Wednesday, December 6, 2017

What I Sometimes Think About When I Run

   I generally will only attempt a blog post when I have a run I want to share. This means I've gone through occasional long stretches when there isn't anything to blog about as well as the occasional stretch where there do seem to be things I think someone else out there might be interested in hearing.
   Today, I don't have a run I'd like to go on and on about. I would like to talk about something I think about pretty well every time I get out there, however.
2013---running through the forest begins!
I'm a heavy guy who runs. I'm not the only heavy runner I've encountered on the internet or in magazines but I'm one of the heaviest runners I've seen in these parts of Ontario---and I see a lot of runners, London is kind of a hot bed for runners, so even when you don't want to see any (like if you're injured, for example) you still see them.

   I suspect the odd runner I encounter who has noticed my weight has then looked at me with some sympathy, mild interest, or possible disdain. I suppose it's also possible that some of them see me and silently congratulate me for just getting out there. I also have the feeling that the occasional runner simply does not see me, in any way.
   Any and all of this is fine with me, I'm not out there trying to impress anyone but here's the thought that runs through my head----not many people could do what I'm doing. 
   To explain, not many runners I see out there could move 230 pounds through a forest as fast as I can. I see lots of slender men and women out there running who are very likely anywhere from 50 to 100 pounds lighter than I am. I then imagine them being given a fifty to a hundred pound rock to carry with them and then seeing just how far, or fast, they can carry it. I don't see them making much of a go of it for very long or very far.
   I don't run fast with my 230 pounds but I run further and further all the time and, because that's the only thing I'm really trying to do, I don't see the need to do it quickly. 
   But I can run fast. As a matter of fact, if one of those slender runners and I were to stop somewhere in the forest and pick a tree about a hundred meters away in order to race to it, I strongly suspect I would win. Now, if that tree were two hundred meters away, I strongly suspect I would lose (or come in second, as I would choose to describe it!) 
Me, in the middle, buddying up with Jessica Zelinka
and friends at SprintFit last summer. As much as I
enjoy the forest, it was nice to be on a track,
running sort of fast for a change!
   I'm not sure but I suspect my body type is more like that of a sprinter, rather than a distance runner. It is, however, likely dissatisfying to write a blog post about the 13 second run I did on the weekend! There is a mystique to long-distance trail runs that I seem to have bought into and I guess that's why I do them. I also have the feeling that the type of training I would need to do as a sprinter would not be nearly as fun as running through forests, past streams and deer and mountains.
   Like most people, I have body image issues. Part of me would love to be lean and svelte, to look the same as the other runners out there, the ones that are passing me effortlessly. As I relentlessly move my 230 pounds through the trees and up the hillsides, however, I tell myself a couple of different things--- one is none of them could do this and the other is I am amazing!


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Upping The Mileage And Some Good News!

   Yesterday, in an effort to get my mileage up one more notch, I borrowed my wife's car (so that my wonderful stepsons would have the opportunity to put snow tires on my car) and headed off to Kains Woods once again.
   It was a couple of degrees Celsius when I left the house, so I layered up nicely before I walked out the door. I did this in spite of the fact that I knew much warmer temps were in the offing in the afternoon but I am kind of a wuss when it comes to my upper body being cold---I have a hard time forcing myself out the door on a run day if I know I'm going to be cold for the first twenty minutes or so. Better to start off warm, then yank off a layer or two.
On the paved walkway, running
around the collection pond.
I entered at the end of the trail where the first kilometer or so is paved walkway. This is kind of annoying as I was wearing Salomon trail shoes and their large lugs are not conducive to running on pavement so I tried as much as possible to run on the grass borders. Eventually I arrived at the true trail portion and things were much better. My right knee initially was giving me some minor grief but this went away after about half a K.

   It did warm up and by about halfway through my run I was way overdressed. I was running into people running in shorts and t-shirts and congratulating them on their choices!
   The goal yesterday was to run 8K. My plan was to run 4 and a half K and then turn around and head back. One of the problems with the trails in my area is that none of them are any much longer than 5K, so this always necessitates me doubling back to get in the mileage. No big deal, though, and I managed to reach my goal with few issues.
    Kains was a busy place yesterday, lots of hikers and more than the usual amount of runners as well. And lots of dogs! Dogs are supposed to be on a leash at all times but most of the ones I ran into weren't. They were all well-behaved but, at the same time, I don't know that until they demonstrate it. Until they demonstrate it, I have to stop dead in my tracks when I encounter them. I also wonder what would happen if a well-behaved dog suddenly spotted a deer or a skunk off in the distance...oh well. Now that I come to think of it, the only time I've actually ever been harmed by a dog while out running was a beagle (on a leash, on a sidewalk) that unexpectedly leapt up on me as I was passing and tore a hole in my brand-new running shirt, breaking my skin with a paw. So maybe it's safer in the forest!
    After the run, my right knee was more tender than usual. I don't actually experience pain in it while I'm running but the aftermath is swelling and the accompanying tightness. This usually disappears after a couple of days but is problematic enough that I might actually try and see the doc about it. Something tells me it might need to be drained....
Through the trees, on the other side
of the river, you can see the golf
course belonging to the London
Hunt and Country Club (careful how
you say that) Could hear the skeet
shooters as I ran!

   Good news! In my blog post last week I briefly mentioned that I had quickly gained a huge amount of weight recently. I signed off with a throwaway comment that perhaps I should start going to the gym. Well...I did! I finally got up the drive to head over to the Goodlife in the nearby Superstore and use my Fit For Less membership. I've had this membership literally for two years and have never used it! Stupid or what?! It took  me awhile to remember how to use some of the machines but eventually I got into the swing of it. The best part, though, is that the ice has finally been broken! I'm off again today!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Yesterday and Today and 7K!

Behind those trees, "The Steps"!
      Yesterday, Sunday, I had a little bit of free time in the afternoon and really wanted to get out there for a run. Hopefully, I would be able to get 7K in the books, in an effort to continue upping the mileage. What I did, though, was fritter away a large chunk of the day doing pretty well non-stuff and then, by the time I finally gathered myself up to run, the sun was perilously low in the sky. It was still very bright though and bright sunshine is not something we've seen a lot of lately here in London, Ontario so I headed out anyway. I drove to the Oxford Street bridge, near the entrance to Kains Woods, and parked on the bridge (there is room for this). From there it was up the hill and into the woods and off I went!
   I can't honestly say the legs felt all that good, however, and the more I ran the more I had an opportunity to do the math in my head wherein I calculate the length of time I need to get in 7K versus the actual amount of sunlight I had to work with. The math really wasn't working in my favour and the very last thing I wanted to be doing was running through a forest in the dark. Not to mention the "coyotes at dusk" warnings posted at pretty well all of London's forested areas. So I cut things short, ran about half a kilometer, and the hiked the rest of the way, all in all about 4K. No big deal.
This is the top of what 230 pounds
of Brian Baker looks like!
    Today, Monday, I had the day off and, after a little bit of work stuff first thing, I was able to head out with lots of daylight at my command. I headed for Komoka Provincial Park and left my car at the easternmost end of it. I usually walk the first half kilometer to get warmed up but I took a couple of extra minutes when I got into the forest and did some stretching. I then started to run. Slowly. As usual.
   It was about 4 or 5 degrees Celsius today with no precipitation and a good deal of sunshine left over from yesterday. Pretty awesome for running! There were a couple of muddy sections due to recent rain and a little bit of snow but these were minimal and un-deterring.
   I'm out of shape. Today I was propelling almost 230 pounds of Brian Baker through the forest and that just ain't right and shouldn't be. For a variety of reasons, I have had huge meals lately (and often) and I have done a terrible job of showing any restraint. I hopped on (gingerly) the scales last night and by the time the digital readout had done its thing, I was weighing in at 229.5. It's been ages since I've weighed that much and my jaw just kinda dropped. Okay, time to get back to work. The only good thing about weighing that much is that I can get it off pretty quick if I'm a little more conscientious. This, however, only usually gets me back down to about 224 and there is truly so much further to go! Perhaps that gym membership I've never used....
The mighty Thames!
   The run today was fairly uneventful. Passed a few people enjoying the park, which is always kinda nice. In aiming for 7K, the plan today was to run for 4, turn around (you almost have to turn around, the park's only 4K long), and then run another 3, on the way back. This was over almost before I knew it and I then hiked another kilometer to get back to my car.
   A weird thing happened when I got into my car. As I was lowering myself into the driver's seat, all of the sudden I started to get a muscle spasm on the outside of my right calf and shin. It was quite uncomfortable and I hopped out of the car as fast as I could (not very fast) to get the leg back into a comfortable position. As I was standing beside my car, I lifted my leg off the ground and my foot started to rotate to the right, all of its own volition. A very strange thing to feel and watch---my muscles making my feet do things I hadn't asked them to do! I plopped the foot back down on the ground, stood on it and then walked around til it felt as though I could get back in the car and drive. By the time I got back home, it was more or less back to normal. I put the whole episode down to perhaps having over-exerted my lower legs with the uneven trail I'd just been on for the last almost two hours. Will keep an eye on it for next time!
   Last week I bought a combination lock. This was my radical first step toward getting back (it's been years) to the gym once more. This week, I'm actually going. The scary part is, I just told you I was going.....

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Not the right kind of "cold, wet one"!

   I was checking my stats on Blogger just yesterday and what it told me was that there had been no page views that day and there had been no page views the previous day, either. This meant that people had stopped even accidentally reading my blog and was a sure sign that I had not written anything in a long, long time.
Out of the reasonably clear...
I really only blog when I run and I had not run in about four weeks, partially due to a nasty head and chest cold and then a stream of social commitments, not the least of which was my wife's 50th birthday. Today, however, was a day in which nothing had been planned and my legs were feeling kind of restless and so I thought let's give 'em a go!
   We have been through a long, bleak and wet spell in these parts lately and today was no different. Rain was in the forecast but by the time I was ready to go there was nothing more than a wet mist going on out there. I threw on a light running jacket just before I headed out the door, it wasn't really cold enough for one (it was 8C) but the mist just seemed to make it feel that much colder.
...and headed into the dark and dismal.
   I headed to Komoka Park, hoping to be able to park for free at the far end of it and, with the nasty weather today, this seemed like a pretty good bet. Sure enough, lots of room to park and off I went. My normal routine is to walk the first half a kilometer before breaking into a run and this is what I did today. I was a little worried after being off for four weeks that my legs wouldn't respond and was pleasantly surprised when they reacted appropriately.
If you're from around these parts
and do any kind of hiking or
even reading about it, then you've
probably seen this tree. It has all
sorts of  love notes on it but today,
in the wet gloom, it looked kind
of antediluvian and foreboding
   I wanted to run 7K today and had a bit of a rough idea what portion of the park I would use for this. About 3K in, though, it started to rain in earnest. This was no really big deal but then, when I looked down at my Garmin, it had switched from the usual screen telling me time and distance and had reverted to screen which shows me how my virtual run partner was doing. This would have been okay if perhaps I had set this up beforehand but i hadn't (I rarely use this option) and in fact my virtual partner today was riding a bike. And I was 24 minutes behind him/her. This was not helpful and, in the rain, I had a lot of trouble getting the Garmin back to the correct screen. When I eventually got back to the screen I needed, everything had been set back to zero!
   This, on its own, did not stop me from continuing my run but soon my ankle and Achilles started to act up and then I just lost my, for lack of a much better word, mojo. At that point, I turned around and walked it back in. No, I hiked it back in, that sounds better.
   By the time I made it halfway back, I was drenched. My running jacket is not rainproof and provided little comfort. It was only about 3 p.m. but it was dark in the forest and I actually started to run again just to get back to the car a little faster.
   So, as it turned out, I did not get my 7K run in and, really, this was fine by me. I had assuaged that restless feeling and this was the main purpose of getting out today. Hopefully, I can now get back into a more regular routine and actually give people something to read, either by accident or on purpose!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ran 6K And Stayed Upright!

   It was a warm and dry late-October day here in London and I decided to head on out to the trails once again. The plan was to tack on another kilometer to the mileage I've been gradually increasing so today that brought me up to the huge total of 6K! Woo hoo!
The view in Warbler Woods

   I've gone out to Komoka Park the past couple of weekends and I thought I would change things up a bit and head for Kains Woods. Kains is within walking distance and I usually hike through nearby Warbler Woods, under Commissioner's Road, and then on down Oxford to the southern entrance to Kains. I then continue to hike til I get past a couple of problematic ravines. Once past them I break into my typical slow run.
   After my little face plant episode last week, I decided to pay way more attention to where my feet were landing today. The problem is that this time of the year the path is covered with leaves and, underneath said leaves, lurks the gnarly root. Fortunately, today went well and there were hardly even any close calls.
   It's bizarre and unseasonably warm these days and I don't know whether this is brought on by global warming or is just one of those cyclical aberrations. Whatever the reason for it, I can only enjoy if it's not also responsible for Puerto Rico getting wiped out....
The view in Kains Woods.
I decided to run 3K and then turn around and run 3K back, for my 6K total. Running such a short distance does always feel odd but, at the same time, I'm trying to break in an injured knee very slowly, hence the low mileage. At the end of the run portion, I was then left with a 3K walk back to my house. I think this might be the part I didn't plan out all that well. The past couple of weeks, I've been able to park right where I did the running, so no hiking to get there and then no hiking to make my way home. Today, I ran the farthest I've done in  months but was then faced with a long walk home. At the end of it, I was looking at close to 12K of being on my feet and this evening, both my knees are feeling it! So we just won't do that again!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Back to 5K! And a Face Plant!

   It's the weekend again and today looked like it was going to be kind of rainy so I took the opportunity to get out yesterday and give it a go at running 5K on the trails.
   Once again I headed to Komoka Provincial Park, have finally found a little place at the far end of the park where you don't have to pay the parking fee so Komoka is now a more affordable option.
Passing through a grassy meadow.
It looks flat but is actually pretty steep.

   There were, however, drops of rain on my windshield by the time I arrived and off in the distance the skies were pretty threatening so I wasn't quite sure how dry this run was really going to be. No raingear with me but it was unseasonably warm so I headed out anyway.
   Once again, I briskly walked the first half a kilometer to get warmed up and then I started a slow run. A very slow run. It was the kind of run where you can actually have a fairly lengthy conversation with walkers as you sort of pass them. Yes, that kind of run.... 
   I am, however, much more interested in accumulating some mileage these days and seeing how my injured right knee holds up. At some point, the speed with which I run will be addressed.
   I ran in Komoka last week and I really didn't want to replicate the same run today so when I reached the junction of the Blue and White trails, I headed off on the Blue. This takes you up and down a few steep sections, so I quickly began to wonder if I'd made the right decision. In the end, though, I figured it was all part of the process.
   I ran with trekking poles once again yesterday, as I'm now accustomed to doing. I got used to them on my hiking adventures this past summer and find that they provide a little more stability on some of the more technical terrain. In my mind, they also enable me to imagine that I am some sort of badass mountain trail runner. On level parts of the trail, I
Some of the scenery at the west (and
less-traveled) end of the park.
simply carry them in my hand. I'm starting to become fairly adept at switching back and forth and moving quickly (for me) up and down rocky slopes. What much of this means is that in a park where most of the people are either walking their dogs or spending romantic time with their significant other, I really stand out. And that's fine, kinda enjoy doing my own thing!

   Just before the end of the running portion yesterday, I passed one of those romantic couples I just mentioned, going the other way. I was about 10 meters past them when my toe snagged on a root and I landed hard. The noise of this (imagine a tree falling in a forest) alerted the romantic couple and they turned around to see me lying there in a heap. They asked if I was okay. I assured them I was and that only my pride was slightly bruised. I also swore them to secrecy and they were fine with that. It was my right (and injured) knee that took the brunt of the fall and I was quite happy to see and feel that there were no ill effects suffered. Good to know, actually, it confirmed in a new and different way that the knee is continuing to heal the way I need it to.
The aftermath. All is well, though!
So my 5K trail run is in the books and the good news is that I could quite easily have continued. The knee is a little swollen today but is not paining me at all and did not pain me yesterday as I ran, so this is good. My plan is to try and incorporate some kind of run mid-week this week so that I end up running more then just once a week. The other good thing that occurred to me about having run 5K yesterday is that it is an actual race distance. You quite often hear people talk about how their 5K run went and it is simply nice knowing that I am once again back to that level. Onward and upward!


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Upping the mileage in Komoka Park

Good to be back in the
Komoka woods!
   Yesterday was a day off for me and I took the opportunity to head out to Komoka Provincial Park and get in a bit of a hike/run.
   I've been trying to make sure I get out every weekend and up the mileage each time as I work my knee back into ship-shapeness. I missed last weekend due to a little bit of toe tendinitis which had me limping around and this weekend was busy with Thanksgiving plans so yesterday was the day.
The Steps! A good place to turn
around cuz, if you don't, you
have to run up them!
   It's been unseasonably warm here in London the past couple of weeks and yesterday the temp was in the low 20s (C)---perfect for shorts and a t-shirt. I managed to find free parking at the far end of the park and started my hike/run there. I hiked for half a kilometer and then started a slow run.
The Maples always turn first
   The goal for yesterday was 4K, just adding a kilometer every week at this point. I hiked for the first half a K and then started the run portion. There was almost no discomfort in the knee whatsoever and the 4K went by without incident. I ran as far as the bottom of The Steps and then turned back and continued to run until I hit the magical 4K mark. What made it even more magical was that I really felt as though I could have kept on running (so slow was my pace, likely) so I guess this bodes well for my next outing, which will be 5K. From that point, I just hiked my way back to the car.
Looking out at the changing
colours of the Thames Valley.
   It's starting to become clearer that I can likely up not only the mileage (thank goodness, it's kinda hard to report on 4K runs) but the frequency, as well. Today I feel as though I could hit the trails again and not be suffering too much so perhaps one more day a week is in the offing? We'll see!