Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Forced To Run

I got asked how I got into the trail running thing.  I suppose there should be a story about how I read Born To Run and found it the most inspiring thing ever.  I should talk about how I felt kinship with the natives, how I learned about the importance of forefoot form, and how I want to become a vegan who drinks far less.
However, the real story is probably more interesting and yet less interesting.  I work in the Capitol complex, which is about 1.5 miles from my domicile, taking the streets.  Even before I started running, I had the habit of taking long hikes home from work through the mountains to the south of town.  It just felt good to be outside during the summertime, and was convenient to take the long way home.
The problem with living where I do is that there is one direction from where I live, up.  Anyone who lives on a street with the name Gulch will sympathize.  Also, I live in downtown, which means a lot of traffic crossings, and Helena is not friendly for runners.  Something about seeing the human form expressing it’s beauty really riles up the rednecks in their big trucks, whose last fast movement involved gulping down pisswater beer.
Initially, I started running up sections of Mount Helena.  The big myth about Mount Helena is that one starts at the parking lot, hikes hard to the H, and heads back down full of braggadocio about the accomplishment.  The problem is that Mount Helena is 1200 feet tall, and that manages to miss both the first 400 and last 400 feet.  So, I started running from my place halfway up the mountain (where the trails would lead back down) and getting into that.  I liked being out on the trail, and not dealing with traffic.  The downside was dealing with piles of bad behaving afternoon hikers and their bad behaving dogs’ piles.  Plus, although there was plenty of trail, there was the issue of dealing with traffic coming to an fro the trail.
So, I leaned how to power over nine and a half miles and twenty five hundred feet of elevation gain.  The best part about trail running is that one feels the ebb and flow of the uphill.  One feels like the king of the mountain, not even catchable by bicycle.  It’s an amazing place to be.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Montana Warrior Run

 So, I'm supposed to talk about the races. Well, since I write the reviews, and these are more important weekend reviews, you all get to read about a ton of random banter as well. I saw Pakistani singer Arif Lohar, backed by Arooj Aftab, on Thursday night. It was all manner of piles of awesome. On Friday, I went to the gun show in Helena (as opposed to the gun show in two weeks, or the gun show in a town near Helena) before going to a rodeo. After the rodeo, I decided that I'd need to get up nice and early in the morning, so I could totally rock the Montana Warrior Race.

So, I'm doing a 10K, then a 5K, then a 1 miler for this race. The 10K is supposed to start at 8:45. However, I get there at 8:25, and I'm told '10Ks and trifectas to the front of the line.' So, I wait in the shorter line. I get to the front, and they say, race day registrations only. So, I have to spend another five minutes waiting in the pre-registration line, while there is no line for race day registrations. Yes, for positive behavior, like registering in advance, I get a major negative consequence, which is waiting in line. Not only that, but the line moves slowly while people spend time contemplating decisions that they should have made when they filled out their pre-registration. Once I get to the front, I say 'Custis, Cody; trifecta; men's large; thank you' and get on with my very important business. So, because the lines are ineptly run, I don't have time to take care of personal business, don't have time to head back to the rig and grab the Nathan bottle and belt carrier. I go wait for the race start, which happens ten minutes late. My mom ended up registering for the 10K, which is a bit unexpected. Swag is a sport-tek t-shirt (which I put on over my current shirt, since I wore little and it is colder than expected) and a race chip / number. The race does use the cool shoe tag.

For the 10K, we run out and back to Ft. Harrison, which is actually a pretty cool route. We head out and down across Henderson, which is tricky because there's fast decent and ascent of about fifteen feet. Once we get out to Jocelyn, we head slightly uphill, until we get on a county road towards the fort. There's moderate traffic control, but we still end up alongside the road. The upside is that there's decent spectator turnout. The downside is that my iPod decides to go crazy, and so I spend the entire race listening to fits and starts and being annoyed. Anyway, I be sure to give the spectators plenty of high fives and shouts, along with the race volunteers. Yeah, I'm like that. After the fort, we head back. There isn't much positional jostling, I do manage to make a great push at the end. Like most Montana courses, it isn't hilly, but it is never flat.

Vital Stats: 6.05mi, 46:25, 486 gain and 470 decent.

After the race, I head over to the school to do some important personal business, after grabbing a water and bagels from the food table. By the time I get done with the business, and back to the race area, it is supposed to start. I do get the iPod fixed, which makes me happy. We end up starting the 5K about eight minutes late, but there isn't much to do. Fellow races are more unhappy about situation of waiting and starting times. I must agree. If there's a fixed schedule between races, racers are entitled to give rest breaks. I do see my friend Victoria doing the 5K, which gets massive sweetness points.

The 5K is a loop around the neighborhoods near Capital high. It's actually more flat than the 10K. Last year, I got jammed at the starting line, but, since I paid more, I get off starting line and into pace real fast. There's a few teenagers doing the starting line flameout, but it's otherwise the same crew from the 10K. I do notice that the college students have set out a table full of beer for the runners, but I decide that beating Scott (which I do not do, but I do keep it close) is more important than drinking on a 5K. On a half marathon, I have better priorities. Anyway, I run this one strong, and finish with a time that makes me happy. On a related note, I hear from a fellow runner that the college students that I high fived out toward Fort Harrison were swooning over my hair. Maybe I need to find Lucy race volunteer?

Vital stats: 3.14mi, 23:37.75, 295 ascent / 293 descent (yet, I feel that not)

So, the race participants are grumbling about starting times, and the timer insulted my mother. I was about to get real ornery (one of the consequences of making my mother cry is that I will do things to do that will make your mother cry once she sees the results on those things), but it turns out the guy is just an ignorant, slow-witted, inconsiderate jerk. So, I don't have to do anything bad to him. After waiting way too long, the third leg finally starts at 11:22 (twenty minutes late).

The main thing about doing one mile is that I am not used to it. I start slow, find a pace, start passing people. I'm good at getting a slow start, and rocking once I figure out what I am doing. For a mile, I am completely confused. Anyway, I run way too fast at the beginning, and really don't have any kick at the end. I do see some kids playing Quiddich in the corner of the park, which does make my day.

Vital stats: 1.00mi, 7:20:35, 87 feet ascent / 92 feet descent.

My mom summed up this one best 'it's not bad, but it's not worth traveling for.' For some reason, the race was a lot more fun last year. It also seems to have better attendance (or maybe I wasn't too busy running past everyone). I'm really hesitant to recommend this one, especially as there are more interesting races elsewhere in the state on the same day. Last year, it was a lot of fun, but just didn't have a whole lot of try this year. Yes, I know I cannot blame the volunteers, but I must blame the RD when badly designed packet pickup creates problems.

I meant to follow this up with some time at the range, but had other things that needed to be done. I did see Kevin Koutnik (whose new album is awesome), and hung out gaming from 4 until late. At that point, I staggered back to home, figured out how to work the annoying fob thing, and slept.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

King Of The Mountain

The roads are ruled by beasts of steel and iron, creations of engineers, fueled by the bones of dinosaurs. There is no skill or honor in their activity, only a need to get from one place where nothing happens to another place where nothing happens.

Paths are rules by cyclists, whose power rules a different beast of steel and iron. Like levers, they amplify the power of man, beyond that which man would be capable of. Yet, the amplification comes at a cost. The cycle gains great power on the flat, at the cost of maneuverability and contact. On the incline, the cyclist suffers upward, and few enough can control their descent downward.

Trail is where the runner is king on the mountain. The runner propels up the trail with the mechanical advantage, the ground rising to meet each bound. The runner hugs the tight turns and switchbacks, avoiding the rocks and trees. Downward, the runner uses gravity to augment the power of man, power earned not through the dead or through metal, but through work. Like an elastic band, the runner springs back downward, using potential energy to the fullest potential.

The wide and flat belongs to beasts of steel and iron, but the mountains and paths belong to the running king!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring Fitness 2012 - Goals

Through a variety of random reasons, I became the captain of my Spring Fitness team. It's eight weeks, and a diverse crew, everyone from marathons and distance cyclists, to people just getting into fitness.

As hard (or maybe easy) as it is to believe, I didn't really start running until roughly this time last year. Actually, I know I started sometime around spring break. The reason why I started it, and why I kept it up, was that I knew that I was signed up to do 13.1 miles out in Spokane, and didn't want to let my friends down, or be physically unable to handle it. After all, most people think of a half-marathon as a major goal. Of course, after I did it, I decided to go big or go home, and signed up for the Missoula marathon, and had the brilliant goal of doing a second marathon, which I highly recommend as motivation.

So, back to the goal at hand, what is a good, and what is a bad, set of goals for eight weeks of fitness?

An easy goal is to up activity by 1,000 step-equivalents per day. This should burn through a grand total of 100 calories, depending on weight. However, I have a real hard time thinking about what 100 calories actually represents. 100 calories represents 2/3 of a can on Cola-Cola, or a quarter of a Big Mac. So, two miles equals one Big Mac. Still, it's amazingly easy to add in more mileage. Park further away, take the long way to the bathroom, rather than the close way, or else take the stairs, rather than those creepy elevators.

Another good goal is to pick an event of suitable impressiveness, and sign up to do it. The upside of signing up for a race is that not only does one acquire another shirt made of magical-moisture wicking material, there's also a very public declaration that one will be able to do whatever physical task is required on that day. I'm not sure that everyone is ready to handle a 30K trail run, but anyone can handle a 5K or 10K.

A bad goal is to lose weight. Why is this a bad goal? First, the easy way to lighten the scale is to simply weigh in early in the morning, before you get a chance to rehydrate after the evening. Second, muscle weights more than fat. As one increases muscle, one actually will gain weight, or hold steady, rather than lose weight. Waistline loss is legitimate, being lighter on a scale is pointless.

I'll talk about some diet advice in the next iteration. I'd recommend finding a good goal to be ready to go when May rolls around, and let your friends know. Backing out of the 13.1 miles is easy when you are the only one who knows it, it becomes a lot harder knowing you'll have to explain why, rather than how interesting it was!