the second and third mile suffered because of the fast first – times were: 7:39/8:18/8:09. Not bad for me on trail, it was definitely the fastest I’ve run off road up till now, but I still need to work on getting my mile times both closer together and faster within a race.

Here Comes the Airplane Mode!

 

To bring or not to bring the phone on your run? One day, I wound up putting it on airplane mode a mile in because the damn thing would not stop buzzing. Texts & app notifications were zooming in one after the other, and after the 5th notification I started getting irritated, so I cut the line. Since that day, I have been putting it on airplane mode before I even start my run, or leaving it home completely when I’m just in my neighborhood.

My current goal is a sub 22 5k, and I’ve structured my fitness training to a few runs a week, so I need to focus on what I’m doing in them. On my current runs, I don’t want my attention to wander too far from my feet. I was recently videotaped running, and my form needs work. That requires concentration. I have a habit of letting my mind wander when workouts get tough, and as a side effect, I slow down. Again, my full attention is needed for the task at hand, which is bringing myself to the pace and form that I want to eventually stick. That’s what training is- it’s practicing until you don’t have to practice anymore. When you get to your goal, you can relax or set a new one. That being said, sometimes I’ll allow, maybe even encourage, my mind to wander while I run, to take a detour wherever it wants. This is usually a part of my trail runs, and honestly not a big part, because when I don’t pay attention, I fall. It happened just today, and I’ll write about it in another piece about my run in Huntsville State Park, TX.

Leaving my phone off or at home allows me the space to meditate, without distractions taking me places I don’t really need to go at the moment. I found I like leaving my phone off so much on my runs, that I’ve started deliberately turning it to airplane mode at home as well. So far there have been no emergencies that called for me to save the day, and I haven’t missed any opportunities from diverting digital signals away from me. I hit the plane, and think, “I’m good, you guys can go on without me, and I’ll catch up to you later”.

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Wouldn’t you want to give this your full attention, too?

 

Of course, I like to have my phone with me to take pictures for this blog and my Instagram account, but it has become a level of obnoxious to bring with me. I have tried various methods:

  • Belkin arm-band (from Target)
    • Pro: it’s a well-made brand that I’ve never had to replace for wear and tear, only phone models, for years
    • Con: the size of my iPhone 7 against the relative thinness of the arm band feels uncomfortable- think “floppy”
  • Nathan water bottle (REI)
    • Pro: I love this product as a water vestibule, but…
    • Con: the phone barely fits, really have to wrestle it in.
  • expandable-mesh waist pouches
    • Con: they don’t rank high for comfort for me, and they can move around a lot.

 

So my question for anyone reading this is- Being that I still like to have my phone on me for emergencies, does anyone know of arm-band that fits iPhone 7 and sits securely on runs? Or is there some other type of phone carrying device I haven’t thought of or mentioned above? Thanks and